By Swedish Paralympic Committee and IBSA
Swedish men’s goalball team captain Fatmir Seremeti believes his team have moved their game up a gear as they prepare to compete at the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball and Judo International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA, from 2-9 July.
The competition guarantees the gold and silver medallist spots at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games – something which Sweden had already hoped to have achieved.
In hosting the last year’s IBSA Goalball World Championships, they felt they had a good chance to reach the podium and punch their ticket to Tokyo. Instead they finished eighth after losing in the quarter finals to eventual champions Brazil.
But things have changed according to Seremeti:
“There is only one goal, to get to Tokyo. We have had a very good process ahead of this tournament and it feels like everyone in the team is at a higher level now than a year ago when we played the World Cup at home.”
Even though World Championships medallists Brazil, Germany and Belgium will not compete in Fort Wayne, Sweden will still face tough opposition. Top of the list for them are reigning Paralympic champions Lithuania, who themselves have not yet qualified for the next Paralympics.
Sweden play Lithuania in their opening match in Fort Wayne.
“It will be a tough opening match but they have a lot of defensive problems that we know how to use,” Seremeti said. “We would, however, say we have one of the best defense in the tournament. And as I always say, goalball is about who has the best defence and not offense.”
Sweden goes to the United States with a small squad of just five players. Seremeti himself was not sure if he could join them after picking up a ruptured muscle in his arm.
“I have been a little worried about not being able to recover but in the past week I have been able to go full time so it feels good,” Seremeti said.
Nevertheless Sweden, as three times podium finishers from the Paralympics, remain confident of qualifying for their sixth consecutive games.
“I think we will shock many of the teams and that chances are great. We are a championship team and really have nothing to lose. We go there to win.”
Fort Wayne 2019 Swedish team
The 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier will run from 2-9 July in three venues across the city of Fort Wayne. Thirteen women’s and 14 men’s teams will take to the courts hoping to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020.
The competition will be shown live at IBSA Goalball’s Facebook page and IBSA’s YouTube channel. Match schedules are available at the official competition website.