Podcast (Episode 29) New Zealand Handball Debuts at the Asian Championships

New Zealand Men’s National Team performing the traditional Haka before a match at the Asian Championships.

Earlier this month the New Zealand Men’s team played in their first major handball tournament, the 2018 Asian Men’s Championship.  Joining me to talk about handball in New Zealand was one of the team captains, Karl Fitzpatrick, and the team’s leading goal scorer, Aston Lang.

We discuss their performance at the tournament, how handball is organized in New Zealand, how they felt about playing in Asia (vice Oceania), and, of course, the Haka.  The interview took place prior to their final match vs Bangladesh, so if you want to check out how they did in this final effort the video is available below as are a couple of links to topics that were discussed.

  • New Zealand Handball Federation Website: Link
  • New Zealand Handball Federation on Facebook: Link
  • Asian Handball Championships (Wikipedia):  Link
  • Podcast on Aarhus Academy (The Handball Academy Aston attended): Link
  • Haka (Wikipedia): Link
  • Video (Full Match) (13th Place Match) New Zealand vs Bangladesh: Link
    – Fitzpatrick is #8; Lang is #24
    – The Haka can be viewed at the 5:00 minute mark
  • Video (Highlights) (13th Place Match) New Zealand vs Bangladesh: Link

This podcast episode was brought to you by Nord VPN.

Well, the European Men’s Championships were truly a tour de force for handball fans with every match readily available live and on demand.   It was truly awesome to see a couple of great handball matches almost every day for 16 days, but alas, it’s over.  Fortunately, as I discussed with ehfTV’s Tom O’Brannigan there’s more handball to watch through May with the EHF Champions League starting back up.  And, in my opinion, it’s actually the best handball in the world to watch on a regular basis.

And, the Champions league starts back up with a bang on Tuesday, 7 February, with Kiel playing hosting to Veszprem.  Will that big match up be readily available for viewing or will it be geoblocked for mysterious unknown reasons?

Honestly, I can’t say and honestly I just don’t worry about that much anymore…

And, while I can’t guarantee you that Nord VPN will solve all your handball viewing problems I will unequivocally state, that I am personally a very, very happy camper with my Nord VPN subscription.  With a free trial and plans starting as low as $3.29/month you really owe it to yourself to check it out.

If you would like to advertise on the Team Handball News Podcast contact John Ryan at john.ryan@teamhandballnews.com

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2018 Men’s Asian Handball Championships (Where to Watch)

The 2018 Men’s Asian Handball Championships will start tomorrow (Thursday, 18 January) and conclude on Sunday, 28 January.  The tournament will take place in Suwon, South Korea with 14 nations vying for 3 spots in the 2019 World Championships.  New to the competition will be Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh and it will be interesting to see how they fare.

Also of interest will be clashes between nations that to varying degrees are in some form of political conflict.  The Qatar – Saudi Arabia border has been closed for several months and those two nations will play on Saturday.  Iran has also reportedly been supporting rebel factions in Yemen so a handball clash with some of the Arab nations supporting the government might possibly prove contentious.

Key Links for Following and Hopefully Watching the Competition

A Korean contact has forwarded several links where video should be available.

  • Korean Federation Facebook Site: Link
  • Korean Federation Youtube Site:  Link
  • Naver Video:  Link (sometimes with on demand feeds)

Note:  Online automatic translation often doesn’t translate Korean fully.  I will update and add direct links to videos as they become available.

General Information Sites

  • Asian Handball Federation Website:  Link
  • Wikipedia Page:  Link

Podcast (Episode 26):  Japanese Women’s Handball Coach, Ulrik Kirkely

Japan’s Head Coach, Ulrik Kirkely urges his team on at the World Championships

The Japanese Women’s National Handball Team had a breakthrough performance at the 2017 Women’s World Championships with wins against Montenegro and Tunisia, a draw vs Brazil, and a 1 goal loss to Russia in Group play.  They then played arguably the most entertaining match of the tournament in the round of 16 losing by 2 goals in Extra Time to the eventual bronze medalists, the Netherlands.

Coach Kirkely and I discuss Japan’s performance at the World Championships, handball organization/development in Japan and the future prospects for the Women’s team heading into the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympics, both of which will be hosted by Japan.

This podcast episode was brought to you by Nord VPN.

