Birarelli was Italy captain when they won silver at Rio 2016
Rome, Italy, July 21, 2020 – Emanuele Birarelli has announced that he is retiring from volleyball after a career that featured two Olympic medals and three Olympic Games.
The 39-year-old Birarelli captained Italy to silver at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and was part of the squad that won bronze at London 2012, four years on from making his Olympic debut at Beijing 2008.
His retirement is the third in quick succession of players who have helped Italy to Olympic medals, after Alessandro Frei and Cristian Savani decided to step away from the court following stellar careers for the Azzurri.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but I have decided to stop,” Birarelli told Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Volleyball was my life, but my contract with Verona was coming to an end and the Covid pandemic pushed me towards making this decision. Now I have to think about what I want to do with my second life.”
Birarelli was born in Senigallia on Italy’s Adriatic coast, and he made his Serie A debut in 1998 for PallaVollo Falconara.
The middle blocker joined Trentino in 2007 and a year later won the first of his five Italian championships and made his Italian and Olympic debut.
As well as his Olympic medals, he helped Italy win FIVB World League bronze in 2013 and 2014, and two CEV European Championship silver.
At club level Birarelli won four consecutive FIVB Volleyball Club World Championships with Trentino from 2009 to 2012, as well as three CEV Champions League.
“The Olympics, I had the good fortune to play three,” Birarelli said when asked for a highlight. “For an athlete they are something special.
“In Beijing as a debutant, it was a little overwhelming. In London we won bronze, while in Rio being captain was something truly special, the highlight of my career.
“Sure, we lost the gold medal match, but in those 20 days we had the feeling of being invincible.”