21 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.
Continental qualification tournaments and behind-the-scenes
ihf.info: A variety of continental qualification events were held for Greece 2022, can you tell us about them all? We can start with North America and the Caribbean (NACHC).
Giampiero Masi: The event in Acapulco, Mexico was attended by Fernando Posada, member of the IHF Beach Handball Working Group as an event supervisor. In his final report he highlighted an important improvement compared to the previous edition back in 2019.
With two new entries in Dominican Republic and Canada it was a surprise to see the overall technical level has risen as well. The victory of Mexico in the women's competition broke the hegemony of the USA, however they reaffirmed their supremacy in the men's competition in front of the surprise side, Puerto Rico.
This is good for our sport, a competition with no predetermined result.
ihf.info: Let’s move on to Africa, and the African Handball Confederation (CAHB) event…
Giampiero Masi: We all know that the problems that have occurred in the world are reflected more in the most fragile areas, so we expected that the pandemic and all the crises would create some problems for our beach handball community.
This is why we only had a playoff between Morocco and Egypt to define the world championship participants from Africa with Spanish referees to ensure neutrality.
We look forward to the next few seasons as beach handball resumes and gets stronger. The creation of a beach handball working group in Africa is certainly positive news for the development of our sport but we need national federations that recognise our sport as a great opportunity for them to be globally competitive.
But It’s a clear question of economic resources. In the previous edition of the African Beach Games held in Cape Verde, nine men's teams and five women's teams played. Why this difference? Because in the African Beach Games all countries benefit from the economic support of the National Olympic Committees.
The Beach Handball Working Group try to help development with the presence of selected coaches from among the best in the world, especially since the next Youth Olympic Games will be scheduled in Senegal in 2026.
ihf.info: Next up, Asian (AHF), with the men’s event taking place in Tehran, Iran…
Giampiero Masi: Burak Tezcan, member of the Beach Handball Working Group and supervisor of the event, called it “fantastic”.
In the senior competition, which ran side-by-side with the youth one, Iran won gold for the first time, after bronze twice in previous editions.
Qatar had to settle for silver after five golds in a row. Iran also won the youth title and, according to the feedback, their teams have shown the greatest improvement. Jordan, on the other hand, was a big surprise, competing for the first time and now present in Greece in the men’s youth championships. Welcome to the world elite.
ihf.info: …and the women’s Asian (AHF), event taking place in Bangkok, Thailand…
Giampiero Masi: After a long period of restrictions, it was very important to resume competitions.
The pandemic, due to the restrictions imposed by the respective countries, didn’t allow the participation of nations such as China and Chinese Taipei so that’s why, although there were only three women's teams, the Asian Handball Federation decided to play the Thailand qualifier in Bangkok.
India's first-time participation is the most significant note, while Vietnam in the senior category and Thailand in the younger age category won their respective events with a good technical level.
ihf.info: Over to Oceania now, with the event held in Sydney, Australia…
Giampiero Masi: The restrictions linked to the pandemic have conditioned the participation of other countries that would certainly have been protagonists, such as American Samoa.
The senior continental derby saw New Zealand prevail in the men's competition and Australia in the women's, guaranteeing both teams not only qualification for Greece 2022 but also for the 2022 World Games in the USA.
Unfortunately, we won’t see Oceania teams at the youth world championships. It’s a pity, after America Samoa's fantastic participation at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, but it is our long-term plan to organise a stop in Oceania on our Global Beach Handball Tour.
ihf.info: Finally, the South and Central America qualification tournaments, with the senior event held in Maceio, Brazil and youth event in Buenos Aires, Argentina…
Giampiero Masi: For the senior event, Beach Handball Working Group member Sasa Kuburovic went as an event supervisor and in his final report highlighted how Maceio's (host city) competition coincided with the restart of beach handball in the continental confederation.
The tournament then gave us some interesting information. The Argentina women's team has come out from under the shadow of the Brazilians and the Argentine men’s team confirmed its high standard while Uruguay are among the best in both tournaments. We also have a strong men's team in Ecuador, attractive and with a good perspective.
Buenos Aires was a high-level event with Argentina and Brazil in both genders shown to be at the same standard as Europeans, if not better. It will be exciting to see how the South Americans compare against other teams at Greece 2022.
But the problem is the small number of teams. We must identify the reasons for this, certainly a lack of economic resources is one but it is necessary to find a solution, perhaps in the format. This is our job.
ihf.info: What is your overall view on the state of global beach handball now, what needs to be worked on and what are your hopes for the future?
Giampiero Masi: Beach Handball was at a time of great development at the start of the covid pandemic.
The start of the ‘Beach Handball Global Tour’ project, the presence in countries that are fundamental for global resonance and the potential recognition as an official sport at the Olympic Games were conditioned by something unimaginable.
Now, after more than two years, we are back to organising the top competitions in the world and therefore our expectations are quite high.
We are aware that it can be difficult for an attractive and dynamic sport like beach handball, with such a large number of countries involved, spread of quality across different continents, and, most importantly, such dedicated young people and creatives involved.
Therefore, we will strengthen our organisation, we will try to reach every corner of the world and soon, I am sure, we will inevitably be the most precious ‘spice’ of any multisport event.
And rest assured, we will all get involved, not just us at the Beach Handball Working Group, but all those who love this fantastic sport.
I would like to conclude first with a thought by the artist Frida Kahlo, who was not a sportswoman but whose thoughts have been a reference for me: ‘Behave not like those who always win but like those who never give up’.
And then with our thoughts turned to all those who have left us due to the pandemic and to those who cannot be with us in Crete but who protect us from up there. R.I.P.