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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Euro 2010: Britain Invades Europe!

GREAT Britain invaded Europe last week with handball fans, officials and players travelling to witness the thrilling finals of the 2010 Women’s European Championships in Denmark and Norway.

British people were working in several areas of the competition, as the growth of the sport in Britain continues to gather pace.

The European Handball Federation’s Head of Media and Communications is JJ Rowland who played an important part in staging the event, while British Handball’s Honorary Vice President Paul Bray was commentating for the EHF website’s live coverage.

British Handball Media Volunteer Andrew McSteen was editing the competition website, while England Handball official Miriam Pupalova was involved with tournament statistics.

Also at the event was British Handball’s official photographer Michele Davison, while BHA chief executive Paul Goodwin and EHA chairman Mike Briers were guests of the Norwegian Handball Federation.
GB women’s team head coach Jesper Holmris, captain Lynn McCafferty, and GB men’s team player Sebastian Prieto were also at the tournament.

And even among the non-British people at the event, much of the talk in the halls and bars was of the Great Britain women’s team, who beat Slovakia during the first week of the competition, which was split between Denmark and Norway.

After watching Norway win the European Championship, Lynn McCafferty said: I’m a bit awestruck being here. I’m a big handball fan so to watch Norway play is something else. And to play against them in the Olympics… well, you’ll have to ask me nearer the time as it feels unbelievable.

“It’s great to be here and watch it live and see the atmosphere. Obviously I’m a little bit jealous that I’m not on court playing. Handball is such a big sport here in Denmark and Norway and it would be great if it was a big in other places as it is here.”

And BHA chief executive Paul Goodwin said: “Whilst in Lillehammer we received many compliments for the progress our teams are making, not least from Marit Breivik, the celebrated Women’s national coach for Norway.”

Goodwin and Briers were invited to the event by Karle-Arne Johannessen, president of the Norwegian Handball Federation, to attend the matches between France and Slovenia and Norway and Hungary.
They were part of a 9,000-strong crowd who witnessed victories for France and Norway, with the hosts going forward to the next stage of the finals.

They met with officials from the Norwegian federation and discussed co-operation opportunities ranging from International competition to commercial opportunities and development support.

GB Winger Holly Wins Athlete of the Year Award

GREAT Britain winger Holly Lam-Moores has been named as the Olympic Athlete of the Year for Handball by the British Olympic Association.

Since their centenary year in 2005, the BOA have named one athlete from every sport as Athlete of the Year, with one being named as overall winner. This year, it was GB Athletics’ Mo Farah.

Andy Hunt, the Chief Executive of the BOA, said: “Throughout 2010, athletes from all 26 summer Olympic sports continued to prepare themselves for the once in a lifetime opportunity presented by a home Olympics in London in 2012.

“During this year we have seen many well-established sports continue to excel at World and European Championship level, while other sports have demonstrated great progression in their ambition of competing with the very best in 2012.

“During 2010 many young athletes have produced thrilling breakthrough performances and it’s particularly encouraging to see so many young athletes named by their sports as the Olympic Athlete of the Year.

“The award of the Olympic Athlete of the Year trophy recognises the dedication, commitment and excellence of athletes who represent the very best of British talent in their respective Olympic sports. I wish all the award winners the very best as they continue their preparations for London 2012, Sochi 2014 and beyond.”

GB Captain McCafferty Steps Up a League

GREAT Britain women’s captain Lynn McCafferty (pictured) will play out the rest of the season with Danish First Division side AGF after impressing in training with the Aarhus-based side.

McCafferty has been playing with Hadsten, while also training with AGF. But her performances have been improving and she was given the chance to step up to the next level.

“It was a really tough decision due to my loyalty to the coach at Hadsten as they had helped me a lot coming back to Denmark and I had promised them that I would stay until the end of the season,” said McCafferty.

“I had been approached before but decided to stay with Hadsten. But after the Poland camp the coach approached me again and I really had to think about it because it could be my last chance to play in the second best league in Denmark before returning to UK and then the Olympics.

“This is of course a step up in level and intensity which is beneficial for me and my development.
After a little soul searching I decided to move to AGF.

“I have developed a lot during my time at Hadsten and had great help from the coaches and players. My performance at the camp in Poland was testament to my time at Hadsten.”

British Handball Event Manager Handed Top Olympics Job

BRITISH Handball event manager Sue Whitehead, who has masterminded major handball events at Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Sheffield, has been appointed as Handball and Goalball Services Manager for the Olympics and Paralympics.

Community sports manager at Siddal Moor Sports College in Rochdale, has been granted a secondment from that job. She begins her new post after Christmas and will spend the next 18 months in London working at the LOCOG offices at Canary Wharf.

“It’s a big honour to be a part of the Olympic Games,” she said. “School have been fantastic in granting me this secondment and I am very grateful for all they have done.”

Sue first worked for British Handball when she was event manager for the highly-successful Four Nations Tournament in Sheffield in 2008, and then went on to hold a similar role on the team which planned events at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London, the Echo Arena in Liverpool and the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow.

Events she has planned include several 2010 Women’s European Championship qualifying matches as well as the four-team 2012 Men’s European Championship.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

BHA and EHA officials in Talks with Norwegian Handball

TOP officials from British Handball and England Handball were guests of honour at two important European Championship clashes last week.

Paul Goodwin, the Chief Executive of British Handball, and Mike Briers, Chairman of England Handball, were invited by Karle-Arne Johannessen, president of the Norwegian Handball Federation, to attend the matches between France and Slovenia and Norway and Hungary.

They were part of a 9,000-strong crowd who witnessed victories for France and Norway, with the hosts going forward to the next stage of the finals.

Goodwin and Briers met with officials from the Norwegian federation and discussed co-operation opportunities ranging from International competition to commercial opportunities and development support.

“Whilst at Lillehammer we received many compliments for the progress our teams are making,” said Goodwin. “Not least from Marit Breivik, the celebrated Women’s national coach for Norway.”

* Partners in Handball: Paul Goodwin from British Handball, left, and Mike Briers from England Handball, right, are welcomed to Lillehammer by Norwegian Handball Federation president Karle-Arne Johannessen.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Women's World Champs: Photos now online!

PHOTOGRAPHS from Great Britain Women's matches in the 2011 World Championship qualification group are now online!

Taken by Julia Treharne in Poland, the pictures are available at the British Handball photo library, by clicking here

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Hosts Poland End GB's World Championship Dreams

A BATTLING performance from Great Britain women’s handball team was not enough to see them progress to the next stage of the 2011 World Championships, with hosts Poland topping the group after a 32-17 win over valiant GB on Sunday.

Great Britain finished third in the five-team qualifying group after a string of good performances, which included victories over pre-tournament favourites Slovakia as well as Cyprus.

Slovakia drew with Austria earlier on Sunday to leave the door open for GB to spring an upset and progress to the next stage of qualifying by beating hosts Poland.

But despite some good periods of play, the hosts were just too strong for the GB ladies, for whom goalkeeper Sarah Hargreaves (pictured) was voted player of the match.

Zoe Van De Weel chipped in with three goals from the right wing as did Kathryn Fudge, while Lyn Byl caused problems for the Polish side before having to go off with a bloodied nose towards the end.

Head Coach Jesper Holmris said afterwards: “We played OK, but we should’ve converted more of our chances. When Poland were 7-2 ahead, we had just as many chances and it should’ve been 7-7, but we wasted too many.

“Physically we were struggling a bit today, because Poland were a completely different level, and seeing them play they were obviously going to win the group. They were very strong.

“But overall the tournament has been fantastic for us, and our performance against Slovakia was awesome, and really shows what we can achieve and how far we’ve come.

“This has given the players such a lot of motivation to go back to their clubs and work hard, because they can see it really makes a difference.”

* Picture by Julia Treharne in Lublin, Poland.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Injury Mars Great Britain Win Over Cyprus

A CONFIDENT 39-20 victory over Cyprus saw Great Britain Women move up to third spot in the World Championship qualification tournament in Poland on Friday.

But the victory came at a cost, with line player Amondine Webb suffering a knee injury which could rule her out of action for up to three months.

