Portugal make wheelchair handball history at inaugural six-a-side competitionNew world and European champions Portugal win first edition of a new international six-a-side wheelchair handball competition 06 Dec 2022
A two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant a wait for the first edition of a new international six-a-side wheelchair handball competition which could open the door to Paralympic Games inclusion.
A collaboration between the European Handball Federation (EHF) and the International Handball Federation (IHF) in November allowed hosts Portugal to make history by beating the Netherlands in the final of the World and European Wheelchair Handball Championship to become both global and continental champions.
Checking off all boxes
The hope of the IHF is to have wheelchair handball included in the Los Angeles 2028 Paralympic Games and as a test event at Paris 2024.
That would be good news for Portugal and for Ricardo Queiros, who claimed 37 goals to finish top scorer as his team won five out of five matches in Leiria.
He was delighted with how the championship worked out, especially after the enforced delay.
“I feel simply proud, satisfied and with the feeling of a goal accomplished,” Queiros said.
“To have the opportunity to become European and world champions at ‘home’ left me speechless.
“My aim was to be world champion. Then I wanted a moment to dedicate this to a person who is very important to me and is no longer here with me.
“Then, to have my team all happy. Then I wanted to have a good performance that would make me be one of the best. In that order. Happily, I could have it all.
“Portugal’s goal is to be at Los Angeles as a Paralympic sport and the plan is to have a demonstration at Paris and I think that will be very important.
“I'm confident that it will be possible and it will be a big reward for all of those that worked for the growth of this sport.
“For me, it will be fantastic and a big objective of mine. I want to be there. There are still many years ahead and the other national teams will grow too, so we will have to be in shape and improve even more.”
Wheelchair handball on the rise
It has been a long journey for Queiros, who was hit by a car that smashed him into a wall when he was only four. He spent two years in hospital, much of the time in a coma.
Now his focus is on a sport that is growing rapidly, helped by high-profile events like this, which captured the imagination in Portugal.
Queiros wears the iconic 23 number, immortalised by Michael Jordan and David Beckham. “What can I say? It’s a number that has history and I want to create mine,” the wheelchair handball player said.
He was delighted to see the recent tournament inspire interest in the sport, but has some thoughts on how things could be improved.
“This World Cup [Championship] had a good visibility level and we could prove the level of handball in our country," Queiros said.
“We need more nations. But I understand that this is the first time and next time, surely, there will be more.
“It is very important. The more countries we have in the tournament, the better it is for competition. That is crucial.
“And I wouldn’t do the European and World Championships at the same time. I would do one year European, other year World, a big competition. That to me is OK.”