Ever go online to try and live stream a great handball match only to get the dreaded geo block notice telling you that the match isn’t available in your country?  When you would even be happy to pay to see it, but can’t even do that because the network that owns the rights chooses not to broadcast?  Sometimes it just makes you want to give up and go watch some more football.

Well, I can’t guarantee you that Nord VPN will solve all your handball viewing problems.  I can only state, that I personally am a very happy camper now and with plans as low as $3.29/month it’s worth every penny and then some.

Finally, I bet you’ve seen the ads from sketchy websites offering you matches for free as long as you download their customized video player.  And, after hesitating a bit you caved in only to be inflicted with incredibly slow computer speeds or worse, viruses.  That’s a legitimate concern with those sites, but not with Nord VPN which has top ratings and reviews from PC Mag, Wired and others.

Sign up for Nord VPN today: Link

If you would like to advertise on the Team Handball News Podcast contact John Ryan at john.ryan@teamhandballnews.com

Subscribe to the Team Handball News Podcast in iTunes: Link

Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link


Handball in Hong Kong

"Hong Kong team taking on China in the Hong Kong International Handball Championships

Hong Kong
team taking on China in the Hong Kong International Handball

Today’s guest columnist is Altay Atli, a lecturer in international relations and economics based in Istanbul, Turkey.  Altay is a former handball player, a former handball manager, a former handball journalist and forever, a handball fan.  His work involves a considerable amount of travel and the opportunity to see handball played in many parts of the world.  Hence, this article on handball in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong appears to be all about skyscrapers, financial centers and noodle shops, yet there are many other faces to the city-state, including its citizens’ keenness on and its government’s support for Olympic sports. Although handball is not a crowd drawer, at least for now, growing interest in our sports makes it likely for Hong Kong to be more visible on the international handball scene in the near future.

Handball arrived in Hong Kong during the early 1970s with students returning home from Taiwan. The league was launched and the national teams were formed in the 80s. It was in this period that both men’s and women’s national teams have competed in the Asian Handball Championship finals, an achievement that could not be repeated after 1989. After a period of hibernation, handball in Hong Kong is now back on the rise. National teams do not make it to the Asian finals, which are significantly more competitive compared to the 1980s, but they are recently obtaining good results in the international events they are taking part. One such event is the National Games of the People’s Republic China, which is kind of mini Olympic games where the provinces of China compete. Hong Kong, as a special administrative region within the People’s Republic, is taking part in these games, and in last year’s version held in Liaoning, the men’s handball team was ranked seventh, an important achievement considering the improving quality of handball in the mainland. The Hong Kong International Championships, held annually since 2001, provides another platform for the national teams to compete against international opponents, and so far strong handball countries such as Germany, Slovenia, Korea, Japan and China, as well as developing ones like Iran, Mongolia and the French region of La Reunion have taken part in this competition, enabling the teams of Hong Kong to gain international experience.

Handball leagues in Hong Kong are well organized providing the athletes with the opportunity to play as many matches as possible. There are currently four divisions in the men’s competition, and three divisions in the women’s, each division being composed of ten teams. A total of seventy teams for a small city-state of the size of Hong Kong is a significant number. Teams are made up of amateur players from Hong Kong, as well as expatriates and exchange students from European countries. Leagues run from October to April, and they are played in multifunctional indoor sports facilities as well as an outdoor court used solely for handball games. Having adequate facilities is important in Hong Kong, where space is one of the most precious commodities.

The Handball Association of Hong Kong, China (HAHKC) is the organization responsible for the development of the sports in the city-state. The association is funded by the government and its plans for the development of handball are based on two main pillars. One is the development of the player base through a systemized and well structured plan for different age groups, and the other is the attraction of larger audiences through beach handball.

The development plan of HAHKC starts with the elementary training program for kids aged 12 and younger, and the intermediate training program for under 15s. Around one hundred school children are enrolled in these programs each year through a scheme financed by the Hong Kong government. Successful athletes are promoted to district programs from where they are selected into the young athletes training program for the age group between 16 and 19. After a competitive process, better players are taken into regional squads, which undertake overseas training camps every year, such as the one in Korea in 2013 and the one in Taiwan in February 2014. These squads form the player base from which the junior and senior national teams are selected.

