It almost seems unfair. Poland, the 2-time defending World Champions, will add the services of Wilfredo Leon in 2019 – one of the most lethal servers and biggest hitters in the world. But, that addition won’t come quite as soon as expected.
While the FIVB ruled Leon eligible to compete for his adopted nation of Poland (he was born in Cuba) beginning in 2019, they are holding fast to their 2-year probationary period, which won’t end until July 24th, 2019. That means that he won’t be eligible to play in the Nations League tournament, and will instead make his major-tournament debut
Polish journalist Tomasz Swedrowski pointed out that the FIVB could have made an exception. The Nations League, as compared to its predecessor the World League, has been relegated to basically a commercial tournament. The event is no longer even considered in the FIVB World Rankings calculation, beginning this year. Allowing one of the world’s biggest stars to play in a purely commercial tournament seems like it would be a positive for the commercial nature of that sport.
Leon has been a Polish citizen since 2015, but couldn’t change his sporting citizenship until 2 years later, when Cuba dropped their contesting of his ability to play in Poland.
So the first sight of Leon in the red and white of Poland will probably be at the Polish-hosted Hubert Jerzy Wagner Memorial tournament, where among others they’ll play Russia and the United States. That will be the USA’s first appearance in that tournament. His first major scheduled championship will be the 2019 European Championships, which will be co-hosted by Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Slovenia from September 13th-29th.