Qatar play down foreign legion influence

Qatar's players celebrate their win during the 24th Men's Handball World Championships quarterfinals match between Germany and Qatar in Doha on January 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Karim Jaafar) (Al-Watan Doha/AFP)

Doha (AFP) - Qatar reached their first world championship semi-final on Wednesday before their Spanish coach faced questions over the sensitive issue of the high number of foreign-born players in his team.

At a press conference after the 26-24 quarter-final win against Germany, coach Valero Rivera said he would only talk about the game and not other issues.

"It's better to talk about handball, ok?," he said when asked about the loyalties of those playing for the Qatari team, but who were born elsewhere.

Pressed further that the success of the handball team could serve as a basis for other national sides in different sports put out by the tiny Gulf state -- which only has a population of just over two million with the majority in the country being from overseas -- Rivera refused to be drawn.

"I don't know, I am a coach. It's been very, very successful but I talk about handball because I am a coach of handball. I can only talk about handball."

On Wednesday night, Qatar's team included players born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Spain, Cuba and Montenegro.

Several have played for other national teams prior to this tournament, but handball allows for players to play for more than one country.

Two of their most influential players, goalkeeper Daniel Saric and the tournament's top scorer Zarko Markovic, were both born in the Balkans.

Saric previously played internationally for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Markovic 30 times for Montenegro.

Qatar have not broken any rules in recruiting players from overseas.

However, the international flavour of the team has led some to criticise Qatar for the number of players it has recruited, although the squad does contain several home-grown players.

After being defeated in the last round by Qatar, Austrian goalkeeper Thomas Bauer told AFP: "I think it is not the sense of a world championship. It feels like playing against a world selection team."