THOUGH indoor volleyball is more popular and attractive, the beach version is on the rise in Qatar and the resounding success of the national team in recent times augurs well for the sport.
Qatar’s leading pair of Jefferson Pereira and Cheriff Younousse have been making giant strides on the sand.
They made their Olympic debut at last year’s Rio Games, where they bowed out in the pre-quarterfinal.
They have started on a strong note this season, winning two of the three tournaments they have competed in.
And triumph at the recent Aspire Qatar Master, part of the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Beach Tour, ensured they booked a berth at the World Championship, to be held in Vienna, Austria, in July.
It would be Qatar’s only second appearance at the Worlds. They had reached the quarterfinal in the Netherlands two years ago.
But expectations have soared since then and the Qatar Volleyball Association (QVA) has been investing a lot in the sport, which was introduced in the country during the 2006 Asian Games.
A make-shift venue was made at the ASPIRE Academy, but since then much has changed and the game got a huge facelift, especially with the formation of Qatar Beach Volleyball Academy at Al Gharafa.
The QVA conducted a round of FIVB World Tour for three years from 2014, Qatar has now three national teams and the local league is turning out to be a virtual talent pool.
“There’s tremendous potential for the sport in the Middle East, especially in Qatar. The days may not be far when the popularity of beach volleyball is almost on par with the indoor variant,” said QVA President Ali Ghanim Al Kuwari.
The QVA has a separate team to nurture the sport, with Mohammed Salem Al Kuwari in charge of the Qatar Beach Volleyball Commission.
Recently, Argentinian Mariano Baracetti was named national coach, replacing Brazilian Pedro Pablo Costa.
With Qatar having several beautiful beaches, the QVA sees huge potential for the sport to grow and has a target in mind, a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I see a great future ahead for the sport in Qatar and I believe we’ll be a force to be reckoned with globally within a short time with the pace of growth and interest in beach volleyball. We already have three national teams. They should peak in time for the 2020 Games where a medal should be within our grasp,” said Al Kuwari.
The QVA chief might sound a bit ambitious when one considers the dominance of countries like Brazil and the USA where the sport is more a way of life. But he has every reason to believe that the Mission 2020 can be achieved.
The progress shown by Qatar has been very encouraging since 2013 when they won the Arab Championship at home, beating strong rivals. A fifth-place finish at the 2014 Asian Beach Games in South Korea was followed by their maiden appearance at the Worlds.
And by winning the AVC Continental Cup in Sydney, Qatar made the cut for Rio Olympics, where they were very impressive.
“Our teams have high ambitions. We’ve many competitions at various levels. Perhaps the QVA is one of the earliest federations to conduct a beach volleyball league. The beach game is making its mark in Qatar,” said Mohammed Salem.