Taha Akgül with Ace

As many as 10,500 fans rooted for Team Turkey on Wednesday night as the ‘Sultans of the Net’ secured their fourth straight victory in Pool A to challenge titleholders Serbia for the top spot in the group. Olympic champion Taha Akgül was in the crowd as well, with the wrestler finding some time to visit EuroVolley 2019 Women, while he is working hard to prepare for the upcoming World Championship – which counts as an Olympic qualifying event as well – due to take place in Kazakhstan.

The physically imposing Taha – he is 192 cm tall and weighs 120 kg – used social media, like many other Turkish stars and celebs, to express his support to the ‘Sultans of the Net’ before EuroVolley started. That is quite a habit for Akgül, since he regularly communicates with many of Turkey’s elite sportspeople as the chairperson of the Athletes’ Commission at the Turkish Olympic Committee.

“I follow all sports and especially those where Turkish athletes are very successful, such as Volleyball,” Akgül said. “I enjoy playing Volleyball myself, especially with friends, and even though physically I am quite suited to the sport, I still struggle with the technical skills, which are sometimes difficult to learn and manage,” he admitted.

Olympic champion Taha Akgül teaching some wrestling technique to the CEV mascot ACE

Taha knows very well the type of pressure that Team Turkey has to deal with at this EuroVolley. “Even though I am an Olympic champion and have won multiple European – seven – and World Championship titles – two – and I know what it feels to deal with the pressure, this becomes even bigger when I compete in Turkey and everyone expects me to win. Therefore, I can relate with what our Volleyball players are going through right now but this huge crowd can be an amazing extra boost of energy as well, despite the obvious pressure that goes with it.”

There is a sports arena in Taha’s hometown, Sivas, where the men’s Volleyball national team of Turkey played their first match in the European Golden League this year, which bears the name of Akgül. “Unfortunately, I could not attend that match, even though I followed it on TV,” Taha said, admitting there is a further connection between him and Volleyball. “Even though wrestling is an individual sport and physical contact is the quintessence of it, I still see a lot of similarities with Volleyball. The sacrifices we make and the desire to compete and win is the same,” he said.

Akgül quit the sport at a young age since he did not see too many perspectives of success to focus on his studies but coaches from Ankara spotted him while he was studying in Izmir and he soon became Turkey’s major force to reckon with in the heaviest weight category. “As an Olympic champion, I travel extensively across Turkey to meet with young people and try to inspire them to live a healthy life and especially to take up and do things they like. I tell them to follow their dreams and that they should always go for what they desire.”