THN article on Greenland’s Status Change: http://teamhandballnews.com/2007/04/greenland-membership-in-pathf-downgraded/
I’m an American and I don’t care what the sport is I’m always going to root for the team with USA written on their jerseys. As someone who had the opportunity to wear one of those jerseys several years ago I’m even more passionate about USA Team Handball squads. But when Team USA isn’t playing I feel free to pick a side. This past January at the Handball World Championships , I had the opportunity to see several of the Handball “minnows” play in the President’s Cup and it didn’t take me long to pick a 2nd favourite team- the team from way up North where the sun doesn’t shine much in the winter and the names are unpronounceable.
I am, of course, talking about Greenland. And judging by the reactions of the German crowds I wasn’t alone in this respect. But, there are more reasons than just being a “feel good” story for keeping Greenland as a full member in the PATHF. Herewith are those reasons as I see it:
Reason #1: It was already decided in 1998.
They joined as a full member in 1998 and that couldn’t have happened without someone or some body deciding that they should be a full member. What’s happened since then to make that decision wrong now? A cynical person would conclude that maybe they’ve qualified for the World Championships one too many times. Certainly, if they were consistently finishing in last place at the PATHF its safe to say that the USA would not have asked for a clarification of their PATHF status. And let’s don’t be too hard on blaming the USA for asking the question. Trust me, some other nation would have asked the same question sooner or later.
Reason #2: This team is not a Danish mercenary squad, but a true Greenland team.
I can’t bear witness to earlier incarnations of the Greenland National Team, but the story I often heard was that the ethnic makeup of their team was more blue eyed blond than darked haired Inuit. The insinuation being that the Greenland National Team was simply just a bunch of 2nd and 3rd class Danish Handball players looking for an opportunity to play in the World Championships. That certainly wasn’t the case with the 2007 squad, which certainly in appearance was a homegrown squad.
Reason #3: There is precedent in other sports for Nations to participate in World Championship events, but not the Olympics.
There are several examples of this. Most relevant is probably the Faroe Islands, another nation with Danish passports. The Faroe Islands is a member of the EHF and soccer’s UEFA. In particular, they are competitors in European Championship and World Cup soccer competition. I’ve even seen the French side play at their stadium in Torshavn. And I’ll never forget a couple of German officers nervously following the score of a European Qualifier where the Faroe side took a 1-0 lead into the 2nd half before Germany rallied for a 2-1 win. The Faroe Islands, however, does not participate in the Olympics, and someone from there could only participate under the Danish flag.
Another example is the United Kingdom… of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Depending on the sport, the “nations” of the United Kingdom field separate or combined teams. For instance, they field separate teams for rugby, soccer, and handball. Of course, when it comes time for the Olympics they field a combined UK team. For Handball England and Scotland only recently decided to start fielding a UK team for International Competition.
Reason #4: They have real fans.
Of the Handball minnows participating in the World Championships Greenland had the most vocal and supportive fans in attendance. Certainly, it is safe to say that their contingent was much greater than the US has ever had for a World Championship. On top of that they had their own television crew broadcasting the games live back to Greenland. In the US, we’d be lucky to even have the scores listed in the newspaper.
Reason #5: It is a feel good story.
Handball certainly has its share of controversies whether it’s the officiating at the World Championships or the ongoing power struggle between the EHF, IHF and the major European Clubs. But, everyone (well, almost everyone) can get behind a nation of 57,000 people that has a rare turn in the spotlight on the world stage. And the fact that they have some good young talent playing only made the story better.
What’s really a shame is that several players on Greenland’s Senior Team, including their leading scorer, Angutimmarik Kreutzmann, could be playing right now at the PATHF Junior Championships. In my opinion, they would have contended for the title and would probably have qualified as 1 of the 2 PATHF representatives to go to the World Championships this summer.
Let’s hope that the PATHF and the IHF see the light and correct this injustice.
Earlier THN article on Greenland at the World Championship with Podcasts: http://teamhandballnews.com/2007/01/greenland-handball-a-national-passion/