Tsvetan_Sokolov

One of his country's leading players in recent years, Bulgaria opposite Tsvetan Sokolov is looking forward to the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship in Russia next year. Bulgaria will begin their World Championship campaign in Novosibirsk in Pool C, alongside reigning world champions Poland, USA and Mexico. In this interview, he talks about why volleyball is the perfect sport and about his life off the courts.

What does volleyball mean to you?

Everything, I think. After family, it’s everything I have.

It’s something that gives me a lot of emotions. I feel really happy when I play, when I am on a court. I feel free to do what I do best.

I’m so glad I adopted this sport. It has given me great emotions and feelings. Perhaps it is the perfect sport.

What should volleyball be most respected for?

Volleyball players are kind and friendly. Even if we play with anger and nerves on court, after a game is finished we are all friends.

This is the good part of volleyball.

Also, it is not a contact sport.

All the time you are trying to do your best, to give more than your opponent – to be more aggressive, to be more of everything to win the game.

But when the referee says the game is finished, players on both sides of the net are friends again, with a smile on their face.

What do you like about your role on the court?

It gives me a chance to take responsibility. My role is to spike the difficult balls, to manage important moments in a match. I’m really happy to have this role in the teams I play for. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s also very satisfying.

What is your first volleyball memory?

My first spike. I started playing in Dupnitsa, Bulgaria, with a team called Marek Union-Ivkoni. And I remember the first practice when I was told to spike the ball. I spiked beyond the court and the basketball ring. I remember that the team coach said: ‘Ok, you can become a good player’.

What is the best you can do on court?

To spike. And to give more emotions to the team.

What would you tell the child you were if you had a time machine to travel back to those days?

I don’t think that I would change anything. I’m really happy with what I have now, with what has happened in my life.

I have a beautiful family, I have a good career and I think I still have time to improve.

As a professional athlete who is often in the spotlight, what would you tell the world?

To be an example to young people.

What was your nickname when you were younger?

I don’t think I had a nickname. Everybody called me Tsetsо. It’s like a nickname, I suppose, but really it's another version of Tsvetan, which is my first name.

What would you like to have as a superpower?

Maybe patience.

Which character trait do you fight against in yourself?

That I become really angry when I start making mistakes. I know that I can do better and become angry because I know that I can do something but haven't. It is something I would like to change. To be more patient, to be more comfortable with myself.

So, you want to be like your Finnish Dynamo Moscow teammate Lauri Kerminen?

He is amazing. I like him a lot because he is always calm, he is never nervous. He is always so patient, so quiet, so serious also. Not serious all the time... he also jokes around a lot.

What are your favourite clothes?

My own. I have a brand.

Yes, my family has a brand.

The brand is called Sokolov, but it is written 2o7o10v. We created the brand with my wife. At the moment it’s mainly a t-shirt brand. It was often difficult for me to find clothes, so the idea was to make my own! I choose the fabrics and participate in the design process. We work with Bulgarian artists for the designs, which I’m really happy about. I can really say that I am comfortable in these clothes. Also because they are made with good fabric.

What is the volleyball achievement you are most proud of?

There are a lot of titles I have won with clubs. But I can say that with the national team I’m really proud that we won the third place at a Europe Championship and finished fourth at an Olympic Games.

With my club teams, I can say that every new title is the most important because it’s the newest. You give more and more every year.

I could say that the first title was the most important, because the first title you win is always great. But for me every new title is important. The feeling is always that I want to win more and more and more.

What would you do if you were not a volleyball player?

I can say that I really like cars a lot. My brother and I are always talking about cars. Perhaps I would be working in a job related to that.

What is the volleyball rule you would like to change?

I don’t think that I would want to change anything now.

What is the weirdest thing people have shouted to you from the stands?

I don’t remember. There are a lot of occasions when people have spoken to me… Usually when I’m on the court, I don’t listen to what people are saying.

What is the best professional advice you were ever given?

To work harder. Really. It was the most important. To listen to the coach. Because for me, in my opinion, from the years I have played, I think you can learn something from every coach. And everyone can give you some advice that you can use.

If you work hard in an intelligent way, if you listen to what people say, you will become better and better. The way I see it, there is also a time that you can learn something from the younger players. Not only from the oldest ones.

I think there is something you can learn from everyone you play with.

What is the best meal you can cook?

Pasta.

I prefer pasta without anything on it. Just olive oil. But I can also cook a Bolognese. I lived in Italy for eight years, so I can cook that too.

What is your biggest weakness food-wise?

Bread! Perhaps. Bread and also cheese. I really try not to eat too much cheese, because it contains a little more fat. But I really love cheese. For now, I try not to eat it. We are in mid-Championship, so I need to be in good shape.

What was the last movie or series you really enjoyed?

I cannot say that I am a person who watches many movies and series, but I really love the ‘Friends’ series. It is my favourite. I also like the Marvel movies. For me it's all about having a relaxing time.

Are there any cartoon characters you identify with?

There are a lot of friends who say I look like Hulk... but I don't think that's true.

What are you expecting the World Championship in Russia to be like?

Difficult. Really difficult. And also interesting for the people who will come and see us. I hope that everybody will enjoy the matches. And I hope we will play a really good volleyball, at a high level, and that we will qualify for the second stage of the competition.