Long Beach, USA, August 25, 2015 - In 1979, Angelo Squeo made his first visit to Southern California to visit his former volleyball teammate Kirk Kilgour, who had been paralysed in an accident during his playing days in Italy.
Kilgour insisted that Squeo drive them down to Manhattan Beach, the venue for a beach volleyball tournament. To say Squeo was intrigued would be putting it mildly.
“There were about 10,000 spectators around the court. It was really something like lightning shooting through me and giving me energy.
“I was a good player in Italy, I thought I could get a good result there. I played the quali and a father and son beat us in a way I could not see the ball.”
Squeo was a changed man and the bolt of inspiration he took from that day in Manhattan helped change the sport.
“I started to think that this was a completely different game. It attracted thousands of people on the beach so why not bring it to Italy, my country, and Europe and outside of the States,” Squeo said.
Over the next decade, Squeo helped bring the sport to Italy and Europe. He started by procuring the rights to broadcast highlights and suddenly Sinjin Smith, Karch Kiraly, Tim Hovland, Mike Dodd and dozens of pioneering Americans were on Italian television.
When Squeo arrived in Long Beach, California this weekend, he was witness to thousands of spectators cheering for teams from 31 countries competing for the $800,000 in prize money at the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam, but also for Olympic qualification points.
Now the FIVB Beach Volleyball Director, Squeo was honoured by World Series of Beach Volleyball (WSOBV) chairman Leonard Armato on Friday for his role under the guidance of three FIVB Presidents including the current beach volleyball enthusiast Dr. Ary S. Graça F° in building the sport into a global endeavor. How far has it grown? On the day Squeo arrived in Long Beach, a women’s team from Vanuatu eliminated the Brazilian team that ranks No. 1 in the world.
Next month in Fort Lauderdale, Squeo will help oversee the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in which a men’s and women’s team will take home a first-place prize of $100,000.
That’s a long way from the early 1990s, when along with FIVB President Ruben Acosta, Squeo was part of the team that helped convince the International Olympic Committee to add beach volleyball to the Games, and the sport made its debut in Atlanta in 1996.
“It was sold out nine months before and we didn’t know if we had enough players to participate at the time from all over the world,” Squeo said with a smile. “I was the technical delegate at the Olympic Games in Atlanta – the one to shoot at if things were not going well.”
Today, 167 countries have beach volleyball programmes, with thousands of players racing the clock and pushing the competition in order to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“I’m honoured to be associated with the success and it also means we were right in what we believed at the moment when there was really nobody supporting us,” Squeo said. “This sport has a lot of class, a lot of value, it can be played by men and women.
“I’m really proud because it is becoming universal and it is becoming an experience for the family. Here, you have a package, you have a chance to touch the champions, they are accessible.”