But her team mates battled on after the first half injury, leading 23-10 at half time and building on that lead after the break.

After scoring five goals in GB’s opening day clash with Austria, Britt Goodwin netted seven times against Cyprus - as did Holly Lam-Moores as the British wingers wreaked havoc on the Cypriot defence.

After three games in three days GB now have a rest day where they will tend to several knocks and niggles ahead of their final match of the qualifying tournament against hosts Poland on Sunday.

If Slovakia can beat current group leaders Austria in their final match on Sunday, Great Britain’s fate will be in their own hands, with a win over Poland giving them passage through to the next round of the World Championship.

* Picture by Julia Treharne in Lublin, Poland.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Last-Gasp Goal Helps GB Women Beat Slovakia

A DRAMATIC last-second victory over Slovakia saw Great Britain women’s handball team give their World Championship qualifying campaign a shot in the arm.

GB won the clash 27-26 after Kathryn Fudge’s late goal, but it could have gone either way throughout the match with the sides level at 15-15 at half time.

Seven goals from Kelsi Fairbrother (pictured) underpinned Great Britain’s victory, although the while team played much better than their opening day loss to Austria on Wednesday.

“Slovakia were the top seeds going into this competition, and although they aren’t as strong as many people thought this is still a good win and a great day for British Handball,” said Head Coach Jesper Holmris.

“Everybody played well, and our defence was better than yesterday, what is great about this win is that everything that went wrong against Austria we corrected for this game.

“We’re looking forward to playing Cyprus and Poland in our final two matches now.”

Ewa Palies found the net six times, while Lyn Byl, Kathryn Fudge and Britt Goodwin all scored three times.

GB’s remaining matches are:
Dec 3, GB v Cyprus 18.15
Dec 5, GB v Poland 15.15

* Photo by Julia Treharne in Lublin.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Asker Aces Shine for Great Britain

GREAT Britain starlet Nina Heglund scored five goals for Great Britain in the opening match of their World Championship qualification campaign against Austria in Poland on Wednesday.

The Norway-based 17-year-old playmaker caused real problems for the Austrian defence - as did her team-mate at Asker HC Britt Goodwin, who also chipped in five goals from the wing.

But their efforts were not enough to stop Austria winning 30-20, making it three out of three in clashes between the two sides in the last year or so.

“Austria were a lot better this time than last time we played them,” said GB head coach Jesper Holmris. “They had one of their best players back from injury.

“We didn’t have the usual energy, we weren’t as organised in defence and we missed a lot of chances, but we know we can play better and hope to do so against Slovakia tomorrow.

“Nina Heglund had one of her best games so far for GB with five goals from seven shots, and Britt Goodwin scored five too so it’s not all bad.”

Great Britain will be aiming to bounce back on Thursday afternoon when they take on Slovakia, again at the Globus Hall in Lublin.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

GB Women Ready for Worlds Challenge

GREAT Britain Women have arrived in Poland, and are now preparing for their World Championship qualification matches which begin tomorrow (Wednesday, December 1).

After a long journey from the airport to their base at Lublin - which included a nine-hour coach journey because of the heavy snow which is blighting much of Europe - the team are safely in their hotel.

However, their first rivals Austria have yet to arrive in Poland after their flight was cancelled because of the worsening weather.

The team spent last week in Limburg, Holland, and played three friendlies against top Dutch domestic teams which saw them unbeaten.

The squad were in Holland as guests of sponsors Tasty Limburg, and took part in several promotional events, which even included a trip to a luxury spa!

The whole team - with the exception of goalkeeper Sarah Hargreaves, who was yet to arrive - played a part in the friendlies.

The matches proved excellent preparation for the World Championships, and GB recorded a 37–25 victory over Bevo and a 32–23 victory over Quintus.

With Hargreaves not due to meet up with the squad until Monday in Poland it was a great opportunity for debutant Jane Mayes to show what she could do in goal and she responded with over 42 per cent save ratio in both games.

There were excellent performance throughout but Louise Jukes and Ewa Palies in particular showed a ruthless streak in front of goal.

“The camp in Holland went really well because all our players except Hargreaves were available and especially against Quintos as they had an international physique, very tall,” said head coach Jesper Holmris.

“We are very happy that we now have more players ready to play at this top level but we still need to progress so we can have a very hard preparation before each major tournament where all the players are able to have significant court time so our key players are not playing 60 minutes in all our matches.”

Now in Poland and well prepared for the qualification matches, GB’s schedule is:

Dec 1, GB v Austria, 17.00
Dec 2, GB v Slovakia 17.00
Dec 3, GB v Cyprus 18.15
Dec 5, GB v Poland 15.15
Reflecting on their forthcoming games, Holmris added: “We have not seen Slovakia but we know they will be very strong, along with Austria and Poland so we know it is going to be a very tough competition but it is just another big challenge on the way to London.

“We know we have to bring our very best to these matches and everyone has to play to their maximum but we know we have improved significantly since this event two years ago.

“We have belief in our defence and our goal keepers but we know we still must keep working hard to develop our attack at this level.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

GB Women In Limburg for WCh Preparations

GREAT Britain women are in Holland this week as their preparations for the World Championships in Poland next month gather pace.

The squad will be staying in Limburg this week, mixing training sessions with training matches against domestic Dutch clubs - as well as helping GB shirt sponsor TastyLimburg with a number or promotional activities.

The team will take on Loreal on Thursday evening, and then visit a local school on Friday afternoon before playing Bevo HC that evening.

On Saturday they will play a third local side, before another promotional event with Limburg at a local spa.

The team will travel to Poland on Monday to begin preparations for the qualification matches, which start on Wednesday, December 1, with a clash against familiar rivals Austria at the Globus Hall, Lublin.

2011 Women’s World Championships
Qualification Tournament
Dec 1: Great Britain v Austria
Dec 2: Great Britain v Slovakia
Dec 3: Great Britain v Cyprus
Dec 5: Great Britain v Poland

Universities Event Deadline Looms

THE deadline for entries into the British Universities Beginners Handball Championships in Nottingham is noon on Monday, November 29.

The event, on December 4, has already attracted several entries, but further teams can enter via admin@britishuniversitieshandball.com.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

World Champion Coaches British Pupils

YOUNGSTERS from Boston Grammar School in Lincolnshire are the latest to catch the handball bug after a successful sporting exchange with a school in Germany.

Ten teenaged pupils travelled to Das Gymnasium am Rothenbuhl, and received handball coaching from some of the best names in the business - including 2007 World Champion Christian Schwarzer!

Following the visit the school is now trying to set up a handball club, with dozens of children eager to carry on playing the sport.

Teacher Christine Abrams said: “In September, 16 pupils from Germany visited us at Boston Grammar, and experienced cricket, rugby and netball - and thoroughly enjoyed their experience.

“The return visit took place in October, to Das Gymnasium am Rothenbühl which is an Elite School for sport and currently winner of the schools handball trophy.

“The Boston pupils stayed with host families and during the day encountered handball, wrestling and indoor climbing. But the most popular sport by far was handball!

“Taught at the Olympic Centre in Saarbrücken, the facilities were a dream. Pupils were initially coached by Oskar Dawo, a qualified coach and sports psychologist from GaR.

“But the highlight of the stay was a morning’s training session with Christian Schwarzer, 2007 Handball World Champion. He gave the pupils a more advanced insight into the game, provided tips and tricks and then refereed a match between the German and British pupils.

“Despite fighting hard and proving that British pupils are quick at learning new sports, the game was won by the more experienced team from GaR.”

Having returned home with the handball bug, the school is now hoping to maintain the enthusiasm for handball by sending PE staff on coaching courses and then integrating it into the curriculum.

The schools will exchange once again next year, and are looking forward to some more expert handball coaching!

Commentators Wanted for 2012

EXPERIENCED sports commentators are wanted to help make the London 2012 Olympics the best ever!

If you think you have what it takes to commentate on handball - and other sports too - them why not apply for this post, which is for people who speak either English, French, both, or British Sign Language.

