28 Oct. 2019
Bahrain men’s team have qualified for the men’s handball competition of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after winning the final of the Asian Handball Federation (AHF) Men’s Asian Qualification Tournament held in Doha, Qatar on Saturday, 26 October.
Their qualification is the first time any team from the Asian island nation has ever qualified through to the handball competition of an Olympic Games and is a significant achievement for team sports in a country which has a population of just under 1.5 million people.
Bahrain qualified to Tokyo after beating Korea Republic in the final, coming back from a 15:13 half-time deficit to outscore their opponents 21:14 in the second period to win 34:29 in front of over 2,000 spectators inside the Al Duhail Arena.
Led by Icelandic coach Aron Kristjansson, Bahrain’s Ali Merza top-scored with seven in the game in a match whistled by IHF referees Robert Schulze and Tobias Tonnies from Germany and Technical Delegates, Croatian Josip Posavec and Great Britain’s Cesar Castillo.
Bahrain had gone behind 3:0 just after the fourth minute and then found themselves 11:7 down in the 19th before a Kristjansson time out saw his side recover to just one goal down 11:10 (25th minute). A 6:1 run at the beginning of the second half saw Bahrain go two in front (19:17, 37th minute) and they only went behind once more (22:21, 44th minute) before extending their lead to four (30:26, 54th minute) and then six (33:27, 58th minute) to seal their ticket.
However, the real shock of the competition was arguably the defeat of the strong host nation Qatar in the semi-final by Bahrain on Thursday (24 October) in front of over 3,500 fans. The 28:26 (16:15) victory for Kristjansson’s side stunned the home team and their fans as Ahmed Fadhul’s eight goals for the visitors ensured a memorable night. Bahrain had gone 3:1 up in the sixth minute and never found themselves behind again.
The Bahrain result set up that final match against Korea Republic, who beat Saudi Arabia 29:26 (17:12) in the first semi-final. Korea had gone up 6:2 in the 11th minute and never looked back.
In the other games, Kuwait beat India and Iran beat Hong Kong in the first matches of the 5-8 Placement Round with Hong Kong ensuring seventh sport with a 30:26 victory over India in the 7/8 placement match and Iran finishing fifth after beating Kuwait 27:25.
The semi-finals, and placement matches came after the completion of the preliminary group round on Tuesday.
India’s Naveen Singh finished as the tournament top-scorer with 36 goals in the competition which saw 20 games played in total.
Despite losing the final, Korea Republic’s second place means they qualify automatically through to one of the IHF Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualification Tournaments to be held next year.
For more information visit the Asian Handball Federation.
Thursday 24 October
5-8 Placement Round: IND vs KUW 21:34 (12:17)
5-8 Placement Round: IRI vs HKG 48:16 (25:6)
Semi-Final: KOR vs KSA 29:26 (17:12)
Semi-Final: QAT vs BRN 26:28 (15:16)
Friday 25 October
7/8 Placement Match: IND vs HKG 26:30 (13:11)
5/6 Placement Match: KUW vs IRI 25:27 (14:11)
Saturday 26 October
3/4 Placement Match: KSA vs QAT 21:31 (12:16)
Final: KOR vs BRN 29:34 (15:13)
PHOTO: Asian Handball Federation