IHF and Qatar spoil big event – ​​Team Handball News

Qatari referee Saleh Jamaan Bamurtef shows a yellow card against Croatia. Refereeing was inconsistent to say the least in Qatar.

Former IHF Playing Rules and Referees Committee (PRC) Chairman Christer Ahl blames the IHF and Qatar for having inconsistent officiating and unfair advantages for the host country.

It should have been an exciting, biannual competition, where all the focus would be on the star players and the entertainment and excitement they are able to provide. One would expect fair play and impartial refereeing, in the spirit of “let the best team win!” But this time, the IHF and the Qatari host conspired in various ways, so the focus was instead on the mercenaries of what was supposed to be a Qatari national team, the many advantages they gained and the totally inconsistent officiating that was often decisive. factor in key games.

Can we buy everything?

It all started in 2011, when to everyone’s surprise, the IHF Council decided to award the organization of the 2015 event to Qatar. Especially in the context of the more high-profile cases around the awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar, there have also been many suspicions and accusations around the IHF’s decision for handball. It is ironic that the favorite country to win this event in 2015 is precisely France, opponents of Qatar in the final, who now have to deal with the additional burden of being against the home team and all that that entails.

But the main subject for many observers was that Qatar had imported eleven players to fill all the key positions in its team, taking advantage of its own rules for awarding “half citizenship” in Qatar, in combination with the very IHF leniency regarding changes of citizenship. (On the other hand, FIFA has much stricter rules in football). We find it normal that rich club teams use their resources to acquire the best players in the world, but we expected, until now, that national teams are real national teams.

Another aspect, unrelated to the Qatari team that became a problem for many other teams in important matches, was the incredible nominations given to incompetent Qatari referees. They were allowed to spoil several important games, and in one game it clearly affected the result, unfairly preventing Brazil from securing a sensational win over Croatia in the Round of 16. It’s hard to imagine that the iHF Chief Referee was so oblivious to this issue, so one has to assume that the instructions must have ‘come from above’.

Referees under pressure

With their imported squad, it’s no surprise that Qatar are progressing from the group stage to the playoffs. And here it quickly began to look like the path to a possible final was being paved for the home side. It was obvious that any pair of referees who have a reputation for being particularly good at withstanding pressure were kept out of Qatar’s round of 16, quarter-final and semi-final matches. And in any case, the “less resilient” referees were seen by neutral observers as having had a lot to do with Qatari victories in very close matches. In turn, Austria, Germany and Poland left the court furious with mysterious rulings at critical moments, and completely neutral observers also thought that was a bit too much.

During my own time as the person ultimately responsible for officiating and fair play on the pitch at IHF events, I know the situation all too well. In 2007 in Germany, the IHF seemed to somehow ‘owe’ the gold medals to the host country, and many aspects were put in place to favor the hosts. This included the situation in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, where all tickets had been sold to German fans, and where IHF bosses even prevented me and my colleagues from taking justified action. against the home team. At least we tried to offset the pressure by appointing referees known for their courage, but even that didn’t help. And in 2009, when the Croatian local team lost the final against France, I received threats for appointing referees known to remain neutral and resistant. Here in Qatar, surprisingly, the situation has instead been exacerbated by questionable appointments.

Irresponsible changes in rule interpretations and instructions

Many handball fans who follow Europe’s top competition are likely to agree that the intentions of the 2010 regulations to clamp down on cynical and dangerous actions never quite materialized. The IHF and EHF were unwilling or unable to insist on stricter adherence to the spirit of the rules, so cynicism and dirty tricks flourished. Therefore, I applaud the intentions of the IHF, as discussed and agreed at a conference of all stakeholders, including top coaches, a few months ago, to make a more concerted effort in the context of the next round of rule changes and instructions.

But what the IHF President then suddenly decided was totally crazy and irresponsible! The IHF Referees Commission and Coaches Commission have been ordered to implement new, stricter interpretations with immediate effect in Qatar. Additionally, this was done without warning the team, who would normally need to be fully informed of major changes 6-12 months in advance so they can adapt and prepare. Instead, they received a brief explanation the day before the event started…! No wonder the media around the world has been filled with shocked reports of the flood of punishments being meted out to unsuspecting players and teams, who cannot fathom what happened.

However, it seems that one specific team, namely Qatar, must have been extremely well informed of the new stricter interpretation of the rules and completely prepared to adapt to it, so that they actually deserved much less punishment. than all the other teams. Because it’s not very pleasant to think of other possible explanations why the referees, match after match, found very little reason to award 2-minute suspensions against Qatar…

Referees put in an impossible position

Obviously, a sudden adaptation to the new standards would have been difficult for the referees even if the team had been prepared and ready to cooperate. But now the referees were caught between protesting teams and a realization that if they failed to follow instructions they risked being sent home after the group stage. Some referees manage this kind of adaptation and pressure better than others, but it is clear that inconsistencies are likely to appear both during matches and from one match to another. Some referees got carried away, taking too hard a line in a game that was not very hectic, while others returned to their habits of the past few years.

What’s worse is that the uncertainties around a new interpretation always serve to increase the scope for biases and one-sided treatment by teams. Worse still, there are more “opportunities” for referees to fall under the pressures I discussed above, simply because the number of “marginal” decisions will increase. Moreover, if the teams were not always able, or wanted, to adapt to the new interpretations, it seems that they quickly saw an opportunity to derive undue advantages from them. What I mean is that if the player knows that the referees will be more willing to penalize overt fouls, then he will resort to “drama” and exaggerate the impact of a foul or even fall “gently” to the ground at the slightest touch.

Unfortunately, it seems that the confusion and the massive criticism were too much for the IHF leaders to handle in a considered and constructive way. Horror stories of abusive criticism and confusing comments for referees are circulating. And now, even before the end of the event, my successor as chief referee of the IHF, who had my support when I was ‘exiled’ in 2009, gave a shocking interview on the main website German handball: Link

Essentially, he sees himself as blameless and instead declares half of the referee groups to be idiots who aren’t talented and smart enough to understand their instructions. He therefore declares that they will be expelled. These are the words of the person responsible for interpreting the rules in recent years and selecting referees for Qatar. So if you want to blame the referees for some of the things you saw, you might have to look elsewhere. The behavior and attitude of the IHF President seem contagious! I can only pity the high-level referees who are asked to do a very demanding job.

Some Conclusions

With all the problems listed above, such as the rules allowing “mercenary teams”, and the willful incompetence of many IHF officials, added to the scandalous process involving expelled teams (Australia), free places in the event (Germany, Iceland and Saudi Arabia), or inexplicably overlooked as candidates for available places (Hungary and Serbia), one wonders if the IHF “World Championships” should be taken more seriously. (As you may have noticed, this is the only time I’ve even used this tag in this text).

Now may be the time to eliminate these events, as they have lost their integrity. Perhaps it is better to let the individual continents organize championships for national teams, including qualifications for the Olympic Games, and otherwise just continents and nations concentrate on competitions for club teams, where it there is no pretense that nationality matters. In that case, maybe it is also time to eliminate the IHF, because beyond the task of organizing fictitious championships, the IHF does not do much to justify its existence!