Lausanne, Switzerland, May 31, 2016 – A new coach, lots of fresh faces in the team and a novel challenge. Qatar, under the tutelage of Roberto Piazza, are all set to make their debut in the FIVB World League on June 17 against hosts Slovenia at Ljubljana, but their task is easier said than done.
Italian Piazza has a mammoth challenge first up. The seasoned campaigner is putting his wards through their paces at a training camp at the Qatar Volleyball Association’s Indoor Hall. It will conclude on Friday and the team will head for Maribor, Slovenia, where they will be based till the start of the FIVB World League.
Despite taking charge only recently, Piazza sounded upbeat about the team’s chance.
“I took charge only recently, but I’ve seen my players take on quality opposition during last year’s Asian Championship in Tehran,” Piazza said. “The World League is a big opportunity for Qatari spikers to rub shoulders with some of the best players around the globe. I’m looking to build a strong team, which can compete with the best in the world.”
While the nucleus of the squad remains more or less unchanged, El Jaish were rewarded for their consistency as four players received national call-ups.
“I’ve picked a 19-member squad for the national camp and it’s a blend of youth and experience,” added Piazza, who has two decades of coaching experience, including a stint as assistant of the German team that won gold at the 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan.
The 48-year-old, whose tenure with Greek club Olympiakos ended last month, has been following the game in Qatar for some time. In Italy, he worked mostly with Daniele Bagnoli, who was the coach of Al Rayyan and he has watched some of the Qatar League matches.
“From what I’ve seen about these players, I think there’s scope for improvement,” he said. “I’ll be working on that. You don’t expect miracles overnight, but given some time, I can take this team to the next level.”
Qatar Volleyball Association President Khalid Ali Al Mawlawi, who visited the national camp, has exhorted the players to come up with their best on the country’s FIVB World League debut.
Qatar made the cut for the intercontinental round of the top FIVB event by virtue of their all-time-best, fourth-place finish at last year’s Asian Championship in Iran.
They will compete in Group 3 in the round-robin format held at five different venues.
Qatar will play in two pools — Pool A3 in Slovenia and D3 in Greece. In Pool A3, Qatar are grouped alongside Slovenia, Tunisia and Venezuela while Puerto Rico and Greece join Qatar and Slovenia in D3.
The results of all the pools will be combined in one ranking table.
The top three sides will then join hosts Germany in the second round to be played in Frankfurt.
“Qualifying for such a big event itself is an achievement for us. I hope our players put their best foot forward,” said Al Mawlawi, who gave a pep talk to the team on the sidelines of the camp.