The draw for the new league season in Greek volleyball took place in Athens yesterday, amid an atmosphere of optimism for more quality in the games and more fans in the stands. The new championship, organized for the second time by ESAP, the league of clubs, will begin on September 29 featuring a Thessaloniki derby between last year’s fourth-placed PAOK and champion Iraklis. The other ties scheduled for the opening round are EA Patra vs Aris Thessaloniki, Ethnikos Alexandroupolis vs Kifissia, AEK vs Lamia, Panellinios vs Olympiakos and Panathinaikos vs Milon. The first major clash of the new season will be between Olympiakos and Iraklis, set for October 6 in the context of the third round of games. Olympiakos will then host Panathinaikos for the classic derby on October 27 in Piraeus. On October 31, Panathinaikos will entertain Iraklis at Glyfada, ending a month that will be key for the shape of the championship. ESAP President Andreas Dimitrelos welcomed the new members to the league, Milon and Kifissia. «Our planning for the next season has the character of a pre-Olympic year, always in harmony with the matches the national team must play,» he stated. He also thanked the state for its support. Hellenic Volleyball Federation President Thanassis Beligratis praised the ESAP effort saying «I am by the side of our child, ESAP, which is growing every year and I hope it lives long. Our cooperation with its board is perfect.» He also referred to the death of a fan last March before a women’s volleyball game, saying that such people causing violence were not wanted in volleyball. Konstantinov returns Plamen Konstantinov, the Bulgarian outside hitter who has won four titles with four different clubs in Greece, has signed a one-year contract with Iraklis. «Iraklis’s participation in the Champions League was the big incentive for me. What makes me particularly happy is that Iraklis was no flash in the pan, unlike the other Thessaloniki clubs,» said the 34-year-old international.