USA Beach hosts Men's Qatar National Team in California

Dec. 03, 2017, 12 p.m. (ET)

USA Beach Handball hosted Qatar’s men’s beach handball national team for a training camp November 24th-29th in Southern California. The two programs initially met at the 2016 World Championships in Budapest where they collectively put on one of the better offensive displays in the tournament combining for 87 points. In addition to four joint training sessions and scrimmages in Hermosa Beach, the two nations played two exhibition matches on Sunday the 26th in Oceanside, CA the location of the 2018 Pan-American Beach Handball Championships.  

Qatar claimed their 4th consecutive Asian World Championship title at the Asian Beach Handball Championships in Pattaya, Thailand where they did not concede a single set. This in combination with their gold medal win at last year’s Asian Beach Games, and their 3rd place performances at the last two world championships and World Games, has solidified their spot as the premier Asian beach handball nation on the men’s side.   

“Beach Handball in Asia is improving every year, which you can see in teams like Vietnam who two years ago lost their games by large margins, but this past year they were much closer in score,” said Sidali Kennaoui, defensive specialist of Qatar’s national beach handball men’s team. “That said, it’s always between Qatar and Oman in the final. We have both participated in the world championships, our team has gone to camps in Brazil and Croatia, and having contact with strong teams has allowed our level to be a bit higher than other teams (in Asia).”   

Hoping to continue their Asian domination and ascend to the top of the beach handball world, the camp in the California was an opportunity for Qatar to train with one of the world’s emerging beach handball programs, a sentiment echoed by Kennaoui.

 “What we’ve seen is that the US (Men’s) Beach Handball Team have improved a lot in the past two years,” he said. “We wanted to learn from (USA Beach Handball) and for them to learn from us as well.” 

33-year-old Specialist Mohammed Ahmed Zaky led the Qatari delegation in California and was pleased with the training camp. “The weather was perfect and the accommodations were great,” he said. “No Qatar Handball team has ever come to the US before, so it was a great honor for us to come here.” 

At the conclusion of the training camp, the Qatari men took the time to see many iconic Californian sites before heading back overseas. In addition to walking the Hollywood Walk of Fame and touring Universal Studios Hollywood, the men watched the thrilling, overtime game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, November 29th.  

As both men’s teams set their sites on the July 2018 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, the opportunity for the two programs to train together at this time of the year was beneficial to both parties. While the camp provided a unique training and sight-seeing opportunity for Qatar’s delegation, the American men used the camp as part of their preparation to host the 2018 Pan-American Beach Handball Championships next March in Oceanside, CA, where they seek to repeat as Pan-American Champions. 

For Michael Hinson, Head Coach of the USA Men’s Beach Handball team, this training camp with Qatar was an honor and a privilege. “They are one of the teams we look up to and admire on the world stage,” he said. “They play they game the right way, the beautiful way, and having them here was an amazing experience that will help us moving forward as a program and a team as we prepare for the Pan-American Championships.”

While the primary focus for the US is next March’s Pan-American Beach Handball Championships, in the long-term the training camp with Qatar marks a step in what is hopefully a longstanding relationship between the top ranked North American and Asian men’s beach handball nations. 

“To be able to foster relationships with world-class sides like Brazil and Qatar is a blessing for us since handball as a whole is not very popular here in the US,” said Ebiye Udo-Udoma, right-wing and specialist for the USA. “It’s great getting to spend time with each other outside of IHF competitions where we can cultivate friendships and learn from one another. There’s a real brotherhood in beach handball and we’re all on the same team as far as building the sport to the Olympic platform and beyond.”  

Ebiye’s sentiments were echoed by his teammate, Taylor Lapin, goalkeeper for the USA Men’s Elite Team. “Playing with the best teams possible is what will make us one of the best teams,” Lapin said. “We thank Qatar for training with us and we can’t wait to hopefully see them at the world championships!”

While the veterans on the team, like Ebiye and Taylor, got the opportunity to refine their skills in preparation for their title defense next March, the training camp also provided a number of USA players their first taste of international competition. “I had a great time playing with the Qatar National Team,” said Chalmers Brown, who made his debut for the US at this camp. “We all learned a lot and hope to play against them in the future.”

The US Men will continue their #ROADtoREPEAT tour next month at Taca Kika de Handebol de Areia January 18-21, in João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil.

USA Beach Handball would like to thank photographer, Paul Rudman of KLC Photos for photographing this training camp with Qatar. His images can be viewed and purchased at http://www.klcfotos.com/usavqatartbh