Utrecht, The Netherlands – The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) presented today the WBSC Softball Europe/Africa Qualifier, the first softball Olympic qualifier of the year, with a press conference held at the Old City Hall in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Botswana, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa and Spain will play the five-day tournament divided into two groups.

The purpose of every team is one: to write the history and to go to Tokyo.

Wout van Leeuwen, Utrecht Municipal, opened the Press Conference with a warm welcome to all the participants: ‘’Welcome to Utrecht. We are very proud to host such a wonderful and important event. I want to thank the WBSC, the KKNSB and LOC, with all the volunteers”.

‘The main purpose of the policy of the City Council is to evolve – what we name – Health Urban Living. Sport and sport education are an important part of a healthy environment. Therefore Utrecht is building a tradition in organizing sports events. In the last 5 years, we have welcomed sports events such as the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2013, the Tour France in 2015, the Uefa Championship Football in 2017 and the European Championship Beach Volleyball in 2018. Looking ahead will host the start of the Vuelta, the cycling tour of Spain, in 2020’’, he added.

Then, Michael Schmidt, WBSC Executive Director, talked about this historical moment: ‘’Here we have the top teams from Africa and Europe, competing for one spot in the Olympic Games. Congratulations on being the best of your continent, and good luck for this tournament. This is the first of three qualification events for Tokyo 2020. In six days we’ll know the name of the third National Team qualified for the Olympic Games, who will join Japan and USA’’.

Schmidt also thanked the city of Utrecht and the Local Organizing Committee for what they did and what they are doing for softball: ‘’I want to thank the city Major, Mr Jan van Zanen, for his support and commitment with our sport. We’re very happy to be in your city. I want to express our gratitude with the Local Organizing Committee, who has made a fantastic job hosting this tournament. The field looks great and your hospitality has made everyone feel like home. You all must be very proud of your team’’.

‘’There is nothing soft about softball’’ Petra Arends, KNBSB board member said. The Dutch Official also thanked the WBSC and all the volunteers that are working hard, especially in these days, to create something special in Utrecht. She also underlined how it is important this tournament for the Dutch team, who played the Olympics in 1996 and 2008.

Thanks to their positions in the 2018 WBSC ranking, Italy and Netherlands are the favored teams. Italy stands at the ninth place, Netherlands at the tenth.

‘’We practice every single day and we have to play as a team, one game at a time’’ Erika Piancastelli, one of the stars of the Italian team, said. Two weeks ago, Italy got the gold medal in the European Championships, beating the Netherlands in the final. ‘’We learned with experience, we have high preparation and we spend a lot of time together’’ Britt Vonk, Dutch player, said. ‘’We are prepared for this’’ she ended.

Anyway, Botswana, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, South Africa and Spain don’t want to sit back. Everyone is here in order to write history and get the pass to Tokyo 2020.

‘’We are excited to be here, we want to do our best and win’’ Nerissa Myers, Great Britain infielder, said. ‘’It’s very beautiful, we are highly motivated’’ Tawinia Phibion, Botswana Head Coach added.

From Tuesday, there will be no tomorrow. In a few days, we will know the third team that will play next year in the Olympic Games.