Up and Up

Editorʼs Note

We have covered many sports that do not receive the recognition that they should. Among them is womenʼs handball. The speed and agility and active time in the sport compares well to other sports, notably football. The Magazine will be relaunched shortly. We will resume our coverage of a sport that tests the legacy of Londonʼs Olympic Games. For that reason we republish some of our articles on the sport.

Derek Miller

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 25th 2011)

Missed Opportunity

Lord [Sebastian] Coe boasts that he saw the Olympic football competition in 2004 in Athens. A young Lionel Messi was the star turn. Coe is responsible for ensuring that Londonʼs Olympics are not only successful, but leave a legacy.

The elite sports are of course important, but for every Usain Bolt there others who deserve accolades. Bolt, Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps, Al Oerter and Carl Lewis are just some of the great Olympians, but I remain convinced that the greatest ever is and always will be the fantastic Leonidas of Rhodes.1

Handball, especially the womenʼs game is the real test of the Olympicsʼ legacy credentials. It provides fast-moving action, tactical awareness, high scoring, defensive skill, dexterity, skill and control, passing awareness and shooting prowess. The officials are respected to the point that no campaigns are necessary. London 2012 is sadly a tragically wasted opportunity, as Britain lags way behind the rest of the world, especially Denmark.

The Quest

Three years ago I visited Denmark for the first time and was introduced to the pleasures of womenʼs handball. It soon won me over. Thereʼs no diving, waving imaginary cards, demanding that opponents are sent off or feigning injury – shirt-pulling and obstruction occurs, but you canʼt have everything.

Every second is played with intensity and sportsmanship, even though professional fouls occur. In short, itʼs everything a sport should be. Randers goal-minder Channa Masson came to Denmark to learn the game – sheʼs Brasilian. She was in the first wave of Brasilians to come to Denmark.

“Denmark has the best league in the world,” she told us exclusively, which is why she came here. Her club Randers sit proudly on top of the league, which bodes well for the play-offs.

Randers were rapidly eliminated from the Championʼs League, but look forward to the play-offs and a league title. Masson played a blinder against Odense HK tonight, providing a formidable last barrier. Randers won convincingly 37-20.

They were the better team, but Massonʼs goal-minding was as valuable as the shooting prowess of Camilla Dalby, who top-scored with seven and the penalty-taking calmness of Germanyʼs Nina Wörz, who modestly insisted that Dalby was the penalty-taker, despite a first-half hat-trick of penalties.

Advice

Masson advised British girls to come to Denmark and watch the best. It worked for her. Masson not only learned from top players; she became the best and pushes herself hard. Randers are sitting pretty at the top of the league and extended their lead at the expense of tonightʼs hosts HK Odense.

Masson remains an inspiration and not just in her country. She bemoans the lost opportunity of London 2012. It was an opportunity to develop handball in Britain and in the Olympic movement. London 2012 has missed its chance – a real pity – but 2016 offers another chance. It may be too late for her, but she is looking forward to Rioʼs Games and footballʼs World Cup too.

It may come too late for Masson to play, but it would require a brave person or a fool to bet against her beating the drum for handball in Rio de Janeiro and helping to develop handball in her country and elsewhere. Nevertheless she still hopes that Londonʼs Olympics gets the message in time.

1 For further information on the greatest ever Olympian, which we published in a previous issue of the magazine.

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Randers Dominate

Editorʼs Note

We have covered many sports that do not receive the recognition that they should. Among them is womenʼs handball. The speed and agility and active time in the sport compares well to other sports, notably football. The Magazine will be relaunched shortly. We will resume our coverage of a sport that tests the legacy of Londonʼs Olympic Games. For that reason we republish some of our articles on the sport.

Derek Miller

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 25th 2011)

Ambitions

We are looking to win the league,” Randersʼ goal-keeper, Chana Masson told us. “If we stay in the top two we get two points for the play-offs.” FC Midtjylland pose the only realistic threat and it is a long shot as they need Randers to start losing – something they have shown no sign of doing. Viborg offer a more realistic target, but they will be difficult too. Midtjylland play tomorrow afternoon, knowing tat anything less than victory is not an option.

