Simply speaking, Ana Beatriz Moser has been the most famous and talented Brazilian volleyball player of the last two decades. She is to Brazil what Mireya Luis was to Cuba and Lang Ping will always be to China. There are few other analogies that are quite as appropriate because these players combined popular appeal, a strong character, impressive volleyball skills, and a natural inclination towards leadership, all under one name. Ana Moser's story is quite long and quite interesting. Check out her own personal website for the complete story (see the Links section). But as far as my impressions of this talented player go, here they are—in a decompressed nutshell! What I will most remember about her is the way she faced the Cubans in Atlanta. The memory of her bravery gave me enormous respect for her, and not only because she stood up to uphold her battered dignity, but because she didn't think twice about doing it. Most of her teammates were unsure of how to handle the loss so they huddled together by the back line in silence, but in a most daring move, Ana Moser went straight to the front line and faced her demons right in their faces. How many people pick a fight in front of thousands of spectators at the Omni Colliseum, millions of TV viewers tuned in to the semifinal, and even more so, at the Olympic Games of all places, where surely the incident would make it into the annals of history? However, her reaction didn't surprise me from what I've seen of this talented Brazilian player and her on-court personality: she's definitely not the type of person you want to mess with. I remember that in the finals of the South American Club Championships in Lima in '94 or '95 (where she played for Colgate/S?o Caetano against L'Acqua di Fiori/Minas) she would constantly glare at someone on the other side of the net, I don't know really at who. Whenever a call was obvious but the referees wouldn't see it, Ana Moser would provokingly lift her hands at this player as if telling her, "Come on, admit you touched the ball! What? Are you gonna pretend you didn't touch it? You want this to get nasty? 'cause I can make it nasty if you want to..."—that type of attitude. Some people might call it arrogant, but Ana Moser definitely knew how to make herself be heard on the court. Even amongst her teammates, she strutted around the court with a confidence that made her seem almost manly (I'm not saying this in a bad way at all), like a boy looking for a fight. For Brazilians and fans of Ana Moser anywhere in the world, this self-confidence was irresistible, and as long as she didn't cross the line into downright bullying, it was admired. So how did this affect my perception of her at Atlanta? Well, before Ana Moser was a player of international caliber, the continental rivalry in South America was between Brazil and my home country, Peru. These two teams battled it out since the mid-1960s, if not further back, and until the late 1970s it was quite even. But the '80s were mostly Peruvian, winning all five titles of that decade but one in Santo André, Brazil, in 1981. Speaking in general, I'm sure that when Ana Moser began watching international volleyball competitions she was quite frustrated at the fact that Brazil would never play its best against Peru, for some bizarre reason. The Brazilian teams of the '80s were good teams, creative, athletic, gutsy, and with talent aplenty in a country of 150 million people, but somehow they were intimidated whenever they faced Cecilia Tait and Company. That was back in the '80s. Ana Moser probably entered volleyball determined to reverse the continental order of things... She quickly rose up the ranks from club to Junior National Team, and in '87 she led Brazil to its first World Junior title against South Korea. I don't remember exactly but my Brazilian friends tell me that Márcia and Fernanda were also on that team. Ana Moser, was the go-to hitter in that Junior World Champion team. and with that world title in her hand, she knew she had it in her to win many more in the Adult division. Two years later at the '89 Junior World's, her teammates Márcia and Fernanda won a second consecutive Junior World title, this time alongside Ana Flávia, Ericleia (Filo), Kerly, and Fátima, but their final match was tougher than that of '87. Brazil faced a Cuban team with players such as Magaly Carvajal and Regla Bell, two players who were to become hard core adversaries in just three year's time. Ana Moser didn't play at the '89 World's because she was over the age limit, but she waited eagerly for the arrival of her world bi-champion teammates so that the Adult National Team could begin a major upgrade. At the '89 South American Championships in Curitiba, coach Inaldo Manta (or at least I believe it was him at the time) played around with his lineup throughout the tournament, mixing the old and new generations to achieve a sort of productive symbiosis. I stress the difference between the two groups because other than Isabel Salgado (later on called the "Ana Moser of her generation", in converse chronological adulation), the older players weren't really at a par with the younger ones. It seems odd to say that, but I think that if more of the younger players had played, they would've obtained better results. Instead, Brazil dropped a set against Argentina and fell