USA (USA) vs. Poland (POL) men - Final 1-2 #5981714

Zatorski is cheered by the Polish fans in Gdańsk

If the women’s Volleyball Nations League 2023 Most Valuable Player Melissa Vargas had to wait virtually no time to earn her space with champions Türkiye, claiming the award in her first tournament with the European national team, it wasn't the same for the men’s MVP, Pawel Zatorski, who needed a little bit more patience to be recognized with the Polish team.

  • Volleyball Nations League 2023 matches are available on demand on VBTV

The 33-year-old defender joined his country’s national team back in 2009 and had to gradually see his role with the team improve until it reached the MVP-caliber production that he displayed during the VNL 2023.

A silver medalist at the 2007 U18 European Championship, Zatorski got his first call-up to be a part of the Polish senior squad two years later, at the age of 19. Although he was already a promising libero at the time, Zatorski knew he would have to wait for an opportunity to show what he was capable of.

That’s because the Polish national team had at the time one of the best liberos in international volleyball in Krzysztof Ignaczak, who would just a few years year later be awarded as the best in his position at the London Olympics and the 2011 and 2012 editions of the FIVB World League.

After years of learning from Ignaczak and developing his game, Zatorski was more than ready to step up in the Polish starting lineup in 2013 and he proved that by being selected as the best libero of the 2015 World League – three years later, he would take some the same award at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball World Championship, when he was one of the key pieces of the Polish winning squad.

Now one of the veterans of the Polish team that won its first VNL title, he tries to mentor the team’s younger players and convince them that working hard and waiting for an opportunity is the only path to success.

“I knew I had to wait for my time and it was harder when I started because teams had only 12 players in the match squad, so the second libero wouldn’t even dress, we had to watch the match from the stands,” he said after the Polish victory against the United States in the final. “Now as one of the veterans, I’m trying to pass my experience to the younger players and tell them to give their best at training, to not break down and wait for their moment. I think Tomasz Fornal was a great example of that. He didn’t have much of a role during the VNL, but came in during the final and helped in a fantastic way.”

USA (USA) vs. Poland (POL) men - Final 1-2 #5981713

The libero in action during the VNL 2023 gold medal match

Nicknamed ‘Zati’, the libero was highly celebrated by his teammates at the end of the awarding ceremony, but he was more interested in enjoying the special moment with the 11,000 fans that packed the Ergo Arena, in Gdańsk, to push their national team for the title and celebrating another victory of the team.

“It was a nice surprise,” he admitted. “During a tournament, until the final point is scored, we’re not even talking about who could win an award. But to be honest, I got a lot more carried away when we received our medals and got to lift the trophy and listen to our national anthem. This, to me, is a childhood dream coming true. Every day with the national team is a dream that I fulfil and I consider myself very lucky for it.”

Quick links:
Volleyball Nations League
Subscribe to Volleyball World's Newsletter