28 Jul. 2022
Handball in the Islamic Republic of Iran has been on the rise in the past years, both on the men’s and the women’s sides, with serious strides and important programmes put in place to develop and nurture talent in a big pool of potential, which can definitely yield results.
For the men’s side, the talent has transcended the country and helped the Islamic Republic of Iran gain notoriety in Europe, with several players impressing on the biggest of stages. The Esteki brothers, Sajjad and Allahkaram, were the pioneers, with the former even finishing in the top 10 of the top scorer standings in the EHF Champions League Men.
After their maiden appearance at the IHF Men’s World Championship in 2015, an eight-year hiatus followed, but Iran will finally make their long-awaited comeback at the competition at Poland/Sweden 2023, after finishing fourth at the AHF Asian Men’s Handball Championship in 2022.
The women’s senior national team made their first appearance at the IHF Women’s World Championship in Spain last December, while the junior and youth teams have been making their maiden appearances on the world stage in the world flagship competitions this summer, once again highlighting the progress and the ambition of the Islamic Republic of Iran Handball Federation (IRIHF).
“One of the most important ideas of the Islamic Republic of Iran Handball Federation is to raise a generation of great handball players of Iranian children, to develop their future and create a great team in our country.
“The federation has already planned to create some programmes throughout all the country, enabling children to be more and more interested in handball. The idea is to promote handball as a fun activity to usher the children to try and play handball, while also creating the proper environment for their families,” says IRIHF President Dr Alireza Pakdel.
The plan is to identify children who are interested in handball from the youngest of ages, to try and develop their skills. The next part of the plan is to find a place for them in handball schools and national handball academies. With teams formed, they take part in local competitions and tournaments, national tournaments, and, after a while, they get the chance to be one of the members of national youth team.
At the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, the Islamic Republic of Iran paid the price for the lack of experience and finished in 30th place out of 32 teams, with a win against Mexico and a draw against Guinea, with the one-goal loss against India being the toughest moment of the competition for the Asian side.
They still managed to finish second at the 2022 AHF Asian Women’s Junior Championship, losing the tiebreaker against India after another painful loss against their rivals.
“In the last decade, we had plenty of plans for identifying talented young players, but everything really got better and better in the last three years, due to the support of people and sponsors. The result is, for us, phenomenal. In a very short period of time, we found excellent players that made an unbelievable impact on the future of Iranian handball.
“Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused some interruptions to the Federation’s programmes, these programmes were never closed and were back in business quickly as the conditions improved,” adds the IRIHF President.
The programmes were also in full fledge during the International Handball Week (IHW) – a week of celebrating handball launched by the International Handball Federation, starting on 12 July in every year – with a focus on activities which are intended to help children become more involved in handball.
Those activities went without a hitch in Iran, as children are now embracing the sport more and more, seeing that the results are improving and following the players.
They just completed another impressive programme that has been implemented in the past years named the “Iran Handball Talent Olympiad”, which has seen an impressive number of participants. During this event, the coaches of the national teams scouted potential future players which had both the talent and the grit to succeed on the big stage.
While the popularity of handball in the Islamic Republic of Iran has soared, there are still plenty of things which need to improve both in the short and in the long term. The ambitions are definitely high, which are translated to a bold objective – reaching the final of the AHF Asian Youth Championship and the AHF Asian Junior Championship in both categories.
“In the last three years, we had a plan to introduce handball to Iranian people more and more. And we can surely say now that handball is one of the most popular sports in Iran and many families want their children to compete and take up the sport.
“Broadcasting of handball matches on TV channels and being a part of daily news in news agencies, becoming an interesting subject in social media and holding festivals and events is just a part of our plans that we did specifically in the last year.
“Many stars in other sports in Iran, like our football players, which have a huge following, are promoting handball in their social media accounts. People are cherishing our players of national handball teams in Instagram and Twitter. They see how Iranian players are doing their best,” concludes Dr Alireza Pakdel.
Photos: I.R. Iran Handball Federation