Sirjan Foulad Iranian defend Asian Men’s Club title for Iran after four-set thriller against Al-Arabi

Sirjan Foulad Iranian were crowned victors in the 2021 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship.

Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, October 15, 2021 – Sirjan Foulad Iranian stamped their domination over the 2021 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship after a hard-fought 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-23, 25-22) win against Al-Arabi Sports Club in the thrilling final showdown at Terminal 21 Hall on Friday.

Saber Kazemi chipped in with 28 points, including 22 attacks from 46 attempts and five aces for Sirjan, while Mahdi Jelveh kept good company to contribute 14 points. Felipe Bandero scored a team-high 21 points for Al-Arabi SC, including 17 kills from 40 attempts.

The 2012 Asian Club champions, Al-Arabi Sports Club, attempting to forget the 1-3 loss at the hands of the Iranians in the preliminary pool match, fielded a strong lineup led by ace spiker Brazilian Felipe Badero, Serbian Konstantin Cupkovic and Renan Ribeiro.

Sirjan Foulad Iranian, the only unbeaten team in the tournament en route to Friday’s final showdown, were also strong with the likes of left-hander Saber Kazemi, who landed the MVP award at the recent Asian Senior Men’s Championship in Chiba, Japan.

In a high-octane game, both sides fought hard from the very beginning of the first set, with Saber Kazemi showcasing his exceptional attacking and powerful serving skills and Mahdi Jelveh firing fast attacks to help Sirjan move ahead with a three-point clear at 19-16. Sirjan Foulad Iranian ran away with it through combination attacks and excellent teamwork for the thrilling 25-19 win.

Sirjan Foulad Iranian (right, in white) achieved a hard-fought 3-1 win over Al-Arabi Sports Club in the thrilling final showdown.

In the second set, the Qataris came roaring back through spectacular blocking punctuated by imposing spikes from Felipe and Konstantin. The Iranians had no answer to the well-organised combination attacks and superb net-play skills of the rivals. The on-going battle turned out to be an easy task for Al-Arabi Sports Club after leaving the rivals behind 21-18; the substitutions and call-out time did not work out well for the Iranians as they made some mistakes to give the Qataris a chance to wrap up the set 25-21 and make it 1-1.

Going down one set, the Iranians made a strong comeback in the third set. They showcased their resilience with spectacular blocking from Arash Keshavarzi and Mohammad Sadeghi, followed by some powerful spikes moments later by Ramin Khani and Saber Kazami, who continued to dominate the beleaguered Qataris who were unable to muster any sort of response in the final stretch. Sirjan Foulad Iranian made a few unforced attacking mistakes but still went through to win the set 25-23.

Kazemi continued to marshal the defense in the fourth set, but the Qatari communication began to break down. Hard-attacking Renan Ribeiro helped the team improve their attacks, but the Iranians remained firm with their impenetrable defence. After taking a commanding lead five points clear at 21-16, Sirjan marched on their remarkable run to finally capture the set 25-22 to take back the crown to Iran.

Sirjan Foulad Iranian captured the title, smashing the Qatari’s sweet dreams of repeating their second Asian Men’s Club title in five editions (2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2021) they had made it to the final showdown.