For the first time in nine years, a Dutch women's team is taking part in the European Beach Handball Championships, from to 30 June to 5 July in Spain. Netherlands hope to reach the main round - but dream of even more
Dutch women happy to be back at European Championships
Lloret de Mar in Spain has always been a popular holiday destination among the Dutch.
But it wasn’t obvious that a team from the Netherlands would travel there for the women’s competition of the European Beach Handball Championships 2015, as ‘Oranje’ hadn’t played in the event for nine years.
But beach handball is gaining popularity – and importance. The International Handball Federation has expressed its wish to turn it into on an Olympic Sport, and it will already replace indoor handball at the Youth Olympic Games from 2018 on.
"It’s clear that beach handball is a serious sport," says William Weijmans, beach handball coordinator with Dutch federation NHV.
"It’s making big steps towards becoming an Olympic sport. The IOC has added new, trendy and spectacular sports to its programme over the last couple of years. It’s a great impetus for beach handball if it becomes a demonstration sport in Rio (at the 2016 Olympic Games)."
Further development of beach handball
The NHV has stepped up its efforts in supporting the further development of beach handball. Currently five internationally certified coaches and three international referees are active in the Netherlands.
Finally sending a team again to the European Championships fits in the NHV’s beach handball strategy.
"Regarding the international developments and our own targets, it’s great that we are able to send a Dutch team again," Weijmans says. "We’ve got the ambition to set up a men’s national team and under-19 teams for both men and women in the near future."
Good results in Europe for many years
For now, it’s all about the women’s team, which shares Group B with Croatia, Montenegro, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine. Croatia won the title in 2011, while Norway and Ukraine finished third and fourth respectively two years ago.
"Our goal is to reach the main round. Then we would be among the eight best nations in Europe," Weijmans says.
"But, quietly, we hope to get onto the podium. Our women’s club teams have been getting good results in Europe for many years now. We’ve been at the ebt Finals every year since 2012 – and Camelot from Tilburg even won the title there in 2013. So we’re confident for the European Championships."
The team started its preparations early April, when NHV held an open selection day. Numerous players from all over the Netherlands gathered in Aalsmeer to show their beach handball qualities.
Coaches Ronald Thijssen and Léon Budé picked 17 of them for their provisional squad, a mixture of experienced beach handball players and top indoor players.
The squad has since come together twice a week for training, and will be reduced to 10 players before the start of the European Championships.
TEXT: Eric Willemsen / ts
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