For more details please go to https://locogrecruitment.london2012.com/jobs/main?cmd=reqDisplayJobDetails&jobId=1326

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

GB Wingers Sign New Deals

TWO of Great Britain’s best wingers have moved clubs this month as their development into world-class handball players continues.

Holly Lam-Moores (pictured) has signed for top Danish club Sønderjyske after a string of impressive performance for her previous club.

And John Pearce, 23 and from Dorset, has moved to Norway to play for First Division side Lillestrom Topphandball.

20-year-old Lam-Moores from Warrington has been in great form for SK Aarhus, and caught the eye of the coach for Liga club Sønderjyske, who play further south close to the German border.

“When they offered me Liga handball, of course my answer was yes” said Holly. “Their left wing is out injured for eight months, so they needed me straight away.

“I am the only left wing there which means I’m playing 60 minutes in virtually every game which was my main reason for going. I wouldn't have gone if I had to be second choice as I was playing 60 minutes in my old club.”

Holly had a baptism of fire at Sønderjyske, with her debut match being against Champions League winners and Danish champions Viborg in the Nordea Cup semi final!

“I played for 60 minutes and scored three goals - it was a dream come true,” she added. “I found it hard to adjust in defence as the game is ten times faster at the level, but I found my way and ended up with a solid performance.

“This is a perfect opportunity for me to gain experience in the top league this close to the Olympics. It will be extremely tough and means I will have to lower my expectations, but throwing myself in at the deep could make me a better handball player.”

Meanwhile, Pearce has moved to Lillestrom Topphandball where he will line up against fellow GB players Ciaran Williams and Seb Prieto who play in the same league for Tistedal Halden.

“I’ve moved for the chance to play with a First Division team, as a lack of court time meant it was sensible to look for another option,” he said.

“The transfer was also delayed for injury reasons, having recovered from a broken foot and groin injury. But I’m glad to be here now and getting some good court time.”

Are you going to Poland for the World Championships?

FANS of British Handball planning to travel to Poland for the Women’s World Championships qualification matches from December 1-5 are asked to contact British Handball performance administrator Andrea Snowdon.

The Polish authorities have asked us to travel as a group where possible, and want to know how many supporters will be present so they can arrange tickets in advance and seat British fans together.

Please email andrea.snowdon@britishhandball.com

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Handball's Coming Home!

PLANS to make handball the legacy sport of the Olympics in 2012 took a major step forward this week when British Handball signed an agreement to make Crystal Palace National Sports Centre their first High Performance Centre.

British Handball have struck a deal with GLL and Olympia Handball Club which will eventually see many of the national team players based at Crystal Palace and using GLL’s facilities to train and play.

Under the agreement national team players will stay on site, while GLL and their partners will try to find work placements for the athletes across the region.

And Crystal Palace will also become the home of Olympia Handball Club, with National League matches played there along with GB training camps and international fixtures.

Athletes will have the opportunity to work and gain qualifications through GLL’s numerous employment schemes. GLL will also become the British Handball ‘London Strategic Sports Partner’ and sponsor key matches.

In addition, Olympia will be engaging with the local community to increase awareness of the sport and to develop junior coaching at Crystal Palace.

“This partnership provides a real choice for our athletes to train and compete in a high performance environment not presently available to GB players in the UK,” said British Handball’s CEO Paul Goodwin.

“Until now they have had to learn their trade in more established handball countries. But this is the first phase of Project Homecoming where the players will be brought together in London ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games, and is a real example of Olympic legacy as the centre will provide for new British Handball talent to take us beyond 2012.”

And Tony Wallace from GLL added: “We are delighted to have established this partnership agreement with British Handball and the Olympia Handball Club and are extremely proud that Crystal Palace National Sports Centre will now be home to the High Performance Centre.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

GB Women Prepare for World Championships

THE match schedule for Great Britain women’s World Championship qualifying campaign in Poland in December has been announced.

The team will travel from their training camp in Limburg, Holland, in time for their first match in Lublin on December 1, when they take on old rivals Austria at 5pm local time.

The following day they play Slovakia at 5pm again, while their December 3 match against Cyprus is a 6.45pm start.

Finally, after a day’s rest they complete their fixtures on December 5 with a 5.30pm start for their clash against the hosts Poland.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Limburg Welcomes British Handball

AHEAD of the training camp for the GB women’s team next month, British Handball’s CEO Paul Goodwin headed to Limburg in Holland last week to further strengthen ties between the two parties.

The region of Limburg in Southern Holland has produced many world champions and Olympic medalists in a host of sports, and seven times world record holder and former Olympic gold swimming medalist Ada Kok was on hand to welcome Goodwin, and Matt Shuker from British Handball’s marketing partner, Oaks Consultancy.

The meeting was part of a visit to a trade fair in Maastricht, where discussions were had with the Dutch Handball Federation and the regional sports minister, who was there to sign an agreement with Limburg to create a new National Handball Academy in the region.

“Limburg has an excellent sporting tradition and handball is up there amongst the other top sports,” said Goodwin afterwards. “It is therefore much easier to discuss handball with businesses in Limburg because they understand the potential of the sport.

“From the warmth of the reception we received and the interest in British Handball from the Limburgers, this was a successful visit and further serves to strengthen the new partnership.”

The Great Britain women’s team will be visiting Limburg next month in preparation for their World Championship qualification matches in Poland.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

GB Goalkeepers Battling Injuries

GREAT Britain goalkeepers Laura Innes and Bobby White, pictured, are both struggling to overcome injury at the moment, with Innes nursing a back injury while White is battling a hip complaint.

Birmingham-based Innes, who plays for LK Zug in Switzerland, has been unable to shake off a long-term back injury and was diagnosed with two prolapsed discs.

After two weeks treatment at the British Olympic Association’s Intense Rehab Unit at Bisham Abbey, Innes returned to her club and played in the Champions League qualifying matches. But her injury had not gone away, and she has returned to Bisham Abbey for more treatment.

“There is nothing worse than being told you can't play,” she said. “It means so much to me as I enjoy it so much.

“However, I am home now to see our support staff and there are many people supporting me on the road to recovery. I have a great plan from now on in - I have had a facet joint injection (an injection into the joints in my spine) and am resting now before returning to Bisham Abbey.

“From now on it is continued hard work from me, and with a little bit of luck I should be back playing again for GB and LK Zug as soon as possible. I am already itching to be back!”

Men’s team goalkeeper Bobby White, from Milton Keynes, has also been playing through pain, but his hip injury is showing no signs of getting any batter.

He is waiting to see British Handball doctor Polly Baker for a complete diagnosis and rehab plan.

“I’m battling on, but I’m not doing much good as my movement is limited and slowing me down,” said White. “It’s not so bad when I’m fully warmed up, but just walking to the shops is giving me a lot of grief.

“I played ten minutes on Saturday and will play this Saturday, then I have three weeks off before our training camp at Crystal Palace.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sport and Business: A Recipe for Success!

GREAT Britain’s strong performance at the Four Nations Tournament marked the beginning of a unique link-up with TastyLimburg.

The Dutch Region are keen to promote their superb cuisine and healthy lifestyle, and saw the British Handball team as the perfect vehicle to promote their message.

“This was the first time we have teamed up with British Handball,” said Maurice Ambaum from Topsport Limburg. “It was a very positive experience and gives us confidence in a sustainable partnership.”

TastyLimburg provided a fine lunch for the VIP guests at the event, displaying the produce from their region which all went down well with those in attendance.

But Limburg is not just about great food. They take their sport seriously, and handball is a major sport in the country.

Under their Go for Gold scheme, athletes from the region are guided to national and international success. And the GB Women’s handball team will travel to Limburg in November for a training camp, prior to their World Championship qualifying matches in Poland the following week.

The link between British Handball and the TastyLimburg brand is the first of hopefully many partnerships to come, with British Handball having launched their Partner a Dream concept to give businesses a unique way to get involved in an Olympic sport.

http://www.partneradream.com/ was developed by Creative Agency, Darling Dash of Gateshead, and the Topsport Limburg partnership is an example of what Partner a Dream sets out to achieve. Mat Shuker from Oaks Consultancy,British Handball's marketing agency, said: “Handball is a priority sport in Limburg and as a result Topsport Limburg see the GB handball team as a key vehicle to connect their brand to the British public and the wider Olympic audience.

