Qatar Volleyball Association (QVA) are considering the FIVB Katara Beach Volleyball Cup as preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games qualifiers.
Qatar has fielded three different pairs for the four-star event with the aim to achieve the right balance for the teams before the Tokyo Games qualification process, which is scheduled to start in September.
This is the first time that a four-star status event is being organised in the Middle East.
Qatar’s three pairs are Cherif Younousse-Ahmed Tijan, Jefferson Santos Pereira-Julio Cesar do Nascimento, and newcomers Ziad Benlouaer Ziad-Ahmed Ali Nassir.
Earlier, the No. 1 Qatar team comprised Pereira and Younousse, while Julio Cesar do Nascimento and Tijan formed the second pair.
The two teams were together for more than two years and looked quite settled. However, the QVA have now shuffled the two teams around, with Tijan paired with Younousse, and Pereira with Julio.
“This has been basically done to see if the new pairs can help improve the results. If this experiment works, they will continue or if the players don’t or can’t perform up to our expectations, they will return to their original teams,” Roberto Reggiani, a technical beach volleyball expert in the association, said yesterday.
“We want to put up our best in the Tokyo Olympic qualification process and see both the pairs into the Olympics. So, we just want to use this time to assess all the technical aspects before we decide what are our best options,” the Italian said.
Benlouaer Ziad Ziad and Ahmed Ali Nassir, a relative newcomers to the scene, are up against American top seeds Philip Dalhausser and Nicholas Lucena in Pool A.
Dalhausser and Lucena are flying high after winning the FIVB World Tour event on their home sand in south Florida.
The Americans said their first challenge was to get out of the group stage and improve their game as they move on, but it’s clear that they have bigger and clearer ambitions.
Nassir is quite excited about getting the opportunity to play in such a high-profile tournament as he said, “This event is very strong. Most of the top players in the world are here. It will not be easy for us. It is pretty exciting that our first match is against Dalhausser and Lucena.
“Both I, and Ziad were playing the indoors before. For the past two months or so, we started playing together on the beach volleyball courts here. We’re very new team, we’ve taken up the challenge to excel and we’ll try to do our best in the Katara Cup,” said Nassir.
“To succeed in beach volleyball, you must have very good understanding with your partner. It takes about two years or so to become a good team. We’ve just started our career in this new sport and we hope to continue in future,” said Nassir.
He praised his teammates for their dedication and rise in beach volleyball.
“In 2014, these players were ranked over 50. But with hard work and playing together with total commitment, Cherif and Jefferson managed to reach 17th ranking in the world. So Qatar are really doing well in this sport and we’ll also try to do our level best and see how we progress from here,” he said.
During the presentation of the Qatari players, Younousse said, “We started the season well. We finished among the top nine in the Holland event (four-star) and were not so good in Iran. That is why we want to do well here.
“Katara Cup is a good chance to show our fans that we can also play at good level.” Younousse said.
Younousse and Tijan will open their campaign with a match against American pairing of Ryan Doherty and William Allen in Pool H today.
With a new test coming up at home, Pereira and Do Nascimento are be more than keen to give it a good shot and make up for the lost time on the Tour.
“I’m looking forward to playing matches in the Katara Cup. This is the first time that we’re playing out of Al Gharafa. This looks a nice venue and hopefully, there will be a big crowd to enjoy the matches and support beach volleyball,” Pereira said.
“We hope to do our best. Our main aim is to qualify for the main round and get a strong start to the year,” he said.
Julio and Pereira will take on Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs of Latvia in Pool F.