International handball tournament planned in Russia —

Gazprom-funded SEHA-Gazprom League matches resume in Russia. In the 2021/22 quarter-finals, teams from Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia and even the former Yugoslavia met. Two teams represent Macedonia and Croatia, one Serbia. Realnoe Vremya talks about the tournament which could be the only one next season where teams from Belarus and Russia will play with Europe.

Only the engine from Zaporizhzhia came out

The current season has been interrupted due to the special military operation. After that, the European federation began to demand to get rid of the general sponsor, Gazprom, and a Belarusian team from Brest. As a result, both remain, but only one competitor – Zaporizhzhia’s Motor – “got lost”. The team has already announced its desire to play in the German second Bundesliga in the future, Belarusian Chekhov Bears player Andrey Klimovets also went there. The management of the SEHA-Gazprom League is probably counting on the teams that remained in the championship during the creation of the potential Western division. Meanwhile, the East Division was created with four teams from Belarus and Russia. This is Meshkov Brest – almost the immutable competitor of the SEHA-Gazprom League – as well as SKA from Minsk, Masheka from Mogilev, plus Russian CSKA, Neva from Petersburg and two “bear” teams – from Chekhov and Perm.

It is surprising that Gazprom is the main foreigner, Russian teams rarely competed in this league except for Sparta Moscow who played there after its inception. Now it returns to the number of League competitors after being renamed CSKA in 2020 (other surprising things are happening in Russian handball).

Veszprem is also a regular in the SEHA-Gazprom League, and government contacts say we can count on Hungary. Photo:

Hopes rest on Serbia

Most of the teams have always represented Serbia. These are the current Vojvodina and Partisan, Dynamo and Spartak as well as Željezničar, Metaloplastika, Radnički and Crvena Zvezda. In other words, if it does not work with other countries of the former Yugoslavia, the Western division can be formed (it makes sense to call it that if there is the East) from teams from a friendly country. Moreover, he has already participated in the Solidarity Games in Kazan. Hungarian Veszprem is also a regular in the SEHA-Gazprom League, and government contacts say we can count on Hungary.

Regarding the other countries, unfortunately, North Macedonia (current competitors Vardar and Eurofarm, there was one more team last year) and Croatia (current competitors Zagreb and Nexe) may have problems with the state because of all the members of the former Yugoslavia, only Serbia provides support to Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are neutral.

By the way, the Bosnians also participated in the SEHA-Gazprom League (Borac, Bosna, Izviđač, Sloga). There were also Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia, but it’s hard to count on them in the current situation. On the other hand, the North Macedonian Eurofarm is already ready to play at home against Meshkov Brest on August 25, and the presence of the Belarusian team in the tournament does not yet stop Macedonia, Slovakia and Croatia. And yes, the European Handball Federation has authorized the continuation of the competition.

Next to them there is an interesting option with China. The Heavenly Kingdom is actively developing its relations with Europe by trying to raise the level of team sports, a clearly weak link in China’s sports hierarchy. The country already made its League debut in 2019 with a team from Beijing Sports University playing during the season and the coronavirus broke later. Now, China has already scheduled Fenix ​​women’s team to participate in the Russian championship, while the lyrically named men’s club Beijing Stork will participate in the Belarus men’s championship.

China has already scheduled the women’s team Fenix ​​to perform in the Russian championship. Photo:

Why is the tournament great? Everything is paid

In any case, there is some variation in the choice of teams for the tournament, which is a cakewalk for competitors. To begin with, the League itself cares about logistics and meals, which is important for these teams that cannot be described as well-to-do as well as the sport itself. Only Vezsprem, Vardar, Zagreb and Meshkov Brest respect the Champions League level. The Hungarian club finished fourth last season. But the post-COVID-19 situation complicates international communication. The 2020 season is not yet forgotten as many teams did not participate in European competitions or teams withdrew during the tournament. And the division of competitors into two subgroups Russia – Belarus, Balkan states – Eastern Europe seems more comfortable anyway. And in this regard, the tournament with known venues is much more convenient than the surprises of the draw, characteristic of other European tournaments.

The resumption of the SEHA-Gazprom League is the first real fact of the breakthrough of the international blockade. It’s like Vladimir Lenin and Atuturk who established ties in 1922 on the political scene, and in 1924 the USSR national team played the first international match with Turkey. Unlike the Solidarity Games held in Kazan with national teams with weak backgrounds or youth teams, the first match of the SEHA-Gazprom League resumption attracted teams from Hungary and Slovakia with the strongest teams, foreigners from hostile countries at the moment. The League’s press service answered the questions of the Realnoe Vremya journalist whether the participation of foreign clubs is planned as before, whether this international tournament can be called full-fledged by saying “Yes” and “Of course, yes!”

The resumption of the SEHA-Gazprom League is the first real fact of the breakthrough of the international blockade. Photo:

Cooperation with China in handball

It is necessary to note that this year Russian companies have demonstrated that one should not rely on the honesty of seemingly proven former partners. For example, Schalke 04 unilaterally terminated a sponsorship deal that had been in place for around 15 years. The club’s website is not available in Russian as one of the main languages, while only fans have many T-shirts with the Gazprom logo.

On the other hand, in response to the hostile actions of former Western counter-agents, it should be noted the variability of the Russian Handball Federation as one of the key partners of the SEHA-Gazprom League today. Realizing that Western and Northern European countries are more hostile to Russia, the country’s championship has started to invite Asian (China) and African (Zambia) athletes. Meanwhile, the international federation has started to show signs of neutrality in the current situation. He not only gave the green light to the resumption of the SEHA-Gazprom League, but also warned the head of the Norwegian handball federation Kore Lio for the repeated requests to exclude Russia from the international and European handball federations. .

Jaudat Abdullin


The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of the editorial board of Realnoe Vremya.