New working group and second EHF Trophy

2016 was a important year for the development and promotion of Wheelchair Handball in the EHF.

Following on from the successful organisation of the 2015 European Wheelchair Handball Tournament in Austria – the first of its kind since 2008 – the first meeting of a new wheelchair handball working group set up by the European Handball Federation took place in July.

Also, on the fringes of the Women’s EHF EURO in Sweden, the next edition of the trophy was played in Sölvesberg, close to the EURO venue Kristianstad.

Netherlands defended their 2015 trophy title – again in the final against Portugal, this time winning by a clear 19:10 margin.

The important tasks of the working group, supported by EHF office member Nicole Rabenseiffner, are suggestions for amendments to the IHF Rules of the Game and the classification of players. According to the amendments goals should only have a height of 1.60 metres.

Furthermore and implemented for the first time at Sölvesberg, a team shall consist of five players plus one goalkeeper and – as all teams are mixed – there shall be at least one female player on court at any given time.

Regarding the classification of players the working group agreed to differentiating between non-disabled and players with physical disabilities (not including blind and deaf people).

Only one non-disabled person is allowed to be on court during the match. While this ‘simple’ classification system is implemented to further promote the sport, it was also stated that future high level events need to have a detailed and strict classification system in place.

One of the Dutch double European champions is Frank Hooning, a former baseball player, who started playing wheelchair handball in October 2013.

“We found new players via social media channels and it is really fun with our team. To win the title in 2015 was a huge help in finding new players as we had created some media interest.

Now we have approximately 60 to 70 players in Netherlands. We started with two clubs, now we have five and in near future it will be eight. We will have regular tournaments every month now.”

The wheelchair team is now part of the Netherlands Handball Federation.

Hooning hopes that in a certain time wheelchair handball will be part of the Paralympic Programme – for this, one set of rules have to be implemented. “In Europe, we have them now, but for example in Japan, they play with a soft ball, and the rules in South America are different too,” says Hooning.

Italy have also just started their own wheelchair handball project.

“Two years ago we created a club that was founded in a rehab centre for disabled kids and juveniles,” says Roberto Pierassa, the wheelchair handball coordinator of the Italian federation.

The trophy tournament in Sweden was the first ever international experience for the Italian squad, and they took their first ever win by beating Sweden in the preliminary round.

Massimo Cagiola is a former indoor handball player, who is confined to a wheelchair after an accident – and he is the leader of the young Italian team, and was honoured with a place in the competition’s All-star Team.

“With Massimo as a kind of role model, we want to start recruiting young athletes and to develop more clubs,” say Pierassa hoping for a bright future of the Italian wheelchair handball team.

Italy finished fourth in the trophy competition below the Swedish side, who won the bronze medal match at Sölvesberg, 13:7.

Both 2015 and 2016 finalists – Netherlands and Portugal – expressed interest in organising the next European Wheelchair Handball Tournaments in 2017 and 2018 respectively, should these be foreseen by the EHF.

Members of the working group include Jerzy Eliasz (Chairman of the EHF Methods Commission), Pedro Sequeira (EHF Methods Commission), Marc de Sousa (referee), Bart Neeft (wheelchair handball Coach), Danilo Ferreira (wheelchair handball coach) and Anders Wiiand (Swedish Handball Federation).