flat against Peru in the final. Ana Moser played for barely a handful of points in the match, but whenever she attacked she would hit the ball really well! Benching her, putting Vera Mossa on the outside instead, and having Márcia and Ana Claudia play middle (??) seemed like mistakes that a coach with too many options was making. But at least the younger players got some real experience playing, which is something Peru's coach Man Bok Park was not doing at all on the other side of the net... Eventually, Park's reluctance to put his juniors to the test cost him the continental hegemony. At the '90 Goodwill Games in Seattle, it became clear to me that Brazil had surpassed Peru. By then Peru depended more and more on middle blocker and star hitter Gaby Pérez del Solar. In the match for third place, Brazil faced Peru for third place and showed some really exceptional volleyball in the first two sets. Nothing was working for Peru, they were sluggish, they were hitting straight into the blocks of Ida and Ana Flávia, and the two outside hitters, Ana Moser and Márcia, were unstoppable. The Brazilian coach, Inaldo Manta (now I'm sure it was him) brought Tina Lopes back for her quickness at middle (despite her not being very tall for a middle blocker). For the same reason he placed Ida at middle, so setter Fernanda had quite a number of fast combination plays to run in the middle, or the outside hitters in looped shoots outside, or Ana Moser to the back row. Unfortunately in the third set, Ana Flávia went down with a sprained ankle and that shifted the momentum of the match in favour of Peru. The Andeans won sets three and four, taking advantage of a disconcerted Brazilian team that was struggling to find itself again. In the tie-break, Peru went up to 14-11 and apparently had the match, the bronze medal, and a fiercely punctuated "Not yet!" at any Brazilian hopes that they had taken the lead in their classic rivalry. But if there was one player who wasn't going to let fate play its cards out as usual, that player was Ana Moser. A couple of Peruvian mistakes, and a key roof by Márcia brought Brazil to 14. But the real soul of the team was Ana, who gathered her teammates after every point and motivated them to concentrate, to expect the ball to go to Gaby, to cover any dinks by Rosa, and to believe in themselves—We haven't swum so far to die on the beach! She brought added confidence to the team by slamming a very angled cross court kill to get to match point. While Peru called a time-out, Ana Moser pulled the team together again, to which I think the coach let her speak for she was really pumping her teammates. Then Márcia served, Peru attacked, and the ball fell in between two Peruvian players like a bubble. The Brazilians went wild. They had just exorcised one of their greatest demons, finding the guts within the unity of the team to not underperform against their traditional rival. They had been on the verge of an all too familiar outcome, but Ana Moser and the new Brazilian generation resoundingly replied, "Not anymore!" Despite a mediocre placing at the Adult World Championships in China some months later, Ana Moser made a name for herself by being awarded a prize for the Best Attack of the tournament, a great honour indeed given her competition: China's Lang Ping, the USSR's Irina Smirnova, Cuba's Mireya Luis, and the USA's Caren Kemner, among other very talented hitters. At the '91 Pan-American Games in Havana, she again led her teammates to displace Peru from their usual trip to the final, and instead faced Cuba on their home court, on a typically hot Caribbean night. Brazil couldn't win it, and in the defeat they recognised some familiar faces in the Cuban team from the Junior ranks that were quickly racing to the élite of world-class volleyball. The rivalry would shift soon from Peru to Cuba, but first, Ana Moser needed to prove to herself once again that Brazil had vanquished those ghosts from the '80s by defeating Peru for the South American berth to the '92 Olympics. It helped that the match was played in an all-yellow living mass of a coliseum in Ibirapuera, S?o Paulo, with a torcida that never stopped cheering, and a team that had grown stronger and more united with every match. On a day they will surely remember, Brazil defeated Peru in four sets, and with that, earned their ticket to the Olympic Games in Barcelona. Not only had Brazil dethroned the Olympic Vice-champion from '88, but they had high expectations given the enormous talent they were taking to Spain. There was one major change, though, and that was the hiring of Wadson Lima in place of former coach Inaldo Manta, who had committed suicide and left the team grieving for what was the tragic end of a good person's life. This painful experience probably brought the team even closer together, because Barcelona saw more Brazilian unity than usual (especially between Hilma and Ana Moser, who had a rocky Natalia—Cecilia type of internal relationship, as I heard). Though Wadson Lima's coaching left a lot to be desired (in my opinion), the team did well against The Netherlands (3-1) and China (15-11 in the tie-break), but couldn't defeat Cuba (1-3). Still, they qualified for the quarterfinals and defeated Japan in four sets to go into the semifinals. The Unified Team (former USSR and defending Olympic