Italy had a great run at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Men's U21 World Championship. Supported by their loyal fans at the Piristu hall in Cagliari, the Azzurini grabbed the competition's gold medals for the very first time on Sunday.
Meet Italy’s U21 gold medallists, Tommaso & Tommaso
Tommaso Stefani (9) and Tommaso Rinaldi (15) share their thoughts on each other
Published 08:53, 06 Oct 2021
Two of the main protagonists for Italy were “The Tommasos” of the team - Tommaso Rinaldi (outside hitter & captain) and Tommaso Stefani (opposite). Rinaldi made it on to the Dream Team of the tournament, taking one of the best outside hitter awards.
The two young players don’t just share the same first name and passion for the game. They have also shared many special moments together as members of the national team. Both Tommasos also have something else in common - it is their fathers who first introduced them to the sport. Rinaldi is following in the steps of his father, the former volleyball player Pietro Rinaldi, who played in Italy back in the 90s and early 2000s. Stefani, on the other hand, finds his inspiration from his father Gabriele, also a former player, and currently a coach.
Volleyball World caught up with Tommaso & Tommaso at the recent World Championship and asked both players to talk about their relationship on the team.
What is your best moment together?
Tommaso Stefani: There have been so many funny and good moments together! We have them each day. Actually, I would say that most of the time that we spend together, we have such nice and funny moments, that help create a nice atmosphere. For sure, the summer of 2019, a summer that we practically spent together with the national team, was one of the best moments together. We won the U19 Worlds and Youth Olympics, so this is something to remember.
Tommaso Rinaldi: It is difficult to highlight just one moment, there have been so many! If I really have to chose only one, it would be winning the U19 Boys Worlds in Tunis. And of course, this one now - earning gold on home soil in Sardinia. These are unique moments that come after so much hard work.
What are you like outside the court?
Tommaso Stefani: Outside the court, he is the same as on the court. He is a very sunny person, who spreads around his joyful mood.
Tommaso Rinaldi: When we are not on the court, in the calm moments both of us like to play video games.
What are you like on the court?
Tommaso Stefani: The same person as outside the court, but with an additional bomb of determination and a competitive spirit.
Tommaso Rinaldi: I think that he is such a strong player! His way of being on and off the court, once you get to really know him the way I do, conveys something really special and unique.
Describe Tommaso in three words.
Tommaso Stefani: Sunny, friendly a really good person.
Tommaso Rinaldi: Gentle, humble, sunny.
What are your best qualities?
Tommaso Stefani: His attitude and his capacity to always remain positive.
Tommaso Rinaldi: His kindness makes it easy for everyone to love him. Even on the court, he helps us a lot with this quality. He is the type of person who you know will always be on your side, no matter the circumstances.
Do you remember when you first met? Tell us the story, what did you think of each other?
Tommaso Stefani: We first met in the summer of the World Championship in 2019, at the first camp with the national team. At first, it took me a while to understand him, because I didn't think it was possible that someone could be that good in such a genuine way.
Tommaso Rinaldi: Our first meeting was in the summer of my first camp with the national team. He was already one of the leaders of the team, so I have always seen him almost as an idol or as a model to look up to.
If you meet as opponents (playing for different clubs) - who will win and why?
Tommaso Stefani: It would be a good challenge because we are both very competitive. However, for superstitious reasons, I prefer to say that he would win. Then, we will see what actually happens on the court...
Tommaso Rinaldi: I hope that the better one wins! But it will be interesting to play each other, and, at the same time, laugh from the other side of the net.
On a more personal note, Tommaso & Tommaso also shared why they chose volleyball and what their biggest dreams are.
Why did you choose volleyball?
Tommaso Stefani: I chose volleyball thanks to my father, who helped me to fall in love with the sport when I was a small kid. I remember that when he was still playing, we would go to watch him in sports halls all around Tuscany. I remember always seeing him as the strongest player that there was.
Tommaso Rinaldi: I chose volleyball because of my father, who was a Serie A player. He passed on his passion to me.
What do you dream about in volleyball?
Tommaso Stefani: I dream of playing in the starting six of a team in the Italian Superlega. And I want to become a player teammates can rely on completely in every situation.
Tommaso Rinaldi: To play in the senior national team.
What would you say to your fans?
Tommaso Stefani: I want to extend my huge thanks to all of them, for their incredible support! Don’t forget to never back down, and to always put your heart into whatever you do.
Tommaso Rinaldi: Thank you very much everyone! I love you, you are really special!