The IHF has taken a break from not providing useful TV coverage of the forthcoming World Championships in the UK to announce the winners of the IHF World Player of the Year for both men and women.
In the men’s category Daniel Narcisse of THW Kiel and France won 25% of the vote. He finished ahead of Mikkel Hansen, the shaggy Dane who plays for PSG who Narcisse is tipped by people better informed than me to be joining at the end of the year(*). The award caps a ‘not bad’ year in which he won Olympic gold alongside Champions League and Bundesliga titles.
There was something of a first in the women’s award as it heads to Brazil for the first time. Alexandra do Nascimento plays for Hypo Niederösterreich who routinely win the league and cup double in Austria, and for the Brazilian national team who finished 6th in the 2012 Olympics. Winning 28% of the vote, do Nascimento finished ahead of Heidi Løke who won the award last year.
Narcisse will, of course, be strutting his stuff for France in the World Championships that start in three days time. First up for the man officially nicknamed by the IHF as ‘Air France’ will be Tunisia. I suspect he will get ample opportunity to show off why he won the award.
As an aside, should you have any pumping needs please consider Grundfos who sponsor these awards. They provide pumping solutions for any situation.
(* = Since writing this I have now seen a photo of Daniel Narcisse shaking hands in front of a giant PSG badge. I assume that’s positive for the Parisians.)
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.
Four teams from the Spanish league (Asobal) are heading to Vigo to contest the 22nd Copa Asobal. As you might expect two of those teams are Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and the other two are not. It’s all set up for a Barcelona-Atletico final but before that there is the small matter of the semi finals to be played.
Today (December 21st, the day the world ends) sees Atlético Madrid play Naturhouse la Rioja at 6pm UK and that is followed at 8pm by Barcelona playing Reale Ademar León. The final is tomorrow at 5.30pm UK. All matches are live and accessible in the UK at Laola1.
Barcelona have taken this title 7 times; Atletico (including in their previous incarnation) 6. Reale Ademar León have two titles to their name but, despite that, the bookies make them only 33/1 to even win their semi final this time around.
With the Men’s World Championship occupying January this is the last club action for these teams until the start of February – hopefully they will be looking to go out with a bang and play some entertaining handball on the way.
If you’re a fan of Kiel or Atletico then you’re in luck today because if you’ve got two chances to see your boys on British TV.
The lovely folks at Premier Sports will be showing today’s EHF Champions League group match in full at 4.15pm UK (Sky Channel 428) whereas British Eurosport 2 (Sky 411) will be showing highlights at 11.30pm.
British Eurosport 2 is also your home for the Euro 2012 Daily Show. Throughout the tournament at midnight and 5.45am they will be showing an EHF-produced review of the day’s events. No live coverage that I can see – for that you’ll need to head over to the EHF Euro YouTube channel.
Google translate tells me that the report on the KIF handball page calls today’s outcome a “secure result”. It was certainly predictable but it’s to London GD’s credit that at half time they’d kept it to 10:22. And don’t be fooled by the supposed heavy home defeat: both legs of this match are being played in Denmark, with the second match tomorrow. I understand it’s quite expensive to drink in Scandanavia so at least they should be fully focused even after a Saturday night on tour.
Boris Schnuchel (pictured) top-scored for KIF with 19 goals but there was some parity on the day: both teams hit 50% of their 7m penalties.
If the Supercopa is a way for Spain’s top two teams to announce their intentions towards each other then Barcelona put their’s forward in neon flashing lights. The Catalans opened up a 7 goal lead midway into the first half and, aside from a period that Atletico really should have capitalised on when the lead could have closed to 1 they never looked like surrendering it, eventually winning 34:31.
Madrid spent a lot of time staring at the officials but it’s hard to see that they were to blame – far too many Atletico attacks ended in suprisingly ineffective shots or in overturned possession. Barcelona were the same efficient unit they always seem to be: some of the faces change but the ethic remains solid and they were worthy winners of their 15th Supercopa title.
