Thirty years since EuroBeachVolley had its premiere in Almeria


Article Fri, Mar 17 2023
Author: Federico Ferraro

As we celebrate this year the CEV’s golden jubilee, in a series of features, we review – albeit not necessarily chronologically – some of the major milestones the European Volleyball family has been privileged to experience and live since 1973. One such milestone came 30 years ago – when the very first European Beach Volleyball Championships took place in Almeria, Spain.

The inaugural European Beach Volleyball Championships were held 30 years ago in Almeria, Spain

This happened a year after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had announced that Beach Volleyball would be added to the programme of the Olympic Games already at Atlanta 1996. The meteoric rise of the sport in terms of popularity and media attention produced such a steady development – and the CEV followed suit with the organisation of the first – men’s only – European Beach Volleyball Championships.

The location chosen for this premiere – Almeria – could not have been any more fitting, with this port city on the renowned Costa del Sol a very popular destination for holidaymakers and beach lovers alike. The competition featured 25 teams – actually 26 had registered, but the Ukrainians eventually did not travel due to visa issues. The event was a real success – with some 5,000 fans showing up on each competition day to enjoy Beach Volleyball action as well as a fun and festive atmosphere.

The Spanish fans, however, were left disappointed after home heroes Javier Yuste and Santiago Aguilera lost in the semis as well as the subsequent bronze medal match to Italy’s Beach Volleyball pioneers Andrea Ghiurghi and Dionisio Lequaglie. The gold medal match witnessed by 6,000 fans featured the heavy favourites Norwegians Jan Kvalheim and Bjorn Maaseide – the top European duo at the time – against French underdogs Jean-Philippe Jodard and Christian Penigaud. Jodard, a former soccer player who had never played Volleyball indoors before, and his partner Penigaud, a former international middle blocker, caused a real sensation as they beat the Norwegians 12-10, 12-8 in 56 minutes to seize the first European title in history.

An excerpt from a CEV newsletter dating to 1993 showing the teams involved in the championship, their final standing and share of prize money

Jodard even received the award for the MVP – at the time known as Best Player All-Around – of the competition, with partner Penigaud awarded as the Best Blocker. Ghiurghi and Lequaglie scooped the prizes for Best Attacker and Best Defender, respectively, as Yuste and Kvalheim claimed the awards for the Best Setter and Best Server.

The tournament featured teams from the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and Türkiye. If we go through the names, we spot some interesting ones – including current CEV Vice-President Michel Everaert (NED), and Portugal’s Beach Volleyball legends Miguel Maia and Joao Brenha – who were fifth in Almeria, with Maia awarded as the Best Receiver of the competition.

Newsletters and minutes from those days emphasise the success of the inaugural event in Almeria – and the wish to add a similar competition for women’s teams as well, which eventually happened a year later in Espinho, Portugal.