The 13th Ordinary EHF Congress, which took place on 17/18 November 2016 in St. Wolfgang in Austria, close to Salzburg, not only marked the organisation’s 25th Anniversary but also a changing of the guard with a new generation stepping up to take the lead.
On the eve of Congress the EHF Media and Communications team spoke to Jean Brihault, Ralf Dejaco and Arne Elovsson at the start of new era for European handball. Read their interviews below.
What's next, Mr. President?
Jean Brihault has been one of the dominating political figures in the EHF in the 21st century. In 2000 he was elected into the Executive Committee. In 2004 he became vice president and eventually, eight years later in 2012, the EHF President when he succeeded Tor Lian.
Another four years later his presidency came to an end as the age limit proscribed within the federation’s statutes prevented the 69-year-old running for another four-year term.
However, positiveness prevailed when the EHF Media and Communications team spoke to Brihault on the eve of the EHF Congress 2016 in St. Wolfgang.
“It has been a wonderful experience with some successes and some disappointments, but mostly I think we have achieved more successes in a spirit of continuity,” Brihault said.
“One highlight for me has been the development of our major competitions which are really now major events in indoor sport in Europe and even in the world. The second is the quality of the dialogue with the stakeholders. We started from a potential conflict and see where we are now, trying to build everything together.”
This attitude was also reflected in his wishes for the EHF as the federation celebrated its 25-year-anniversary on 17/18 November 2016.
“The best wishes I can have for the EHF is to have another 25 years as successful as the past 25 which would mean that after 50 years the EHF would really be on top.”
The EHF Congress in St. Wolfgang elected a new president on 17 November) with the previous Secretary General, Michael Wiederer, stepping in to the role.
Brihault’s answer when asked what he would like to say to the new president was as brief as it was concise: “That he may find as good a secretary general as I had the luck to work with.”
Of plastic bottles, jumpers and picnic blankets
When he started his presidency in 2012, Brihault had defined the further development of women’s handball as one of the key issues to address.
Four years later that saw, among other things, the formation of the Women’s Handball Board as well as the introduction of the Women’s EHF FINAL4 as the showpiece finale of the Women’s EHF Champions League, Brihault acknowledges that progress has been made, but the end of the road has not been reached.
“If I look at the road that we still have to cover, it’s long, I was disappointed at the last congress that a favourable motion (regarding gender equality) did not go through. So there is still a fair way to go,” Brihault said.
While there will be arguably fewer handball related appointments in Brihault’s calendar, the Frenchman said that he is far away from retiring, but he also said that a new function might not necessarily be in handball, specifying a comment he had recently made to the French Handball Federation when he said, “Je suis recyclable” (I’m recyclable).”
“When you recycle plastic bottles, you can make jumpers or picnic blankets out of them. This is the spirit in which I meant this. I have experience, I’m still capable physically and intellectually, so I’m usable. But I’m not specifically thinking about handball.”
Standing ovation as Congress awards honorary president
The outstanding contribution of Jean Brihault, EHF President since 2012 and Vice President from 2004, and the ‘Honorary President’ award was presented at Congress by Michael Wiederer. He spoke of Jean Brihault’s skills as a diplomat and his approach to his role, never acting in his own interests but always for the good of the sport, especially in areas such as education and development. He also said that he admired Brihault for standing by his side, looking forward, baring teeth when necessary and never thinking only of himself.
In accepting the honorary title, Jean Brihault apologised for his humour during the Congress, concluding: “the Celtic streak in me means that I must joke, otherwise I will cry, because I love you.”
Dejaco: Only with team spirit you achieve success
Together with president Jean Brihault and vice president Arne Elovsson, Ralf Dejaco is the third man to leave the very top of the European Handball Federation after the EHF Congress 2016 taking place in St. Wolfgang, Austria this Thursday and Friday (17/18 November).
72-year-old Dejaco has been part of the EHF Executive Committee for 16 years, since 2004 he is responsible for the federation’s financial matters, being the EHF Treasurer.
“There is a bit of melancholia, but I’m also feeling that it is the right time to go and let the next generation take over,“ Dejaco said when speaking to eurohandball.com on the eve of the EHF Congress.
“That’s what my head tells me, even though the heart is still trying to hang on for a bit. But I’m sure that the next generation will be very good. We will have fantastic successors who will continue to lead the EHF in the best way possible.”
