EHF Magazine Features Brazilians in the Champions League

Brazil's 22 year old plays right back for Poland's Wisla Plock. 1 of 5 Brazilians featured in EHF Inside the Game feature.

Brazil’s Jose Toledo plays right back for Poland’s Wisla Plock. 1 of 5 Brazilians featured in EHF Inside the Game feature.

The European Handball Federation (EHF) weekly highlights show includes an “Inside the Game” segment which often includes behind the scenes interviews with players and coaches.  This past week’s segment focused on Brazilian handball players in the Champions League.  Currently, there are 5 Brazilians playing for Champions League Clubs.  They are:

  • Gabriel Jung, Barcelona, Right Back, 19
    Haniel Langaro, La Riolla (Logrono), Left Back, 21
    Jose Toledo, Plock, Right Back, 22
    Rogerio Ferreira, Vardar, Circle Runner, 22
    Thiagos dos Santos, Szeged, Left Back, 27

The video feature can be seen here: Link

Commentary: Four of those players are age 22 or younger and are playing and practicing with some of the top clubs in the world.  This is a testament to the grass roots programs that Brazil has established if they can develop talent that top clubs are willing to sign and further develop as players.

It will be very challenging for the U.S. to take athletes that are older than those players, that have barely played handball before, train them in the U.S. where there is not quality competition, and then beat Brazil in an Olympic qualification match.   And, trust me, “challenging” is a diplomatic choice of words.

All is not doom and gloom, however.  In the most recently posted USA Team Handball Board Meeting minutes it is noted that U.S. Men’s coach Javier Garcia would like to see the players do 1-2 years in Auburn and then head to Europe for competition.  And, that players need to improve in quality in order to facilitate their integration in teams overseas.

For me, this was a sign of a potential change in focus for the residency program at Auburn, away from National Team preparation and more towards athlete development.  Perhaps, not to dissimilar from my commentary two years ago suggesting that the national team residency program at Auburn be rebranded and as a development academy focused on younger athletes with greater potential.  The sooner we can get such a pipeline to Europe going the better our chances will be of competing against the likes of Brazil and Argentina.  Who knows?  Maybe, one day in the not too distant future we’ll see an “Inside the Game” feature on up and coming Americans playing on Champions League Clubs.

 

USA Beach Handball Men’s National Team vs Brazil

USA and Brazil in action this past weekend.

USA and Brazil in action.

This past weekend the U.S. Beach Handball Men’s National Team traveled to Niterói, Brazil (near Rio de Janeiro) to take on the Brazilian National Team in a couple friendly matches to celebrate Brazil’s first world title in Beach Handball in 2006. The U.S. lost an informal match Saturday 2 sets to 0, and an official match on Sunday, also 2 sets to 0. The score of the first set was 22-16 and the second set was 28-11.

The U.S. roster consisted of Darryl Yarbrough, Ebiye Udo-Udoma, Taylor Lapin, Kenneth McKagan, Bill Bigham, Matt Singletary, Bryan Cook, Ethan Pickett and Michael Hinson. Singletary, Cook, Pickett and Hinson each made their international debut as players. Brazil is a world power in beach handball, placing 2nd at the 2016 World Championships after winning the title in 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2014.

The Sunday match was broadcast on Brazilian TV and when video is made available we will add a link to it.

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IHF: the usual lack of transparency

In this photo, Redondo (second from left) looked distraught long before the Championship started; did he anticipate what would happen?


In recent time the IHF has yet again confirmed its reputation for leaving the international handball world in the dark about its decision-making on important matters. Perhaps I should not be surprised, but I generally prefer to be an optimist and always want to hope for improvements. But the shadow of the IHF role models Mubarak and Blatter is evidently too deep.

During the recent Women’s World Championship in Brazil, fortunately the participating teams may not have realized so fully that the whole event was really nothing better than a ‘house of cards’ in terms of finances, marketing, accounting and administration. During the course of the event, the organizers ran out of money and could not handle the daily expenses so the IHF had to step in. There was very little revenue from ticket sales, as there were extremely few spectators, the budgeted sponsor income seemed to be quite lacking, and there was not even an adequately functioning host broadcasting company to serve the international TV audiences. The organizers are now substantially in debt to the IHF.

One might have hoped for something better, given that Brazil has had two IHF Council members, Manoel Oliveira, also President of both the Brazilian and the Panamerican Handball Federations, and Fabiano Redondo, President of the IHF Commission for Development and, in this case, also Director of the World Championship organizing committee. Brazil has hosted junior world championships in the past, as well as numerous Panamerican events, and both Oliveira and Redondo have participated in numerous IHF events as IHF officials and/or Brazilian representatives. So there would be no excuses for not understanding what was required.

