Here we stand on the eve of a new year; but before we embark on a new journey, let us take the time to reflect on the distinctiveness of 2022. Traditionally, in the even years, we start and end with a highlight, and this year we were treated to two exciting top tournaments in Hungary and Slovakia, as well as Slovenia, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. In January, we saw the men’s title return to a nation with a history of winning, and through exhilarating matches, with unbelievable close results, it was the Swedish men’s national team that managed to grab the title and return home with the golden plate for the first time in 20 years. In November, we bore witness to another thrilling spectacle, and in the end, it was the national team of Norway who were showered in confetti and champagne, as they won their 9th European title.
Now that we have glanced at the beginning and the end of the year, we can remember that there was plenty more in between to keep our handball community entertained. The year had more to offer, there were high-level Younger Age Category (YAC) EUROs where Spain had a tremendous season winning both the M20 EURO in Portugal as well as the M18 EURO in Montenegro. The M20 event gave us more to celebrate with complete TV coverage in 20 countries as well as 4000 spectators packing out the venue for the final match. The YAC Championships in Bulgaria, Israel, Latvia, and Romania were also very well organised. It was the YAC Beach Handball EURO in the Czech Republic that capped our 2022 handball summer. Listing the many tournaments co-organised with other institutions, from Olympic to University level, and considering the parallel activities of the International Handball Federation, indoor and beach handball presented a new record of events and a sound basis for the next generation.
Club handball continues to be the mainstay of EHF competitions system; we continue, even in very challenging times, to uphold the integrity of our product. This is not easy; the EHF has been fortunate to have the full cooperation of its stakeholders – the Nations, the Clubs, the Leagues, and the Players, which allows handball to remain resilient. In 2022, the efforts to organise top-level tournaments paid off; with another full LANXESS arena in Cologne and more than 15,000 spectators in MVM Dome in Budapest – the EHF FINAL4s succeeded yet again. We were also proud to present the European League’s Finals in Lisbon and Viborg, as well as the European Cup Finals in Norway and Romania, and Spain.
Looking back at a very interesting year, it felt as if there was just as much action off the court as there was on it. Following the election process of 2021, the members of the Commissions, Boards, and Committees continued to strive for the betterment of the sport and, most importantly, for the benefit of the EHF Member and Associate Federations. The works undertaken were illuminated at the various workshops, meetings, conferences, and most recently at the 16th Extraordinary EHF Congress where our members voted positively across the board for the adaptation of provisions for the legal processes and established English as the only Congress language.
Administratively, the Conference for Secretaries General sets the scene for the Conference of Presidents, and it was in Berlin, where the new Younger Age Category system (as of 2024) had its veracity tested before being formally endorsed by the Executive Committee. The Conference of Presidents in Luxembourg highlighted technical development and initiatives such as the ‘Circle of a Handball Life’, as well as ‘Women’s Handball Conference’ in order to drive ‘European Handball Forward’; this was the event moniker that touched upon several different areas.
As we move forward and as the season continues, our exciting events will be present on stage be it on an international or continental level. Parallel to this, we will do what needs to be done in order to strengthen the basis of our sport. Together with our partners, we will continue to bring you the best that handball has to offer.
In closing, I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the multitude of people who unwaveringly contributed to our sport in 2022, from the professionals within the offices of the EHF and EHF Marketing GmbH, to the members of the Executive Committee and all other members of our Commissions, Committees, and Boards, and beyond to our stakeholders, partners, service providers, and collaborators – I thank you all, most sincerely, for your dedication to European handball.
My final words are reserved for the National Handball Federations of Europe and every single player - whether you play senior, YAC, club, or national team handball: YOU are the heart of our operation, and the EHF successes are YOUR successes!
On behalf of the EHF Executive Committee and myself, I thank you for standing by our side in 2022, and I promise that in 2023, together we will continue to move handball forward.