AOn Friday the 13th they have at the World Handball Federation (IHF) cheered in Basel. Morocco played against the United States. And the US won. 28:27. In the seventh participation, it was the first victory in their World Cup history. With that, the Americans had already reached the main round – that too is historic, because otherwise they always played for the Golden Pineapple in the “President’s Cup”.
In an effort handball to make it a global sport, the successes of the Americans are important in order to open up new markets. With the same logic, however, the IHF should then set up development programs in India and China, ideally one in Great Britain as well.
There, other professional sports dominate the markets. For example, in English-speaking countries like Ireland, “handball” is a sport where you hit a small ball against the wall with your palm. European handball operates there and in the USA under “Team Handball” and is of no interest to anyone.
Battle for Olympic status
The Americans are only at this World Cup in Poland and Sweden because they should learn. For the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. So that the embarrassments are limited there and handball doesn’t look so amateurish, the future Olympic hosts should at least understand the basics of the game – that works quite well, also because the Swede Robert Hedin coaches the Americans.
IHF President Hassan Moustafa has been fighting for handball to retain Olympic status for years. For this he needs as many member associations as possible, not just European ones. At the same time, he has to blur the impression that handball is only in Europe is taken seriously.
That’s why the World Cup is accompanied by Asian, South American and Near and Middle Eastern teams. That’s why there are always world championships outside of Europe, like 2015 in Qatar and 2021 in Egypt.
That is worthy of all honor, the non-European countries are welcome additions, but with the exception of the strong Egyptians they do not play a role. So it’s no wonder that sports fans far from the handball bubble see no difference between the European Championships, which take place in even years, and the World Cup in odd years.
As Sweden’s handball legend Stefan Lindgren said before the World Cup: “I don’t know who will be world champion, I only know that the world champion comes from Europe.” Nothing will change that anytime soon. Not that a European title is worth more than a World Cup because the opponents are better on average.