Champion) however, impeded Brazil's passage into the finals in four sets, and in the bronze medal, the South Americans faced a demoralised USA, who were coming right off a 5 set loss to Cuba. But even though Brazil lost to the USA in straight sets, the USAmerican press had much to say about Ana Moser's spectacular playing. They praised her as "the only Brazilian with any spunk" (not entirely true but still a worthy observation for Ana), and the most fluently bilingual player on her team (a blessing for reporters come time for press conferences). Surely, she was the most consistent player on her team, and Fernanda kept setting her high outside balls which Ana tooled, or hit down the line again and again, as if Paula Weishoff weren't even there. It took guts, definitely, but in the end Elaina Oden and Caren Kemner got the best of her by blocking her for match point. Still, Ana Moser was named the Best Server of the tournament for her deadly jump serve which only got better with time. She shone in Barcelona, and the future for her looked like Stardom deluxe. Unfortunately, as happens to many athletes, injuries befall even the fittest, and Ana Moser was forced to leave the game for a while. Brazil had to go to the '93 Grand Prix and the South American Championship in Peru that same year without its star hitter. A fourth place at the GP and a second place in Peru showed how valuable Ana Moser was to her team. Had she played, Brazil would've medaled at the GP and probably would've won the continental title. But Ana Moser had to wait until the following year's Grand Prix to show the world that she was back. With Ana's knee not giving her problems anymore, and with a new and much better coach in Bernardo Rezende (the popular Bernardinho), Brazil had an added incentive to perform extra-well at the '94 World Championships that they were hosting. Winning the '94 GP helped boost Brazil's confidence, even though they defeated a Mireya-less Cuban squad. With all the Brazilian players in optimal shape, the excitement level within the team and the country at extraordinary levels, and a coach that re-invigorated the team with some dynamic men's elements and more creativity than his predecessor ever ventured into, Brazil was sure that it would medal and medal well. The '94 World's was a very exciting competition (except for the Cuban matches which all ended in pummelling straight sets). Brazil faced some competition from South Korea—the surprise semifinalist—but then easily reached the semifinal against a young, tall, kasha-fed Russian team that crushed balls set up 20 metres in the air. Hopes of reaching the final almost faded when Russia took a 2-1 lead and shot upwards in the 4th, but then the Brazilian machine slowly began grinding, and with the help of the torcida (also known as "the seventh player" in Brazil) Ana Moser and Company woke up from the menace of a possible defeat and completely dominated the match from there on. Instrumental in this comeback was Fernanda, who began distributing sets very well in order to evade the tall Russian block. Ana Moser completed the process of becoming a national hero in that match, for she sent Brazil and the colliseum in Ibirapuera into a frenzy by pounding kill after kill until the end of the match. It was incredible how even bump setting backwards, Fernanda's sets went perfectly to Ana who had no difficulty banging the ball on Russia's court. One of the balls even hit Russian Valentina Ogienko's foot without the experienced player even having time to react! With this level of confidence, Brazil went into the final versus Cuba a very invigorated team. Memories of the final, however, eclipse those wonderful ones from the semifinal against Russia. Cuba never gave Brazil a chance, save for some sequences in the second set, and it literally pummeled the hosts with a flat 3-0. Carvajal was a monster at the net, stuff blocking Hilma more times than not, Ana Moser from the back row, Ana Paula's quick middle hits, and Edna for championship point. The go-to hitter role shifted, from Ana Moser to Márcia and later to Ana Flávia with her effective slides. But the feeling of impotence visibly bothered Ana Moser. Here she was on centre stage in her own country, and all she could see were Cuban arms in the horizon. This was very uncharacteristic of a fearless hitter like her, but somehow the Cubans could read her every move, and in front of a yellow-clad crowd, Cuba won its second world title since '78 in Leningrad. There were inklings of a nascent rivalry in this match because after every kill, captain Mireya would stare her opponents down and yell at them. Soon captain Ana Flávia started doing the same in retaliation. The referee had to talk to both captains to calm things down, but the rivalry had already been triggered, and Ana Moser did not like what she was seeing. True, Cuba was flawless in this tournament by not losing a single set, but she didn't like the fact that they were provoking the Brazilians in such a disparaging way. This night in S?o Paulo became unfinished business for Ana Moser. From the '94 World's to the Atlanta Olympics, something didn't go right for Ana Moser. She was hindered by more injuries and her rehabilitation process seemed to drag on longer than expected. At the '95 Grand Prix, Ana just wasn't playing well. Her hitting