Well, I ran a contest http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.754 in hopes of getting someone (anyone) to speak out for Dr Moustafa. As you might expect there were no takers. I’m guessing that $20 was not enough enticement for anyone to step forward for Dr Moustafa, either out of conviction or for the quick $20. Well, if I can’t get somebody to concoct some reasons I guess I’ll have to do it myself. Of course, I’ll need to point – counterpoint this debate appropriately.
[b]POINT: Dr Moustafa should be re-elected as IHF President[/b]
First off, a non-European is clearly needed to counterbalance the strong European influence handball has in International circles. Putting a European in charge of the IHF could lead to an EHF/IHF alliance that overly promotes European interests. It’s no secret that a majority of the top handball nations in the world are European and that the EHF and IHF have been frequently at odds due to competing interests. This could abruptly change very quickly with a European in charge of the IHF now doing the bidding of the Europeans. Here’s a few things that could very well happen.
The World Championships could change from a once every two year event to a once every four year event. The EHF has indeed proposed this under the guise that there are too many games being played by the top athletes each season, especially in Olympic years. Of course, at the same time the EHF has no plans to cut the European Championship to a once every four year event and on top of that they’ve added a lengthy European Championship Qualification schedule. Less frequent World Championships would not be a blow for the Europeans, but it would be a major blow for nations outside of Europe as the World Championships and the Olympics are their only significant Handball events. A European IHF President might very well strike a deal for his European colleagues.
The President’s Cup could be discontinued from WC events. This consolation tournament for nations that do not advance to the main round at World Championship events has given the non-European teams a chance to play additional games against like competition. This event, however, loses money and does not attract crowds. A European IHF President might decide to cut this event as a way to save money.
In general, just about every decision could be made with European interests at stake. It’s hard to assess everywhere this will have an impact, but rest assured the rest of the world will get the short end of the stick.
Perhaps even more import to consider, though is the unprecedented growth of Handball under Dr Moustafa’s leadership. Handball was the most watched team sport at the Beijing Olympics. The Men’s World Championships in Croatia and Germany had sold out crowds and brought in significant income for the IHF. Visits to the IHF website are increasing by leaps and bounds. This strong momentum must be continued.
Well, let’s address the European issue first. There’s some legitimacy to the basic premise: namely, that an IHF President is going to have a tendency to favor their continent and their country. This is a probably true no matter where the President comes from. It certainly would be hard not to argue that Dr Moustafa has had a tendency to favor African and Arab countries during his administration. With a European President, however, this home continent concern is also exacerbated by the dominance of Europe in all things Handball. An IHF President in total lockstep with the EHF would undoubtedly have negative repercussions for the rest of the world.
There are a couple of arguments, however, that should mitigate those concerns.
1) Jean Kaiser is from Luxembourg. A little geography lesson may be in order. Luxembourg is a small country with a bit of an independent streak. Because of its small size they are not a Handball power and it’s unlikely that they will ever be one. Handball is popular there, but the concern one might have with a German or Spanish President doesn’t apply. In fact, a Luxembourg Handballer might be more likely to empathize with other small Handball nations in other parts of the world. As far as the independent streak goes, Luxembourg may be a small country, but they don’t like to be pushed around. In the past, their larger neighbors have from time to time tried to push them around, but generally they’ve been unsuccessful.
2) In my opinion, Europeans for many years have been way too short-sighted in understanding the need to develop the sport of Handball world-wide. Recent efforts by the EHF, German Bundesliga and French LNH, however, are proof that they’ve recognized the need to further market their sport beyond Europe. Of course, this isn’t being done for altruistic purposes, but instead for financial gain. Regardless of why it’s being done, though, non-Europeans don’t have to worry about a European trying to keep their European hegemony intact. In fact, the Europeans with financial interests won’t stand for it!
3) Perhaps most surprisingly, some European nations even want to keep Dr Moustafa around as they think they can cut deals with him in order to serve their best interests. Yes, some of the European nations actually fear a truly independent IHF president.
The second argument which touts Handball’s growth under Dr Moustafa’s leadership is farcical. In one sense, it’s like taking credit for the sun coming up every day in the East. Handball is a great sport with tremendous growth potential. It’s going to increase in popularity regardless of whose President. It also doesn’t take a financial genius to figure out that putting the Men’s World Championships in Germany and to a lesser extent, Croatia is going to result in a huge dividend. What’s troubling, though, is the question as to whether those dividends are now being used to develop the sport or to buy support for an IHF election. Furthermore, I would argue that with better leadership and vision the sports growth would have been much greater. And we should keep in mind that other sports, in particular basketball, have experienced far greater growth in recent years. My goodness, more people now play basketball than handball in Iceland of all places. http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.499 If that shouldn’t worry people about where the sport is headed I don’t know what will. And don’t even get me started about the IHF’s pathetic website. You’ve got the number one world-wide address for the sport and this is all the IHF can muster?
Finally, though, I would like to finish with some sincere words on one accomplishment directly attributable to Dr Moustafa. The President’s Cup tournament at the World Championship is a great event for the non-European nations and my understanding is that Dr Moustafa deserves the bulk of the credit for its creation and has had to fight off European interests that think it is a waste of resources that should be discontinued. So credit, where credit is due: Job well done on establishing this tournament. Of course, this one good initiative can’t make up for everything else, but at least it can now be said that even I can find something positive to say about the current President.