This hierarchical structure offers a well-designed system for choosing talents and developing capabilities and skills. On the other side of the coin, beach handball is the instrument used to breed interest for the sports among Hong Kong’s citizens. In 2013, Asian Men’s and Women’s Beach Handball Championships were held in Hong Kong, not on the sandy beaches of the Lantau island, but on a sand filled court right at the center of the buzzling town. It was a wise decision by the HAHKC, which chose to take the game to the people. A total of two thousand spectators watched the event, where the men’s competition was won by Qatar, and the women’s competition by Thailand. Hong Kong ranked fifth in both competitions.

This year the team of Hong Kong was invited to the Asian Men’s Handball Championship in Bahrain, but it could not make it there due to financial problems. Similarly, funding is needed for Hong Kong’s handball teams to compete in the XVII Asian Games to be held in Incheon, South Korea this October, but so far prospects seem bleak. HAHKC officials point out that the government’s priority is to finance “sports for all” instead of competitive events. But perhaps, at the current stage of development, this approach serves handball better. Financing young players’ build-up is definitely more crucial for the future of the sports in Hong Kong and in time sponsors can be expected to enter the scene. Until then, Hong Kong needs to continue to implement its development plan and to gain more supporters through attractive events like beach handball. “We want to play more games with teams from other countries” says Chan Ming Hong, sports executive of HAHKC, “we want to learn more.” So far it has been a successfully pursued learning process for the handball community in Hong Kong. Expect them to do more.


IOC selection of Tokyo for 2020 Olympics provides opportunity for Japanese handball

Shinzo Abe

Tokyo delegation reacts to winning 2020 Olympics. What will it mean for Japanese Handball?

The IOC selection of Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympics is big news.  There aren’t a whole lot of events in the world where so many future plans hinge on a truly unknown outcome.  To the sports minded citizens of Turkey and Spain the disappointment is grand, while in Japan there is great joy.  There just simply can be no “in between” feeling for the nations involved.

And in terms of the Team Handball programs in those countries it’s roughly the same story.  Perhaps for the Spanish national teams it’s no big deal.  It’s hard to project 7 years out, but Spain will likely be in the mix for qualification without the guaranteed slot that Olympic hosting provides.  For Turkish Team Handball, however, it could have been a significant boon to their national teams to have participated in their first ever Olympics.  Neither the Turkish Men’s or Women’s programs have ever qualified for the World or European Championships, but at times they’ve shown some competitiveness.  In particular, I remember the Women’s team drawing France several years ago in a June Playoff event only to lose on aggregate in the 2nd leg.  In all likelihood an Istanbul Olympics would have given the sport a boost similar to what Greece received before and after the 2004 Olympics.  And who knows perhaps with good planning and a little luck maybe it would have led to sustained growth for the sport in that country.

For Japan it clearly is a chance for resurgence as the Women’s national team hasn’t been the Olympics since their sole appearance in 1976 and the Men’s national team, while it has been to the Olympics 5 times, it hasn’t qualified since 1988.   It’s also probably not lost on Japanese Handball that it’s no coincidence that the 1988 Seoul Olympics also marked a turning point in Asian handball to Korean domination that has now lasted a quarter of a century. Undoubtedly, the industrious Japanese are probably contemplating right now just how they might duplicate the success that the Koreans had in Seoul.

Certainly, the possibility exists and unlike the recent British effort to build off of their 2012 opportunity, the Japanese will not be starting from scratch.  At times the women have been competitive with the Koreans and they’ve been to the World Championships several times.  The men’s program has been less successful, but they can point to Daisuke Miyazaki, a talented center back who scored 104 goals during his one season in the Liga Asobal.  Miyazaki will be 39 come 2020, but perhaps the Japanese Federation will find a couple of more players to take his place in the meantime.  One such player may be 27 year old Ryota Tanimura who joined Berlin Fuchse and will be playing for the club’s 3 division team.  Interestingly, Berlin coach Dagur Sigurdsson played 3 years in Japan and still has ties with his former club there.  Perhaps the former Austrian National Team coach might be a candidate to take over the Japanese program?  Regardless, with 7 years to plan and develop it will be interesting to see if Japanese handball can take advantage of their Olympic opportunity.


Why not a Handball version of Linsanity?

Yoon and Miyazaki: How about a handball version of Linsanity

The sporting world discussion in the USA the last couple of weeks has been all about basketball player, Jeremy Lin, and how he has come out of nowhere to lead his team, the New York Knicks, to 7 straight victories.  Cut twice from two other NBA teams, he was pretty much the last player on the bench when injuries forced him into the starting lineup.  Given the opportunity to play he’s been averaging around 25 points a game, exciting fans and has become an overnight nation-wide sensation.  With a short name, “Lin”, the media has been having fun with clever headlines:  Linsanity, Lincredible, Linderella, etc.

