Teams head to IBSA Goalball European Championships
Date: October 31, 2013
Finland’s men and Denmark’s women will enter next week’s event as the favourites to win European titles.
The top European goalball teams will meet in Konya, Turkey, starting on Friday (1 November) to compete at the 2013 IBSA European Goalball Championships.
On top of playing hard to keep their places in the A division, these teams will be aiming to secure spots at the 2014 IBSA Goalball World Championships.
Round-robin play begins on Monday (4 November) for both men and women. Men’s teams from Finland, Turkey, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Belgium will compete against each other in Pool A. Lithuania, Sweden, Spain, Germany, and Ukraine play in Pool B.
Playing on home court has served the Turkish men well in the past. They won the 2007 IBSA Goalball European Men’s C Championships in Antalya, rising to the B division. The team then rose to the A division in 2010, winning a bronze medal at their first A division European Championships.
The Turkish men were also successful at the London 2012 Paralympic Games qualifiers in Turkey in 2011.
They left their first Paralympics with a bronze medal, qualifying them for the 2014 World Championships in Finland. Only three other teams of the 20 participating in these European Championships have qualified for the Worlds – host Finland’s men’s and women’s teams, as well as the women’s team from Sweden, bronze medallists at the London 2012 Paralympics.
In Konya, teams from Denmark, Spain, Israel, Turkey, and Germany will compete in women’s Pool X, while Russia, Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, and Great Britain make up Pool Y.
The Danish women are defending champions in this competition.
Karina Jorgensen scored the winning goal for the Danes at the 2011 European Championship to give them a 4-3 victory against Russia, and she said she remembers the excitement of winning the final on home court and is eager to defend the title.
“It has been very important for me to participate this year with our new team,” Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen said the Danish women are in a “generational shift” in which veteran goalball players like her are playing with new players who have yet to compete internationally.
“We will experience a lot of external pressure, but for us, it's about playing as a team and getting as far as possible,” she said.
Eleven men’s and six women’s teams are still eligible to qualify for next year’s World Championships, but Danish women’s coach Henri Nooyen said he’s looking beyond 2014 to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“Obviously, it would be nice to perform very well, but our main goal is to stay in the A round,” said Nooyen.
“It helps us release pressure on young players because we can tell them, ‘This is a tournament where you can learn.’ ”
Echoing Jorgensen, Nooyen said the Danish women have trained intensely in a short period of time to prepare the new team for these Championships.
The tournament will run through 9 November, with the playoff rounds beginning of 7 November.