February 25, 2024

Historic success for the United States in the World Cup – a small handball country, and a big victory

As of: January 14, 2023 at 6:10 p.m

No clubs, just a few players and no money: the US national team still pulled off a huge upset at the Handball World Cup.

This day will go down in U.S. sports history: Friday, January 13, 2023. In Jönköping, Sweden, the American handball team beat the Moroccans in the World Cup. The time of 28:27 was the US handball team's first ever win at a world championship.

Now, the history of handball in the USA does not have many chapters and certainly not successful ones. Handball is an exotic sport in the United States, and is as well known as lacrosse in Germany.

The giant nation's national team has a less than glorious record so far. The United States has participated in the World Championship six times so far. They have finished last in the tournament five times, and only once – in the 1995 World Cup – have they finished 21st out of 24 teams on goal difference.

US team manager Hertelt: “We're all still amazed”

The first victory was more important. “We were all amazed. It was a very emotional evening for us. And of course we celebrated hard in the dressing room.”says Andreas Hertelt the day after the special victory.

Hertelt, a professional handball player in Germany in the 1980s and early 1990s and a former manager of Toro Düsseldorf, set out to improve the structures and build a new team four and a half years ago. To do this, he first looked for players with Robert Hedin, USA national coach and former professional coach of GWD Minden and TuS N-Lübbecke, among others.

See also  Alpha step with front wing: 2023 old chassis?

There is no money to be made in handball in the USA

They didn't need to do much investigation in the United States, because there were no clubs there; Handball is sometimes played in schools, if it is played at all. For comparison: While handball clubs in Germany have 700,000 members, there are only 1,500 active handball players in the USA.

“Every talented athlete in America doesn't play handball because there's no way to make money from it.”says Andreas Hertelt. So the duo, Hedden and Hertelt, visited the European clubs where the majority of American handball players are active. “We made sure to find players with dual citizenship who were trained in handball in Europe. This enabled us to raise the level of our team.”The director said of his pioneering work.

Two American boys alone at home

The most famous in Germany are the brothers Ian and Patrick Hutter, who play for second division team TSV Bayer Dormagen, and Paul Skoruba of VfL Lübeck-Schwatau, who also plays in the second division. One of the best people on the team is Hungarian goalkeeper Pál Mirkowski, who plays for the national team with an American passport and for FC Gjöngyos in the Hungarian First League.

The story of the only players on the team who still live in their home country and “follow” the sport there is a curious one: right winger Ty Reid and center Andrew Donlin. “Tyler Reed and Andrew Donlin don't play handball at home. They throw the ball against the wall 150 times, go to the weight room or run a 10K.”“They join the team only for four tournaments a year,” explains Hertelt.

“We are a multicultural group with players from 13 countries and they cooperate very well. This team spirit sets us apart.”says the Ratingen citizen. He believes his team can only keep up with teams from the bottom of the German second division.

Handball push in the USA

The creation of new structures in American handball also has overarching reasons. The Olympic Games will be held in Los Angeles in 2028. There is great interest, especially from the International Handball Federation, in giving more weight to the sport of handball in the United States of America. There were already wildcards for the US team for the 2025 and 2027 world championships.

Players on the U.S. team pay their own travel costs

However, the current team has not yet received financial support. Victory rewards? American handball players don't dare think about that. “We don't have any money. On the contrary: when we meet in training sessions, the players have to cover the travel costs themselves.”says Andreas Hertelt.

Above all, players have a high level of self-motivation. “This American spirit, this unconditional will, can be felt in everyone. It is perhaps strange for Germany to be able to play with such enthusiasm for a nation.”says the team manager.

We'll see where this excitement leads on Sunday, January 15, when they take on the world-class Croatian side. Two days later, Hertelt's team plays against Egypt.

He himself expects only two clear defeats. But his team almost secured the main role thanks to its historic victory over the Moroccans. Andreas Hertelt: “And then playing in Malmö in front of a full hall is something we could only dream of before.”