The USATH web page has already provided some reports and indications of the final results for our teams in the recent finished 2013 edition of Partille Cup. We had teams in the ‘under 21’ category for both men and women. Especially our women’s team did quite well, advancing to the semifinals. Of course, I know that the U 21 bracket is not exactly the most competitive one in Partille Cup or anywhere else. It is a bit of a ‘hybrid’ category and does not attract more than a small number of teams, especially in comparison with the vast number of strong clubs in the younger age groups. So perhaps one needs to be careful about not getting carried away with the conclusions from the results achieved.
But it was certainly nice to see, for the USA teams, for the Partille Cup organizers, and even for me personally, that we had teams that were more competitive and helped provide a nice image. Younger USA teams in the past have typically had a much more difficult time. And it also seems to be that right now we have a bunch of players who fit in well to create a solid U-21 team on the women’s side, whereas they are too young to constitute a strong ‘senior team’, and also in contrast with the novice players we normally have to field in younger age groups. So the question now is, of course, whether this is a group that one could build on for the future or not.
In any case, my conversation with my old friend, Partille Cup ‘general’ Stefan Albrechtson, gives a separate strong reason for satisfaction and pride. He commented that there was a widespread perception during the tournament that, among all the participants from around the world, our USA teams really displayed an energy and positive spirit that was almost unmatched. This involved all the delegation members, i.e., players, coaches and managers, and it was noticeable not just on the court and during the games but also in the overall enthusiasm that they showed throughout the event. This is indeed high praise, coming from Albrechtson who has seen it all over many decades!
Another interesting piece of information obtained from Albrechtson was that Partille Cup is entering into collaboration with the Qatari organizers of the Men’s World Championship in 2015. Delegations from Qatar have been frequent participants in Partille during many years, so the connection was already established. The Qataris know that they will be able to put on an attractive event, not just for the teams but for any spectators who would want to come. But there is the concern that precisely the ability to attract visiting spectators from around the world might be a weak point. This is of course an important question of image, not just for Qatar but for the IHF and the reputation of our sport. The fiasco when the Women’s World Championship was organized in Brazil virtually without spectators stills lingers in people’s minds.
As Partille Cup has a vast communications network around the world, and as Albrechtson, who also is a member of a (somewhat defunct) Commission of the IHF, has an interest in supporting a World Championship wherever it is organized, the scope for support in spreading the word certainly exists. The Partille Cup outreach is particularly strong in the many countries in northern and central Europe, from where it is common for people to travel long distances, whether for vacations or for sports events. So it seems that a special effort will be made to facilitate travel that is less expensive and to organize attractive packages for the stay in Qatar. Many clubs and federations which have close contacts with Partille Cup would find an easy way to get the necessary information through a source they are used to relying on. And for Partille Cup, this would seem a natural and integral part of their mission to promote handball globally.