Scotland are Men’s European small countries champions – after a tournament victory masterminded by volleyball team manager John Swan, from Bainsford.
The former international volleyball referee has led the Scotland team for five years and landed the title in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, earlier this month.
It’s not every day that a sporting trophy from a globally recognised team event winds its way back to Scotland, but the silverware now on display at Scottish Volleyball’s Edinburgh headquarters is among the highest accolades the team, and country, could achieve.
John, who refereed at the London Olympics in 2012, explained: “There is no team GB programme for volleyball any more. Funding was withdrawn following the Olympics – but there are still national teams for England, Wales and Scotland and such like.
“Scotland qualify for this competition based on population under six million and we’ve been close and reached semi-finals before, but this is our first victory since the competition began in 1998 and after 11 or 12 attempts.”
The small countries championship is a round robin competition with teams playing three matches each, and held every two years. Scotland’s results – two wins over the hosts and Greenland and a defeat to Iceland – were enough to take the trophy on points difference.
Now John, who works for Falkirk Council as an Organisational Development adviser, is eyeing defence of his team’s title at the end of next year.
He said: “The team captain took the trophy home and kept it a few weeks but now it’s back with the head officer in Edinburgh.
“I hope we can defend the title and I plan to carry on with the team, to the semi-finals next year and then, hopefully, the final in 2021.
“We have had a successful time recently and this just caps it off. We played England in Perth earlier this year and won 3-0. The win was the first in the Auld Enemy match for seven years and the first time we had beaten them 3-0 in over 20.”
John has had a long-held affiliation with volleyball having played for Larbert High School then Falkirk Volleyball Club,before taking up officiating as a referee which took him around the world and eventually to London in 2012.
He hung up his whistle at the top with his Olympic appearances but was asked to take the Scotland men’s team manager post in 2015, which has developed into this success.
He added: “They knew I had extensive knowledge of the European volleyball scene so I was a good fit once the former manager stepped down.
“I can be booking training halls or arranging accommodation or managing the players on and off the court – it’s very varied.”