Dane Henrik La Cour, who is already a member of the EHF’s Technical Refereeing Committee, was unanimously confirmed to take over the role of EHF treasurer at the Congress in St. Wolfgang.
“The new treasurer shall try, just like we tried, to embrace team spirit and not to do things only at his own command,” Dejaco said.
“We have always worked well within the financial delegation. You don’t have to be the best of friends, but it does certainly help. We did become very good friends and we worked very seriously at the same time. It has never been hard for me to go to any session. The work has been hard at times, but it was always done among friends.
“Therefore it is my wish for the new treasurer to value the good cooperation that we have established so that the roads that have to be covered are covered together.”
Dejaco’s involvement in handball in his native Italy dates back more than 40 years. In 1970 he founded the handball department at his local club SSV Brixen. He continued playing handball until the late 1980 and was the Italian federation’s president in the early 1990s.
This long connection to the sport is not something that Dejaco will now cut with immediate effect.
“I could potentially envision getting involved in Italian handball again,” he said.
“For sure, I don’t want to become president again, but I could imagine being the bridging person between the national federation and the EHF in order to support Italy becoming a strong handball nation.
“Italy is a land of sports with more than 65 million inhabitants – that is something to take advantage of.”
Honorary member award for Dejaco
For his many years of service to both handball and the EHF, the out-going EHF Treasurer was named as an honorary member of the federation at the conclusion of the Congress in St. Wolfgang.
Dejaco was presented with an honorary member award by Andrea Moser, the federation’s Chief Finance Officer.
Elovsson: First identify the challenges. Then find solutions
It is with a sense of achievement that Arne Elovsson accepted his honorary member award at the conclusion of the EHF Congress.
The 72-year-old has been part of the EHF Executive Committee since 2004 and the federation’s vice president since 2012.
Regardless of any discussion about age limit, it was always clear for him that this would be his final term in a political function within the EHF.
“I have only nice feelings. I decided already four years ago that this was my last term. I think it is the right time to stop. I have a lot of memories, I have a lot of friends, I hope I have achieved something,” he said.
“First of all, I’m thinking about the development of the EUROs as well as of the EHF Champions League – both have made huge steps forward and it has been very nice to be involved in this.”
At the EHF Congress 2016 which took place on 17 and 18 November in St. Wolfgang, there were two candidates for the position of vice president: Anrijs Brencans from Latvia and Predrag Boskovic from Montenegro. Following the withdrawal of Brencans, it was Predrag Boskovic, who was confirmed to the position by Congress.
“As a vice president you have to work hard. The only way to reach a higher level for handball is through the Executive and for the vice president it is vital to have a good cooperation with the president,” he said. “They together have to work very hard and identify new challenges and find solution for them.”
While the immediate involvement in European handball governance comes to an end for Elovsson, chances are high that he will still play a role in his native Sweden.
Engaging Europe’s youth
For more than 30 years, Elovsson had been involved in various roles in the Swedish federation. In 2011 he was the president of the organising committee for the Men’s World Championship in Sweden.
“There are no immediate future plans from my side. I have always been in good contact with the Swedish federation and perhaps they will use me at some point and if they think that I’m the right person for some tasks, I’ll be there and I’ll do my best,” said Elovsson.
“I’m looking forward for more of a free role and for sure I’ll be available if the Swedish federation needs my help and there have been some small hints that they have some ideas.”
On the other hand, Elovsson’s newly-won liberty gives them the possibility to cheer for the hosts when the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 is played in Sweden from 4 to 18 December.
“It will be very nice to sit on the tribune. It is the first time since 1993 that I can just sit on the tribune and enjoy the games and show my reaction,” he said.
The further development of women’s handball has been at the core of many activities during Elovsson’s political tenure at EHF.
For example, he led a steering for the development of women’s handball in the lead-up to the EHF Congress 2012 which then saw the foundation of the Women’s Handball Board – and women’s handball has remained close to his heart.
“Work hard with the young people, so that they start training and go to the arenas and the courts – engage them in handball,” he said when being asked what he wishes the EHF for its 25th anniversary.
“The sport of handball needs a wider base to increase the number of spectators, to have more people interested in handball and to have more players throughout Europe,” Elovsson said.
“We can only reach this, if we work hard with our young players and I would like to say especially with our young girls. Handball is absolutely the best team sport for young girls and we have to make use of this.”