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Wiederer: "Women’s handball is getting better and better"

INTERVIEW: EHF President Michael Wiederer has underlined the importance of EHF EURO 2018 for women’s handball, praising fans and player after a successful tournament

EHF President Michael Wiederer has praised the organisers of the Women's EHF EURO 2018 in France. Photo: Jure Erzen / Kolektiff Images

On the eve of the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Final, Wiederer looks back on two weeks of handball in France which he branded as a good promotion for women’s handball.

The EHF President has been impressed with the level of play and praises the Organising Committee and the French Handball Federation for the organisation of EHF EURO 2018. How would you describe the EHF EURO 2018 in France?

Michael Wiederer: I think it was a very good EHF EURO from an EHF point of view and for the fans. Huge crowds were drawn to the five arenas and there was a very good atmosphere throughout all the games played. This proved that awarding the EURO to France made sense and it was high time to have it here. You mentioned the fans and the good attendance across all arenas. Do you think the fans had a great time?

Michael Wiederer: The biggest point is that there were not huge crowds only for the French team, but for other matches too, and this proves that women’s handball is becoming more and more popular. Tickets have been sold for individual matches; we had very good numbers in matches without the French team and this is a big step forward.

"More and more teams to show the level is better" What impressed you most?

Michael Wiederer: If you ask me about the final weekend in Paris, then it would be the atmosphere created by everyone in such a big arena. Also, the quality of handball was high, the two semi-finals were completely different, but both entertaining to watch. The last one, however, between France and Netherlands, was such a high-speed game – that really impressed me. Is it safe to say that Women’s EHF EURO 2018 put on a good show for fans and promoted handball?

Michael Wiederer: For sure it did! I remember the final of EHF EURO 2016 with Norway playing Netherlands and it was really an amazing match regarding speed and intensity. Now, we have France and Russia, who have done really well, and this proves that we have more and more teams which show that the level of play in women’s handball is better and better. Do you think the quality of handball is improving on a tournament-to-tournament basis?

Michael Wiederer: Technical speed and the skills in women’s handball are improving. Prior to the semi-finals of the EHF EURO 2018, I attended the men’s French Cup game between PSG Handball and HBC Nantes and comparing the two matches, this game was a very physical game, with a slower rhythm, while the France vs Netherlands game had a different rhythm. It was much more intense. Can this tournament be branded a success, comparing it to past events?

Michael Wiederer: It is not easy to compare one tournament with the other. We have come a long way, because I know how every edition unfolded. For example, the EHF EURO 1994, our first championship, had the final weekend in Berlin and the arena was sold-out and it was a beautiful event. It is not easy to compare different editions of the EHF EURO. This tournament was great for women’s handball, the EHF and the French Handball Federation. Each tournament has different challenges, and we can all learn from them.

"We want to keep the handball DNA intact" Do you think that the quality of the tournaments has increased over the past editions?

Michael Wiederer: I think that the tournaments are growing. We have other challenges compared to the past. For example, it is good that we have technical developments, different services around the matches that help fans and teams. These things are helping the sport to attract more attention. But the challenge is the way you implement them and we need the technical conditions for this, so this is totally different than in the past. The EHF EURO 2018 has seen technological breakthroughs, with the final weekend having the iBall introduced at EHF EURO level, while there were also Instant Replay, goal-light and the electronic team timeout request. How important are these technologies for handball?

Michael Wiederer: This is an important element for us, to keep the DNA of our sport, but to further develop, to attract fans by giving them more information, so I think it is one of the tasks that we have to accommodate the digital world into our sport. The EHF EURO 2018 was a success, but does this put pressure on Norway and Denmark for an even better EHF EURO 2020?

Michael Wiederer: I do not think there will be any problems, Norway and Denmark are handball-loving countries and they show their love both in men’s and women’s handball and they have lot of experience in organising big competitions. The Scandinavian fans are also very nice and I am sure that we will see an exciting and beautiful tournament.

written by Adrian Costeiu / ts