Not surprisingly, this state of affairs did not go over well with the IHF leadership. So even if it has never been officially reported, and even if the IHF web page still shows Redondo as an IHF Council members and Commission President, it appears that the truth is he was ‘forced to resign’ already during an IHF Council meeting during the course of the World Championship. Presumably he was seen as the main person responsible, as the Director of the Organizing Committee; however, it has also been whispered that Oliveira should really take the main blame as the Brazilian federation president.

But, as some suspicious persons have been heard noting, perhaps IHF President Moustafa sees Oliveira as too valuable in the efforts to secure votes from PanAmerican countries. Who knows what the precise truth is? And that is precisely the point: handball federations, media and the ‘international handball family’ have the right to know about such important development. Not perhaps the gory details, but the main issues and considerations and the confirmation when a decision has been taken!

On a separate matter, the lack of transparency and good judgment has again become apparent. For any sports federation, the nomination of referees to a World Championship or, as in this case, the Olympic Games, is an important decision and announcement. In this type of situation, even the flawed role model FIFA tends to do a very credible job, with announcements that honor the nominees, provide background information about selection criteria, and explain the plans for preparation.

But in the case of the IHF, the ‘methods’ are different. If you have followed web sites of a number of sports media or national handball federations, you have been able to pick up the names of a handful of the couples nominated. And the IHF web page does indeed announce that a meeting has taken place where the decisions were taken, but apparently the method is to inform the nominees individually and to keep the overall decision a secret. Of course, given the prestige involved in such nominations, there is a great interest in the decision around the handball world.

There is always speculation about the reasons why a certain couple has been nominated and why another one has been left out. There can be differences of opinion about relative quality, but there are also understandable suspicions about favoritism, political manipulations and considerations related to image. For instance, will there be additional couples from ‘special countries’, will some referees ‘with connections’ be included ahead of others, how many women couples will there be, etc.? One would hope that the Referee Commission has been allowed to take a well-considered decision without any political pressure. But does not the IHF understand the simple fact that its careful concealed processes and its refusal to make public and informative announcement are bound to create suspicions even if there is nothing to hide??

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World Championship: no real spark yet, except for Brazilian comeback against France

Chana Masson - incredible 67% save rate against France


Unless one is a fanatic follower of one particular team, chances are that the Women’s World Championship has failed to generate a lot of enthusiasm in the early going. Thanks to numerous media reports in participating countries, and especially through high-quality broadcasts provided by livehandball.tv on the internet, I have been able to follow developments quite well, and in my opinion the event seems a bit ‘flat’ compared with the Women’s Championship two years ago. To some extent, this had been anticipated, due to the unusually large number of top players who are missing, either due to injuries or because the simply did not want to participate.

But the pressure on the women’s players does not seem to be much recognized by the IHF (or the EHF for that matter). It is easy to organize conferences and talk, talk, talk about what needs to be done to get the women’s handball to catch up with the men’s side. But action somehow seems more difficult. While arrangements were reached to provide compensation for the release of players and insurance coverage for possible injuries, in connection with the Men’ Championship last January, the IHF Executive quite demonstratively ruled against such measures for this Women’s Championship. It seems the clubs and the federations have to protest more loudly…

A further reason for the lack of excitement is predictability in most groups and many individual games, due to the large number of mediocre teams mostly from non-European countries. The global competitiveness does not yet match that on the men’s side. And the system used this time, having the initial group play followed directly by 1/8-finals, instead of the approach with Main Round groups, may well backfire. After a number of boring group matches, I think people will miss the chance to see a large number of really competitive matches in a Main Round.

But there are some exceptions from the predictability and boredom. Group A in Santos has really been hard to figure out. Prior to the final day, only China is out of the running, but the Chinese have swung between 1-goal losses and disastrous 27-goal deficits. The other teams seem capable of beating each other without any logic. While Norway and Montenegro are through, Angola and Germany have a vital game tomorrow, and Iceland should have a good chance of advancing.

In the other groups, there tend to be clear separations between top and bottom. In Group B, Russia seems to live to up their role as favorites and Spain have done well. Korea will advance but it does not look like the dominant team of recent decades. In Group D, the European powers of Croatia, Denmark and Sweden are sorting out the top three places. Not unexpectedly, Argentina and Uruguay find themselves at the bottom. So it may well be that Cuba in Group C is in fact the second-best PanAmerican team.

