Men's U21 World Championship 2021 News

Denis Karyagin celebrates with his Bulgarian teammates

Although Bulgaria lost their first match of the second round at the FIVB Volleyball U21 Men’s World Championship 2021, their opposite Denis Karyagin is still hopeful of a place on the tournament podium. That is exactly what he wishes for on the day he turns 19, when the hosts of Pool F are set to play their next game of the tournament, against Poland.

“Most of all, for my birthday I wish myself good health and a medal from this World Championship,” Karyagin told Volleyball World at the Levski Sofia volleyball hall in the Bulgarian capital. “First, we need to clear our heads after the loss to Russia. I hope we can prepare for the match against Poland in the best possible way and go for the victory.”

Bulgaria and Poland met in the first round. With both teams having already qualified among the top eight of the championship, Poland claimed victory from a hard-fought battle, but Karyagin thinks that this time around, as the two teams meet again on Tuesday, the outcome could be different.

Then, on Wednesday, Bulgaria will take on Brazil in their last Pool F game. Bulgaria defeated the South Americans at the U19 World Championship in Tunisia two years ago, which was considered surprising at the time.

“I don’t think it will be a surprise if we beat Brazil again on Wednesday, but first we have to focus on the match with Poland. We have to beat them before getting to Brazil.”

Denis Karyagin on the block against Poland

Denis Karyagin on the block against Poland

To play at home is usually an advantage and even though the anti-pandemic regulations in Bulgaria do not allow the general public to support the young Lions from the stands of the Levski Sofia hall, the 2.06m-tall striker thinks it could still help.

“It is difficult when there are no spectators on the stands, but as we say, ‘at home even the walls are helping’. We have trained a lot at this facility and we are used to it. We just have to give our all to win the next two games,” he said.

Denis Karyagin serving at the Levski Sofia hall

Denis Karyagin serving at the Levski Sofia hall

Denis has already made his debut for the senior national team of Bulgaria. That was during the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Italy, when he shared his post with star opposite Tsvetan Sokolov.

“It was an irreplaceable, invaluable experience! You play with the top players whom you’ve only seen on TV before,” the young hopeful said. “And Tsvetan Sokolov is my volleyball idol. He had lots of difficulties when he was my age, but he managed to cope with them and right now, for me, he is the best player in the world.”

At the senior club level, Karyagin has had even more experience. He played for Neftochimik 2010 Burgas for three seasons, winning all the national trophies and debuting in the CEV Champions League. This summer, the Bulgarian athlete also had his first international transfer. He is joining Italy’s Vero Volley Monza for the upcoming season.

“I expect the new situation to help me continue my growth. I hope to get playing time with my new club team and I hope for many victories,” he commented.

Denis comes from a sports family. His father was a volleyballer and his mother played basketball. He made his first steps in a different sport, however.

“My first sport was football, but then, I think I was nine years old, my father took me to a volleyball game, where he was in the role of an assistant coach. It was a game between Neftochimik and Montana. I will never forget that match! This is when and where I got fired up for volleyball. The emotions of the sport itself, the emotions on the stands gave me a great pleasure and I told myself that I wanted to get into volleyball,” he said.

“I am motivated by my family and friends, but I am mostly motivated by the fact that I want to be successful in this sport. I dream of a successful career and a happy family and that’s it.”