Skipper Pipes wants to spread the love

28 July 2012 / 13:39

Great Britain volleyball captain Ben Pipes wants the nation to fall in love with his team as they prepare to make their Olympic debut on Sunday.

Harry Brokking's squad start the men's tournament with a 9:30am meeting against Bulgaria, in front of a sold-out Earls Court crowd.

Despite its popularity, volleyball is a largely under-the-radar discipline on home soil, but those involved hope that the next fortnight can turn a few heads towards the game.

As someone who has been part of the British programme since its formation in 2006, Pipes cares passionately about the future of volleyball in Great Britain and wants the fans to share his vision.

"It's a motivation for us all," said the 117-cap 26-year-old, who has captained the side for the last six years.

"I was lucky enough to be there at the start, when the meetings and commitment were all about legacy. Now, from this summer, it's important to stress that this is a start line and not an end one.

"This is the first chapter of a new book. If we do what we want to do, we're going to write history as British players. We want to bang on doors and say: 'This is the story, you've got to keep writing the story'. We have great athletes and I am hoping that the public fall in love."

While Pipes wants to spread the love, his coach is taking a more hard-hitting approach.

An ex-Army soldier in his native Holland, Brokking's attitude is akin to an iron fist inside a velvet glove. He takes little nonsense from his players, but is extremely protective of them.

He has targeted two wins - believed to be against Bulgaria and Australia - in order to reach the quarter-finals, and has a simple way of doing it.

"We keep on fighting for every point and, when your opponent drops off, you hit them on the nose," he said.

"We will do that, starting against Bulgaria. We have a really strong group but we are saying: 'Let's go for it. Let's see how far we can push this'.

"It's obvious we have to be Grade A and our opponents minus-A. We have two of the toughest teams in the world in our group in Italy and Poland."

Bulgaria are ranked ninth in the world but have had a tumultuous road to London. Coach Radostin Stoychev resigned before the qualification process but came back to go through it before quitting on the eve of the games.

Nayden Naydenov is now in charge and Brokking said: "They have a big reputation in Europe. They are very experienced, they have physical players and it's our first match. It's an early match and I hope they are sleeping while we are awake."

The rest of Britain's group is made up by Australia and Argentina.