Tiago Costa: “Beach handball gets more and more appreciated”

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EHF / Eric Willemsen

Portugal want to ride the wave of success when hosting the Men’s EHF Beach Handball EURO 2023 in Nazaré this week. Tiago Costa is one of the standout performers in the Portuguese team, which he calls “really passionate about the sport.” Named MVP of the Champions Cup 2022 last autumn, Costa leads the men’s beach handball standings of the EHF Excellence Awards.

The EHF Beach Handball EURO 2023 is not just a home tournament for Tiago Costa; it is a double home tournament.

“Playing in Nazaré is a bigger responsibility for me, especially this year, because I am currently living and working here,” says Costa, who plays indoor for Nazaré Dom Fuas Andebol Clube in Portugal’s second division. “Of course, I am excited for the EURO, to have the opportunity to play this year at home.”

The previous 12 editions of the Beach Handball EURO, since the inaugural event in 2000 in Italy, took place in nine different European countries, but Portugal was not among them. Being first-time organisers in 2023 makes Portugal proud hosts.

“It is a big opportunity for our country to show that beach handball is developing in Portugal, and it is even more special being in Nazaré, that is almost the capital of beach sports,” says Costa, referring to its status as undisputed hotspot of big-wave surfing.

“It will be also important to give a different vision of beach handball and to demonstrate its importance, especially to young people,” Costa adds.

It is the anticipation that surrounds the Portuguese national team these days – not just the jitters of hosting one of beach handball’s marquee events, but also the expectations of doing well.

And Portugal have every reason to be ambitious going into their European Championship at home. It is only their fourth participation, but coming off the 17th position at the Beach Handball EURO 2019 in Stare Jablonki, they impressed by placing fifth two years ago in Varna – which marked Costa’s EURO debut.

Portugal had their run brought to an end by eventual champions Denmark in the quarter-finals, but went on to beat France and Norway to earn the country’s best result at an European Championship, with Costa contributing 19 points.

20230523 BH EURO Costa Quote UH
We have some players that are able to motivate and to bring us all together in the direction of the goal. Also, when all the different qualities of each one of us are combined, we can make the difference on the court.
Tiago Costa
Portugal men’s national beach handball team player

For the 2023 event, Portugal used the hosts’ right during the draw in February to pick preliminary group B, which also includes France, Italy, and Norway.

“Our Portuguese team is really passionate about the sport, and we play a lot with our heart and big ambitions,” Costa says. “We have some players that are able to motivate and to bring us all together in the direction of the goal. Also, when all the different qualities of each one of us are combined, we can make the difference on the court.”

But even if they are backed by their fifth place from the last EURO and fancy themselves to advance to the main round of the current EURO, Portugal will not articulate targets like ‘at least semi-finals’ or ‘a medal’ that could also easily get out of reach in Nazaré, since beach handball remains a sport full of unpredictable elements.

“The goal for next week is to guarantee the qualification for all the next international competitions,” Costa says.

For instance, to earn a ticket for the next national team event – the European Games in Tarnów – a team must finish in the top seven, or in the top eight if Poland are among them as well. In the words: quarter-finals or better.

The 26-year-old Costa first got in touch with beach handball when he was still a kid and his indoor team set up a beach handball team.

“I started to appreciate the game since the beginning. It became more serious when we created a club to play in the Portuguese championship and we started to have good results,” Costa recalls.

“I love this sport because I feel that I am really happy on the court. There is nothing more rewarding than doing what we love, and I love the show that characterises beach handball.”

Of course, beach handball is more than just fun or show for Costa, it is also about performing. He had a breakthrough moment at another home tournament, the EHF Champions Cup 2022, last autumn.

Led by Costa, who contributed 106 points, his club GRD Leça – Spar won bronze. On top of that, Costa was named the MVP of the tournament in Porto Santo.

“I wasn’t expecting to be the MVP of the Champions Cup in 2022, so I was really glad to see that my work paid off,” Costa says. “Also, because it shows that Portugal has really good teams and players in beach handball and our international level is getting higher.”

The MVP award gives Costa the lead in the men’s beach handball standings for the inaugural EHF Excellence Awards, which will honour the best players during a gala in Vienna on 26 June.

“It is the first time that the EHF Excellence Awards exist, so it is quite interesting to see that beach handball is starting to be more and more appreciated,” Costa says.

Apart from the Champions Cup 2022, two more beach handball events will count towards the EHF Excellence Awards: the ebt Finals 2023 in Antalya next month and, of course, the EHF Beach Handball EURO 2023.

Just another reason for Costa to give it his all in his hometown event this week.


photos © Uros Hocevar / kolektiff

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