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Brazilian-born coach of Japan team, Ruy Ramos (left) and Juan Marcos Trioa, Argentina-born coach of Afghanistan.
by Armstrong Vas
Doha: The 2011 Asian Beach Soccer Champions Japan is not ready to take it easy in Qatar when the Asian Football Confederation’s qualifiers kick off in Doha tomorrow.
The Ruy Ramos coached side, which have qualified for every edition of the finals since the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005, have been cautious ahead of the five-day championship in Qatar.
“We were champions in the last Asian Beach qualifiers, but this time it would not be easy in Qatar. All the teams are tough, so it will be very very difficult. Most of the teams like UAE, Iran, Qatar and Bahrain are very strong teams, so it will be tough for us” said coach Ramos, while speaking to The Peninsula.
The 15-member Japanese squad arrived in Doha yesterday after a brief training camp in Dubai.
“We trained in Dubai for five days. We did not have much time to train. In December, we trained for another five-day in Japan. So we had a short training period, “ said Ramos, who became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1989, was one of the first foreign players in Japanese professional soccer in 1977 at the age of 20.
“We are in the mist of winter in Japan and it is snowing in Japan and it is very cold, so it is very very difficult to train outdoors, so we could not train outdoors in our home country, so we preferred Dubai,” said Ramos, who has returned to the coaching post of the national team after a seven year hiatus. Japan had their best finish at the finals under Ramos in 2005 when they took the fourth place at the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Ramos was an important member of the Japanese national team during their unsuccessful 1994 World Cup qualification, eventually retiring from the game in 1998 at the age of 41.
The Pacific Ocean island nation is grouped along with Bahrain, Lebanon and Thailand in Group B in the tournament which is contested by 16 Asian countries.
Bahrain’s challenge in the championship will be led by Brazilian-born coach Gustavo ‘Guga’ Zloccowicz. The 35-year-old travels back to the Middle East to take the reins of a team he commanded into the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups of 2006 and 2009.
Bahrain’s first match in the competition will be against Lebanon, who finished second in the last Copa Lagos and who have become one of the favourites for one of the tickets to the World Cup.
Guga earlier had coached national teams of Portugal, Russia, Bahrain and Brazil, and the Bahrain job will be yet another challenge for him. Meanwhile, war ravaged Afghanistan is seeking to live up to the expectations of the Beach Soccer fans back home.
Coached by Juan Marcos Trioa, an Argentinian national, they are grouped along with hosts Qatar in group A along with Oman and Australia.
“It has been very difficult trip coming here. We did not train for long, just two weeks. Its winter time, so everything is covered with snow, so we could hardly train on a sand pitch, we have been training indoors for two weeks and during the last few days they (Afghanistan football Federation) were able to make a sand pitch for practice us to train. So we have reached here for the tournament in Qatar in difficult circumstances,” said Trioa, who spent 14 years in strife-torn Indian state of Kashmir and worked as a football coach.
Trioa’s aim in the championship is to bring happiness to the Afghani fans.
“As a Brazilian coach I will aim to bring good happiness to the country (Afghanistan) and my team will try to represent the country in a good way and live up to the expectations of the fans,” said Trioa, whose wife is a Brazilian and football coach.
In the last Asian championship Oman finished runners to Japan, while Iran clinched the third place in the finals.
Afghanistan, the Philippines and Thailand are late additions to the Asian qualifying rounds for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013.
At the original draw, held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in December, 13 teams were drawn into four groups for the Qatar tournament.
But after several national member associations asked for additional time to complete their application to the competition, registration remained open following the original draw to accommodate such high-levels of interest from Asian countries to participate in the qualifiers.
Beach soccer is a type of football game played in a sand-filled pitch with a length of about one-third of a regular-sized field. Five players – four outfield and one goalkeeper – form each team which will play three periods of 12 minutes each.
Meanwhile, the Philippine team also arrived in Doha yesterday.
Coached by Iraq born Ahmed Ayada Athab, popularly known as Mike, the Filipinos are in Group D along with neighbours China.
Athab is an Iraqi who came to the Philippines to study 32 years ago only to fall in love with the country and everything assocaited with it.
This will be the third time that Athab will lead the Philippines to the Beach Soccer World Cup.
The Philippines participated in the Asian qualifiers in 2006 and 2008, but failed to get past the group stages.
In 2006 they sent a team to the qualifers and were thumped 16-0 by Japan and 8-3.
But two years later the team gave a much better account of themselves, losing both games to the same teams again, but with much closer scorelines; 8-2 and 5-2.
Athab is hoping the infrastructure needs of Beach Soccer in Phillipines will be addressed soon.
“I’ve been requesting, begging officials to put a sand pitch in Manila. If you want Beach Soccer to be famous, you have to have a sand pitch in Manila. Parents will not allow kids to travel to a beach just for a game. We can develop the sport faster with a pitch in Manila,” Athab said.
China on the other hand bagged two fourth-place finishes in 2006 and 2008 editions of the competition.
The group will also witness another intense rivalry between two arch rivals Iran and Iraq.
Iran is expected to be a tough customer in the group after making the semi-finals in the last five editions of the tournament.
UAE, Uzbekistan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia are remaining four teams which have been pooled in Group C.
The top team of each group will advance to the semifinals, while the finalists and the third-place team will qualify in the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Tahiti in September.
The Beach Soccer World Cup used to be held every year, but it now takes place on a biennial basis.
Brazil has dominated the event, but the reigning champs are Russia, who defeated Brazil 12-8 in the 2011 final in Ravenna, Italy. The peninsula