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2013 Qualifier to World Championship. Photo by Jun Tanlayco

Handball Australia Fights for Championship Spot


2013  Qualifier to World Championship. Photo by Jun Tanlayco
2013 Qualifier to World Championship. Photo by Jun Tanlayco

The Australian men’s team won the Oceania Region Championship in June 2014 which qualified it to compete in the 2015 World Championship to be held in Qatar.  However, the International Handball Federation [IHF] Council decided at its meeting on 7 July 2007, to deny Australia its earned spot as Oceania Region representative and instead give it to Germany as a “wild card” entry.

Handball Australia, the players and supporters learned about this shocking news through the posting on the International Handball Federation’s website the day after the meeting.  The IHF stated the basis for its decision being: “There is currently no Continental Confederation in Oceania recognized by the International Handball Federation. Hence, the IHF Council decided to allocate the spot reserved for this continent to another National Federation on the principle of a wild card.”

This reason was contrary to Australia being allowed to compete in the world championships after a decision to withdraw the formal recognition of the Oceania Region in 2008 in the meantime that its constitution was being amended and subsequently the minimum number of member nations being increased to ten.   

The men’s and women’s team competed as Oceania Region representative in the 2009, 2011 and 2013 world championships.  Likewise Oceania was in the 2010 Junior Women’s Championship.

The region had also participated in the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 IHF Super Globe Championship (champion club from each Confederation) and again in September 2014.  The Australian men’s and women’s beach teams competed in the Beach World Championships held in Brazil during July 2014.

In a media statement, Handball Australia President Alex Gavrilovic said: “HA wishes to deny categorically the claim being passed around by ill-informed sectors that Australia forfeited or withdrew from the 2015 Men’s Handball World Championship.”

A subsequent posting on the IHF website attempted to justify its decision.   In a media release, Handball Australia President responded:

“It is important to correct some of the statements made by the IHF with regard to its ultimate decision to refuse to accept Australia’s qualification to the Qatar 2015 event and to instead give our spot to the German team.

“Whilst it may be true that it is “…common procedure, (for) the IHF (to analyse) all events from … a performance point of view”, I cannot recall ever getting an email from the IHF where they stated that Australia’s performance was unsatisfactory and that its participation at World Championships was therefore under threat.

“If “for many years … the expected results were not achieved (by Oceania) and the gap between the teams from Oceania and the rest of the world did not decrease”, why did the IHF never say anything to Oceania (Australia) about this and more importantly, why did the IHF not do something positive to IMPROVE our performance, rather than waiting for an opportunity to dump us?”

The Australian men’s squad has been training and preparing for the world championship in the last two year cycle.   The decision to suspend its participation with only six months to go before the WC has been soundly denounced not only by Australia but a large sector of the handball world, including German handball fans and respected handball figures. By Violi Calvert, free lance writer