The French Coupe de la Ligue final four will be staged at the American Airlines Arena in Miami from 10-12 April. Outside of the Olympics in 1984 and 1996 this is without question the biggest Handball event to ever take place in the United States. With the exception of the 1997 Men’s World Championships in Japan, it is probably the biggest event ever to take place in a country without a significant Handball fan base. Without question it is the biggest professional club event to take place outside of a club’s home country. I guess what I’m saying with all this hyperbole is that this tournament is a really big deal and the French League and Cristian Zaharia should be commended for the vision and follow through to make it a reality.
But looming on the horizon for American handball fans could be some tough financial choices next spring. Namely, fans will have to ask themselves how many plane tickets and hotel stays can I afford to support my handball hobby? Or in simpler terms, many will have to choose between attending the National Championship Tournament or attending the first professional handball matches every played on U.S. soil. Of course, individuals could choose to do both, but with the stock market dropping like a rock and Miami being on the far Southeastern tip of the USA the cost of doing so will likely be prohibitive for many.
But, there is a simple solution to this dilemma. Namely, the National Championships should be placed in Miami the same weekend. Which Championship though? Collegiate or Club you ask? I say both and heck, why not throw in an invitation for Canadian Clubs to come down south while we’re at it. Let’s not stop there, get the Caribbean nations there and especially the French outposts of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Yes, why don’t we turn 8-12 April, 2009 into the biggest handball festival North America has ever seen.
OK, maybe the festival is asking too much. The USA Federation has also already put a marker out for the club championships to take place on a different weekend (1-3 May). But let’s at least look at putting the collegiate nationals there the same weekend. And let’s also consider staging an elite club tournament the same weekend as a National Championship tuneup. Perhaps, 4 top USA Clubs, 2 Canadian Clubs, and the Guadeloupe and Martinique club champions. Maybe we could have a Canada-USA friendly and play it also at the American Airlines Arena.
Bottom Line: Something should be done to supplement the French Club Final Four—It just makes too much sense.