“ Topsport Limburg understand GB teams such as handball will enjoy much of the media spotlight prior to the games and partnering the team will ensure Topsport Limburg can really benefit from the partnership.”

British Handball are seeking additional partners to support them in their preparation for London 2012. These opportunities can be viewed at www.partneradream.com.

Top European Action Now with English Commentary

ENGLISH-speaking fans of the European handball scene will find it easier to follow top match action after the EHF launched a new Match of the Week feature.

Starting last Sunday, www.ehfTV.com will be showing live games with English commentary from the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League.

The www.ehfTV.com website has proved a massive hit, and continues to grow with this new expansion. Top Irish TV and radio commentator Tom O’Brannagain, who has provided the commentary on http://www.ehftv.com/ for several Champions League matches in the last two years, will do so for this new weekly feature.

“I can’t wait for the start of the new season and the chance to bring the fantastic action of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League to handball fans across the world,” he said.

“I’ll be commentating live at some of the best matches of the season, and will be doing my best to bring the amazing atmosphere at these venues to the fans at home.”

And if you can’t watch the match live, they will also be offering a weekly highlights show called Champions League Rewind, which will feature match action and interviews with top players and coaches.

O’Brannagain is a former handball player and now coach of the Ireland national handball team. He provided the English language commentary for the 2008-09 EHF Champions League final in Kiel, and also covered the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2009-2010, commentating on all four matches and providing special video reports from Cologne.

The Match of the Week concept aims to bring a wide variety of matches featuring different clubs and venues to give handball fans a real flavour for the competition.

Match of the Week Schedule:
Sunday, Oct 3 (1445 GMT): THW Kiel v FC Barcelona Borges.
Saturday, Oct 9 (1525 GMT): MKB Veszprem v Montpellier Agglomeration HB.
Saturday, Oct 17 (1300 GMT): KS Vive Targi Kielce v Rhein Neckar Löwen.
Sunday, Nov 21 (1430 GMT): SG Flensburg-Handewitt v HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb.
Sunday, Nov 28 (1625 GMT): Either Szeged v Chekhovskie Medvedi, or HC Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb v SG Flensburg-Handewitt.
Sunday, Dec 5 (1615 GMT): FC Barcelona v THW Kiel.

BHA Backs Anti-Doping Hotline

BRITISH Handball is committed to drug-free sport, and that’s why we’re delighted to support UK Anti-Doping’s new 24-hour phone line.

The confidential line provides a service for athletes, support personnel, and concerned family or friends to securely pass on information to UK Anti-Doping with guaranteed anonymity.

Hosted by Crimestoppers, a dedicated team of trained operators are able to manage calls related to anti-doping. All information provided will be treated in confidence and researched and investigated by UK Anti-Doping.

If you have any information about the use, supply or trafficking of prohibited substances, or suspect someone of doping, MAKE THE CALL, 0800 032 2332

Ticket Discounts for VELUX EHF Final4

THE European Handball Federation is offering special discounts to handball clubs wanting to attend the final of the VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League in Germany on May 28-29 2011.

More than 40,000 handball fans from across the world attended last year’s thrilling event, which saw the semi finals, the third-place play-off and the main final take place over one weekend.

British handball clubs who book ten or more tickets can benefit from a special 10 per cent discount on tickets in category 2-4, but you must book before the end of 2010.

More information about the event, tickets, VIP tickets and hotels can be found on their official website at http://www.ehffinal4.com/.

To take advantage of the 10 per cent discount, please email ehfFINAL4@ehfmarketing.com for the relevant form.

GB Women Make Special Visit to School

PUPILS at Christ Church C of E Primary School got a special introduction to handball last week, with several members of the Great Britain Women’s team paying them a visit.

Five players went along to the school on the Wirral with Team Manager Melanie Chowns, who gave the children an introductory talk about the game, before they got a chance to try out their skills.

GB Players teamed up with some of the children in a penalty shootout competition, with GB goalkeeper Laura Innes in goal.

The team were in the region preparing for the Four Nations Tournament at the Echo Arena, and pupils from Christ Church Primary were just some of hundreds of pupils across the North West who took advantage of the free ticket offers available to schools.

Teacher Claire Cooper said afterwards: “Thank you for a fabulous day. The children really enjoyed the match too! It was great for some of your players to come and sit with the kids, it made it really special.”

2012 Olympic Job Up For Grabs

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Holmris: We did great!

HEAD Coach Jesper Holmris has heaped praise on the GB women’s team after they put on some great performances during the Four Nations Tournament in Liverpool this week.

Despite losing to Switzerland and Portugal, GB’s performances were much improved from their previous matches in Euro 2010, culminating in an emphatic 31-21 victory over Italy on Saturday.

“Looking at the tournament as a whole we have shown we can compete against Switzerland, Portugal and Italy,” said Holmris, pictured. “We are heading in the right direction so we are very positive. We were actually quite close to winning the tournament so we are a little bit disappointed about that.

“It’s really great to come back to Great Britain again to play matches. There is such a great atmosphere here with the crowd screaming, and the players love this and love playing matches here as it allows their families to come and see and support them.

“What we are seeing now is that we have a bigger depth of players to pick from in the squad. Two years ago we played in Holland in the World Championship qualifiers and we played the same seven players more or less all the time, but now we have the opportunity to swap players on court.

“Of course, Lyn and Lynn are very important in defence, but we have players like left back Kathryn Fudge and Louise Jukes who played on the line against Italy who are doing very well and this makes the squad more competitive and if we can build this environment then we will see a progression.”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

GB Beat Italy in Four Nations Tournament

GREAT Britain ended their Four Nations Tournament campaign on a high, beating rivals Italy 31-21 on Saturday afternoon.

Having lost narrowly to eventual Tournament winners Portugal as well as Switzerland, GB were determined to secure a win, and got off to the best possible start as pivot Lyn Byl smashed home on 19 seconds.

But the Italians matched their scoring and took the lead at 4-3 through right-wing Carmen Onnis just after three minutes which left-wing Cristina Lenardon extended to 5-3 soon after.

However, GB proceeded to step up their game, scoring a number of goals through the fast-break to score six unanswered goals in a fantastic spell with Byl, Kelsi Fairbrother, Nina Heglund, Britt Goodwin and captain Lynn McCafferty all getting on the scoresheet.

Elena Barani was then shown a red card for the Italians after a verbal outburst at the officials, and with only six players on the court for the duration of her suspension Italy started to open up, finding themselves 12-5 down after Heglund, Goodwin and Yvonne Leuthold made their chances count.

Italy had gone into the game having conceded the most goals in the tournament but boasted the tournament top scorer Silvia Scamperle, and it was Scamperle who, alongside teammate Carmen Onnis, tried to get the Italians back in it going into the break, but Britain held tight and McCafferty and Amondine Webb’s strikes saw them go into the break four-up.

Following the break, GB came out firing - particularly pivot Amondine Webb who scored twice in quick succession, Holly Lam-Moores and Webb then exchanged strikes to put the hosts 20-13 up early on in the second half and further strikes by Ewa Palies and Zoe van der Weel lead to a frustrated outburst from the Italian Head Coach Tamas Neukum who was shown a yellow card.

GB Head Coach Jesper Holmris then saw his side enter another excellent period of play with less than ten minutes left on the clock as they neared their target of scoring 30 goals.

Van der Weel scored a great goal on the fast break, quickly followed by Yvonne Leuthold, and Louise Jukes (pictured) strikes on the break as well, but the highlight in this passage of play was a fantastic curling strike from Holly Lam-Moores following Jukes’ interception of the Italian forwards on the halfway line, which lead to wild celebrations from the GB bench as they sensed not just their target of goals being scored but a win being close.

Lam-Moores then stepped up again just moments later to make the score 30-21 with less than a minute remaining and despite a two-minute suspension for Nina Heglund 30 seconds from the end the Italians couldn’t find the back of the net and Van der Weel rounded off the match and the tournament with a strike following another Jukes interception to send the crowd into raptures and the GB squad home with a great victory.

