19 Oct. 2022
When Mexico was elected to host the 2022 North American and Caribbean Senior Club Championship, few would have expected the final of the most prestigious club competition in that part of the world to be decided in an all-Mexican final.
Even fewer would have expected that Club Ministros and the Vikingos de Sonora would progress to the final after losing one game each in the preliminary round.
Yet here they were, the two sides battling it out for the trophy and the chance to become the first-ever Mexican side to progress to the IHF Men’s Super Globe, with the winner sealing a berth for Dammam.
Vikingos were the favourites, having more experience, and after the first half, it looked like everything was going according to expectations. But in the end, after a final push and an otherworldly comeback, Club Ministros, who were at home in Monterrey, secured the berth with a 23:22 win.
“It was a superb feeling, winning on our home court and progressing to this amazing tournament, where some of the biggest stars in handball play. Sure, it is a cliché, but for many of us, if not for all of us, it was a dream come true to be here and play against the best in the world,” says Ministros’ captain, Jose Juan Garcia Navarro.
Sure, Club Ministros set the record for the largest-ever loss in the IHF Men’s Super Globe after they conceded an 18:50 loss against Barça, but the sheer joy in the players’ eyes after the match was just a sight to behold.
They looked starstruck just to have shared the court with stalwarts like Dika Mem, Timothey N’Guessan or Domen Makuc, players who they could only dream about facing and who they watched on TV and in highlight reels in anticipation. Talking to them after the game was another highlight, as Club Ministros have just established themselves as a side with ambitions.
There was little they could do in the match against the reigning EHF Champions League Men winners apart from taking the lead three times at the start of the game, with every goal being cheered as if it came in the final.
Despite the score line being ruthless at the end of the match, every shot saved by the goalkeepers or every Barça miss was also a highlight for Ministros. Yet, for them, there is still the pure pleasure of playing handball.
“We are an amateur team; we do not have a league to play in, only regional tournaments, so you can imagine what it means for us to be here. All of us are amateurs; we have our daily jobs and play handball for excitement and pure pleasure,” adds Jose Juan Garcia Navarro.
Navarro, the captain of the team and one of the players with the biggest heart on the court, works for the Mexican national electricity company and plays handball as a hobby for the thrill of it. Other players are students, and some work as physical trainers, but the passion for handball united them all and made them write history as members of the first-ever Mexican team to feature in the IHF Men’s Super Globe.
Nevertheless, he has continuously improved his handball skills, like all his teammates, who are on the rise and might soon belong to the best players in Mexico, a country which has never qualified for the IHF Men’s World Championship.
“I have started playing handball 15 years ago, but there is no professional team, so we are doing what we can. This is a huge honour for us; we are very happy to be here, very eager to learn more and more, absorb everything there is; any tips and tricks that we learn are very, very important for us,” says Garcia Navarro.
A 50:18 loss is definitely a problematic result to bounce back from for every team, and it is no different for Club Ministros. However, they have no time to rest and will play their second match in the 2022 IHF Men’s Super Globe against another powerhouse, the African Club Championship and Arab Handball Championship of Champions winners Esperance Tunis.
The Tunisian powerhouse are definite favourites, but for Ministros, this was always part of the plan, to see how they could improve and set an example for Mexican handball to follow.
The results might not even matter for a side that does not play in a domestic league, has a limited amount of experience and is basically a pioneer in its own merits.
“Of course this can help Mexican handball grow bigger and bigger. We proved that anything can be done, if the proper amounts of work and passion are put in. Who knows, maybe we will qualify for the World Championship next. But until that point, we know that what we are doing can only make handball more popular in Mexico,” concludes Garcia Navarro.