Corona worries hang leaden over the start of the EM. Some stars are not there at the start of the tournament. The organizers hope that everything goes smoothly.
Celebrating crowds here, missing stars there – and the fear of infection hovers above everything: Corona worries hang leaden over the start of the handball championship. “It’s really the case that it can happen to anyone. The tournament can be over for any of us from one day to the next,” said backcourt player Julius Kühn to the newspapers of the “Funke Mediengruppe”.
Handball EM: teams plagued by corona cases
A number of professionals got it before the tournament started, almost half of all 24 teams had to complain about corona cases during the preparation. Big names like the Croatian vice European champions Domagoj Duvnjak (THW Kiel) and Luka Cindric (FC Barcelona) will be missing due to corona when the handball classic against Olympic champion France takes place on Thursday evening (8.30 p.m. / Eurosport).
Top favorite Denmark will have to do without their Bundesliga keeper Jannick Green at the start of their title mission on Thursday, while opponents Montenegro recently had four players isolated. Some have already described it as playing with fire that the European Handball Federation (EHF) shortened the mandatory quarantine for players who tested positive for the European Championship from 14 to 5 days last week. For the professionals, a corona infection no longer necessarily means the end of the EM.
Nevertheless, before the next tournament under pandemic conditions, the handball scene discussed less about the favorites than about possible corona failures. “Whoever has the fewest corona cases will be European champion,” predicted top official Bob Hanning in the “kicker” interview.
DHB: Concerns about the games in Hungary
Even if the organizer, in the person of EHF General Secretary Martin Hausleitner, has made the safety of everyone involved the “top priority”, there should be unexpected pictures from jam-packed arenas in front of the television screens in the coming days. Because while the spectator capacity in the German preliminary round venue Bratislava was capped by the Slovakian authorities to 25 percent hall occupancy, there are no restrictions at the co-host in Hungary.
More than 20,000 fans are admitted when the hosts kick off the tournament at the brand-new MVM Dome in Budapest on Thursday. “I’m currently glad that we’re not playing the preliminary round in Hungary,” said DHB sports director Axel Kromer before leaving for the highlight of the season. For the German team, which plays all its preliminary and main round games in Bratislava, it would only go to Budapest in a possible semi-final.
The EHF is convinced of its safety concept, the tournament organizer does not see a risk of cancellation due to the current corona wave. In the current situation, it is “important to remain flexible in order to be able to react quickly to changing circumstances. The tournament management on site has this option,” says Hausleitner: “In this way we can guarantee the tournament will run, and I see not the risk of a possible termination.”