No clubs, only a few players and no money: At the Handball World Cup, the American team pulled off an even bigger surprise.
This day will go down in American sports history: Friday January 13, 2023. The USA Handball team defeats Morocco in the World Cup in Jönköping, Sweden. 28:27 was the first victory for the US handball team at the World Championships.
Now there aren’t many episodes in the history of handball in America and certainly not successful ones. Handball is an exotic sport in America, as popular as lacrosse in Germany.
The great nation’s national team has a less than stellar record. The USA has participated in the World Cup 6 times so far. They finished last in the competition five times and only once – at the 1995 World Cup – finished 21st out of 24 teams on goal difference.
Team USA manager Herteld: “We’re all still bright”
Our first victory is now very important. “We are all still beaming. It was a very emotional evening for us. Of course we celebrated properly in the dressing room.”Andreas Hertelt says the day after the special victory.
Hertelt, a professional volleyball player in Germany in the 1980s and early 90s and former manager of TuRU Düsseldorf, started improving structures and building a new team four and a half years ago. To do this, he first looked for players with Robert Hedin, the national coach of the United States and the former professional coach of GWD Minden and TuS N-Lübbecke.
Nothing can be gained from handball in America
Since there are no clubs in the US and handball is rarely played in schools, there is no need to do major searches. By comparison: while Germany has 700,000 members in handball clubs, there are only 1,500 handball players in the United States.
“Not every talented athlete in America plays handball because there’s no money to be made from it.”, says Andreas Herteld. So the Hedin/Hertelt pairing went to European clubs, where most American handball players are active. “We made sure we could find players who had dual citizenship and trained in handball in Europe. That’s why we were able to raise the quality of our team.”The manager talks about his pioneering work.
Two American boys at home
Well-known in Germany are brothers Ian and Patrick Hüter, who play for second division club TSV Bayer Dormagen, and Paul Skoruba from VfL Lübeck-Schwartau, also in the second division. One of the team’s leading players is Hungarian goalkeeper Paul Merkovski, who holds an American passport and plays for the national team and Gyongyos in the Hungarian first division.
Curious is the story of the only two players on the team who still play the game in their home country: right winger Ty Reid and pivot Andrew Danlin. “Tyler Reid and Andrew Danlin don’t play handball at home. They throw the ball against the wall 150 times, go to the weight room or run ten kilometers.”, Hertelt explains. They join the group only for four courses a year.
Robert Hedin, American coach
“We are a multicultural team with players from 13 countries who all get along well. This team spirit is what sets us apart.”, says Radingen’s native. He believes his team can keep up with teams from the lower table of the second German league at best.
Bush Handball in America
There are even more reasons to establish new structures in American handball. The 2028 Olympics will be held in Los Angeles. The IHF, in particular, is very interested in the fact that handball is given more weight in the United States. Team USA already has wild cards for the 2025 and 2027 World Championships.
Team USA players pay for their own travel
However, the current team is yet to receive financial support. Win prizes? American volleyball players don’t even dare to think about it. “We don’t have money. On the contrary: when we meet for courses, the players have to cover the travel costs themselves.”According to Andreas Hertelt.
After all, players bring with them a high level of self-motivation. “This American spirit, this unconditional will, is noticeable in everyone. It is perhaps strange for a German that you play so passionately for a nation.”The team manager says.
When they face Croatia’s world-class team on Sunday (January 15), it will be clear where this enthusiasm will lead. Two days later, Hertelt’s team plays against Egypt.
He expected nothing but two clear defeats. But his side is all but assured of a historic win over Morocco in the main round. Andreas Herteld: “And then to play in front of a full house in Malmö, we’ve only dreamed of that before.”
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