didn't have the same sting to it as before, and she began missing too many jump serves, as if she were eager to make up for her lackluster front row performance by stacking up on the aces. Bernardinho didn't substitute her much, maybe because he thought it was just a matter of her clicking with herself and recapturing her former level. But in the GP semifinal against Cuba, not only did the rivalry continue, but ghosts of the '94 World's began to loom over Ana Moser. It seemed like she couldn't hit against Cuba at all, because Marlenys Costa and Carvajal kept blocking her time and again, and Ana didn't vary her hitting for some odd reason. Fernanda began to go more to her opposite hitter, Márcia and her middle hitters in slides which worked well. But Ana Moser's underperformance was worrisome. Even though she did pound match point by hitting the only line-shot of the match, Ana just wasn't there. They went on to lose the final against a surprising team from the USA in five sets, but they set their hopes on Atlanta and the challenges that they would face against the Cubans in the future. Atlanta went better for Ana Moser but still not at the level that she had hoped for. The reason the team did so well was because her teammates were now mature, experienced, and more serene. Hilma had learned to hit against high blocks, Ida and Ana Paula were directing their middle "one" balls very well, and Márcia was outstanding from anywhere on the court. And of course, the mastermind, Fernanda, was playing her third Olympics and she was in optimal shape. No longer the rookie, and considered by many to be the best setter in the world at the time, she had many options to go to in her offence besides Ana Moser. With such talent, Brazil outgunned all of its adversaries on their way to the semifinals, even defeating both Cuba and Russia in straight sets, an indication that this was Brazil's turn to win the gold. But fate can be cruel, and for both the USA and Brazil, Cuba was not supposed to get in their way so soon in the tournament! By losing both matches against Brazil and Russia, Mireya and her bunch came in third in their pool and faced the hosts in the quarterfinals (wiped them out embarrasingly in three sets) and then faced Brazil in the semifinal. No one had foreseen such a top-level clash before the final, and for many it was the final. So here is where this article goes full circle to where it began. Whenever you talk to volleyball connoisseurs, the term "brawls [ENG], brigas [POR], broncas [ESP]" refers specifically to the aftermath of the Cuba-Brazil semifinal. The teams split the first four sets, with Brazil coming close to winning the match in the fourth set, but Cuba blocking surprise go-to hitter Virna Dias at key moments of that set. I say "surprise go-to hitter" because once again (ghosts of '94?) Ana Moser did not play at her level when faced with the team she wanted to beat the most. But before the team was left without a leading scorer, Virna stepped up and seized the occasion. Now that there was someone else to lean on, Ana and the rest of the players followed suit and played it to the bone, pushing more on heart and guts than on anything else. Aided by a rambunctious Brazilian torcida that yelled every insult known to mobs at the Cuban players, Brazil mustered up the courage to force a tie-break. But the Cuban team that was fighting for a spot in the final was a totally different team from the one that dropped 0-3 matches in pool play. Led by Mireya—who must've been fueled by the torcida's trash talking at her and her girls—the Cubans took the lead in the 5th set and put the pressure on Brazil. Fernanda made some poor choices which some Brazilians fault Márcia for, but Cuba gained a valuable advantage which was never recovered. At 14-12, it was appropriately Mireya who got the last laugh with a kill that would've hit Márcia in the face had she not protected it. And with that, the fight began. All the Cubans, like a pack of wild hyenas, dashed to the net behind Mireya who was on one knee hitting the net at the harried Brazilians. With both Reglas on either side of her, Mireya and her teammates expressed their joy (a right that they were absolutely entitled to exercise) but in a rabid sort of way. Immediately when Ana Moser saw that the Cubans were showing no respect for their opponents, she defiantly went right up to where Mireya was and grabbed the net whilst pointing her finger and shouting, "Respeto! Res-pe-to!" in Spanish. When the other Brazilians saw that Ana was up there all by herself they flew to back her up, ready to rumble. Magaly Carvajal knew what had just been ignited (by the way, where were the referees in all this?) and she quickly went to the front of the Cuban line and opened her 3-metre armspan to contain her teammates from crossing under the net. But Má rcia beat her to it, going onto Cuban court after someone had insulted her. Carvajal's raised arm happened to be close to Márcia's face and she grabbed her by the throat and pushed her back to her side! Then Léila stood up for Márcia and provoked the Cubans and so on and so on, the brawls began and continued for several minutes. There was concern that the numerous Brazilian fans might jump in to defend their girls, which probably would've triggered even further violence, but luckily they