23.07.2019 - Vienna
It’s almost time for the beach volleyball elite to descend on the Danube Island and do what they do best: entertain the masses of fans who will sing, shout and shake it all about from dusk ‘til dawn at Vienna’s number one sporting event of the summer.
Now. These fans. Some say they’re the best, they’re the craziest, they’re the most hedonistic; tops off, shouting in the sunshine, heyyy – hoooo, you know the kind. Remember Klagenfurt? Quadruple it. These fans? Crazy.
These are the same respectable members of the public that will just come, stand and rejoice every point. And we mean every point. Like, even a service error. What the hell. Standing in line at 6.55am to get in watch beach volleyball? We. Are. Not. Joking.
Now all of that’s cool. Really cool. We’re privileged, truly, to have this affection for the sport in landlocked Austria. But, but, but, not every fan has the early-morning enthusiasm to cheer a foot-fault at 10am in the 30 degree heat.
Because there are some fans who just want one team to support. One. Not two teams, not three. There’s none of this “Doppler/Horst are my second team” or “I support the Austrian team but my favorite team is the Norwegians”.
I mean, what happens if your two ‘favorites’ play each other? Support both?
No, no, no. No.
It’s all or nothing. One team that has your undivided attention, your undivided loyalty and passion. One which you’re going all-in with. One that, no matter what, you will continue support. Even when they are 14-11 down in the tiebreak.
So it’s time. It is time to make your choice.
Here’s 10 men’s teams you can choose to back at the Danube Island and why. And don't forget you have a women's team to pick, too.
Enjoy, and pick wisely…
Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy (Russia)
Why? You’re a glory hunter. You like winners. “I heard these boys are the reigning world champs” you hear while you’re snaking through the packed beach village. Your ears prick up, you make that impressed face, you know, the one with your mouth. “Russians, you say?” you question. Say no more.
Anders Mol and Christian Sørum (Norway)
These boys are like the Manchester United of the 1990s. Winning everything. One pundit once said “you’ll never win anything with kids” before United went on to win everything with a team made up of half-a-dozen products of the club’s youth system. Anders is 22 and Christian is 23. These kids are the number one team in the world. They have already won a lot. They’ve already passed the 100 victories barrier, conquered the biggest Ferris Wheel in Vienna, and snapped up nine major titles. They call themselves the Beachvolley Vikings and they play beach volleyball how you think beach volleyball is played, like it is in that cool scene in Top Gun. Ok, it’s much, much better than that. It’s still brilliant. Memorizing. Smart. Quick. Thing is, they won in Vienna last year and now everyone’s pretending to be Norwegian and supporting them these days, like everyone supported Manchester United when they were good. You’ll be a glory hunter for sure, but, right now, nobody will question whether you’re from Norway or not. For now.
Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler (Germany)
These two are perfect if you live in Vienna but aren’t an Austrian. Perfect if in fact you’re one of the 50,000 German expats living in the city. Now. Now then. Julius and Clemens. World Championship runners-up. The nearly men of Hamburg but still the young pretenders. Took down the Norwegians on their own sand in an epic World Champs semi-final. Thole, aka The Tower, 100 feet tall, blocks all day. Clemens, flies around like superman in the backcourt. “How the hell is he keeping that ball off the sand?” enquires, like, everyone. Nobody knows. But you support them now.
Alex Horst and Clemens Doppler (Austria)
You’re Austrian right? Followed their careers since they were skinny teenagers? Cried and cried after their loss in the World Championship final in 2017? We get it. We do. We were there and were an emotional wreck. But, hey, they’re back. They’re here on the Danube Island again and you know, this year – this year – it’s going to be their year. Legends. And with the fans behind them, anything’s possible. Some people choose to sing the songs of their favorite bands into the bathroom mirror in the morning. Not you. “Doppler/Horst’s on fire, your defense is terrified” you sing. Now sing it.