Atletico won last season’s match but Asobal went to Barcelona – although Madrid did better in Europe and won the Copa del Rey. So this one match doesn’t really count for anything but in terms of setting up the season it did an excellent job of whetting the appetite.
The day of the quarter finals ended in high drama with the match between Sweden and Russia being settled at the very end of extra time by two penalties. Both were legitimate (as much as you can tell in real time on an internet stream) but that didn’t stop the sense of injustice for the victims. Sweden were the unlucky ones – going down 31:30 after a compelling match. They chose often to defend with five on the line and one out blocking – and in extra time the Russians exploited that gap. There really wasn’t much to choose between them though and this really was a high quality game.
The most one-sided of the quarter finals was, possibly surprisingly, the one between France and Norway. The Norwegians owned a 17:5 half time lead and could afford to only win the second half by a goal, running out 32:19 winners. In the other matches, the non-European adventure is over as Japan couldn’t hold a half time lead against Denmark, losing 25:31 and Romania were too strong throughout for Hungary.
The semi finals will be played on 25 August and will be Romania v Denmark and Russia v Norway.
My prediction that Montenegro would ride a wave of home-court advantage all the way to the title is now today’s chip wrappings. The hosts are not one of the eight nations that can go on to win the title. They will now be in the placement games with the best they can hope for being a 9th place finish. The four quarter finals take place on 23 August and will all be streamed live here. Japan is the only non-European team still in the mix.
The draw for the quarter finals is:
Hungary (3-1-0) v Romania (3-0-1);
Japan (3-0-1) v Denmark (3-1-0)
Russia (4-0-0) v Sweden (3-0-1);
France (3-1-0) v Norway (4-0-0)
Match times are UK, (group record in brackets (W-D-L)).
As we enter the last couple of blocks of games there are still five quarter places up for grabs with only Sweden, Romania and France having confirmed their passage, although if, as expected, Russia beat Kazakhstan tonight they will be in the last eight and Montenegro, the hosts, will be playing for placings only.
Last night, Montenegro had a great chance to put their destiny in their own hands. They led Romania 14-9 at the break and led well into the latter stages before their structure collapsed and their shooting became more wild. Romania won 24-22 in the end and celebrated as if the title was theirs, rather than a place in the knock out stages.
Elsewhere Paraguay, Kazakhstan, DR Congo, Czech Republic, Uruguay and Portugal are now playing for pride.
There are four matches today, one from each group (all times UK):
17:15 Paraguay v Hungary; Kazakhstan v Russia
19:30 Czech Republic v Denmark; Portugal v Norway
And they can be seen live here.
The IHF Super Globe is a handball club competition that pits some of the world’s leading clubs against each other. This year’s event is in Qatar starting on 27 August and will feature names such as THW Kiel and Atlético Madrid. In amongst that group though is an amateur side from down under. With a week to go before the tournament Handball Views caught up with Sydney University Handball Club to ask them about their preparation and, more broadly, what the situation is for handball at their level in Australia – and if there are any lessons Britain can learn from the Austalian Olympic experience.
HV: Thank you for speaking to Handball Views. Tell me a little bit about your journey to the IHF Super Globe. Who you’ve had to play on the way to qualification and how that’s gonefor you.
Pascal Winkler, Sydney University HC: The qualifying event was the ‘Oceania Club Champions Cup’ which was held in Tahiti in November 2011. This annual tournament – which alternates between Tahiti and New Caledonia – brings together the best club teams from French Polynesia (Tahiti, New Caledonia, Wallis & Futuna), Australia and New Zealand.
It was the first time this tournament decided over the Super Globe participant from Oceania. Since the playing conditions are a bit different to Australia (gruelling heat and humidity, massive crowds, live TV coverage) and the French Overseas Territories have got a strong handball culture and some very good local players as well as French expats, it came as a bit of a surprise that Sydney Uni HC won. And all in all, we were probably also a bit lucky, having reached the final with some last minute draws and narrow wins, and having come back from 4 goals behind to snatch victory in the final against local favourite AS Dragon.