The business end of the season is tight for play-off spots. Three points separate fifth from eighth. Odenseʼs slim hopes of making the play-offs needed nothing less than a win tonight, but Randers was in no mood to roll over.

Masson believes that Denmark has the best handball league in the world. She was part of the first wave of Brasilians to come to Scandinavia to learn her trade. She stayed and earned the respect of team-mates like the German Nina Wörz.

Different Class

Randers outclassed HK Odense with a sterling display of defence and attack too, 37-17 in Odense. Masson kept the home team at bay with a string of top-notch saves. She cost them at least five goals in the first half. Meanwhile, Denmarkʼs Camilla Dalby enhanced her reputation with four first-half goals, as Randers established a commanding lead, 20-7.

They made a strong and rapid statement of intent. Wörz opened the scoring in the third minute and Mette Melgaard doubled their lead, almost immediately. Within two minutes Wörz had completed a hat-trick. Odenseʼs trainer, Jan Laugesen had seen enough and took a time-out. Odenseʼs Pernille Larsen and Susanne Madsen then earned the displeasure of referee Ole Blok, receiving yellow cards before Larsen finally beat the impressive Masson to make it 4-1.

Mie Augustesen and Melgaard extended Randersʼ lead before Wörz capitalised on penalty opportunities for fouls on Augustesen and herself. With 13 minutes gone Randers had a commanding 8-1 lead. Cecilie Pedersen beat Masson for the second time, but not before the goal-keeper had kept Odense at bay a few times. Katrine Frueland scored a brace separated by another from Augustesen. Randersʼ tenth was scored by Augustesen after slick and probing passing between Wörz, Dalby and Melgaard created the opportunity.

Madsen and the impressive Gitte Andersen exchanged goals before Spaniard Eli Pinedo opened her account for Odense after 21 minutes. Wörz replied immediately. Dalby helped herself to three more while Andersen scored two and Berit Kristensen added another. Meanwhile, Pedersen and Janni Gade conceded penalties for preventing shooting opportunities. Dalby converted the opportunities.

Randers were dominating at 18-4 before Pinedo and Pedersen clawed two back.

Andersen conceded a penalty, but Massonʼs dancing around in her area distracted Pinedo enough to cause her to strike Massonʼs right-hand post. Gitte Aaen punished the lapse by scoring Randersʼ 20th goal of the half. There was just enough time for Pinedo to make amends, but Randers had established control by then, leading by 13 goals at half time.

The False Dawn

Laugesenʼs team-talk obviously struck the right note. In the first six minutes of the second half Nikoline Nielsen scored a hat-trick, but Masson saved her penalty, although Anna Sophie Okkels and Dalby scored for Randers too. The hard work had been done by Randers in the first half, during which Masson also showed how to turn defence into attack with a long throw to Andersen who gratefully accepted the chance.

Maria Fisker seemed to have left her shooting arm behind in the first half, missing when it seemed easier to score and striking the woodwork, before Wörz spared her blushes. In the second half she found her arm, scoring a magnificent break-away goal – her teamʼs 35th. The match was all but over by then. Randers completed the win 37-17.

Dalby top-scored with seven. Eleven players netted for Randers with Wörz and Augustesen netting five apiece. Fruelund and Andersen scored four each. Nielsen and Pinedo shared the honours for Odense with four each, but the score didnʼt lie. Randers deserved their win, consolidating their position at the top of the table.

The Late Show

Editorʼs Note

We have covered many sports that do not receive the recognition that they should. Among them is womenʼs handball. The speed and agility and active time in the sport compares well to other sports, notably football. The Magazine will be relaunched shortly. WE will resume our coverage of a sport that tests the legacy of Londonʼs Olympic Games. For that reason we republish some of our articles on the sport.

Derek Miller

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 1st 2011)

Plan

It has made me a better player,” says Spanish left-winger Eli Pinedo. She came to Denmark to improve her game, but she is only here for one season. She returns home to be with her family later this month. Her club HC Odense was eliminated from the play-offs on Friday, barring a mathematical miracle by table-topping Randers.

