Norway nearing a full return
With restrictions gradually easing in Europe, Chris O'Reilly looks at how Norway prepares for a return to action in the latest part of the ‘Back to handball’ series, which has so far looked at Germany and the Netherlands.
The Norwegian Handball Association made a proactive decision on 18 March to end the 2019/20 season and use a points-per-game average to calculate the final ranking of the top three divisions.
Now, following a strong and successful approach to dealing with the health crisis, much of everyday life in Norway has returned to normal, with the exception of major events.
Competitive handball looks set to return as well with ordinary training and competitions for the top three tiers of senior competition as well as youth teams up to the age of 19 possible from 1 August - provided that the infection rates are satisfactory at this time.
In the meantime, training is allowed under specific guidelines set by the NHF on 1 June, based on recommendations from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health on 28 May.
Guidelines stating who can train and what clubs must do to create a safe environment have been published by the NHF as well as suggestions for exercises and tips for training structures for all levels of handball.
These measures meant that a handball camp could take place for two weeks in late June and early July in Kjelsås, allowing around 300 kids to be active in an organised sporting environment.
National team heroes leading the charge
A true sign of the return to is action was last week’s announcement of a summer camp for children with disabilities run by the federation alongside men’s national team legend Bjarte Myrhol, taking place on 8 August.
The NHF and Myrhol also teamed up with hockey star Mats Zuccarello, donating to a scheme where young athletes can apply for financial support in this challenging time.
At the elite level, Norway was among the first to dip their toe back into the water on 1-7 June, when they brought the women’s national team together in two smaller groups for a training camp in Kristiansand.
“It is very nice, both to carry out training as well as the social benefits you get being together with the players here. It is a luxury to experience it again because now it has been a very long time without it,” Henny Reistad told the federation’s website.
Monitoring of player’s health and strict hygiene saw the camp run smoothly and served as a confidence boost ahead of last month’s Women’s EHF EURO 2020 draw event.
Eyes and efforts on EHF EURO 2020
Hopes are high that Norway’s biggest upcoming event in December will go ahead as planned, held in Trondheim, Stavanger and Oslo as well as Denmark. On the morning of the final tournament draw, a joint statement was released by the EHF, NHF and co-hosts the Danish Handball Federation struck a realistic yet ambitious tone.
“All our eyes and efforts are set on 3 December. Preparations are on track and planning will continue. We want to host the EHF EURO, and we are working hard to do so.
“Nevertheless, there are different scenarios when it comes to spectators in the arenas – we are not denying the situation as it is right now,” says Erik Langerud, Secretary General of the Norwegian Handball Federation.
“The two organising federations are in close and continuous contact with the respective governments and the local health authorities. We are doing everything to ensure the safest possible environment for everyone involved in and for every step we make towards EHF EURO.”
The road to a successful championship in December will not be a straightforward one, but the return of competitive handball at the end of August across the nation will be a huge step in the right direction.