Ciaran Williams, captain of the Great Britain men’s handball team, explains more about the game and his hopes that good results at London 2012 could be a catalyst for getting more people involved in the sport.
For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with handball, this is a sport which is fun, fast, technical and physical. It’s best described to newcomers as water polo on dry land with a mix of skills used in other sports such as basketball, football and rugby. It’s played indoors and each team is allowed six players and one goalkeeper on court at any one time. The game is made up of two 30-minute halves, with a one-minute timeout in each half and sin bin punishments lasting two minutes.
It’s a popular sport around the world, especially in Europe. The top league in Germany attracts up to 25,000 spectators per match. It is also massively popular at the Olympic Games, with tickets being in high demand at many of the recent tournaments – a trend which looks set to continue at London 2012.
The Great Britain handball squads set out on their mission of forming competitive men’s and women’s squads in 2006, with UK-based players moving to Denmark to one of the best handball schools in the world. Since then these players have gone on to gain professional contracts and play in the world’s top leagues.
With the addition of players who already lived abroad and have British passports, and players from the Sporting Giants talent identification programme, the squads are well on their way to achieving the goal of being competitive at London 2012. On court, both teams have made huge progress with the men recently beating Italy and the women beating Slovakia, among other good results.
2011 looks set to be another exciting year for both squads with fixtures against teams from South America and Asia planned. This will be a fantastic test for both squads and will massively help the development of all players. These continents are known to play a different style of handball so it will be great experience to play these nations before the Olympics.
The hope for all involved with Great Britain handball and the Olympic Games is that handball can be one of the top legacy sports post-2012. It has a lot to offer the UK and already thousands of schoolchildren up and down the country are trying handball out and falling in love with this fantastic sport.
If we achieve good results at 2012, this really could be the springboard that this fantastic sport needs to take off and, hopefully, change the sporting landscape in the UK for years to come.
Photo courtesy British Handball. ©Michele Davison.