AHF-IHF Confrontation Looms for Asian Handball Championships

The Asian Handball Federation (AHF) has imposed a fine of $1,000 on the South Korean and Japanese Handball Federations as punishment for taking part in the Olympic qualification replay tournaments. The fine was the maximum that could be imposed by the Executive Committee and the AHF has indicated that further action may be taken by the AHF Council. Additionally, both Japan and South Korea must pay their fine before they can participate in the Asian Handball Championship which start in Iran on 17 February.

South Korea and Japan have both indicated, however, that they will not pay the fine. Speaking to the Yonhap News Agency, Chung Hyung-kyun, vice president of the Korean Handball Federation said, “We will not pay one won in fine as any payment will be tantamount to acknowledging the rematches were wrong, although the amount of the fine is not so big," (Note: the won is the unit of currency in Korea). Earlier reports also indicated that the Korean and Japanese team would travel to Iran for the tournament without knowing whether they would be allowed to take the court.

The latest news reported in the Gulf Times of Qatar now reports that the IHF has intervened and formally notified the AHF that the IHF will not recognize the Asian Handball Championships as legitimate unless the IHF can directly appoint officials for matches at the tournament. And if the AHF does not relent, the IHF has indicated that they will organize a separate Asian Qualifier for the World Championships. As a result of this IHF action, South Korea and Japan may simply boycott the tournament next week in Iran.

Speculation is also ensuing that the rift in Asian Handball may lead to an East-West split. According to the Yonhap report Japan and South Korea are already considering starting a new federation and Kuwaiti Men’s Coach, Friis Hansen tells Handball-World that it was his opinion that “the Europeans saw a chance to split Asia and get rid of IHF-President Hassan Mustafa.” But, there appears to be at least some cracks in support among the Arab Gulf states as Bahraini officials have called AHF actions into question as well.

Also, unclear is whether the AHF will take or has taken action to have the case reviewed by the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS). With the most senior handball body, the IHF, ruling against the AHF on both the Olympic and World Championship Qualifying events, their only course to reverse the actions is probably through the ICAS. Taking the case to ICAS, however, could simply result in an independent 3rd party validating the IHF’s decision and calling further into question the actions of the AHF leadership in recent years.

ADDENDUM: The IHF has just released a notice on their website http://www.ihf.info/front_content.php?idcat=57&idart=1019 confirming that the tournament in Iran will not serve as the qualifier for the World Championship. And as a sign of the increasing tension the tone of the release makes no attempt to downplay the significance of this action and refers to the first olympic qualifiers as a "debacle."

Yonhap Korean News Service: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/culturesports/2008/02/06/34/0702000000AEN20080206001800315F.HTML

Gulf Times of Qatar: http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=200623&version=1&template_id=49&parent_id=29

The Peninsular of Qatar: http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=Sports_News&subsection=Handball&month=February2008&file=Sports_News2008020763849.xml

Handball-World: http://www.handball-welt.de/o.red.c/news.php?GID=1&auswahl=13211

Japan Times: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/sp20080207a1.html