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Saied Marouf’s importance to his team was obvious in his first game at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, which followed two Week 1 match losses for Iran without their captain and main playmaker.

When he slipped into his jersey for their third match, and made a brief entry as a substitute in their May 30 encounter with the Netherlands, they claimed their first victory in the competition.

And when Marouf played as a starter against Canada at the beginning of Week 2, Iran claimed a second win.

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“It’s a long and tough tournament, but now we are happy that we beat Canada because we are in the same pool as them at the Olympic Games, so this was an important match for us," said Marouf.

Top Plays: IRI vs CAN

Marouf's name is synonymous with the success of the Iranian men’s team over the last decade. His ability to elevate his teammates’ level sets him apart and his outstanding statistical contributions as the primary setter help the 35-year-old transmit inspiration and passion to his teammates.

“There are players in the team whom I have been playing with for 15 years, and there are new and young players who are good and talented,” said Marouf.

“I am trying to create a group that can play together in the same atmosphere and understand each other on the court. I let the players feel free as to how they want to play. If we continue doing this then the young players will be able to contribute their maximum and play without any pressure. We have to support them more and continue to show them the way Iran should play.”

Marouf is thrilled to be back after a two-year break for the national team, and he is looking forward to playing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and to working with Russian coach Vladimir Alekno.

“After two years without volleyball, this is our first tournament with the national team. We are looking forward to the matches here in preparation for Tokyo, which is very important to us because it will be our second Olympics in a row.

“We have a new coach who has been working with us for almost two months, so we are getting to know each other better. We want to get to know our strengths and weaknesses here, and then we have three weeks to work on them before the Olympics.

“Alekno gives us confidence and we are so happy that he is with us. His viewpoint on volleyball is to let the players play freely, and I think that with his confidence in us we will have a good future for the next generation of players.”

Iran completed Week 2 with victories against hosts Italy and Bulgaria. They defeated USA at the beginning of Week 3 before losing to Serbia and Germany.