Handball EM: Under the sword of Damocles Corona

Status: 12.01.2022 4:17 p.m.

The handball championship starts tomorrow in Hungary and Slovakia. Organizers and fans wanted a new boost. But now the pandemic dictates most of the conditions.

By Peter Lange, ARD Studio Prague

Barbora Leskova is a teacher at a primary school in Bratislava. The 25-year-old is a handball fan and used to play herself. She sees the European Championship in her own country with mixed feelings: “On the one hand, it is a good thing that the government has approved it. On the other hand, it is sad that it takes place under these conditions.”

Peter Lange
ARD-Studio Prag

Only 25 percent utilization of the hall

Conditions dictated by the corona pandemic. The Slovak government decided just in time how to deal with the audience. The two halls in Bratislava and Kosice can only be used to capacity of 25 percent. Fans must be fully vaccinated or recovered. And they have to wear an FFP2 mask all the time.

Handball President Jaroslav Holesa had imagined it very differently when his association was awarded the contract together with the Hungarian association in 2018: “This is one of the reasons why we tried to win the championship in order to restart this sport with the interest of the media and spectators to win more children, young people and fans again. “

In 1967 the team was even world champion

Because handball in Slovakia has seen better days – back then in Czechoslovakia. At the world championships between 1954 and 1967, the CSSR team was never worse than third place, and in 1967 it was even world champion. But at the latest after the Velvet Revolution and especially after the separation of Czechs and Slovaks, handball went downhill.

“The economic aspect was also decisive for us when we applied,” says Holesa. “We could continue to open up sources of finance for development projects. That was the plan from 2018 that collapsed in 2020 because of Covid.”

What if the virus shows up on the team?

And the pandemic remains the permanent sword of Damocles over the tournament. Holsea says: “That the virus could appear in some teams is something we can’t get out of our minds. That something similar could happen as recently at the U20 Ice Hockey World Championship, which was finally canceled.”

Ticket sales already collapsed

The organizers in Slovakia had calculated with 200,000 spectators. Now only 40,000 are allowed to the 34 games in the two halls. Ticket sales have already collapsed due to Corona.

Leskova still fears that many fans will have to stay outside. As far as the prospects for the Slovak team are concerned, however, they are realistic: “If they could survive the preliminary round in Kosice, that would be great. And if they played in the main round here in Bratislava, it would be a sensation.”

Handball European Championship in Slovakia with a little audience

Peter Lange, ARD Prague, 10.1.2022 · 15:27

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