When Brazil's history comes to present for Nalbert in Katowice


Nalbert holding the flag at the head of Brazil's 2002 world champions

 Katowice, Poland, September 12, 2014 - Just over 13 years ago Nalbert Bitencourt stood inside Spodek a first-time winner of the World League and, today, Brazil's decorated world and Olympic champion stands inside Spodek again, but this time with a microphone as a television commentator.

Like Brazil's current coach Bernardinho, Katowice's 'flying saucer' holds particularly good memories for Nalbert as he was a key figure in the team's 2001 World League victory and describes a return to the venue as emotional.

"It was the start of a big story, a team with a lot of victories," he said. "We all have a very special feeling for Poland because of everything that title represented. It was also my best moment as an athlete, so I carry a lot of feeling for that time."

After a sixth-place finish at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Brazil were at a low ebb, but with the appointment of Bernardinho, and despite not expecting it, they turned a corner in the 2001 World League, taking their second title, but first since 1993. 

"We needed to recuperate," said Nalbert about Brazil's post-Sydney period. "And what happened? The title came in an unexpected way, because originally our objective was to get on the podium, but we ended up winning the competition."

Nalbert remembers Brazil beating Poland 3-1 after losing the first set in a packed Spodek during the pool round, then a very difficult five-setter against Russia in the semi-final. "Incredbily, the 'easiest' game was the final against Italy," he said. "They were the biggest winners in the World League up to that moment, and we managed to win 3-0, it was fantastic."

The confidence gained with the 2001 victory in Katowice was the foundation for the incredible success that followed for Brazil in the Bernardinho era, including a first ever victory at the World Championships in 2002.

"It helped a lot," said Nalbert. "The certainty that we were on the right path for the years that followed, even up to the 2004 Olympics, but that World League was fundamental for the World Championships after."

It was another monster five-setter against Russia that gave Brazil their second major breakthrough a year later; the 2002 world title with Nalbert as captain and also top scorer in the final with 23 points.

A second Olympic title came for Brazil in 2004, and a second world title in 2006, both victories underpinned by a record run of five consecutive World League titles between 2003 and 2007, the last of which was also claimed at Spodek.

So Katowice is very much a part of Brazil's volleyball history and, if all goes to plan for Bernardino, can also be the scene of a fourth consecutive world title in just over a week's time.

In his role as an expert analyst for Brazilian cable channel SporTV - one he started at the previous World Championships in Italy in 2010 - Nalbert will be watching every ball with interest and feels a big responsibility to give his audience back in Brazil the full benefit of his experience.

"It's really fun, but it's not easy," he said of life behind a microphone. "In the past it was my shoulders and knees that hurt, but now it's my voice."

"You have to concentrate hard to do a good job and I always try to give an idea from someone who was already there on the court, to put myself in the place of the players, and that's good because there are some difficult moments that only some players would understand, and I can pass them to the public."

Impartiality is also hard for someone who played such an important role at the start of Brazil's climb to world dominance, and even though he's now off the court, Nalbert is hoping to see Brazil add another Katowice chapter to their incredible volleyball story.


All the News