The best teams from the Asia/Pacific region will gather in Chiba, Japan, from Thursday (5 December) for the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball Asia-Pacific Championships.
The competition – the final major event of the year – will offer teams the chance to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
It will also take place in the same city as the Paralympics next year.
Seven men’s and six women’s teams from seven countries will go for the title between 5-10 December.
Results and schedules can be found at the competition website: https://www.gb-aprc.com/
In the women’s Japan will be aiming to impress as the defending champions. They are considered to be one of the best teams in the world having finished in the top five at the last two editions of the IBSA Goalball World Championships.
In 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand, they beat Paralympic silver medallists China to claim their second consecutive Asia-Pacific title.
Eiko Kakehata and Masae Komiya regularly post top goal scoring performances for their side and will feature once again.
However Japan will be looking over their shoulders at China. The Chinese will rely on Chunhua Wang and Xi Ling Zhang – their country’s respective top scorers from 2017.
Australia compete as the current bronze medallists and are searching for their third consecutive podium at this level.
South Korea and Thailand complete the women’s line-up alongside Indonesia who make their Asia-Pacific debut.
In the men’s China return to the court to try to defend their title from 2017.
Eighteen-year-old rising star Mingyuan Yang will feature in their attack as their top scorer from two years ago. He was also their most valuable player from the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships in Malmo, Sweden.
Yang is excited by the chance to play at the Paralympics:
“The Paralympic Games is the top sports gathering in the world. It is the dream of every player to participate in the Games. Playing in Tokyo 2020 will make us feel excited and honoured representing our country.”
Meanwhile Iran are the only other side to have won the Asian title since the competition began in 2010, winning in 2013. The team were also the top ranked Asian side from the 2018 Worlds, finishing just one place ahead of their rivals in sixth.
They will hope to better their silver medal from 2017 when they lost out to China 10-2 in the final.
Most recently Hasan Jafari finished amongst the top five goal scorers from the 2018 Worlds – the only Asian player to do so with 32 goals. Teammate Mohammad Saranji is also expected to be a key player.
Japan claimed bronze in 2017 and have been building their team in the hope of reaching the podium at their home Paralympics. They reached their best ever World Championships finish in 2018 with ninth and as hosts already have a Tokyo 2020 berth secured.
Australia, South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia complete the men’s teams. Like their female compatriots, Indonesia will make their first regional Championships appearance.
The winners of each of the men’s and women’s competition, if not already qualified, will secure a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.