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26.10.2016, 06:13
Handball makes a comeback in Georgia
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THE ROAD TO 2020: Georgia want to grab the opportunity that the EHF EURO 2020 with 24 teams presents with both hands, as the federation aims to put the sport back into the sportlight
 

Handball makes a comeback in Georgia

The Georgian men's national team sees the expansion of the EHF EURO from 16 to 24 teams by 2020 as a huge chance and a possibility to boost handball around the country.

Participating in an EHF EURO qualification phase for the first time since 2010, Georgia face Italy in a double-header on 2 and 6 November in Group C of the first qualification phase en route to the EHF EURO 2020.

They then play Luxembourg on 4 and 7 January and only the winner of this group qualifies for the main qualification phase.

“The EHF EURO with 24 teams is a huge opportunity for teams like Georgia, but first things come first and we need to qualify for the next phase,” says Zurab Kakabadze, the President of the Georgian Handball Federation (GHF).

“This first qualification stage is a must-win for us. If we reach this goal, we’ll have the opportunity to play against big European handball nations and it’s very important for the further development of handball in our country.

During the main qualification phase 32 national teams will play for 20 places. Surely, this format is easier and leaves more chances for teams like ours.”

Putting handball back on the map

Right before the home match against Italy in Tbilisi, the GHF celebrates its 60th anniversary, and Kakabadze emphasises on the occasion that they want to turn handball into one of the nation's popular sports.

Handball was in the minds of many in 1970s when the sport's arguably most famous Georgian son, Alexander Anpilogov, was part of the Soviet Union team that won the 1976 Olympic Games and the World Championship 1978.

More recently the federation staged international tournaments such as the Women's Trophy in March and the Men's 18 EHF Championship in August. Georgia will also host the Men's Youth World Championship 2017.

Playing on the same level

The men's national team itself is built around experienced players like left back Irakli Chikovani, goalkeeper Shota Tevzadze, who both play in Romania, left wing Revaz Chanturia, who plays in FYR Macedonia, and Sergo Datukashvili, who plays for HC Vojvodina in Serbia.

The team is coached by former international left back, 44-year-old Bekar Orjonikidze (photo above).

“We have some experienced back court players and a great goalie with our team captain Shota Tevzadze. My only worry is the absence of Vladimer Rusia because of injury. He is one of our key players.

“I think all three teams (Luxembourg, Italy and Georgia) are playing approximately on the same level at the moment. We have a very good generation of young players coming. I see the Georgian handball team in very good conditions these days,” Orjonikidze says.


TEXT: Fulya Oktem / İbrahim Yıldız / ts
 
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