Qatar beach handball team raring to go
The hosts face tough opponents on the opening day, but hope to capitalise on home advantage.
With the inaugural ANOC World Beach Games just around the corner, five-time Asian beach handball champions Qatar are gearing up for keen contests in front of home fans.
Qatar are in Group B, alongside 2018 Beach World Championship runners-up Croatia, bronze medallists Hungary, Spain, Uruguay and Tunisia.
World champions Brazil, fourth-placed Sweden, Denmark, USA, Australia and Oman are in Group A.
As part of their preparations, Qatar played three friendlies against Sweden this week. They lost the first two on penalties before winning the third. They have also lined up friendlies against Denmark and the USA later this week.
Qatar coach Khaled Hassan said his players had prepared in right earnest.
“Although we won the 2015 GCC Beach Games title at home, this’s the first true world-class event which we’re playing. My players have been training for almost two months now and also attended a camp in Malaga in Spain,” Hassan told Inside Qatar.
However, the coach lamented the absence of key players from the line-up.
“This isn’t Qatar’s best team. Left-wing Anis Abdulrazzaq El Zouaoui, right-wing Amir Dengir, goalkeeper Mohammed Abedi and pivot Hani Marwan Kakhi are with the senior team which is currently preparing for the Olympic qualifiers later this month. If we had our full team, we would be firm title favourites,” he said ruefully.
“We’ve some new players with us, and they’re adapting fast. We’ll try to do our best,” he added.
But with opening matches against Croatia and Hungary, two of the tournament’s best teams, things will not be easy for the hosts.
“The first day will be crucial, and we’re aiming to win at least one of our two matches. If we succeed, we’ll have easier opponents to play next. Unlike regular handball games, the beauty of beach handball lies in its unpredictability. Chances of upsets are much more,” he said.
The coach, who has been training the team since 2009, has helped Qatar win five Asian titles.
If they can make good use of home conditions, they could make history by becoming the first ANOC World Beach Games champions.
Qatar Handball Association chief Ahmed Mohammaed Abdulrab Al Shaabi sounded optimistic.
“Our preparations haven’t been ideal, but these players are competing at home and will have the support of hundreds of fans. It’ll be a powerful motivator. Irrespective of the results, I’m proud of my players,” he said.