What’s made the sport even more interesting and compelling is the fact that he’s an Asian American excelling in a sport at the highest level when Asians are often a rarity at any level.  Other then Yao Ming and a few other 7 Footers, there haven’t been a whole lot playing in the NBA.

As you might expect, the NBA has immediately seen the value in an unassuming Asian American star and the marketing has commenced in earnest.  One analyst has even projected that if Lin continues to play well the NBA will pocket an extra 80 million dollars this year.   And the marketing has become a world-wide phenomenon, with even the BBC’s World Have Your Say, discussing Linsanity.

It’s a shame that Handball doesn’t have some marketable Asian stars that they couldn’t promote the same way.  Well, actually they do have (or have had) the stars that could be promotable, but failed to fully capitalize on the opportunity.  Amazingly, the German Bundesliga’s all-time career scoring leader, Kyung Shin Yoon is a South Korean.  In 12 seasons from 1995 to 2008, Yoon scored 2,908 total goal averaging almost 8 goals/game.  This is a crazy, dare I say, “Yoonique”, anomaly in a league which is probably around 98% white European.     Yet Yoon, who continues to play in South Korea, is probably less known in his native country then Lin is now after two weeks of good play.

On a smaller scale, one of Japan’s best players, Daisuke Miyazaki, played a season in Spain’s Liga Asobal.  Miyazaki had a respectable season, but played in obscurity.  In Japan, he’s 10 times more famous for winning a Ninja Warrior style game show 3 times.

So, I would argue that a couple of opportunities to expand the reach of the game in Asia have been missed.  Yoon, who proved himself over several years, in particular, should have gotten more promotional push in his native country.  Perhaps it would never have been Linsanity, but at least some sizable segment of South Korea surely would have been compelled by one of their citizen’s starring in the world’s best league.

The lesson here is that in the future there will likely be new opportunities to promote non-European stars in Professional leagues and those leagues should be ready to take advantage of the possibilities.  Heck, one could go even farther and assess that they should be scouring China right now for a player that they can develop and promote.  With 1.3 Billion people surely there is a Yoon like athlete that could create handball’s own version of Linsanity.

THN (23 May 2008): 2,908 Goals: The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of German Handball Heads Home and a Marketing Opportunity is Squandered:  http://teamhandballnews.com/2008/05/2908-goals-the-kareem-abdul-jabbar-of-german-handball-heads-home-and-a-marketing-opportunity-is-squandered/

THN (15 Jun 2010): Daisuke Miyazaki: The Ichiro Suzuki of Handball (or maybe the Kyle Rote Jr.): http://teamhandballnews.com/2010/06/daisuke-miyazaki-the-ichiro-suzuki-of-handball-or-maybe-the-kyle-rote-jr/



Asian handball: Home team Saudi Arabia qualifies for World Championship; Korea wins gold

Kyung Shin Yoon leads Korea to victory

The key match-up on the final day was clearly the bronze medal game between Saudi Arabia and Japan. Much to the delight of the large crowd of fanatic supporters, the Saudis managed to win by the score of 24-20 and secured the qualification for Spain 2013. The critical phase of the game seemed to be the early part of the second half, where the home team pulled away by as many as seven goals and never allowed the Japanese to get close again.


It was in a sense anticlimactic, when later on Korea lived up to its pre-Championship role as a favorite by defeating Qatar in the final. The final result was as close as 23-22 (10-11), but Korea in fact had a four-goal lead late in the game. Veteran star Kyung Shin Yoon is reported to have used his skills and experience to make a big difference in yet another important game.

Japan seemed remarkably feeble in both the semifinal and in the bronze medal game. In the semi-final they allowed Qatar to move ahead with 32-23, before the Qatari relaxed a bit and the final margin was reduced to 33-28. The Koreans seemed to be in for a similar fate in their semifinal, after having been so solid in the group play. They were behind 15-21 with only 15 minutes left, but a sudden 11-2 turnaround for Korea led to an eventual 27-26 victory.