Nevertheless, Odense was determined to put on a show and Pinedo in particular excelled with nine of the teamʼs twenty-one goals. Nevertheless, it was a cagey affair against Roskilde. The historic city that boasts the Viking Ship Museum and a Cathedral which is the final resting place of many of Denmarkʼs monarchs fought hard to spoil Odenseʼs party, but ultimately came up just short.

Topsy-Turvy

The left-back Pernille Larsen scored the first goal. Mette Iversen performed heroics in Odenseʼs goal and her opposite number Anne Munk was no slouch either. It looked set to be a low-scoring affair as Roskilde took seven minutes to equalise after Kathrine Heindahl was shown the yellow card for lying on the ball. Amalie Grav punished the indiscretion shortly afterwards – the first of her five first-half goals. Mia Rej bagged a brace, but Odenseʼs defence held firm.

Larsen, Heindahl and Nikolene Nielsen had a first half brace apiece, while Pinedo led the line with three, including subtle lobs over Munk and deadly accuracy from the penalty line. The woodwork was tested a few times as were the goal-minders as the lead was exchanged regularly. Roskildeʼs Emilie Frølich had to sit out the end of the first half and watch Pinedo restore the lead from the line. With seconds left of the first half Heindahl gave the hosts an 11-9 lead.

The Difference

Pinedo started the second half with a flourish, scoring a delightful goal within thirty seconds of the restart. Larsen extended the lead before Rej tried to take one for her team, but her efforts to prevent Kamilla Kristensen scoring by foul means failed. She was sent off for two minutes anyway. Odenseʼs five goal lead was soon whittled away.

Grav found Iversen in inspired form and lost her scoring touch too, but Louise Olsen came off the bench to great effect scoring five goals, all in the second half. Pinedo went one better in a dominant second half performance. Kristensen grabbed three more and Larsen one. After twenty minutes of the second half Pinedo scored her eighth goal to give Odense a four goal cushion. If Odense thought victory was in sight Roskilde had other ideas. Olsen pulled one back. Maria Hansen cut the deficit to just two. Camilla Sølling scored Roskildeʼs nineteenth with six minutes remaining. It was still anybodyʼs match, but the equaliser proved elusive until the last minute. Sølling grabbed it. With just a minute left all three results were possible.

With just twenty-five seconds left to play Pinedo scored. Roskilde threw caution to the wind seeking the equaliser, but turned the ball over and Odense held on for the win. “Iʼm very happy,” Pinedo told us, “for myself and the team.” Meanwhile her club is in a rebuilding phase. They have to look to youth as Randers and Viborg dominate. She is looking forward to the Olympics. “Itʼs very important for handball,” she says, hoping that Spain can pull a surprise, but before that there is the World Championships in Brasil and their Olympics are important too for her, Spain and her sport.

Cometh the Hour?

 

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 12th 2014)

Wilderness Years Begin

Germanyʼs recent record in major finals is – well – unGerman. Renowned for ruthless efficiency they could be relied on to always be in the mix for major trophies, but the last time Germany lifted a trophy was in 1996. Remember who the successful coach was – a certain Berti Vogts. Argentinaʼs record is even worse. Their last appearance in the final was a losing effort in 1990 – an awful final. 

He inherited Franz Beckenbauerʼs World Cup winning team in 1990 and led then to defeat to Denmark in 1992. He left after eight years in charge after falling in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1994 and again in 1998 to Bulgaria and Croatia respectively.

Erich Ribeck led der Mannschaft (the national team) to a shameful exit in Euro2000 – bottom of their qualifying group. Rudi Völler managed one place better in Euro2004. Latvia finished below them, but two years earlier Völler led Germany to defeat in the final to Brasil. Luiz Felipe Scolari was Brasilʼs manager then.

Overdue

After the failure at Euro2004 Jürgen Klinsmann replaced Völler. Germany reached the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup on home soil as Klinsmann blooded a young team and left the team to his assistant Joachim Löw, but despite the studious approach of Löw trophies continued to elude der Mannschaft. Löwʼs team matched Klinsmannʼs achievement finishing third. On both occasions Germany lost to the eventual winners.

Spainʼs rise to dominance began in 2008 in Austria. The late Luis Aragonés Suárez ushered in six years of unparalleled success by beating Germany 1-0 in the final. They knocked Löwʼs charges out in the semi-final in Durban in South Africaʼs World Cup. And in the Ukraine and Poland, Spain retained their European title, beating Italy 4-0 in the final. Germany had been beaten 2-1 by Italy in the semi-final.

