Middle East

Qatar handball team coach faces questions over foreign players

layers of the Qatari national team celebrate their win during the 24th Men's Handball World Championships quarterfinals match between Germany and Qatar at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall in Doha on January 28, 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Qatar's handball team made history with their quarter final defeat of Germany

The coach of Qatar's World Championship handball squad has faced questions about the high number of foreign players in his team.

The squad reached the semi-finals of the men's championship on Wednesday.

But at a press conference, coach Valero Rivera declined to answer questions about the foreign players, saying it was better to talk about handball.

Qatar is only the third non-European team to play for a medal in the history of the event.

However, questions have been raised about the relative lack of home-grown players.

When asked about the high number of foreign-born players after beating Germany in the quarter-finals in Qatar's capital Doha on Wednesday, Mr Rivera said he would only talk about the game.

With a 26-24 win over the Germans, his team secured its place among the last four, an unprecedented success for a country that until very recently did not feature on the world handball map at all.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Qatar team stands to attention for the national anthem before the match
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Supporters of the Qatari national team have turned out in force for the games

Foreign-born players who now hold Qatari citizenship make up more than two thirds of the country's 16-man squad.

Responding to questions at a press conference about what some have described as Qatar's "foreign legion", Mr Rivera said: "It's better to talk about handball, OK?"

Pressed further on whether the success of the handball team could serve as a basis for other national teams in the tiny Gulf state, he refused to be drawn.

Unlike other sports, such as football, handball still allows players to play for different countries throughout their career provided there is a sufficient gap between their appearances.

While Qatar's team selection is perfectly within the rules of the game, not everyone is convinced it is in the spirit of the competition.

"I think it is not the sense of a world championship," Austrian goalkeeper Thomas Bauer said after his country's previous round defeat to the Qataris.

"It feels like playing against a world selection team."

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