Wiederer: “Very optimistic for the upcoming women's events”
Ahead of the last two matches of the Women’s EHF EURO, EHF President Michael Wiederer took his balance of the event in terms of organisation, sportive highlights, development, and women’s handball in general.
ehfeuro.eurohandball.com: What is your take on the first Women's EHF EURO hosted in three countries?
Michael Wiederer: All three hosts organised this tournament at a high level. It makes sense to split a tournament like this into several countries, especially in terms of viewership. That was already worthwhile at the Men’s EHF EURO events 2020 and 2022, and we will see this again for the women in 2024, when 24 teams will be at the start for the first time. In terms of quality, we saw good teams and top matches, of course the usual suspects of the last decade are on the court on the final day, with the comeback of Montenegro surprising the most.
ehfeuro.eurohandball.com: Did you see any other sporting surprises?
Michael Wiederer: We saw a lot of good new teams: the Slovenian women have never finished a tournament more successfully, they beat finalists Denmark and stood up to the other finalists Norway for a long time. Switzerland took a point right in their first EHF EURO tournament. We can therefore be very optimistic for the upcoming women's events. Overall, the density among the first teams at this EHF EURO was so high that it was difficult to predict who would do what. Many top teams had problems against supposedly weaker teams. At a European Championship, you have to perform well in every game.
ehfeuro.eurohandball.com: Will the increase from 16 to 24 teams in 2024 serve the development of women's handball in Europe?
Michael Wiederer: The EHF was and is very careful when adapting competitions, we don't want to give an opportunistic signal ‘We are doing something,’ but take a very good look at the markets and the quality of the teams. That's what we did in the EHF Champions League competitions, that's how we did it for the future Women's EHF EURO events. The time has come to play with 24 teams in the women's tournaments from 2024 as well. The new system with a short preliminary round and a challenging main round will again ensure that the best teams play for the title.
ehfeuro.eurohandball.com: At this EHF EURO 2022 it was noticeable that many young players were in the spotlight – is this already the harvest of the EHF Respect your Talent programme?
Michael Wiederer: We are very happy to see these young players because they had already shown their talent at W17 and W19 European Championships. It now depends on how they continue their careers with their clubs and national teams. The fact is that the first step in this program is not about improving performance, but rather that potential future players gain a broad understanding of our sport and their own careers. They get trained for the challenges, and they learn from stars and veteran players. The Respect your Talent project is extremely successful. It also ensures that we can involve former top players.
ehfeuro.eurohandball.com: The first ever EHF Women’s Handball Conference takes place in Ljubljana on the final weekend – what do you expect from it?
Michael Wiederer: On the fringes of the EHF EURO 2022, among many other things, there were two notable events, one being the Sport and Business Conference organised by the Slovenian federation to bring companies from the region together with the EHF EURO. In addition, of course, the Women's Handball Conference with 140 participants offers a platform for representatives of clubs, national teams and external experts. We want to strengthen the base in women's handball. We want to make the tournaments more attractive because that is very important for the overall picture of our sport.
ehfeuro.eurohandball.com: The next EHF EURO comes up in 14 months when Germany hosts the Men's European Championship in January 2024. How is it going?
Michael Wiederer: First of all, we are evaluating the Women’s EHF EURO 2022, then we have about a year to organise this tournament together with the German Handball Federation. The special thing about a Men’s EHF EURO with 24 teams in one country is that it requires a lot of resources. And I've always said that only very few countries in Europe can do that, and Germany can do that. We play in huge arenas there, which we first have to fill. This EHF EURO will be very, very good for European handball, not only because of the public attention, but we also want to offer a lot of attractive features on the fringes together with the DHB.