In the placement matches, Iran took 5th place after defeating Bahrain 25-20, and the United Arab Emirates narrowly defeated the disappointing Kuwaitis with 31-29 in the fight for 7th place. Finally, in the game that involved the teams who had lost all their games in group play, Jordan managed to get a victory in the end, beating Uzbekistan 32-30.

It is noticeable that China did not participate in the event. Perhaps the rather weak performances of both the men’s and women’s teams in the Olympic qualifying just a few months ago had convinced the Chinese authorities to withhold their support. In recent years, Thailand had started participating in Asian Championships, but more recently they have disappeared again. And then one wonders when India will be able to put together a competitive team.

So following this event and the Olympic qualifying back in December, we now have a situation where Korea has captured the Asia places in the London Olympics for both men and women, with Japan being in the qualifying tournaments for both categories in a few months time. In other words, no West Asian team will have a chance to be in the Olympics this time. But after today’s results, we have Qatar and Saudi Arabia joining Korea for the Men’s 2013 World Championships.

For a more complete overview of the picture regarding Olympic and World Championship qualifying, you are strongly recommended to use the links in the right-hand margin on our home page to go to the great overview pages that John Ryan always maintain updated; the best source anywhere for this kind of information in one convenient location!

More about Kyung Shin Yoon:  http://teamhandballnews.com/2008/05/2908-goals-the-kareem-abdul-jabbar-of-german-handball-heads-home-and-a-marketing-opportunity-is-squandered/


Asian Men’s Championship: Qatar-Japan and Korea-Saudi Arabia in semifinals

It required consultations of the tournament regulations and calculations of goal differences to determine the semi-finalists in Group A. Korea won all the four games while Jordan lost all their games. But the other three teams, Japan, I.R. Iran and Kuwait beat each other so that all of them gained 4 points. Japan could have secured their spot in the semi-final by gaining at least one point against Korea, but the Koreans won by 27-26. Nevertheless, Japan had the small margins on their side.

Japan had beaten Kuwait by 30-27 and lost to Iran by 27-25; but Iran lost to Kuwait by 28-27. This means that both Japan and Iran had an aggregate goal difference of +1 in these three decisive games, while Kuwait had -2. And then in the final tie-breaker, Japan won out by having scored 55 goals compared with Iran’s 54. The ironic thing is that Kuwait, who was already out of the running prior to the final group game against Jordan, could have indirectly helped Iran to get a semi-final slot by failing to defeat Jordan; but even a dispirited group of Kuwaitis ‘could not avoid’ winning by 3 goals.

In the other group, there was in a sense also a ‘triangle drama’, here between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Qatar and Saudi Arabia tied 24-24, but while Qatar managed a narrow win against Bahrain, 27-26, the Saudis had only managed a tie 23-23 on the opening day of the event. So the ranking among the top three was Qatar 7 points, Saudi Arabia 6, and Bahrain 5. The UAE at least managed to defeat relative newcomer Uzbekistan.

After so many hard-fought games with either ties or narrow victories, it would now be logical to expect to have two extremely closely matched semi-finals: Qatar-Japan and Korea-Saudi Arabia. One might think that Korea would be favorites on the basis of both their traditional strength and their four straight wins in the group. But the combined goal difference against the three closest rivals was a mere +7. So unless Korea has saved their strength, maybe they will be in for a negative surprise. And at least the semi-finalists will be eager to avoid the fourth place, as that would mean missing out on the World Championship in January 2013.

The Saudis seem to be gaining monetary premiums from their government for each win, and the official web site hints about a huge bonus if they secure a medal. So perhaps that and the support of the home crowd will create the necessary incentive. Apropos home crowd, it has been interesting to note completely contradictory reports about the permission for women to be in the stadium and watch the games. One report proudly announces this remarkable progress, whereas another report vehemently denies any notion that women have been allowed to enter with the exception of a few women journalists. Perhaps we will eventually find some photographic evidence…


Asian Men’s Championship: Half-way through the preliminary round

The Logo of the 15th Asian Men's Championships

Somewhat in the shadow of EURO 2012, the Asian Men’s Championship got underway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia few days ago. The Championship also serves to qualify the top three teams for the 2013 World Championships. Ten teams participate, initially playing in two round-robin groups of five teams. Japan and Korea are the only participants from East Asia. So far, there have been no real upsets. Korea and Japan have been place in what might be a tough group with Kuwait and Iran. The home team, Saudi Arabia, appears to have a more favorable draw, with Qatar as the most prominent opponent.