didn't. Nevertheless, in the locker rooms things continued, and rumour has it that Regla Torres and Ana Paula got into a fight. I remember seeing part of the footage when, amid the mess of players, coaches, reporters, camerapeople, and Olympic volunteer staff mixed in to provide a buffer between the irate teams, I saw Ana Moser slipping through the buffer and going right into a circle of Cubans to talk things out diplomatically. I don't know what was the tone of her voice when she talked but she seemed to want to cool things off by peacefully approaching some of the more civilised Cuban players. To what extent her efforts worked, I don't know, but the way she seemed to handle the situation (at least from the TV spectator's point of view) it became a second chapter of heroics. Eventually, some days later she recovered from this painful experience and took her team to a narrow victory over Russia for the bronze, the medal that eluded them in Barcelona. At least now they had something to take home, even though that medal will always remind her of the bitter chapter that was Atlanta. Some months later, at the '96 Grand Prix, Brazil defeated Cuba in the semifinal and once again there were brawls between the two teams, this time ignited by Ana Paula. Regla Torres went as far as running around the Brazilian court after the match looking for someone to punch! The FIVB got strict about these displays of un-sportspersonly conduct and suspended two Brazilian and two Cuban players after that match. Brazil did go on to win the GP by defeating Russia in 5 sets with an underwomanned team due to suspensions and injuries (two of which I think were Ana Moser and Hilma). From there until '98, Ana Moser saw little playing time with the National Team and instead focused on her club in Brazil to stay in shape and not be far away from her home (trainer's recommendations?). It was at the '98 World Championships in Japan that Ana completed her trilogy of heroics. With a team that was not really cohesive enough to beat major powers such as Cuba and Russia, Brazil finished a disappointing fourth, despite good performances by Virna and on and off playing by Léila. The team was being renewed once again by younger players, but for these Championships, Bernardinho preferred to go back with the experienced players and the combination didn't exactly bring the desired results. In the relatively civil semifinal with Cuba (where Mireya played sporadically), Ana Moser had one of the best matches of her career. She finally seemed to have brushed off the ghosts of '94, because she was jump serving to perfection, hitting from the outside intelligently, from the back row with enormous strength and re-assuming the role of team leader and scorer. Her outstanding performance probably made the 1-3 loss a bit less painful to bear. When one loses playing his/her best, it's hard to blame oneself and easier to credit the opponent. With a similarly awesome performance in the third place match against Russia, Ana Moser ended the tournament with her head held high despite another loss. Ana stayed with the team through the '99 World Cup, with the aim of reaching the Sydney 2000 Olympics and become the only woman in history to have played in four Olympic Games ('88, '92, '96, and 2000), but unfortunately her knee gave in somewhere during the tournament and she sadly came to the conclusion that her time was up. It was especially sad that her last match against Cuba saw a resurgence of those pesky ghosts, when she squandered a lead to take the first set and gave it to the Cubans. But clearly Ana Moser wasn't physically at her best, though she was providing all the new players (Elisangela, Erika, Karin, Raquel) with experienced teammate support. In this sense, Ana Moser has been a very complete player, doing her job on the court in more ways than just playing. She's a mentor, a good teammate, a fierce competitor, and as she's proven to her fans by answering their fanmail, a good idol! I had the honour of receiving a reply from her in which she explained a bit of the grief over Cuba, her experience playing with the All-Star Team in '91 (interestingly enough, alongside Mireya and Magaly Carvajal), and her faith in God. I will always cherish her uplifting words, and how she epressed herself modestly, not bragging about her achievements, but laying them out like something we can all learn from. Things like those are what constitute real role models. It was indicative of Ana Moser's stature among the great names in Brazilian sport history that when she retired the Brazilian volleyball community (aided by the sports-crazy private sector) held a match in her honour (Superliga All Stars versus Friends of Ana Moser), exhibiting high level volleyball with Ana Moser herself playing for one last time in front of her home crowd. I then saw her at the 2003 World Cup as Team Assistant to coach José Robert Guimar?es. What she is doing nowadays, I don't know. But surely, whenever I meet Brazilians anywhere in the world, I strike up conversation by mentioning Ana Moser, and their eyes light up and they instantly feel an excitement that I know of and about her. If they only knew that I have spent three hours writing this article in honour of a great player, one of my top ten of all times, and certainly the best that Brazil has ever known.