Report by Andrew McSteen
Pictures by Michele Davison

GB Ready for Italy Challenge

BOTH Great Britain and Italy will go into their Four Nations Tournament clash this afternoon looking for their first wins in the competition at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.

The British players arrived in the arena to see Portugal beat Switzerland 26-17 to win the trophy and will want to ensure that they do not leave their own tournament without any points.

GB started their campaign with a narrow 22-23 defeat against Portugal on Thursday night and followed this up with a 18-20 loss at the hands of the Swiss last night.

GB Head Coach Jesper Holmris had asked his side for a quick start out of the blocks following their sluggish start against Portugal and he got that against the Swiss, but a lack of goals scored has proved to be GB’s undoing in this tournament so far and they find themselves the lowest scorers in the tournament so far.

Defensively, GB have been impressive with their central core of goalkeeper Sarah Hargreaves, pivot Lyn Byl and captain and centre-back Lynn McCafferty proving a tough test for all who have faced them.

Opponents Italy had conceded the most goals going into this final day of the tournament but boasted the tournament top scorer Silvia Scamperle with 18 goals who only needs a further four goals to cement this, overtaking Portugal’s Claudia Correia on 21 who has played her final game here following her sides' victory earlier on today.

Italy lost 32-26 against Switzerland on the opening afternoon on Thursday and then again 27-26 on the final buzzer against tournament winners Portugal yesterday afternoon so will also be looking for that elusive win.

GB will be wary of Scamperle and her teammate Carmen Onnis who both pose a threat up front, but they will be keen to put on a show in front of their home crowd and leave Liverpool on winning form ahead of their World Championship qualifiers coming up in Poland against Slovakia, Cyprus and their hosts.

GB Head Coach Jesper Holmris said: “Most of all we are looking to have another competitive game [against the Italians], which is the goal of this whole tournament for us.

“We’ve been very lucky to invite three teams who are all very close to each other in standard which is the whole point of this tournament.

“It’s possible to win today and I’ll think we’ll have another close game.”

Preview by Andrew McSteen

Portugal Crowned Four Nations Tournament Winners

Portugal have won the Women’s Four Nations Handball Tournament after beating Switzerland 26-17 in a winner-takes-all clash in Liverpool on Saturday.

Pre-match, the form book suggested that it would be the Swiss who would be crowned champions. But the Portuguese had other ideas, producing the goods time and time again in front of the Swiss goal coupled with the devastating 100 per cent hit-rate of centre-back Claudia Correia from the penalty spot.

The Portuguese were also helped by their goalkeeper, and recent Le Havre signing, Daniela Pereira who pulled off a number of high-quality saves, particularly in the first half, to keep their opponents at bay.

Swiss right-back Karin Weigelt, left-back Stephanie Haag and left-wing Annina Ganz kept their side within touching distance in the first half.

But the Portuguese looked comfortable throughout the match against a somewhat sluggish Switzerland side who played nowhere near the levels they had shown in their previous matches against Italy and GB. They also weren’t helped by two, two-minute suspensions served by pivot Seline Ineichen in the second half.

But that shouldn’t take away from an inspired Portuguese performance which saw them run away with the victory in the second half - at one point outscoring their opponents 8-2.

The Portuguese made the Swiss pay for their lack of success in front of their goal, capitalising on the fast-break, especially through left-wings Vera Lopes and Claudia Aguiar and with it, claiming the Four Nations crown.

Report by Andrew McSteen
Photos by Michele Davison

Preview: Switzerland v Portugal

Switzerland and Portugal face-off in a winner-takes-all match for the right to be crowned Women’s Four Nations Tournament - and the form book suggests that it will be the Swiss who prove victorious at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.

Portugal will be looking for revenge following their double defeat at the hands of the Swiss in the recent Euro 2010 EHF European Championship qualifiers. In Switzerland last March the Portuguese lost 28-25, with the scores tied at 14-14 apiece at half-time, and back on their home turf in April they suffered a 27-17 defeat, despite only being one goal down at the break at 12-13.

Both sides have looked strong so far here in Liverpool, winning both their games against hosts GB and Italy, although the Swiss have the slightly better record having scored more and conceded less.

Switzerland opened up their tournament with 32-26 victory over Italy on Thursday afternoon followed by a 20-18 win over their hosts last night.

The Portuguese will be wary of Swiss left-wing Annina Ganz who has top scored for her side so far with 11 strikes in two games and who has been ably supported by right-back Karin Weigelt who has nine. However, pivot Ariane Geissman – room mate of GB stars Lynn McCafferty and Holly Lam-Moores at Aarhus – was quiet in the match last night and will be looking to add to her seven strikes in that opening victory for the Swiss on Thursday.

Portugal’s 100 per cent winning streak could be in jeopardy as both their wins have come by the solitary goal. Their opening game saw them edge GB 23-22 on the full-time buzzer having gone into the break 12-11 down whilst their 27-26 victory against Italy yesterday afternoon also came thanks to a last-second strike from right-back Maria Pereira, despite the game tied 12-12 at half time.

Centre-back Claudia Correia is a real threat in front of the goal for the Portuguese having scored 13 times so far with a 100 per cent record from the penalty spot. Correia is supported by pivot Bebiana Sabino who has a tally of eight from her two games and both players will be trying their hardest to win the trophy and avenge those recent Euro qualifying defeats.

Preview by Andrew McSteen

Friday, September 24, 2010

Full Time: GB 18-20 Switzerland

BATTLING Great Britain narrowly lost for the second time in 24 hours, going down 18-20 to Switzerland in the second match of their Four Nations Tournament campaign in Liverpool.

This defeat rules out the host nation lifting the trophy tomorrow afternoon, but Jesper Holmris’ side will be fired-up against the Italians in their final match, eager to finish the competition with a win under their belts.

GB Head Coach Jesper Holmris had asked his squad before the match to be switched on from the very first whistle and his side responded to his call when GB left-back Ewa Palies (pictured) scored from the penalty spot after just 25 seconds, following a Swiss foul on GB pivot Lyn Byl.

Swiss left-wing Annina Ganz equalised on 3:40 but, despite their best efforts, they couldn’t break through the tough GB defence, particularly GB goalkeeper Sarah Hargreaves who had a near-100% save ratio for nearly the first third of the half.

GB captain Lynn McCafferty, Britt Goodwin, Lyn Byl, Ewa Palies and a special strike from dual Swiss and GB passport holder Yvonne Leuthold increased GB’s lead to 7-3 with 17 minutes gone, which lead to Swiss coach Marta Bon calling a time out for his side.

Holmris then called his own time out, bringing on attacking players Holly Lam-Moores, Kathryn Fudge and Louise Jukes for the first time and they further inspired the GB team to a 9-7 lead with six minutes of the half remaining.

This lead soon disappeared though as Holmris was shown a yellow card and a defensive mix up between Hargreaves and her defence saw Andrea Willimann take advantage for the Swiss to make the Swiss deficit only one at 9-8. The third stroke of bad luck came as Jukes was then handed a two-minute penalty for holding and the Swiss proceeded to draw level at 9-9 with just over a minute remaining of the half.

The final minute of the first half was a story of two fouls as Haag scored from the penalty spot to take the Swiss ahead for the first time on 28:48 and despite Karin Weigelt receiving a two-minute penalty for her foul on Kathryn Fudge, GB couldn’t capitalise on the subsequent set piece with five seconds remaining as the Swiss took their small lead into the dressing room.

GB emerged somewhat sluggish after the break and Willimann duly stepped in with two quick strikes and a further strike from Jessica Wenger increased the Swiss lead to four at 13-9 with 32:35 on the clock. A missed penalty by GB left-back Ewa Palies was punished with a penalty strike from the Swiss as the match looked to be getting away from the home side.

But GB stepped up their game and kept in touch with their opponents as Kelsi Fairbrother, Kathryn Fudge and Louise Jukes between them hit the back of the net to make the score 14-17 to the Swiss with half of the period remaining.

