Agadir, Morocco, October 7, 2011 – Hosts Morocco saw none of their teams progress from the first day of the Agadir Open, but their first appearance on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour was still described as unforgettable for all three of their tandems.
Khalid Berma (left) and Mohamed Abicha finished 25th at the Agadir Open on Thursday but have high hopes for their CAVB Beach Volleyball Continental Cup tournament next week
Ihssane Boukhar and Karim Oughdach, Soufiane Bouchaoui and Othmane Farabi and Khalid Berma and Mohamed Abicha were not able to come through the first round but were unanimous with the fact that it had been an incredible experience.
“This was the best experience ever!” Berma said. The 41-year old and partner Abicha surged ahead to take a surprising early lead against top seeded Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann of Germany before losing 21-14 21-13. Later that day Renato “Geor” Gomes and Jorge “Gia” Terceiro from Georgia eliminated the Moroccan pair in the losers bracket as they finished 25th. However, despite the early exit, Berma said he would not have missed this experience for the world.
“It was a great pleasure playing the top teams of the world,” the oldest player of the tournament said. “Before, we only knew them from TV. I have a 14-year old son who is crazy about beach volleyball as well. He knows everything about any team. I wish he were here, watching his dad play against his idols, but he could not miss school in Casablanca.”
Bouchaoui and Farabi also started well against one of the top duos in Agadir: second seeded Pedro Cunha and Ricardo Santos from Brazil. They lost 21-8 21-9, but Cunha will remember young Farabi for sure. The tall Moroccan who stands at just over 2m tall had a kill block on Cunha in the first set.
“I was very happy with that,” Farabi said. “With Ricardo it was a different story. Every time I thought I had him, he spiked the ball past me. He is a very experienced and intelligent player. It was an honour to play them.”
In the afternoon Farabi and Bouchaoui also lost to Germany’s Sebastian Dollinger and Stefan Windscheif in two sets (21-11 21-16). Morocco’s best team, Boukhar and Oughdach, lost to Swiss duo Martin Laciga and Jonas Weingart (21-12 21-17) and Dutch pair Emiel Boersma and Daan Spijkers (21-9 21-12). They were not disappointed with their effort though as they were proud of their debut.
“Maybe we could have done better in our first game,” Boukhar commented. “We even took a lead in the beginning, but we are realistic. We did not come here expecting to win. For us it is all about the experience, this was our first World Tour event and we are proud to be able to debut on the Tour before our own people.”
Boukhar, 31, and Oughdach, 32, have been playing indoor volleyball in the winter and beach in the summer for years. It does not pay the bills, so they both have fulltime jobs on the side with Boukhar a physical education teacher and Oughdach a military man. Their best effort so far was a gold medal at the Arabic Games in 2004 and bronze at the challenger events in 2004 and 2005 in Casablanca.
Beside an occasional tournament and the national championships they do not get to compete a lot on the beach.
“That is our main problem,” Boukhar added. “We lack experience. We would very much like to go to Europe and practice with some of the World Tour teams over there. But there is no money. We do not have a sponsor. We even got a wildcard for the World Championships in Rome this year, but there was no money to go to Italy.”
The two men dream of becoming professional beach volleyball players. They think the way to get there is qualifying for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“Our biggest rivals in the African zone are Abreu and Silva from Angola, they live in Europe and practice over there,” Boukhar said. “Them and the South Africans.”
Next week the pair will compete in the CAVB Zone Continental Cup, conveniently held in Agadir, facing off against pairs from Algeria, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.
“We need to be in the top two in our pool to advance to the next round and then we will have a good chance to reach the Olympics. So despite the losses, our two World Tour matches were a perfect preparation for next week.”