Qatar aims for a strong start in Katara Beach Volleyball Cup

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Two of hosts Qatar’s three pairs will start charting new life on the FIVB Beach World Tour through the upcoming prestigious four-star Katara Beach Volleyball Cup 2018, which will take place at the scenic sandy beach in Katara from March 6 to 10.

This is the first time that a four-star status event is being organised in the Middle East and Qatar has fielded a trio Cherif Younousse & Ahmed Tijan, Jefferson Santos Pereira & Julio Cesar do Nascimento and newcomers Benlouaer Ziad & Ahmed Ali Nassir – with an eye on the 2020 Olympic Games.

Earlier, Jefferson and Younousse were treated as the No. 1 team of Qatar. But towards the close last year, the Qatar Volleyball Association decided to change the top pair and replaced Jefferson with Tijan.

Todate, Younousse and Tijan have already got the taste of two events on the World Tour after reuniting first time since the 2014 Doha Open, while Pereira and do Nascimento have yet to launch the New Year together. Both the Qatari teams appeared in the Palembong AVC Beach Tour Event in November last year in Thailand. Younousse and team bagged the title, while Pereira and do Nascimento finished third.

Ahead of going for a practice session in Katara, Pereira said he was keen to have a strong start to the World Tour after the change in the team. “This is our first event together on the World Tour. After Julio joined me in the new team, it is indeed going to be a new experience for me and let us see how it goes.”

The two used to play together when they were young so Pereira doesn’t forsee much problem in terms of adjustments. “When we were young, we played a lot of junior tournaments in Brazil together. We know each other well and have been sharing practice sessions for long. So I hope we should be able to find the necessary cohesion and unity required in the beach volleyball.

“The Katara tournament is a big opportunity for all of us to showcase our talent and I’m confident that we’ll will put up our best-ever show at the home event,” he added.

Pereira however feels that if he had started the World Tour a bit earlier, it would have given his team more competition time. “We’re going to start the World Tour in the Katara tournament, while other teams have already got a head start on us by playing a couple of events.

“We can’t afford to miss big events like four-star or five-star tournaments on the World Tour. There are lot of points at stake and the more you play, the chances are better to improve the rankings, which help you to get automatic spots in major events,” Pereira added.

“We’re working hard and can’t wait to start the season here. Despite a bit late start, we’re optimistic about a good finish here,” Pereira said.

Do Nascimento is the player to have teamed up with him. Earlier, Thiago Santos was the partner with him from December 2013 to November 2014. Younousse then played along side with him. Assam Ahmed Mahmoud figured in just one event with Pereira before Younousse returned to pair up with him again.

Both Pereira and Younousse had indeed formed a potential combo. Besides clinching the three-star Kish Island Open in 2016, they figured in two World Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Three years ago in the Netherlands worlds, they had amazed the entire beach volleyball community and narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot.

Then in the Rio Olympics, Pereira and Younousse earned a creditable ninth place. Last year, they were on the way to forming a dangerous duo, finishing ninth in four World Tour events in a row, including the five-star Gstaad Open and the Vienna worlds.

With a new test coming up at home, Pereira and do Nascimento would be more than keen to give it a good shot and make up for the lost time on the Tour.