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A Scottish tan in Larnaca

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I returned to Cyprus last week for a long  overdue holiday. It was nice to be back home. Giannos Time OutWhen you come for a short visit, you get spoiled. Everyone is making the effort to see you
and your mother cooks your favourite meals. Fortunately for me,  I got invited to play in a
beach volleyball tournament for the last two days of my visit. The problem was that I had to not only change my plans, but also those of my family who didn’t realise their last day with me would be spent watching me compete on the beach. Anyway, I wasn’t sure if I would make it on time for my flight back to Glasgow.

The two-day beach volleyball tournament (3x3) was organized by the Cypriot police on 25/26 June. The final date was deliberately chosen to raise awareness for the international dayagainst drug abuse. The tournament was held at Mackenzie beach (five minutes from Larnaca airport, luckily for me). The beach is named after a Scotsman who set up a restaurant there just after World War II. He must have been a nice person for a beach to be named after him.

Mackenzie Beach has clean, grey sand extending for almost 1km and at summer is time is the preferred beach for locals to relax and enjoy the Cypriot sunshine. It is great to have a tournament at a popular beach; it increases participation and interest.

I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the end of the tournament, as check in was at 4pm for my flight. There were 10 teams competing for the trophy. The age range was vast from teenagers to adults in their fifties. It was rather touching to see a father and a son playing in the same tournament.

As a general rule for a 3v3 beach tournament, you need to have a good setter. Having participated in Scottish Volleyball’s fast track courses on ‘The importance of the role of the Setter’ I was fully aware of my team’s limitations. We had no setter. My team mates were tall and explosive but none of them wanted to play setter. So I stepped up. I remembered years ago with a cold sweat the words of my coach “you have to be intelligent to be a setter”. For the record I never played this position, so feel free to make your own conclusions.

My team mates Pavlos and Christos exceeded all expectations and were determined to set an example of boldness. Their attitude can be described as a strange compound of enthusiasmand cold methodical solidity, a volcano beneath a mountain of snow. Remarkable blocking from Christos and solid attacks from Pavlos compensated my predictable sets and our mistakes as a team. We had never trained before as a team but it was clear we trusted each other.

What struck me the most from our games was the nobility of the opposition. At a crucial point of the game, one of our opponents admitted touching the ball and politely asked the referee to change their decision in our favour.  This helped us to go on and win the tournament.

After the tournament the announcer said to the gathered crowd, "We are going to do the ceremony in a bit of a rush as Giannos is flying to Scotland very shortly". I felt a great feeling of respect from my opponents. The day was made more perfect with my family there to back me up (my two sisters Koula and Maria and my father Pavlos). That meant the world to me but unfortunately my mother didn’t manage to come and I hope she has forgiven me for not staying at home with her (she is the best cook in the world).
Trophy WinnersThe cup travelled to Scotland (I have it in my office). There is also some sand from Cyprus
inside but its here at Stirling University. The win is dedicated to my partners Pavlos and Christos with much gratitude and even more love to my family for their encouragement, support and patience to spend the whole day at the beach.

I do hope that my friends here in Scotland will visit Cyprus and participate in tournaments and vice versa. Cypriot indoor teams can make the most of the Scottish summer, which allows indoor training. It can be a win-win situation for volleyball in both countries. Scotland needs a little bit of sun as Cyprus needs a little bit of rain.

Giannos Panayiotakis