But Cuba still is way behind Brazil. As I have noted earlier, they are quite realistically a medal candidate, or even a team for the final if they can avoid having Russia in their path. The experience gained through club play in Europe, together with a very systematic build-up has led to an ability to handle tough situations from both a mental and a tactical standpoint. Romania is the team that has suffered the most from injuries, and it is not clear just how good the French are this time. But they did have a seven-goal half-time lead before Brazil, led by their goalkeeper, closed things down in an absolutely amazing second half. This certainly looks promising for the home team!

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Hypo and Brazil: from controversy to harmony

In Brazilian colors

In connection with the 2009 Women’s World Championship, Hypo decided to make a point regarding the lack of compensation and insurance when releasing their club players to national teams.  They essentially used coercion to make the players refrain from joining their national teams, something that happened to hit the Brazilian national team particularly hard.  The whole situation caused a lot of controversy at the time, and Hypo even took the further step of taking the matter to court, challenging the IHF/EHF rights to demand that players be released.  Subsequent arrangements for compensation may have made it a non-issue.

In any case, Hypo has continued to have several Brazilian top players as key members of its team.  And for the 2011-12 season, it appears that it has gone even further.  According to reports both in Brazilian and European media, no less than eight players, i.e., half of the national team squad from Brazil will be under contract with Hypo.   Clearly, it must be beneficial for both Hypo and Brazil to have all these players together on a club team in this way.  The Austrian league does not offer much of a challenge, but Hypo will again be a major contender in the EHF Champions League and also tends to arrange other strong international competition for its team.

But this is not the entire extent of the Brazilian impact in Vienna!  Hypo and Brazil have signed a contract under which also the other members of the Brazilian squad will be able to practice with their colleagues on the Hypo team.   And the coach for the Brazilian team, Morten Soubak of Denmark, will be able to visit frequently to follow the practices and progress of his many players.  It appears that the financing of this whole arrangement is supported by the Brazilian Olympian Committee, in its efforts to assist strong candidates for Olympic success.

Indeed, with a World Championship soon to be hosted by Brazil in the Sao Paulo region, furthermore preceded by the Olympic Qualifying through the PanAmerican Games in Guadalajara, it is not an exaggeration to say that the next six months may be pivotal in the climb of the Brazilians towards the absolute top in the world.   Personally, I would not be surprised if they could shock the rest of the top teams and contend for a medal in the World Championship.  They have a highly talented team at this point in time, with athletes of a high caliber.  If one adds the advantage that comes from practicing and playing serious games together over such an extended period, this just might be what brings them up to the very top.

Bruno Souza to Attend Brazilian Training Camp

Brazilian Handball star and German Bundesliga veteran Bruno Souza will participate in an upcoming training camp in Brazil from 13-24 March in preparation for the PANAM Games in Rio de Janeiro later this summer. Souza did not participate in the World Championships in January and his return will certainly bolster Brazil’s backcourt.

The winner of the PANAM Games Handball tournament will automatically qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in China. Brazil is a heavy favorite to win the title, but Argentina’s victory against them at the World Championship gives Argentina hope that can pull off the upset. No word yet as to whether Eric Gull will return to the Argentine side.

Brazil Federation article (in Portuguese) http://www.brasilhandebol.com.br/noticias/noticia.asp?nid=2444

Podcast interview with Brazilian Assistant Coach Marcos Cesar from the World Championships: http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.260

Brazil Post Tournament Reflections (A Conversation with Asst Coach Marcos Cesar)

Brazil ended their World Championship campaign on a positive note beating Morocco 36-29 to finish in 19th place. The Pan-American Champions, however, had expected a better final ranking as they get ready to host the PANAM Games this summer. I sat down with Asst Coach Marcos Cesar and we discussed several topics including whether Bruno Souza might be back with Brazil at this Summer’s PANAM Games.

http://www.teamhandballnews.com/download.php?view.35

Brazilian Club Match Turns into Brawl

A recent Brazilian Women’s Club match turned into a full scale fight in the waning seconds. The match between Metodista/São Bernardo – Adasa/Esporte Guarulhos was a televised Brazilian League semifinal. With 24 seconds remaining and Adasa in control of the match fisticuffs ensued. 3 players from each team were ejected and the referees cancelled the remaining 24 seconds of the match due to security concerns. Apparently Adasa’s Coach, Marisa Cecilia Loffredo, who is also a Brazilian National team assistant, was also involved in the fight.

Note: This was no “cat fight” and includes some real fists flying. The video is definitely worth checking out.

Original Tip: Kometal Handball Forum: http://www.kometalfans.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1235
Terra News: http://esportes.terra.com.br/interna/0,,OI1289516-EI2203,00.html (in Portuguese)
Video: http://tv.terra.com.br/home.aspx?channel=100&play=1&vid=84825