• Bunce on Olympics

Handball. Yes I love it

Steve Bunce August 3, 2012
Denmark and Serbia are two of the powerhouses of handball © PA Photos

Let me tell you a few things about the ancient sport of handball.

Medal Table

It's big in Denmark where it was invented ten minutes ago. The GB team did not exist six years ago and has been built around the men and women who answered Steve Redgrave's call to arms; the rowing king launched a campaign to find and make a handball team. You had to be big and fit and British. The rules are simple: three steps before passing, three seconds without passing from static and that's it. Bish, bosh and goal.

However, we can, for some crazy reason, still compete with the sport's big boys and even bigger girls. You see, it mixes a couple of our passions but the matches, games, sets, ends, quarters, laps, rounds or whatever they are called often resemble rugby sevens more than an elegant football match.

Jan Molby, the Liverpool icon, is delighted: "I love handball, we all played handball as kids," he said. Honest, I would never invent a Molby quote.

I get where big Jan is coming from. A match on Thursday between handball powerhouses Iceland and Sweden saw 65 goals in 60 minutes. I defy any fan of smaller sports not to fancy a bit of that action.

It is not all glory for the GB handball hopefuls, a tale that is sadly so familiar to most of the GB athletes at this, their own Games. Funding has been cut to about three quid a man per year, and our best players have had to become mercenary pivots (I like to use one bit of jargon per day) on the overseas circuit. Some are actually in Denmark, where the players enjoy profile.

It is a sport fought over by the Scandinavian legends and the iron-jawed idols from behind the old red curtain. Mess with Serbia and the record books at your peril and like the Russians at the judo event be careful about who you mock.

It would be nice when the curtain comes down on this Games, after 5,000 Brazilians have brought Sambas to the closing ceremony, the forgotten heroes and pure amateur underdogs in the GB team get their credit. We are quick to praise a swimmer from sub-Saharan Africa for a plucky 100 metres butterfly but slow to praise our own battered no-hopers. I would nominate the GB handball team and give them the Eddie the Eagle Cup. I love the sport, by the way.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.