The British Handball program was making great strides in its bid to field a respectable handball side for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Both the Men’s and Women’s teams had identified several quality athletes and established a full time training program in Denmark. Alas, British Handball was not immune to the world-wide financial crisis and accordingly has seen in its budget shrink forcing the eventual closure of it Denmark program.
Faced with the closure, the British Federation, however, was able to arrange for six of their players to join the German Bundesliga Club, TUSEM Essen. Essen has struggled this season and is mired in last place with a 1 win, 1 draw and 16 loss record. Financially, the club has had difficulty meeting payroll and this led to several players departing the club forcing Essen to fill out its roster with players from their second team and junior players. The addition of the British players will help complete their roster and improve training.
At first glance, joining the worst team in a league with little or no chance of avoiding relegation may not seem like a golden opportunity. The league we are talking about, however, is the HBL, the best league in the world. Essen will be playing the likes of Kiel, Hamburg, Flensburg and other squads with rosters littered with the best players in the world. Coach Kristof Szargiej has already commented favorably on the excellent physical condition of the British “foreign legion”. It remains to be seen just how much playing time the British players will receive, but they clearly will have a good chance to line up against the likes of Karabatic and Hens in a few weeks, vice 3 years from now in London.
The 6 British player joining Essen are Ciaran Williams, Chris McDermott, Merlin Braithwaite, Sebastian Prieto, Dan McMillan and Chris Mohr.
Side note: Essen is not the only German side to make a deal with the British Handball Association. Flensburg is also interested in two players for next season. The Women’s side has also moved several players to the Asker Handball club in Norway.
British Federation: British Handball players on the move: http://britishhandball.worldhandball.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?menuid=1093&itemid=2143
Essen club article on British players (German): http://www.tusem-hsb.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=449&Itemid=1