Just as the GB squad were getting up a head of steam again, supported by a fantastic home crowd, Hargreaves suffered an injury which required lengthy treatment and Jukes was hit by her second two-minute suspension.

Fairbrother then brought the scores to within two at 15-17, as coach Holmris again was talked to by the officials. A missed Fairbrother penalty was quickly forgotten as Jukes literally smashed the ball into the Swiss net in a classic fast-break score to bring the scores within one with less than seven minutes left in the match.

Hargreaves then pulled off a series of fine saves taking her total to 20 with five minutes remaining, but was clearly in pain from her previous injury. Lam-Moores then brought the crowd to a crescendo as she drew the game even on 56:07 with a great strike.

Swiss coach Bon quickly called a time out to refocus his troops going into the final passages of play and two strikes from Ganz, coupled with the Swiss defence closing down the GB offence, through any means necessary saw them home and set them up for their winner-takes-all clash with the Portuguese tomorrow at 1pm.

GB meanwhile will face Italy at 3.30pm hoping to get a victory and finish the tournament on a high.

After the defeat, Head Coach Jesper Holmris was upbeat about the performance, saying: “We were really happy with the start today, Yvonne didn’t have her best game yesterday against Portugal, but today she started at the right-back position.

“She played really well and made some good passes to her line players and it was really good and positive and we were leading 7-3 at one point. She was really looking forward to this match.

"We have a really good goalkeeper in Sarah Hargreaves – she is only 20 and she has the potential to be one of the best goalkeepers. We not only have a good goalkeeper, but we have a good defence too who are helping her a lot – we are working really well on defence and that helps Sarah a lot.

I think we made a lot less mistakes in the first spell of the first half, but throughout the game as a whole there was probably the same amount of mistakes as the first game against Portugal yesterday.

“The Swiss had a strong defence and a good goalkeeper, but I think the critical moment in the second half was when we were a player up – six against five – and normally that should mean that in this period the score to us is maybe 2-1 or 2-0, but they scored and it was 2-0 to them in this two-minute phase and this was decisive in the match in the end.”

GB Top Scorers - Fairbrother 3, Palies 3
Switzerland Top Scorer - Ganz 7

Report by Andrew McSteen
Pictures by Michele Davison

GB Ready for Switzerland Clash

GREAT Britain take on Switzerland in Liverpool this evening, knowing that nothing less than victory will be enough to keep their hopes of winning the Four Nations Tournament alive.

GB lost a narrow opening match last night against the Portuguese 23-22 and go into tonight’s game with no new injury concerns, although right-back Marie Gerbron has returned to her club in France.

Switzerland meanwhile will savour an extra challenge following their relatively easy 32-26 victory over the Italians yesterday afternoon but are also without a player, following left-back Nicole Dinkel’s return to her club in Germany.

Danish-based pivot Arienne Geissman, who lives with GB captain Lynn McCafferty and Holly Lam-Moores (pictured) in Aarhus and who works with GB Head Coach Jesper Holmris, will be looking to get one over on her friends, whilst Holmris (who spent time as a player in Switzerland) will be aiming to get one over on his old country of employment.

GB will have to be wary of Geissman as well as Karin Weigelt but will have expert knowledge as GB right-back Yvonne Leuthold, who played her club handball in Switzerland for nine years, and who has a joint Swiss and GB passport, will be familiar with the Swiss style of play and know many of the players in the strong Swiss squad.

Lynn McCaffery, GB Captain said ahead of the match: “We need to be mentally ready at the start of the match tonight, not fifteen minutes into the match and we have been working on this.

“We live with Arianne in Aarhus and she’s really fit and really strong, so we know a bit about them, but we’ve really been training hard on our offensive defence all week.

“Handball-wise we’re ready to play our offensive defence, the players know what they’ve got to do and we know how they score their goals after watching them yesterday – they score on lots of fast-breaks. We have to make sure that we don’t make stupid mistakes like we did last night.”

And Holmris added: “I was at the Switzerland v Italy game yesterday and, of course, I have some ideas about the match tactically, but mainly we are looking at our own game and performance.

“We have never played Switzerland before and the whole squad is looking forward to playing them, especially Yvonne - hopefully we can win and then the tournament is open again for us.

“We have to play with more speed tonight as that is our strength – we have to be faster and a bit more aggressive.

“The match is also important as their top scorer, Ariane Geissmann, lives with Holly and Lynn and is working with me, so that will be interesting – it won’t be nice to go back to her having lost. I’m not aware of any forfeits that the losers have to do, but maybe Holly has agreed something!”

Preview by Andrew McSteen
Pictures by Michele Davison

Last-Gasp Goal Helps Portugal to Second Win

A LAST second goal helped Portugal secure their second one-point victory in less than 24 hours, beating Italy 27-26 in their Four Nations Tournament clash at The Echo Arena in Liverpool on Friday afternoon.

The late goal from right-back Maria Pereira helped keep her sides’ 100 per cent winning record, left and the Portuguese on course to win the overall Tournament.

Italy, having beaten Portugal only once in their last four competitive matches, went into the game following their poor performance in the 32-26 defeat against the Swiss in their opening game yesterday, whilst the Portuguese were playing on the back of their one goal victory against hosts GB last night.

However, it was Italy who started the game with purpose as they took a 7-1 lead inside the first ten minutes. Italian left winger Carolina Balsanti proved a thorn in the side for the Portuguese in the opening stages of the match with her perseverance and strength paying off, and she opened the scoring after just 23 seconds on the fast-break, which was followed by strikes from teammates left-back Sandra Federspieler, Balsanti twice, Laura Elena Avram and Carmen Onnis.

In the middle of this one-sided scoring Rita Alves got her side off the mark but coach Portuguese coach Duarte Freitas had seen enough and called a break to the proceedings to address his sides’ problems.

Daniela Silva scored straight after the break and despite Italy again opening a six goal lead through Barani and Avram, Portugal started to get back into the game and were helped by Italy’s influential playmaker Barani receiving a two-minute suspension halfway through the half. Italy were further disrupted through Sandra Federspieler who received her own two minute suspension a few minutes later which prompted their coach Tamas Neukum to call his sides’ time out.

But Portugal applied more pressure and strikes from Claudia Correia, Claudia Aguiar, Maria Pereira and Bebiana Sabino on the buzzer, took the sides even going into the break at 12-12.

The early stages of the second half saw both teams exchange goals, but despite good defensive play from the Italians, and strong attacking from the Portuguese, both sides couldn’t make the breakthrough needed to walk away with the victory.

With the scores equal at 26-26 and only 42 seconds left on the clock Portugal took a time out, and then cleverly ran the clock down allowing for a move straight off of the training court as Pereira took advantage of her teammates’ distraction of the Italian defence to launch a missile that flew into the top of the net with one second remaining and sealing the victory for the Portuguese who march on.

Match Report by Andrew McSteen
Photos by Michele Davison

Preview: Italy v Portugal

The opening match on the second day of the Four Nations Handball tournament pits Italy against Portugal at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.

Portugal edged a 23-22 win against hosts GB last night in a tight match that the home side lead 12-11 at half time and the jubilant Portuguese celebrations at the final buzzer suggested that they had given a lot physically and mentally to achieve the victory - but have they left enough in reserve for the Italians?

The Italians, who watched that match last night, will be wary of Portuguese centre-back Claudia Correia who top-scored against GB with eight, the majority of which were 7m, and they will have to be on their toes to not give the Portuguese any opportunities from the spot as they will be punished. Left-back Rita Alves will also be one to watch and will give the Italians something to think about in defence.

Italy, on the other hand, will be looking for a better time on court this afternoon following their disappointing performance in their 32-26 defeat against the Swiss in their opening game yesterday.

One ray of hope for the Italians will be their left-back Silvia Scamperle who notched up 11 strikes in that match and is the current tournament top scorer.

Italian coach Tamas Neukum will expect more from his side and will hope that he won’t be making any early time out calls again to remind his team of their duties on court, like he did against the Swiss yesterday.