Alison Cerutti and Álvaro Filho (Brazil)
The whole stadium is quiet. Except a small pocket of noisy, good looking people, dressed head-to-toe in yellow and green, dancing like they know how to dance. Who are these people? They are the Brazilian fans and they are here to support Alison and Álvaro. Alison, the 2016 Olympic champion, a man known as the Mammoth. You soon realize why. He’s big. Absolute unit. Try rubbing that disbelief from your eyes, it aint gonna work. Just don’t make him angry, he’ll block all day until he’s red in the face. His partner is Álvaro, the silent assassin at the back of the court. He wears a hat whenever he’s on the podium. A tribute to the rural area of Brazil from where he hails. It means a lot to him. “Why I am I wearing this now?” you ask a friend. Deep down, you know why. Who knew you liked samba?
Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser (USA)
You read somewhere about these two. Both fathers. Both sacrificed a shedload to play beach volleyball around the world. It struck a chord with you. “Sound like my kinda guys,” you say, reading through the program. They’re pretty good. Won a lot. Phil won the Olympics in 2008. He’s also called the ‘Thin Beast’ – yes, he’s that guy at the net with no hair annoying the hell out of the other team blocking everything. But they respect him, because he is The Thin Beast. You will never shout it, though, no, just an encouraging “Go Phil, go Nick!” in between points. Of course you’re annoying the people sitting around you. But they respect you, because this is your team.
Enrico Rossi and Adrian Carambula (Italy)
Was it all part of a beautiful dream? It felt like it. The ball. So high. So, so high. I’m sure it tickled the clouds before gracefully descending back to earth. No, no… it wasn’t a dream. The ball really did just soar above the stadium to take a 360-peek around Vienna’s skyline. Adrian is known as Mr. Skyball for the very reason you just thought you were dreaming. The gasps and cheeky grins of the crowd. Thousands lapping it up. He loves it, we love it, YOU love it. At the net, Mr. Enrico Rossi. Block. Fist pumps all round. Cupping their ears to the crowd. They want more noise from you. You scream back. Boy, that was good. More, please. You’re Italian now.
Martin Ermacora and Moritz Pristauz (Austria)
Something’s happening. You’re outside the Red Bull Beach Arena when you hear it. You can’t quite put your finger on it at first. But once you head inside you begin to nod in agreement. “These two are quality!” hollers the girl next to you, instantly recognizing your confusion. What’s happening? It’s the new kids on the block, Martin and Moritz. The M&Ms. Cool nickname. Cool guys. Like you when you were young. They’re Austrian. Decent, too. Capable of pulling off the extraordinary on a good day. They love the crowd, especially here. And now, you love them.
Evandro Gonçalves and Bruno Oscar Schmidt (Brazil)
You can’t picture it. Your memory is blurred. These were the boys that won the World Champs in Vienna two years ago? Nah, they won the Olympics in 2016? Right? You’re not far off. Evandro won the World Championships here, scaring the absolute sh-- out of everyone with his serve, on his way to gold. Still giving Clemens Doppler nightmares. The serve? He’s still got it mate. It’s still hot. This year he’s got a new partner. You may have heard of him. Just the reigning Olympic champ, Bruno, by his side. No biggy. Just arguably one of the most revered defenders in the game. People call him the Magician. Abracadabra, here’s your new favorite team to follow. No need to say thanks.
Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen (Netherlands)
Ever felt your team always likes to do things the hard way? Taking you to hell and back before pulling out a victory when you least expected it? Well, these Dutch boys, and all-round good guys Alex and Rob, have been playing together for like 50 years, always smiling, always cheering and high-fiving each other after every point. “They just won in Gstaad, mate, and now they’re in the quali!” you cry, helping the poor the bloke to your left who’s wondering what all the fuss is about on the side courts on Tuesday. Tuesday? Yep, Brouwer/Meeuwsen are in qualification and yes these are the 2016 Olympic bronze medalists. But you’re feeling brave, they will come through qualification easy. Won’t they? It’ll all be worth it when they’re on the podium come Sunday. You tell yourself. Over and over.