Israeli beach volleyball team heads to Qatar in pursuit of spot at Olympics

Israeli beach volleyball players Sean Faiga and Ariel Hilman arrived in Qatar Sunday to represent the Jewish state at the FIVB Qatar Open.

The volleyball duo’s arrival was kept quiet until they landed in the country, and they did not actually receive visas until a few days prior to their departure. They were accompanied by team coach Shaked Haimi and Israel Volleyball Association CEO Yaniv Newman.

The competition begins Monday and gives teams an opportunity to garner much need points to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. The pair will have to win two matches before continuing to the main draw.

The 15 highest ranked teams from each gender on the 2016 FIVB World Tour as of June 13, 2016 will each earn a place at the Olympics.

Qatar, a small Muslim country to the east of Saudi Arabia, has tense relations with Israel. Israel disapproves of Qatar’s relationship with the Gaza based Hamas terror group and last October Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah told Al-Jazeera that Israeli “provocation” on the Temple Mount offends Muslims around the world.

Israeli athletes often face difficulties when trying to compete in Muslim countries.

In December the Israel Sailing Association decided not to send two young windsurfers and their coach to a windsurfing competition in Malaysia after organizers did not agree to let them compete under the Israeli flag or play the national anthem.

Last October Abu Dhabi refused to grant visas to 15 members of Israel’s national judo team, but later allowed the athletes under the condition that the Israeli flag not be shown.

Israel won two bronze medals at the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam tournament.