Women’s Champions League final: a close battle but unattractive and unimpressive

tough and close but certainly not attractive!

We often write about the Men’s Champions League in Team Handball News, so I thought I would take upon myself to put the spotlight on the Women’s finals that were played today and last weekend. But I almost regret that I did so, because the experience was a disappointment. I have seen so many wonderful, high-quality women’s games over the years, in World and European Championships, the Olympic Games, but also in the European club competitions. So against this background these two matches were a real letdown, except for the excitement coming simply from the close result.

After having lost 27-29 in the away game a week ago, today Buducnost (Montenegro) managed to beat Gyoer (Hungary) by 27-25, so they won the title on equal goal difference but more away goals. Presumably Buducnost is a worthy winner, having won all the Main Round games and the semi-finals earlier, and it must be a special pride for such a new, small handball country to have a cup winner. But the lack of attractive and interesting handball really makes you wonder about the quality of the women’s club handball today. On the men’s side, the top club games are often of a better standard than many national team games, but this does not seem to be the case among the women.

In the first game in Gyoer (or actually in Veszprem), the home team looked more like a team, with several key players, while Buducnost depended totally on star player Popovic and goalkeeper Woltering. The small margin of victory depended partly on technical mistakes by Gyoer but unfortunately also on bad and ‘strange’ refereeing. A normal result from the first game might have put Gyoer sufficiently far ahead. In today’s game, the situation was somewhat reversed. Veterans Goerbicz and Palinger were the only stand-outs for Gyoer, but when Gyoer managed to neutralize Popovic this time, then a few other players stepped forward, notably Bulatovic and Miljanic. But the savior was probably Woltering.

However, despite a clearly acceptable referee performance, the main impression was the cynical and reckless action by home team players in many situations. For the most part this was detected and penalized, but Gyoer failed to take advantage. And it really made for a spectacle that at times looked more like ‘mud wrestling’ than handball. There were not many spectacular individual efforts (other than by Woltering), and many of the goals were more the result of poor defending and/or physical force. No technical sophistication could be noticed, perhaps apart from the rock solid 7-meter conversions by Goerbicz.

In the Cupwinner’s Cup, FTC from Hungary came out ahead, by winning twice by the same score, 31-30, against the winners in the Champions League from the past two seasons, Viborg from Denmark. The EHF Cup was won by Lada Togliatti (Russia), coached by Trofimov, against Zalau from Romania. Last year’s runner-up in the Champions League, Itxako from Spain, narrowly failed to make it to the semifinals this time, and now it seems the team is about to be dismantled. Money for club handball is not easily available in Spain these days, perhaps with the exception of the Barcelona men’s team.

Bottom line: women’s handball cannot afford to waste a propaganda opportunity in this way!