The news continues to get worse for Bulgarian setter Georgi Bratoev. More than 2 months after suffering an ankle injury in a Nations League match against Australia, the 30-year old will undergo surgery on August 6th to repair a broken bone in his ankle.
He announced the surgery on his Facebook page, and thanked his club Lukoil Neftohimik and the Bulgarian Volleyball Federation for bearing the expense of the operation. The surgery will be performed by the surgeon of the famous Real Madrid soccer team, either in the Netherlands or in Portugal.
“A huge thank you to Lukoil and the Bulgarian Volleyball Federation, who completely covered all expenses on my upcoming operation and did everything possible to get me the best doctor in this area,” the Facebook post said. “The surgery will be on August 6th. From here on, only health.”
Bratoev, who hoped to be back in time for the World Championships, was ruled out a week ago by a French doctor.
The injury, originally suffered during week 3 of the Nations League, has brought a roller-coaster of emotions to Bratoev’s teammates. At first, it appeared severe, but then the team was brought initial relief when he was on the next week’s roster anyway. After the foot continued to cause him pain, he underwent an MRI which revealed the break, but still was anticipated to return for the World Championships, which begin on September 9th – almost 2 months after his surgery.
Bratoev has spent more than a decade with the Bulgarian National team, including a bronze medal won at the 2009 European Championships. 25-year old Georgi Seganov took over for Bratoev at the Nations League, without much obvious drop-off in performance. Both players are very tall for the position (Bratoev is 6’8″, Seganov is 6’6″), and Seganov wound up with a higher running-sets-per-set average at the Nations League than did Bratoev.
The team was 2-3 before Bratoev’s injury and 3-4 after, in spite of the tougher matches, including a finale win over Brazil, coming in the back half of their tournament.
The team is currently a high-altitude training camp in Belmeken, where they will stay until August 11th. Bratoev is just one of a slew of injuries plaguing the team as they head toward a World Championship tournament that they’ll co-host with Italy.
Bulgaria, who play their first-round pool at home in Varna, will host Cuba, Finland, Iran, Poland, and Puerto Rico in what turned out to be a much more challenging pool than their co-hosts Italy had to face. They will need to finish only in the top 4 in that pool, however, to advance to the 2nd round of competition.
They will play the opening match of the whole tournament, on September 9th, against Finland.