Gabriella Horváth: “Beach handball EURO is a great product: be curious, take us, love us!”
The EHF Beach Handball EURO 2023 in Nazaré is at its halfway point, with top-level play at an impressive venue. An interview with Gabriella Horváth, the EHF Beach Handball Commission Chairwoman and EHF Executive Committee Member, about her vision on the tournament so far – and beyond.
beach.eurohandball.com: We are on day three of the five-day tournament. What is your impression so far from the EHF Beach Handball EURO 2023 in Nazaré?
Gabriella Horváth: “When we arrived to Nazaré, we already knew that we were coming to a place that is a beach handball city, with a beach handball-loving management, because it is not the first time we are here. We were also here in 2016 for the YAC EURO. I think it is exciting that many of those players who played at that EURO as young ones are now back competing in this fantastic place. Already then, the infrastructure was fantastic, and now we arrived at an infrastructure that some of the people that I met here, called: ‘This is a statement.’ I think the infrastructure serves all the needs we have; we can show excellent images from this wonderful sport. I hope that we can create a lot of curiosity around it, because that is one of the key factors.”
beach.eurohandball.com: How has the feedback been so far the EHF receives?
Gabriella Horváth: “We get a lot of positive feedback. Of course, we are posting the images, the matches are available, we also sold as many broadcast rights as never before – covering 36 territories. This Beach Handball EURO is the most accessible ever. We can reach the people and we are getting fantastic feedback from here and also from abroad. The players love it, the coaches also talk with a lot of respect about the work we have been doing together with the local organisers. Everyone wanted to create something unique, an event that is really accessible for the people, that has a great look. I am really satisfied.”
beach.eurohandball.com: Does this setup here also reflect the positive development of beach handball in recent years, also within the EHF?
Gabriella Horváth: “Yes, I completely agree. We put a lot of effort in developing the sport. And it is challenging to develop every aspect of the sport, but it is our aim to do that, to encourage the federations, the clubs, the players, but at the same time also develop the product itself. Yes, we can say this is the most wonderful venue we have ever had. Every bit of it is just signalling here we are, it is a great product, be curious, take us, love us!”
beach.eurohandball.com: There has been a scheduling issue as the EURO had to be played already in May this time, since beach handball has been included in the 2023 European Games in Poland in June. How do you see this issue?
Gabriella Horváth: “This is a very unique problem that we needed to solve, but the source of the problem is something really, really good. The purpose of this date is a good one and shows that beach handball has earned its place on the European ‘Olympics’ for the first time. This has been our aim since the early 2000s. This has been the price for it; it is of course not optimal for the players, for the teams, in terms of preparation and also some collisions with indoor handball leagues still ongoing. But when we explain it, everything makes sense for everyone – this is the beach handball family, they understand: together, hand-in-hand, we can walk forward. I must say, the teams are always ready to collaborate, this is very important.”
beach.eurohandball.com: Can you give an idea of the preparation for such a major event: when did you start planning for the EURO, what were major steps along the road?
Gabriella Horváth: “We started planning this EURO over the last one. When we were at the last EURO, we could see the challenges, the implemented good solutions, what was prepared really well, and what were the small mistakes. The things we wanted to develop we identified and described already right there, writing the notes when experience is still fresh. Since then, we have kept working on it, we have fantastic office people who keep pushing the entire year to produce all the necessary regulations, materials, media guides for the next EURO. The other thing is the need for a venue. We start the bidding process in the fall, so when we schedule the EURO qualification, we can already announce where the EURO is going to be, so we have a target to reach.”
beach.eurohandball.com: Do you have a certain region in mind where you would like to see the next EURO taking place?
Gabriella Horváth: “No, but I would like to see more and more countries coming to play beach handball and having new organisers, to visit new places. When we go somewhere, there is a legacy of beach handball when we leave. The more places we go, the more legacy we have. I would say to all federations: think about it and surprise us with some good biddings.”
beach.eurohandball.com: Setting the bar this high in Nazaré, have you already ideas how to build on this and take even another step for 2025?
Gabriella Horváth: “There are a few things that we already started to think about. One can always do things better. What we will think over is the schedule. Especially with the many broadcast rights sold alongside with the increasing interest, the schedule has become really, really tight. I think we have to change the schedule a little bit, so it fits better with the interest coming from the media and from the broadcasters. We have to give them more rooms to schedule the games. At the same time, we can give more rest and preparation time for the competing teams. As for the venue, I think this is a fantastic venue, but there is always room for improvements.
beach.eurohandball.com: How do you want the EHF Beach Handball EURO 2023 to be remembered?
Gabriella Horváth: “I already spoke about creating curiosity. Now, the EURO being so accessible through all the media channels, this is an important message. We would like to create curiosity and reach the hearts of the fans, coaches as well as other handball stakeholders. We always talk about how much a youth player can develop – physically, tactically, and technically – by playing beach handball that eventually contributes to their indoor career as well. And we would like to increase curiosity and make everyone aware of how beneficial this beautiful sport can be, apart from being spectacular to look at. We are still facing some old narratives about overload and injuries, but those are already broken down by university studies. I have tons of arguments why beach handball is good for indoor handball, too. It is so important, not just for beach handball, but for handball in general.”
photos © Uros Hocevar, Jozo Cabraja / kolektiff