19 Jun. 2022
Ahead of the start of four 2022 IHF Beach Handball World Championships – the men’s and women’s senior and youth editions - across two weeks on the sand in Heraklion, Greece, ihf.info caught up with Chairman of the IHF Beach Handball Working Group, Giampiero Masi.
In a special four-part series, Masi casts his eyes over all four championships and updates a little about behind-the-scenes activities.
2022 IHF Men’s Beach Handball World Championship
ihf.info: Brazil and Croatia have qualified for their ninth, straight IHF Men’s Beach Handball World Championship, the only two who have been at all of them…
Giampiero Masi: Not only have the participated in all the men’s world championships so far, they have won seven titles between them with only Egypt breaking that hold, having won the debut, in 2004.
Brazil and Croatia are the best examples of joining experienced players with new players. Thanks to this, they have kept between the best teams of the world. They have a different style of play to each other but in both cases, it has been enough to keep its own style just replacing players.
Although that those two countries are quite different, there are a few words that are common for those stories of success: two being, dedication and love.
When you have such a base and then add great coaches and emblematic long-lasting stars as Ivan Juric, Gil Pires and Bruno, plus a winning mentality ‘printed’ in their DNA, these are a clear message to everybody else that they must do their best if they want to play in the final.
ihf.info: Ecuador and Puerto Rico have qualified for their first-ever IHF Men’s Beach Handball World Championships, what does that mean for the countries and regions where they are located?
Giampiero Masi: Their presence is very important for the development of our sport in the Americas and it is very important for us as the working group, because Puerto Rico, for example, took part in the IHF Trophy beach handball project and is now in the world’s best 16 teams.
Ecuador, after receiving support from working group member Fernando Posada a few years ago have worked hard to reach their debut – don’t forget they are also a ‘new’ indoor handball country too, so their qualification in beach makes their success really great.
Each participation for any team at an IHF World Championship is the pinnacle of a process, especially so for some of these new beach handball teams.
At the last world championship, Kazan 2018, we had for the first time 16 national teams per gender, we now have more than 150 national teams registered on our competition system, so qualifying for a world championship is a great achievement.
Both Ecuador and Puerto Rico will come to play in Greece and confront themselves with world beach handball. I’m sure they will be able to use the opportunity to not only gain experience, but to increase the level of knowledge necessary to improve in the short term.
ihf.info: Hosts Greece are also in their first-ever IHF Men’s Beach Handball World Championship…
Giampiero Masi: Yes. Greece are not at the moment among the top men’s beach handball teams in the world, but, for sure, they will fight against all their rivals. Playing in front of their audience and supported by their fans will certainly be an aspect that everyone will have to take into due consideration. It won't be easy for anyone.
They can use the example of their women’s team who became 2018 world champions on their debut and without any previous important results.
ihf.info: New Zealand were granted a wildcard for Kazan 2018, their first-ever world championship, but Greece 2022 is the first they have qualified competitively. How important is that for them?
Giampiero Masi: It is great for beach handball and for Oceania. It is proof that the decision taken four years ago was right. For New Zealand, it means additional self-confidence and probably a wave of adrenaline that will let them play a more important role in Crete.
For us, we always get excited to see the Maori Haka.
ihf.info: Iran’s men’s team are in Greece too and they are now coached by the legendary Brazilian coach Antonio Guerra Peixe. What does this say about the global nature of beach handball these days?
Giampiero Masi: We do not need to say in this interview ‘beach handball is a global sport’ - that is already out of the question. Now, a strong Iranian team headed by the ‘Professor’ will be able to compete against anyone. For me, there is no position in the final standings that can be a surprise, even the highest one.
It was only a question of time before Antonio would help some a new beach handball country. Iran has a lot of good players and for sure will be a top team soon. The question it is to know if his Brazilian style is good or not for Asian players. We’ll see in Heraklion.
ihf.info: Norway and Portugal are also appearing at their first-ever IHF Men’s World Championships…
Giampiero Masi: Yes, Norway will play at their first world championship, but they have already played in the European Championship finals, so I do not have any doubt they will be a highly competitive team.
Portugal will also appear in their first senior world championship too, but let’s not forget that some of the players in Greece come from the youth team that won silver at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
Both teams are example of the new European way of play: strong defences, good goalkeepers, many spins and a few in-flight goals. For sure, they go to Heraklion to fight for the best places.