By Alison Thompson | For IBSA
Having been promoted to the A pool in 2018 with a second place finish, the Greek men’s goalball team are full of optimism as they look towards their next big challenge – qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Despite being relatively new to sport compared to many of their opponents, the national team did their nation proud by taking silver at the 2018 IBSA Goalball European Championships B.
Head Coach Anastos Antonios said: “It was great for us to complete our task and to see that we are on the right path with our training programme.”
It also secured them a ticket for the 2019 Euros A in Rostock, Germany, where the winner will qualify for Tokyo 2020.
Credit: Hellenic Sports federation for Persons With Disabilities
With their recent success, the team are strong and determined to be at their best as they prepare for the 2019 season, which will include the IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA, from 2-9 July. This also offers two Paralympic places.
“We will give our utmost to get the best result with every opponent,” Antonios said. “The difference between European Championships and the Tokyo 2020 qualifier, is the participating teams. We focus more on the teams we’ve never played, or those we play not so often, to understand their way of playing.
“We have a chance in Tokyo and we are going for it. The pressure isn’t really that much more, but the prize is bigger. Good games will lead to good results.”
Their packed schedule for the year also includes taking as many chances to train as possible. Like a lot of other players, the Greek men fit their sport around jobs and family life.
“The motivation for everyone is the participation at high level tournaments and the joy of the win,” Antonios said. “Training is a way for personal improvement in social and mobility skills. This year, we are working a lot on the improvement of our physical skills and we’ll have as many training camps as we can. An international tournament in Prague [in May] is on our schedule for this year.”
The team of six compares itself to a close knit family, each one of them focused and giving strength and unity together. However, the individual effort and dedication has to be admired. Although the team is supported by the Hellenic Sports Federation for Persons with Disabilities and a few “good fans”, every player and coach has to juggle different commitments.
With the team’s success on the court, giving presentations at local schools, along with the power of social media, the team are keen to let anyone interested in joining the team know that all they need to do is look for a local club or contact the Federation.
And on top of their recent success, what do the players most enjoy about being in the team?
“The team spirit, competition and travelling together to other countries is great. But being part of the Greece national team is an honour for every one of us.”
The 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier in Fort Wayne is expected to be one of the biggest competitions of the year.
They will be followed by the IBSA Goalball European Championships A in Rostock from 5-14 October.