Inside Teqball: Portuguese Teqball Federation
INSIDE TEQBALL - STORIES FROM THE TEQBALL WORLD -
Formed on 26 November 2019, the Portuguese National Teqball Federation is making impressive progress both nationally and internationally. Portugal have competed in all three World Championships and the number of clubs and players in the country is growing every day. President Károly Henczi is at the heart of the professionalisation of the sport in Portugal. In this interview, he explains more about the teqball journey in the country so far.
“The federation has in fact been active since July 2017, but it was officially established at the end of last year,” explains Henczi. “Interestingly, former Sporting Lisbon coach Jorge Manuel Rebelo Fernandes, known as Silas, was a founding member of the federation.”
Henczi first experienced teqball in Cyprus, when a friend introduced him to the sport.
“I was shown this innovative new sport by my friend, who taught me how to play. At the beginning, I was not very good but I played for 90 minutes and immediately felt that this was an exciting sport. To be honest, I was surprised how addictive it is once you start to play.”
Henczi was so excited by the sport that he soon became involved on the administrative side.
“I had not previously been active in the administrative side of sport, however I like to embrace new challenges. Having contacts in Portugal, where I studied in Lisbon for a year, I thought it would be a good idea to try build teqball there.”
Under Henczi’s leadership, the Portuguese National Teqball Federation is making great strides in the development of the sport.
“We have 54 clubs currently in 14 regions, covering almost the entire country,” explains Henczi. “It is important to note that these are sport clubs that have been existing for more than 10 years that offered the infrastructure for a teqball club. We are very proud that from these clubs almost all of them have certified coaches and referees.”
The number of players is growing quickly and the federation is developing a league structure to provide more formalised playing opportunities.
“The total number of players is around 200 playing teqball regularly. We will start our league structure called the - Circuit de National de Teqball – where we expect all the clubs to participate.”
Portuguese football stars have shown their passion for teqball in recent years, including Luis Figo, Nuno Gomes, Simao Sabrosa, Jose Bosingwa and Raul Meireles.
“I divide the Portuguese stars into two groups,” says Henczi. “Some of the players are teqball international ambassadors like Luis Figo, Nuno Gomes, Simao Sabrosa and they have a big influence in Portugal. Then there is Jose Bosingwa and Raul Meireles, both former players of Porto, who played in a teqball tournament involving Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and Porto football clubs. This generated very high viewership and engagement on social media – higher than the general news from the Porto football team.”
“Creating this tournament was definitely successful in drawing attention to teqball. The rest of the job is then done by the sport of teqball itself. The football stars love to play so they welcome all opportunities to practice. This natural love for teqball is important for helping grow the sport.”
To support the development of teqball in Portugal, the federation has also organised various educational courses for coaches and referees.
“We have put effort and energy into these courses from the very beginning,” says Henczi. “Besides helping raise awareness, we have put great emphasis into the proper implementation of the teqball rules, knowing that this a key factor of the sport development. For example, it became clear to us that in teqball, high quality play with the head is required, as is precise movements with and without the ball. To summarise, we know how important coach and referee education is and this area remains a vital part of our strategy to develop teqball in Portugal.”
The development of teqball clubs in Portugal is key to the overall growth of the sport in Portugal.
“We started on a slightly different journey to some other countries. This comes from my personal pursuit of growing teqball having had several discussions with FITEQ President Gábor Borsányi. My vision was to have a teqball league where Benfica compete against Porto, for example. We have been relying on the existing sport club structure, engaging them with teqball and inspiring them establish teqball clubs in addition to their football and handball clubs. We are very proud that there are existing teqball clubs from the bottom division all the way up to the 1st division of the football league structure.”
Out of all the milestones reached so far, the official establishment of the Portuguese National Teqball Federation is Henczi’s proudest teqball memory so far.
“If I had to pick one, it would be the establishment of the Federation at the end of 2019. As part of this announcement, we also organised a teqball tournament for six top football clubs. The event was presented in the sport media and on several TV channels as well. This moment was very special for me because we delivered this tournament from our own resources and it demonstrated the potential we have.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt global sport. However, this has not prevented the Portuguese National Teqball Federation from working hard to develop the sport.
“I was very worried about this situation because on 8 March 2020 FITEQ delivered a coach and referee education course in Porto, after which on 15 March 2020 we should have organised the 1st ever Challenger Cup in Lisbon. Unfortunately, this was cancelled due to COVID-19. I was devastated because we had prepared for this a lot. However, we have not stopped with our activities, requesting permission from the relevant authorities to be able to hold activities underlining that teqball is an individual sport and a perfect social distancing sport activity. FITEQ has also communicated internationally that the sport is a social distancing sport, which helped build the awareness here. As a result, several clubs joined our network and we have implemented online courses with a one-day delivery event, in line with all COVID-19 regulations, which was also very much welcomed by the teqball community.”
Looking ahead to the remainder of the year, Henczi plans to deliver events as part of FITEQ’s National Challenger Series.
“We aim to deliver two tournament series. One is a promotional tournament with the eight top clubs invited, as well as a national tournament series for the teqball clubs and their players competing on the highest possible level on the national level. This will offer the qualification pathway for the Teqball World Championships. Naturally, we are also dedicated to continuing to make progress with all the other ongoing activities of the Federation.”