The Netherlands will face Serbia, Brazil, Bulgaria and Turkey in the second round
Verona, Italy, 29 September, 2014 - She will play in Bergamo, Italy, for the next two years, but the local crowd has already started to know – and appreciate – her at the FIVB Women’s World Championship in Verona. Distinctive features: nearly 19 years old, a cascade of black curls and a background that has no precedent on the Netherlands team.
“My father is from Suriname, South America, and my mother is Dutch, so I’m 50%,” Celeste Plak explained. “I was just looking in the history list and I thought hmm, only Dutch names. My first Dutch national youth coach said ‘you are going to be the first black girl who plays in the national team if your progress continues’. I stuck with my progress and now I am here. It’s funny, I like funny things.”
Plak said she is proud of having set this milestone, although she does not know why she was the first one. “I don’t know why it has taken so long for a black person to play, I have no idea. Maybe they don’t play volleyball as much and play basketball and football instead.”
The first coloured player wearing the orange shirt has also been their best asset so far, being the best scorer on the team with 55 points, 44 of which came from spikes and 8 from blocks, and placing 29th overall after the first round of competition. Plak is also the youngest on the Netherlands team. “They found out I picked up things faster than my friends of the same age and now I am here. This is a point. I wanted to get in the youth team, then the national team and now I want to be one of the best players in the world.”
Sport is in her blood. Her father was a world-level Thai boxer and played volleyball like her brother and mother do. “Suriname is not big on volleyball, but my mother plays in our little village where they have a club,” she said.
After qualifying for the second round of competition with three wins and two losses (to Russia and USA), Plak and her teammates will have to take on other strong teams like Brazil and Serbia. “We expect to play our best game every day. We expect to work for each other and cover all the attacks. We just want to go as far as we can, but we have to take points when they are presented to us.”
They will count on a good team spirit and on the support of Dutch fans who travelled from all parts of the Netherlands to support their squad. “Dutch people are crazy. When the national teams play there is a lot of craziness. We are lucky this World Championship is in Italy so they can come and watch. Most are family, friends and people from the federation. There are also two fans for our team who always come to our games.”
The Netherlands will begin the second round facing Serbia at PalaOlimpia on Wednesday at 17:00.