The positions in the groups, after each team has played two out of four games, are as follows: Group A: Japan and Korea 4 pts, Kuwait 2, Iran and Jordan 0; Group B: Qatar 4 points, Saudi Arabia 3, UAE 2, Bahrain 1 and Uzbekistan 0.


Argentina Men and Brazil/South Korea Women secure Olympic Berths

3 Nations have recently secured Olympic bids.

The past few days saw 3 nations secure 2012 Olympic berths.  Last night in the Men’s Gold Medal match at the PANAM games, Argentina beat rival Brazil 26-23.  The match was a see-saw affair with both teams running off strings of unanswered goals.  Brazil’s had the first big run to get a 12-7 lead, but Argentina was able to respond and 1st half ended with Argentina leading 15-14.  In the second half they extended the lead to 19-14 and kept the lead throughout as Brazil could only narrow the gap to two goals.  Argentina has directly qualified for the Olympics and Brazil has qualified for an IHF qualification tournament next spring as has the third place team, Chile.  Notably, Chile gave Argentina a huge challenge in the semifinals, losing by just 1 goal, 26-25.

In the PANAM Women’s competition, Brazil clearly showed that they are in a class all by themselves as they won all five of their matches by an average of 26 goals.  The Dominican Republic came the closest with a 14 point loss in Group play.  In the semifinals they had a narrow 19-18 loss to Argentina who in turn lost to Brazil in the Gold Medal match 33-18.  Argentina’s 2nd place finish means that they will qualify for an IHF Olympic qualification tournament next spring.  The Dominican Republic may as well, but this will depend on where the Pan American region ranks at the World Championship next January.  As Brazil is hosting the event, they could very well secure an additional tournament slot for the region.

In Asia, the South Korean women prevailed in an Olympic qualification tournament in China.  6 nations played a straight round robin and South Korea came through unbeaten to secure the Asian bid.  They did, however, receive a strong challenge from runner-up Japan in their final game.  The score was tied 10-10 at halftime before the South Korea pulled away for a 27-22 win.

Olympic Qualification for the Asian Men is currently taking place in South Korea.

Here’s the current status of Olympic Qualification.

2012 Olympic Games Qualification (Women): http://teamhandballnews.com/2012-olympic-qual-women/
2011 Olympic Games Qualification (Men): http://teamhandballnews.com/2012-olympic-qual-men/

As always, these links are available on the right hand side of the page.



Kazakh women knock off South Korea for Asian Championship

Host nation, Kazakhstan beat defending champion South Korea, 33-32 to win the Asian Women’s Championship. China beat Japan, 26-25 for 3rd place. All four nations have qualified for the 2013 World Championships as Asia had 4 spots to award.
The championship game featured two South Korean coaches and former teammates facing off against each other. Kazakhstan’s coach is Yoon Tae-il a former goalkeeper for the National Team and South Korea’s coach, Kang Jae-won, is a former right back. Both Yoon and Kang played on South Korea’s 1988 Olympic silver medal men’s team. Yoon has been with Kazakhstan since 2005 while was appointed a month ago after came South Korea, long the dominant force in Asian Handball, failed to win the competition at the Asian Games in China.

The outcome of this tournament in Kazakhstan is a far cry from the notorious Olympic Qualification tournament in 2007. Following this tournament and later the Men’s qualification tournament the outcry in the Korean press led to world-wide condemnation of the unfair officiating at both events and the eventual replay of the Olympic Qualification tournaments. Based on the reports below it appears that the Kazakhs won the tournament fair and square. And more interestingly, it also appears that the South Korean domination of Asian women’s handball is either over on hiatus.

Yonhap News (24 Dec 10): Two S. Korean head coaches meet in final of Asian Women’s Handball Championship: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/culturesports/2010/12/24/8/0702000000AEN20101224001600315F.HTML
Yonhap News (26 Dec 10): Korea finishes 2nd at handball tourney http://www.koreaherald.com/sports/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20101226000239
2011 Women’s World Championship Qualification: http://teamhandballnews.com/page34.html

Group A Standings
1) Kazakhstan (3-0-0) 6pts +29
2) China (2-0-1) 4pts +32
3) North Korea (1-0-2 2pts +15
4) Iran (0-0-3) 0pts -76

Group B Standings
1) South Korea (2-1-0) 5pts +71
2) Japan (2-1-0) 5pts +56
3) Uzbekistan (1-0-2) 2pts -73
4) Thailand (0-0-3) 0pts -54