Scamperle’s team mate, left-wing Cristina Lenardon alongside right-wing Carmen Onnis showed glimpses of the threat that Italy could pose, but the Italians never came close to troubling the Swiss yesterday and will hope for, and need, a much improved performance if they are to get off the mark here in the North West.

Preview by Andrew McSteen

GB v Portugal: Pictures now online

Pictures from Great Britain's clash with Portugal at the Four Nations Tournament in Liverpool are now online.

All photographs were taken by Michele Davison.

Click here to go to the Photo Album.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

GB Go Down 22-23 to Portugal

LEADING narrowly by one goal at half time, Great Britain went down 22-23 to visitors Portugal in their opening clash of the Four Nations Tournament at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.

GB Women faced Portugal on their return to Liverpool, scene of one of their greatest victories nearly a year ago to the day when they beat Finland in the 2010 European Championship pre-qualifier, but couldn’t repeat that result or their summer 26-18 friendly victory over the Portuguese here tonight.

Portugal opened the scoring from the penalty spot within a minute of the match starting, but GB left-wing Holly Lam-Moores quickly equalised in front of a passionate, partisan crowd.

However, Portugal proved to be quicker out of the blocks and lead by their centre-back Claudia Correia, who top-scored in the game with eight, they quickly built a 5-2 lead before stretching it to four as left-back Rita Alves started to get in to the game and with just over 12 minutes gone on the clock GB found themselves 8-4 down.

But the GB fighting spirit soon shone through and goals from Marie Gerbron, Ewa Palies and GB captain Lynn McCafferty, saw the home side back in contention at 7-9 with less than 10 minutes left of the half.

GB Coach Jesper Holmris then called a time out where he delivered a passionate war cry which saw his side step up their efforts, defending solidly and strikes from Gerbron, Lam-Moores, McCafferty and finally Fudge, following fantastic recovery work from Lam-Moores, who put her side 12-11 up going into the break.

Britt Goodwin extended the lead to two for GB early on in the second period, but the half-time break had come at the wrong time for GB as Portugal powered back, scoring six of the next seven goals to find themselves 17-14 up with 20 minutes left. A two-minute penalty for Portuguese pivot Bebiana Sabino soon after allowed GB to bring the score within one through Gerbron and Lyn Byl who were backed-up by strong goalkeeping from Sarah Hargreaves which lifted the crowd who sensed victory.

Holmris then switched tactics, bringing on Louise Jukes for Hargreaves on a number of occasions, pushing for the equaliser but was frustrated by missed chances and the Portuguese defence.

With three minutes left on the clock Lam-Moores brought the scores to within two at 21-23 and as GB applied the pressure everyone watching held their breath as a great double save from Hargreaves and a strike from Yvonne Leuthold, who made it 22-23 with 21 seconds remaining, saw GB close to drawing even.

However there simply wasn’t enough time on the clock and as the full-time buzzer sounded the Portuguese celebrated their narrow victory.

GB top scorers: Palies 4, Gerbron 4
Portugal top scorer: Claudia Correia 8

Report by Andrew McSteen
Pictures by Michele Davison

Preview: GB v Portugal

GB Women face Portugal tonight as they return to the Liverpool ECHO Arena scene of one of their greatest victories nearly a year ago to the day when they beat Finland 24-23 in front of 2,000 passionate fans to confirm their two-leg 41-37 victory in the 2010 European Championship pre-qualification match.

That win was swiftly followed by what GB Head Coach Jesper Holmris said was one of the best results so far for his fledgling squad - a 26-18 victory over Portugal - at an invitational tournament in Spain last May.

GB have no injuries going into the match with the surroundings are well-known to the squad with north-west-born GB players Kathryn Fudge and Holly Lam-looking to perform particularly well in front of their friends and family.

Left-wingers Lam-Moores and the free-scoring Britt Goodwin will pose a threat up front for GB, whilst captain and playmaker Lynn McCafferty and line Lyn Byl, who plays for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, will prove a tough, physical test for any players who dare to take them on.

Waiting for teams who do get through the GB defence will be GB goalkeeper Sarah Hargreaves who has been in fantastic form for her country – much to Finland’s annoyance in that double-header last year.

The Portuguese on the other had most recently lost all six of their EHF European Championship Group 1 qualification games but were unlucky to lose 28-25 away to Four Nation opponents Switzerland in a match that was tied at half time.

25-year-old right-back Ana Sousa top-scored for the Portuguese in that campaign and now plays for Mar Alicante in Spain having played in Slovakia, France and Italy.

More notably Portugal played former World Champions France last November in a friendly tournament, narrowly losing 30-25 which highlights how much of a threat they can be to the hosts here in Liverpool; however, you have to go back to June 2008 for their last competitive win when they beat Poland 35-24 in the 2008 Women’s European Championship Play-off.

With the exception of de Sousa and goalkeeper Daniela Pereira, who secured a summer move to Le Harve in France, all of the squad play in the Portuguese Seniores Femininos 1a Divisao Organização.

Players from Portuguese sides Madeira Andebol SAD and Colegio Joao de Barros make up the majority of the squad with 12 of the 19 named squad players. Maderia find themselves in EHF 2010/11 Women’s Cup Winners’ Cup action against S.P.E. Strovolos of Cyprus in October, whilst Colegio Joao de Barros of Pombal start their EHF Cup action against Le Harve in the same month. Players from Juvelis and Gil Eanes will also be competing in EHF European competition later on this year too.

GB will be looking to start off their Four Nations campaign with a strong performance against the Portuguese who themselves will be thinking the same. Whatever happens tonight both teams won’t have long until their next game – they’re both in action tomorrow at the ECHO Arena so why not come along and see for yourself?

Preview by Andrew McSteen
Pictures by Michele Davison

Four Nations: First Blood to Switzerland

Switzerland 32
Italy 26

The opening game in this GB Women’s Four Nations Handball tournament here at the ECHO Arena in Liverpool saw Switzerland beat Italy 32-26 in a match in which the Swiss were always in control.

Despite a fantastic performance from Italian left-back Silvia Scamperle (pictured) who notched up 11 strikes and was the top-scorer in the match, her side couldn’t compete with the Swiss although the early stages of the match saw the scores tied at one point before the Swiss stretched their lead to 6-3 through Annina Ganz, just shy of the 12th minute.

A two minute penalty just seconds later for the experienced Swiss left-back Nicole Dinkel allowed the Italians to bring the game back square, but the Swiss started to show glimpses of their form as pre-tournament favourites as Denmark-based pivot Arienne Geissman started to take control of the court and alongside right-back Karin Weigelt opened up their lead to three, prompting Italian coach Tamas Neukum to call a time out for his team after 14 minutes.

Italy came out from their short break refreshed with Scamperle and Italian left-wing Cristina Lenardon starting to make a match of it. Helped by Swiss pivot Andrea Willimann being given a two-minute penalty on 23:43, the Italians started to compete as Scamperle scored from the resulting penalty and their right-wing Carmen Onnis scored soon after to bring the scores back level – but this would be the last time in the match as Angela Dolder put the Swiss 13-12 up just three seconds before the half-time break.

Weigelt, Dinkel, Geissman and Annina Ganz then proceeded to turn the screw on the Italians who found themselves five down and, visibly despondent and tiring, as Coach Neukum called another time out just six minutes into the half.

Despite Scamperele taking her tally to 11, Italy never came close to troubling the Swiss in the second half who looked stronger as the game went on, with quick, fluid movements swift handling and smooth passing and link-play with Geismann, who top-scored for the Swiss with seven strikes, and Ganz proving more than a match for their opponents.

Despite a number of two-minute penalties agains the Swiss in the latter stages, Italy were unable to compete and will go in to tomorrow’s match against Portugal knowing that they have a lot of work to do on the training court.

The Swiss meanwhile will be looking ahead to their game against GB tomorrow knowing that they will have to move up the gears to compete against a strong-willed side with fantastic partisan support.

Report by Andrew McSteen
Pictures by Michele Davison

Switzerland v Italy - Preview

Today’s opener in the Women’s Four Nations Handball tournament here at the impressive ECHO Arena in Liverpool sees the Swiss take on the Italians this afternoon (throw-off at 2.30pm), ahead of the GB v Portugal match-up tonight at 6.30pm.

