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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Club competitions can help hone skills, says Qatar coach Soto

Coach Camilo Soto outlines his plans to steer Qatar’s senior national volleyball team through the upcoming season which is expected to be quite challe
Camilo Soto is keen to ensure that Qatar makes an impact at the Asian Championship in Iran in September. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Camilo Soto took over as senior team coach in 2017. And within a year he led them to continental glory, winning last year’s Asian Cup defeating Iran. As the new season unfolds, the Argentinian looks at the goals and challenges, with the Tokyo Olympics looming in July-August next year.

What is your main goal for the upcoming season?

Our target this year is the Asian Championship in Iran (September 13-21). It’s always a tough competition and Iran as the hosts have an advantage. This is also the year before the Olympic Games which is very important for all Asian teams. This time we’ve Iran and Australia in our group, so we face a big challenge. But we are working hard. We won the Asian Cup last season and are working hard to improve further. Our focus this year is to improve our performance and be more consistent at the Asian level.

The Olympic qualifiers are scheduled for next year. Do you see Qatar making the cut?

Our first step is the Asian Championship and our objective is to finish among the top eight. Then comes the continental Olympic qualification tournament, in January, where only the winner will make it to Tokyo.

What is the biggest challenge in bringing Qatar on par with the top international teams?

We should take part in other competitions apart from those at the Asian level. For example, the World League, where the best 24 teams compete. That should be our target. It’s not easy as other countries also have the same objective. One step in that direction is performing well at the Asian Championship. We won the Asian Cup last year, but it’s not easy to stay as champions. We need to be consistent.

A challenging season ahead. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Do you see top volleyball talent emerging in Qatar?

We’ve to try really hard to get good players. In Qatar, the first step is to try and get more players to play at the club level so that we’ve a large pool to select the national team. What is significant for Qatar is that we’ve a strong league. When I took charge of the national team I didn’t expect such a high level of competition in the league. As the league is of long duration, with home and away matches, players get many opportunities to work on their skills. And with the Qatar Volleyball Association, various clubs and national team management working together, we can certainly motivate more players to take up the sport.

Do you see many junior players making the switch to the senior team soon?

The most important thing for juniors is to play in the league. We know that junior players have their studies and other responsibilities, but only if they play in the league can their talent be honed. It is not enough to be naturally talented. You also need to train hard and develop that talent. Only then you can move to the next level. In Argentina we’ve many talented junior players, but making the switch to senior level requires much more than just talent. Club competitions provide an opportunity to work on that talent.