That was the year that was … this time last year Handball Views wasn’t even a twinkle in a milkman’s eye so we can’t yet be accused of being wizened cynics. Instead, with wide-eyed naivity, let’s look back on 2012 …
For the British it was the year of the Olympics. For two glorious weeks handball grew from a sport that could be summed up by one Five Live analyst as “big in Scandanavia but I don’t know anything about it” to one whose final was shown live on BBC 1. It was also the first time that a Great Britain team of either gender appeared in a major championship. They qualified as hosts, lost a combined 10 games, and have now had their entire funding cut. We have to hope that enough people have been inspired by the show in the Copper Box that it won’t take another home Olympics before Great Britain again has the capability to even enter the qualifying tournaments for major competitions.
For the Montenegrins it was the year of female glory. Their national team were the dark horses of the Olympics – charging to a silver medal in a sequence of matches that included the wonderful sight of victory over France with an after-the-hooter penalty and then with the world aware of the threat they went one better in the European Championships by beating Norway after two periods of extra time and a substantial amount of nervous tension. Alongside that Budućnost took the women’s EHF Champions League title after a feisty final with Győri Audi.
In men’s international tournaments it was a year of bewildering inconsistency. Denmark started Euro 2012 looking like they’d just met each other getting off the bus and ended it champions having beaten Croatia and Serbia in front of a Balkan crowd of startling intensity. Without the home crowd support, Serbia left the Olympics at the group stage whereas France who went the other way in Euro 2012 to Denmark took the title. Croatia always looked about to pounce but never sealed the deal. The World Championships start in January and there must be five teams at least who seriously think they can win.
In the club game it was all about Kiel in the first half of the year, Barcelona in the second. THW Kiel marched to the Bundesliga title and then took their third Champions League title in Cologne. They had to work had in the semi final against Fuechse Berlin but then woke up to push aside Atletico Madrid. Barcelona licked their wounds having been knocked out by AG Copenhagen but got a schadenfreude return when the Danes spent the off-season going bust. This season the Catalans are dominating in the Asobal and Europe, Paris are in control in France but the Zebras of Kiel have competition in Germany and trail second in the Bundesliga behind Rhein-Neckar Loewen. Copenhagen have also, after a fashion, emerged again as KIF Kolding.
There was also scandal. Say it ain’ so, M Karabatic … Montpellier players were implicated in betting against their team in an end of season match against Cesson-Rennes. In the previous sentence ‘implicated in’ means ‘caught’. The club’s domestic season won’t recover from the farce of the early rounds but they may still have an impact in Europe – it seems however that they and Karabatic will soon be parting. There was another scandal at Euro 2012 when the Serbian coach twice reached out to stop Linn Jorum Sulland of Norway but that was laughed off by the authorities in a not entirely convincing manner.
Other titles decided in 2012 include: South Korea doing the double and winning both men’s and women’s Asian Championships; Greenland beating the USA 36:27 in the Pan American Men’s Championship (the title went to Argentina but that’s far less interesting); African championships for Tunisia (men) and Angola (women, their 8th in a row); and in Oceania Australia beat New Zealand 31:10 twice on consecutive days to claim that region’s men’s title (the women get to win next year).
Lots of other things happened as well. You should probably look them up. Whilst you’re doing that I’ll be readying myself for the Men’s World Championship – let’s meet again in 2013.