KOCHI: Numbers matter. That’s one of the reasons why the Pro Volleyball League (PVL) will make its entry into the growing list of franchise-based, televised sports events in India. It’s estimated that around 22 million from the country had tuned in to watch volleyball at last year’s Asian Games. For the 2016 Olympics, this figure was 54.3 million.
Encouraged by these and expecting a spontaneous response from the crowds, the PVL kicks off in a place which doesn’t quite breathe volleyball, but spends a significant amount of time watching it. Fittingly, local franchise Kochi Blue Spikers will face U Mumba Volley in the opening match of the inaugural edition on Saturday.
Broadcasters are hopeful of grabbing eyeballs, finding a new market and audience. Players, too, are expecting good response. “In the last edition of the senior nationals held in Calicut, ticket prices were `500. Even then, people used to come from Kochi and Trivandrum to watch the matches. That is how popular it is,” said Aaron Pereira, who represented Goa at the nationals said.
It remains to be seen what kind of response PVL gets. According to the organisers, a total of 2227 seats have been allotted for spectators at the venue and all tickets for the first match have been sold out. Eleven cameras will be used to beam the league live across the country.
From February 2 to 13, there will be one match in Kochi every day. All matches will be on television. “It’s less than a month. We can only see this is as a first step. Maybe people concerned are testing the feasibility of it,” Pereira said.
Like any other league, marquee players are the star attractions. David Lee, who is one of the legends of the game, is one of them.
The American who won the Olympic gold in 2008 will be in action for the Kochi Blue Spikers against U Mumba. Tomislav Coskovic is the marquee player for U Mumba. At 39, he is one of the most experienced players in the league.
It is not a surprise that these players are eagerly awaiting the start of the league. “Finally, the moment we were waiting for has arrived. The league is a much-needed boost as it gives us a platform to compete with the best in the world. I hope the fans take to the league in a fitting manner,” said Kochi Blue Spikers captain Mohan Ukkrapandian.
Dipesh Sinha, the captain of U Mumba, is equally upbeat. “The league is ensuring that upcoming talent gets a chance to rub shoulders with the best in business. It couldn’t have been more challenging than to start the league playing against the home team, but we are prepared for it,” said Sinha.