There are different ways of showing courage or a lack thereof. There is nothing funny about terrorist actions that leave more than a dozen people dead, as happened just a few days ago in Marrakech, the site of the IHF Congress that is about to open. The attack was aimed at foreign visitors. Clearly this raises questions about the wisdom of going ahead with such a high-visibility event as an international congress, attended by several hundred people from around the world. No wonder that the IHF President quickly seemed eager to downplay the risks in public statements, instead emphasizing the determination of the Moroccan government, from the King down, to keep this a safe event.
That some member nations nevertheless announced their attention to cancel their participation is not what I suggest to be a lack of courage. This may indeed be a very prudent decision, in the face of the IHF insistence to go ahead and ignore the risks. It may have come too late, but the formal motion from Germany to adjourn the Congress and move it to the IHF Headquarters location of Basel at a slightly later date is absolutely reasonable. So it might be more an indication of a lack of courage that not a sizeable number of Congress participants joined forces with the Germans and demanded that safety must be the top priority.
But, as I have noted in the context of seemingly quiet acceptance of inappropriate proposals and actions by the IHF in recent years, courage in terms of standing up for important principles and common sense is hard to find in global handball circles. One conspicuous example, as I noted just a few days ago, is the EHF’s tactical decision to go along with the IHF regime’s proposed changes in the By-Laws. These changes were deemed totally unacceptable to the EHF just one year ago, but suddenly there is absolutely no fighting spirit left. The EHF points to one genuinely relevant concession that the IHF has made, namely regarding the rights to qualification events for World Championships and Olympic Games.
But beyond that, the EHF is really not credible in trying to point to additional reasons. The fact that the ‘EHF’ will not be obliged to change to ‘EHC’ when the IHF now insists on taking about continental CONFederations in the future is really impressive… Bravo! Congratulations, EHF to that great accomplishment!! But even worse is the nonsense that it no longer should be so dangerous to allow the President to take a lot of vital decisions on his own between Executive meetings and between Council meetings… How naïve can one be!? It now says that the Executive or the Council must ratify such decisions retroactively. But when we know that Council members are (almost literally) eating out of the hands of the President and that the Executive is so nicely loyal, what exactly does ‘ratify’ mean? I think ‘rubberstamp’ would be the better word. And who, other than the President, will even know about the decisions that should be submitted for rubberstamping?
So at least I see some courage, or at least a hint of ‘doing one’s duty’, when I see that 13 European federations have written to the EHF demanding a better explanation. Perhaps I find it too politely worded and not forceful enough in its tone. But at least it picks up on the right issues and it does amount to an attempt to ensure that a debate will be forthcoming. I am not optimistic about the effect, even though I hope others will join in, but at least it shows that there are some supporters of global handball who are willing to follow through on their convictions. Thank you for that!