Atletico Madrid disappears

Loyal coach Dushebaev must now seek new employment

Loyal coach Dushebaev must now seek new employment

Summer is not exactly quiet time in the handball world. We have World Youth and Junior Championships coming up, plus their European equivalents. Partille Cup just finished, and then of course we have a number of beach handball events. But summer is also the period for transfers, team renewals and preparations for the top clubs and national teams.

For some clubs, which are supported by their governments, and also for those who have sufficient resources of their own, this means finding reinforcements in the hope of doing even better next season. For instance, Veszprem is seen as a PR tool in handball-crazy Hungary, so it seems they will come back even stronger than during a successful 2012-13 season. Teams which hope to make it to the EHF Champions League for the first time, through the qualification groups, also seem to be stocking up.

But in Spain, the overall economic situation of the country continues to take its toll. It seem almost miraculous that one can find enough clubs to fill the slot in the top league, ASOBAL, and some are in fact trying to solidify their situation and survive by going through bankruptcy. It had been thought, on the basis of their recent success, that only two clubs, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, would be safe. But now the increasing rumors of troubles for BalonMano Atletico Madrid have been confirmed. On the same day as the football section of Atletico Madrid has signed David Villa as a major reinforcement, Spanish media are reporting that the handball section is throwing in the towel.

It should be remembered that it was only two years ago that the then top club Ciudad Real managed to continue only by moving to Madrid and get in under the colors of Atletico. And this seemed to work out fine, at least on the court, because Atletico was the only team giving Barcelona a tough time in Spanish competition, and they also came close to causing an upset in the EHF Champions League quarter-final, precisely against Barcelona. And their list of star players is long, from veteran goalkeeper Hombrados, to Aguinagalde, Lazarov, Canellas, Balic, Davis, Kallman, Garcia, Jurkiewicz, Gojun etc. Most of them counted on a continued stay in Madrid but will now have to scramble to find teams which have not yet finalized their plans or reached the limits of their budget.

But personally I feel particularly sorry for Talant Dushebaev, their coach during many years following a long and distinguished career as a world-class player. He certainly has had opportunities to leave ‘the sinking ship’, because there has clearly been a widespread interest in his capacity. But, as the very nice and decent person he has always been, he had decided he wanted to be loyal and stay. Now we will see who will be the beneficiary of Atletico’s miseries.

It also makes you wonder about the prospects for survival of a healthy and strong ASOBAL. What interest will there be in a league that now obviously will be totally dominated by Barcelona. Naturhouse La Rioja got a place in the Champions League, and perhaps Ademar Leon will now also get a chance there. But in the Spanish league there will now be such an imbalance that it is likely that the ‘death spiral’ for the spectator, media, and sponsor interest will simply accelerate. And we already have a situation in so many other countries where only one or two clubs completely dominate. Leaving aside Germany and Bundesliga, it seems that France is the only country that is going against the trend. And perhaps French clubs will now be among the main ones bidding for the services of the Atletico players!?