Kazakhstan – Japan 29-24 (16-13)
South Korea – China 31-26 (13-14

Kazakhstan – South Korea 33-32 (15-14)
Japan – China (25-26) (16-15)

Final Ranking
1) Kazakstan
2) South Korea
3) China
4) Japan
5) 5th-8th placing currently unavailable

Asian refereeing — good progress ruined by bad politics

In recent years, both some individual countries and the Asian federation finally began to realize that they had to change (some) of their old habits to avoid being left behind by the other continents in the area of refereeing. In particular, the traditional favoring of older, ‘over-the-hill’ referee couples in the continental competitions has gradually been outweighed by the IHF’s emphasis on bringing up new, talented referee couples through the IHF’s Global Referee Training Program.

Asia will now send two couples (Iran and UAE) of the new generation to the Men’s World Championship in Sweden next January. At least one other couple (KUW) is at about the same level. A handful of additional couples have shown promise in Junior and Youth World Championships. The only country not really contributing, certainly in relation to the perennial strength of their teams, is Korea. It seems they prefer to send their young talents into coaching instead of refereeing, an attitude that seems somewhat lacking in solidarity.

BUT, some other habits seem harder to change. I do not really want to go back and rehash the situation involving the Olympic qualifying in 2008, more specifically the atrociously biased refereeing in the infamous Korea-Kuwait match, where a Jordanian referee couple managed to set a record with 40 blatant errors in favor of Kuwait and 0 errors in favor of Korea. This couple was permanently barred, an action that I personally remember only too well as being criticized by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as being too soft! But the reality is that, unlike a criminal court, the IHF does not have the jurisdiction to take any other action. The IHF decision and the reaction of the CAS were duly noted by the senior representatives of the Asian Handball Federation who were present at the time.

HOWEVER, when the reports from the Asian Games were beginning to come in a couple of weeks ago, I was not the only one who noted with astonishment that one of these Jordanian referees had been nominated and brought to the Asian Games by the Asian Federation. Presumably this was seen as a good opportunity due to the absence of IHF observers… Not just was this referee present with his new partner; they were also the only couple who consistently received games of major importance. This culminated with the bronze medal game for the men. A disgraceful demonstration by the Asian federation that they do not regret what happened two years ago, and that they do not care about the authority and decisions of the IHF. Perhaps one should even assume that the invitation to the Asian Games in Guangzhou was a way of thanking the Jordanian referee for following instructions two years ago???

Asian Games: Chinese women and Korean men win the Gold medals

The women’s competition had a really unexpected final outcome, as the highly favored Korean women failed to make it to the final. They lost 28-29 against a surprisingly strong Japanese team in the semi-finals. It seems the Koreans forgot to utilize their strength as a team and tried to win the game through individual plays. In the meantime, the Chinese women had a relatively easy time in defeating Kazakhstan in the other semi-final by the score of 24-18. Perhaps also this result constituted a bit of a surprise, although the Chinese team had played at a consistently strong level throughout the event.

In the final, the Chinese confirmed their impressive form, by pulling away easily in the second half to a clear 31-22 win against Japan, after a narrow lead at half-time. Korea presumably wanted some revenge in the bronze medal game, and they went on to crush Kazakhstan with 38-26, after having started at full speed right from the beginning. It will now remain to be seen if this shocking outcome for Korea, with a third place behind both China and Japan, is just a temporary setback or the beginning of a tougher battle for the top spot in Asia in coming years. At least it may suggest that both China and Japan will have to be reckoned with in the next World Championship.

The men’s final promised to be an interesting fight between Korea and Iran, but also here the Koreans ‘put the foot to the gas pedal’ from the outset. The half-time score was 16-9, and even if Iran scored the first four goals in the second half, Korea knew how to respond. Soon the margin was 30-21, and only towards the very end did the Koreans allow Iran to reduce the margin to the more respectable 32-28. Japan relied on speed and fast-breaks to stay ahead of Saudi Arabia throughout the bronze medal game, with a final result of 27-20.

Finally, for the sake of a narrowing of the gap between East Asia and the Gulf Region in the polarized handball scene in Asia, it is interesting to notice that India showed some progress with a 9th place among the men and an 8th place among the women, after some gradually more respectable results. Thailand came in 7th among the women.