The Brazilian men’s national team has always had successful liberos in its squad. In 2016, Sérginho (Santos) was even recognized as the Olympic Game’s MVP after leading the team to a gold medal. He has since retired from the team, leaving the position without a proper owner. While players like Thaless Hoss and Tiago Brendle have successfully filled in for the star, coach Renan Dal Zotto decided to call up volleyball legend Murilo Endres, who has only recently made the move to the libero spot for health reasons, for a chance at team’s roster.
The move infuriated current Superliga’s champion libero, Sérginho (Nogueira). One of the most successful Brazilian liberos of all time, he never really had a chance at the national team, mostly due to political reasons. Still, fans were able to look over that fact, at least during Serginho’s namesake’s tenure at the spot. But now that he has retired, and Sérginho still didn’t land a spot in the team, he was livid with the fact, specially after Murilo was called up and he was not, even though he was completely outplayed by him in Superliga’s finals. Here is what Serginho had to say (Globo.com):
“This is a total discredit to all real liberos. Not because Murilo is a bad passer or defender. He is good at both skills, but he had his best moments as an outside hitter, when he was also able to attack and serve. It is not fair for a guy that played only 10 games as libero in his career to be called up for the Brazilian national team, and for other players who spent their whole careers at libero to not be even considered. There is a lot of players who could have taken his spot. Now, a player who has played only a couple of games, and who is not yet used to being in and out of the court at all times will represent the country.
A lot of times, a player’s age was used to justify his absence from the national team. Murilo is 37, so it’s clear the rules don’t apply to him. The rules are not fair, they never were, they never will be. I won’t ever feed hopes of one day being called up for the team. My vacation tickets have been bought in November, as I knew I wasn’t going be called up. The political lobby for Murilo on the team is just too high, so I won’t be called up even though my numbers are much better than his. This is not arrogance from my part, just pure facts.”
When asked of the controversy, Brazil’s coach Renan Dal Zotto stood firmly by his decision (Globo.com):
“Murilo has always been a solid reference from Brazil’s national team. He was a World Championship and Olympic Games MVP. Passing was also his greatest asset as a player. He contributed a lot to Brazilian volleyball and his experience will greatly help the team. He is a leader.”
The team’s starting setter, Bruninho, also came to Murilo’s aid:
“Without a doubt, our opponents see Murilo with a different kind of respect. He was a World Championship and Olympic Games MVP. You just have to respect a player like that. The experience that he brings greatly helps the team.”
Regardless of Renan’s reasoning, it’s clear that Serginho must have some enemies within the team.
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