Panos Antoniou, Member of IHF Beach Handball Working Group – Responsible for Referees and Delegates, looks back at Budapest 2016 from an officiating perspective.
IHF.info: How do you identify and select referees for a beach handball world championship?
Panos Antoniou: We work with the continental federations; the person responsible at the European Handball Federation (EHF), in Pan America we have colleagues there who make proposals and then we choose from them and in Asia.
We also go and see referees in many different events and once we have all the information together we make the proposal to the Executive Committee of the IHF Council and we go from there. I’ll also take this opportunity to underline the great support to the IHF Beach Handball Working Group from the side of the IHF President Dr. Hassan Moustafa and the First Vice President Mr. Miguel Roca Mas.
Budapest was the first time for many years where we had a referee couple from Africa. It was the first time for the Tunisian guys – Mohammed Kamel Drissi and Mohammed Ayumen Ben Salah. They were in Budapest as representatives of the African Handball Confederation (CAHB) and as representatives of the CAHB beach handball family.
We had a chance to see them in the 2015 Mediterranean Beach Games last September and after that we gave them a chance to be at the world championships.
IHF.info: How important is it to have referees and delegates from as many different continents as possible at a beach handball world championship?
Panos Antoniou: We always aim to nominate at least one referee couple and one delegate for each continent. For Europe it is easy because there are lots of them, like Pan America and Asia too.
However, at this moment, Africa as a continent is behind. To change this we have been running courses in South Africa, Tunisia, Angola, Kenya and other places as well and we continue the education and promotion of beach handball there, like the other continents.
IHF.info: Budapest 2016 welcomed the Tunisian women and USA men for the first-ever time, how happy are you to see new countries and referees also appearing for the first time?
Panos Antoniou: For me it was a good experience to nominate, and then see the referees for first time in their career. We had couples from Hungary, Greece, Tunisia, Argentina and the mixed pair from Poland and Turkey, for the first time together.
The mixed pair have had so much experience with previous world championships, but with different partners, but if you know the ‘feeling’ of beach handball it’s not so hard to put different referees together.
We actually had three new referee pairs whistle the bronze matches and finals along with one of the best referee couples in the world – the Qataris. Because Qatar were in the semi-final and bronze medal match, we gave the chance to new referee pairs in the final matches and we were very happy with their performances in all the critical matches.
IHF.info: The mixed referee couple is something that indoor handball has talked about in the past, but Budapest 2016 was not the first time for beach handball?
Panos Antoniou: We actually tried it in the past at Oman 2012 and Brazil 2014 in the main round. We changed partners between nations and it was very successful, so we decided at Budapest 2016 to do it again.
IHF.info: Beach handball is known for female referees whistling men’s games and mixed couples - it is just normal and the players are used to it. However, in indoor handball it is news if a female couple referee a male match. Do you feel it is important that beach handball keeps pushing the boundaries?
Panos Antoniou: I have to say that we are the pioneers with these kinds of referee developments. I will take this opportunity to say that we were the first in worldwide team sports refereeing to have a female referee pair whistle a men’s final.
This was the 2009 World Games beach handball final in Chinese Taipei where the Polish couple of Joanna Brehmer and Agnieszka Skowronek were very successful and in 2010 at the world championship, Jelena Jakovljevic and Vanja Antic from Serbia were very successful in the men’s final.
Female referee couples have been very successful for us. Of course, at first there was a little ‘risk’, but we took it and now we have very good results and if you look at Budapest 2016 we have had lots of female pairs refereeing men’s and women’s games so why not the finals?
The mixed pair managed the semi-final match very successfully, so why not continue in the future? For mixed pairs we can continue to use this in the future for the main round.
IHF.info: How hard was it for the officials to manage the games in the heavy rain? What are their responsibilities?
Panos Antoniou: It’s very difficult for them. It’s very difficult for the players. For the players because of the wet ball and that the sand was too heavy after each spin shot and flight when they fell down. Some received injuries because of this.
In these conditions the referee has to recognise if something happened because of the weather or because of unsportsmanlike behaviour or infringement of the rules by the players.
I am satisfied for the performance for the pairs and also from the delegates too because they have an important role before during and after the game. I would like to thank them all and for their performance.
In the venue, hotel, outside, we really have the beach handball ‘atmosphere’. Between the teams, the players, the referees and the delegates we are all a team together.
I’m really glad to say I am also involved with indoor as a delegate, but this kind of atmosphere in beach is very nice for us.
IHF.info: How has the group of officials been during their week together in Budapest?
Panos Antoniou: If a referee couple or delegate receive a nomination for a world championship in beach handball they will know immediately the atmosphere and conditions they will get when they arrive.
I am very, very happy because when we announce our nominations, from anywhere around the world they all become friends.
There are people who have not been at world championship since 2009 but they are still friends.
Beach handball provides good chances to try new cultures, new attitudes, new ways and new styles of life.
Europe is different to Asia, Asia is different to Pan America, Pan America is different to Africa and Africa is different to Europe, but all our nominations have become friends and they will continue to be friends for the rest of their lives.