Opportunity Knocks

Spainʼs defence of their world title was one of the worst ever. Sated by their three titles Spain returned home at the first opportunity. Germany continued growing into the competition with every passing match, culminating in a humiliating mauling of hosts Brasil 7-1 in Belo Horizonte – the worst thrashing ever in the semi-final of a World Cup.

The previous worst was 84 years ago in the inaugural World Cup when eventual winners Uruguay beat Yugoslavia 6-1 and the USA lost 6-1 to Argentina. Austria lost 6-1 to West Germany in 1954 as well. It had three times and at least one of them had a very good reason for losing so badly – they played a large portion of the match effectively with eight players. One of the wounded was the goal-keeper.

The USA never had a chance. The rules permitted no substitutions and Argentina had taken no prisoners on their way through to Belo Horizonte. Their goal-keeper was injured after 4 minutes. Another player played on injured and a third played with a broken leg until half time. This was before substitutions were allowed.

Best Chance

Surely Germany will never have a better chance to end almost two decades of trophylessness. They topped their group – one of the most difficult, dismantling Portugal, drawing with Ghana and just beating the USA before Algeria gave them a fright, but fell just short. They deservedly beat France and completely humiliated Brasil.

Nobody can say Germany has not reached the final on merit. They have reached finals and semi-finals, but ultimately this tournament will be viewed a failure if they fail to match Italyʼs achievement and win the World Cup for the fourth time. Germany have done well; theyʼve got close before. Is it Germanyʼs time to win the World Cup?

Arsenalʼs Lukas Podolski thinks so. “Of course”, he said before Arsenal ended their own trophy drought. “Of course we want to win the World Cup, but other teams want that as well and it was not easy. The pressure is big because we would say Germany are the favourites – the people in Germany, the newspapers say we already win the World Cup, but itʼs not easy”.

 

Africa Gets Ready (Part Three) Security – Archive

Editorʼs Note:

We published this series of articles five years ago. We think they are still relevant, so we are republishing them now.

Derek Miller

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 27th 2009)

Dangerous – Perish the Thought

I don’t think that will be a problem,” said the CEO of South Africaʼs World Cup Dr Danny Jordaan boldly. He believes that fans will not come to his country for the World Cup, but that they will be safe. He dismissed suggestions that South Africa is a dangerous country and that visitors to the World Cup will not be safe.

If that is true, how do you explain the fact that there are seven million tourists coming into the country”? he asks. “How do you explain that? How do you explain the fact that every aircraft to Johannesburg from London is full every time from Virgin Atlantic to South African Airways and now British Airways as well? All of them are full – every one”.

Comparison

Jordaan is convinced that South Africa will host a successful and safe World Cup. “We have crime”, he says, “but so do you in Moss Side in Manchester, in Leeds and other places that we read about. We are safe. There is crime everywhere. You see knife murders and gun murders in London”.

Jordaan warms to his theme. “We read about it in South Africa”, he says, “but we have decided to challenge it. If somebody can tell me that there is no crime in London at all then at least we have discovered the British path to heaven, but I think that we have also showed that it is safe in South Africa”.

Safe

Jordaan has no truck with the view that South Africa is too dangerous a place to host the World Cup. “The England soccer team played there”, Jordaan said. “The England rugby team came to play here. Why would it be different if two million people come for a tournament like the World Cup? Why would it be different? I cannot understand that”.

He lists more examples of successfully hosted sporting events in his country. “We just hosted the 20/20 world cup and that was in September 2007, so I cannot understand, because Manchester United was coming here to South Africa”, Jordaan says. “Barcelona was here. Brasil played here. Argentina played here. Germany played here. The Netherlands played here. Sweden played here. Denmark played here and so the list goes on”.

And so it does. “A number of countries have played here so I don’t know why we can have all of these major internationals here, but somehow somebody knows it’s not going to be safe”, Jordaan says. “Yes we have crime. There are socio-economic challenges – the lack of housing, education, all of those and then we are dealing with those things”.