Recent form suggests that the Swiss are the strongest side here as they were the only team to win any of their matches in the recent EHF European Championship qualification competition, beating Portugal both home (28-25) and away (27-17) in March and April in Group 1.

Italy will be wary of Swiss left-back Nicole Dinkel who plays for Frisch auf Göppingen in Germany, and who poses a real threat to all the teams over the next three days. Swiss centre-back Nadja Wälti is a team mate of GB Goalkeeper Laura Innes at LK Zug, and Swiss pivot Arienne Geissman who plays her club handball alongside Holly Lam-Moores in Aarhus, Denmark.

Players from the Swiss national team play in some of the strongest leagues in Europe with players playing in the Danish and German leagues, but the majority of the Swiss team play for Lucerne-based side Spono Nottwil Handball team who provide five of the named squad.

The Italians meanwhile lost all six of their EHF European Championship Group 4 qualification games but were unlucky to lose at home to Slovenia by two and to Belarus by four. However, left-back Silvia Scamperele freely scored for the Italians during the campaign and will be one to watch.

The Italians, with the exception of right-back Francesca Marsano who plays in Slovakia, all play in the Italian Campionato Nazionale and Sardinian side HC Sassari have the most club players in the national side with six of the 16 named players.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

GB Ready to Repeat Past Glories

THERE’S only one place to be this week if you’re a fan of British Handball - Liverpool!

Great Britain Women are returning to the scene of their famous victory over Finland last year to host a Four Nations Tournament on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

As well as GB, also in town are Switzerland, Portugal and Italy who will all be aiming to win the Tournament, which pits GB against some tough - but realistic - opposition on their way to the Olympic Games in 2012.

Great Britain beat Finland at the Echo Arena last year to reach the qualifying group stages of the 2010 European Championships, and they will be aiming to recreate the scenes of celebration on Saturday by taking victory in this latest tournament.

GB beat Portugal 26-18 earlier this year, but will not be expecting an easy ride from any of the teams.

Several members of the GB team hail from the North West - including 21-year-old winger Kelsi Fairbrother who, although raised in Aldershot, comes from a large of proud family of Liverpudlians.

“I have a special place in my heart for Liverpool and have lots of friends and family who I am hoping will come along to Echo Arena to support the GB girls during the four nation tournament,” she said.

“The last time we were here the crowd were brilliant and so loud, they definitely made a difference to how we played. I’m really excited about playing in front of my ‘home’ crowd in September I know they will do GB proud again!”

Kathryn Fudge from Bury, and Holly Lam-Moores from Warrington, will also have many family and friends in the crowd for their matches.

GB performances have steadily improved over the last few years, culminating in some superb performances against Austria and Iceland in Euro 2010. And while they obviously could not compete with former World Champions France it was a great learning experience which has helped them continue their improvement.

Keep checking back to www.BritishHandball.com for previews, reports and pictures from the Tournament.

Olympic Volunteer Roles up for Grabs

WITH less than two years to go to the London Olympics Games, the event organising team has launched an appeal for general volunteers to help the event go smoothly.

Branded Games Makers, the latest batch of volunteers will hold general roles rather than specialist handball roles, but will play an equally important part in making the event a big success.

Roles such as ticket checkers, costume assistants, welcome desk staff and event stewards all need to be filled, so if you haven’t volunteered yet - now is the time to get involved in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Sebastian Coe, Chair of LOCOG, said: “Volunteering with us will be challenging but the rewards are life-long as our London 2012 Games Makers will literally make history happen.

“We want the best team players in the UK to apply, people who show the same qualities as our athletes including dedication, focus and grace under pressure.

“Whatever your role, you will help welcome the world and show what the UK has to offer. If you have what it takes to be a London Games Maker, apply now!”

For information on volunteering roles and the application process, please visit www.london2012.com/volunteering

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Training Gets Tough for GB Under-21s

THE development of the GB Men’s Under-21 handball squad continued last week, with the team travelling to Poland to take part in a three-match tournament against top club opposition.

The squad’s training regime has stepped up several gears as the coaching team tries to establish their strongest team, with seven training sessions in four days, plus three matches, really putting the players through their paces.

“It gave us the chance to assemble our best players, with the exception of Gawain Vincent who was unavailable,” said coach Bill Baillie. “So it was good for the UK based players to see the level of training required to compete at this level.

“We also carried out invaluable basic movement testing on all the players in order to help the Strength and Conditioning Coaches plan individual programmes and injury prevention programmes.

“We also had four players on trial basis with all doing well. Robert Avery and James Higgins have got potential to go on to the long list, and Mukesh Singh and David Kjaeling will be valuable players for the England youth teams.

“We are now very close to knowing our strongest squad.”

After losing out 33-20 to Polish Second Division side Leszno, they played better against First Division side Wolszyn, losing 37-31. They then took on Wolszyn Under-21s, and won 31-45.

Seb Edgar (pictured) was top-scorer over the three matches with 28, while Chris Mohr added 21 and Alex Girvan 20.

Goalkeeper Nicholas Satchwell played well, while Seb Edgar was voted best player at the event. And of the new players, James Higgins did well after moving up from England Under-17s, while Robert Avery looked sharp in goal.

Handball at Horse Trials? Neigh!

THERE’S no stopping the growth in handball’s popularity, and the great and the good of the horse world were the latest to see for themselves just how much fun it can be!

British Handball had a stall at the Blenheim Horse Trials in Oxfordshire last weekend, where spectators could have a go at handball.

GB players and officials helped spread the word about the sport, which is one of the fastest growing in the country at the moment.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

GB Duo Aim for Elite League

GREAT Britain captain Ciaran Williams and team-mate Sebastian Prieto have both signed for ambitious Norwegian club TTIF Tophåndball Halden after successful trials over the summer.

22-year-old playmaker Williams, from Edenfield in Lancashire, and 23-year-old right winger Prieto, from Crowborough in East Sussex, will form a key part of the team who are pushing for promotion to the Norwegian Elite League this season.

“We both agreed that it was a great opportunity to play in a young team who have similar ambition and aspirations as ourselves,” said Williams.

“The team’s goal this season is to qualify for the play-offs for the Elite League. This is great for us, as it means the intensity at every training session and the commitment of the players is of the highest level, and helps us as we look to develop and help GB when we are on camp.

“Our coach here Jonas Wille, will also be working closely with us and our GB coaches to ensure that our development here is maximised.”

After battling back from an ankle injury, Prieto is now returning to top form just in time for the beginning of the season on Sunday, while Williams is still currently a couple of weeks away from being fit to play after having surgery on his foot eight weeks ago.

“The average age of the team is 22 which is great for me and Sebastian as we fit into that perfectly, and can hopefully play pivotal roles in the team’s success.

“The team is bolstered by a couple of older more experienced players too, one being Jan-Thomas Lauritzen, Norway's most capped player.

“To play with a player of such experience is only going to help myself and Seb develop further, and we can't wait for the season to start!”

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Keeper White Signs for Greek League Club

GB goalkeeper Bobby White is now playing in the top Greek Handball League after being offered a deal to play for Kydon.

White, 27 and from Milton Keynes, is based in Chania on Crete but will regularly travel to the mainland for away matches in the Greek League.

“I was originally planning on going back to Denmark,” said White, who has also played professionally in Austria and Denmark. “But the last minute offer from Kydon Handball Club was very interesting for me.

“The lure to play in the top Greek League and of getting plenty of court time was too much to turn down as, right now, match experience at a good level is what I need.

“So far the training has been going well, primarily pre-season fitness but we have started handball now and the squad is looking strong and this season the club are hoping for a top five finish.

“I am gradually getting back into form, I had a little break after our European Qualification matches in June and I am really looking forward to getting back into action when our season kicks off on September 18th.”

White’s move to play in the Greek League marks the latest move in a remarkable rise through the ranks for a man who only started playing handball three years ago.

He begun playing handball after applying through the Talent ID programme to be part of the Great Britain squad and transferring from semi-professional football for Newport Pagnell and Ardley United.