HV: How are you preparing for the IHF Super Globe? You’re unbeaten in the NSW League season but I’m guessing you won’t have come up against anything like THW Kiel before.
PW: We’ve had an intense preparation since February: we’ve been bringing the squad together for 5 weekend camps on top of the regular weekday trainings. There’s also been a big emphasis on individual work to bulk up and increase speed and endurance. Being a team of amateurs who’ve got to give work and study some priority, there were obviously limits to how much time every player could invest – but we feel we’ve probably gone to the limit of what we can do to prepare within our means. But the increased intensity has at least meant that locally we’ve been unbeaten this season.
The biggest problem for us, same as for the national team year in year out, is the lack of real tests and games against strong opponents due to the isolation of Australia in terms of handball. Strong Asian teams are all at least 8 hours flight (and AUS$20,000 [£13,200] in air fares!) away. This basically means we can only test ourselves against Australian teams, which leaves us without a real sense of where we stand.
HV: What expectations do you have? Last year’s Oceania representatives [Southern Stars] lost by an average of 20points a game. Do you think you can improve on that?
The Southern Stars – which represented Oceania in previous years – was a selection team consisting of mostly national team players and some international expats and students from across Australia. Our team is similar in its make-up, albeit maybe with one or two strong players less, but we’ve had the advantage of having the whole team together in Sydney. So we may individually be a bit weaker, but hopefully more than make up for it with a good team spirit and rehearsed play. We have a few players who played with the Southern Stars and therefore know what to expect.
HV: What’s the situation like for handball in Australia – is the game growing?
Handball is definitely growing, and it’s luckily recognised by many schools as a great game for physical education of children. So there’s a lot of school handball. Reaching the national teams (junior and senior) is obviously the big ambition for everyone, and thanks to the guaranteed spot at World Championships for Oceania (and Australia’s relative dominance in the region) there’s a good reward for players to put the time and effort in. This is absolutely crucial for handball here, without it handball would do it very tough because there’s so much competition from so many sports.
Due to the media coverage Sydney Uni got recently and the Olympics, we’ve seen enquiries soar by people who want to get into handball. Be it juniors or adults, we’re seeing a lot of interest right now.
The biggest issue is that generally the club infrastructure is fairly weak. There’s for example no national handball league – due to the massive distances between cities and the cost it would take to fly teams across the country, everyone just plays local competitions (with a national championships of state selection teams held once a year).
So we’ve got good interest and great work at the base in schools, and an attractive offering at national team level, but the middle layer – which would require a strong national league – is unfortunately missing. There are efforts being undertaken however to establish the national competition. The players are definitely there, but we really need funding to cover the massive travel costs a national league would incur, and also make sure we can market the league accordingly.
If any sponsors want to be involved in making handball a national sport in Australia, we’re open to chat!
HV: Finally, I don’t knowif you saw just how much the British people got into handball during theOlympics – the men’s final even found itself live on BBC1. Did that take you by surprise at all and how does it compare to the experience of handball in the 2000 games? Are there any lessons we can learn?
PW: Australians, just like the British, absolutely loved handball when it was on in 2000. Everything was focused however on getting a competitive team to the Olympics, and nobody probably anticipated the massive opportunities it would create for the sport after the games. Due to the lack of aformentioned club infrastructure, there was not much in place to capitalise on the interest. So if there’s one tip for Britain – it would be to create a good club competition quickly (even if it’s only with a few teams) and market it well. People need to keep seeing handball on TV and in the newspaper, so kids know where to go and play after school.
HV: And, finally, finally –GOOD LUCK in the IHF Super Globe!
PW: Thanks, despite all the effort and enthusiasm we’ve put in – we’ll probably need it.
The IHF Super Globe starts on 27 August. Sydney University’s first match is against Saudi Arabian side Mudhar. We’ll have a full preview of the competition at the end of this week.