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Date: 7/20/2018

Gabriella Horváth, the Deputy Secretary General – International Affairs of the Hungarian Handball Federation (HHF), spoke with IHF.info this week about the great success story on and off the court of the 2018 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship which took place over the past few weeks.

IHF.info: The two playing halls you used – the Hodos Hall and Fonix Hall – were joined by a short tunnel of no more than 30 metres, and half of the teams lived across the road from them. How crucial were they to the success of this tournament?

Gabriella Horváth: The competition site as whole was rather compact with the two halls being next to each other giving a possibility for easy logistics, and a more comfortable stay for the participants. 

Most hotels – for the teams, IHF and local organising committee – were walking distance to the arenas giving the freedom to visit the matches when one wanted and in between the two arenas, the fan zone ensured entertainment for the breaks between the matches.

IHF.info: You also added a FIFA World Cup Fan Zone with big screen next to the Hodos Hall which kept people at the competition venue and ensured you did not lose fans when big football games were on. Were you worried about losing fans?

Gabriella Horváth: This was a strategic move due to the fact that our championship was ‘competing’ with the FIFA World Cup. So beside other entertaining elements, having the handball and football matches on the big screen ensured that people didn’t have to choose between staying home or visit our venue. 

An added extra was that the families, friends and fans of all the teams participating could have a chance for ‘meet and greets’ before and after games, creating a ‘great handball family’ atmosphere.

IHF.info: It was clear that the Hungarian Handball Federation invested a lot of time, effort, human resources and money into the event – not least with the spectacular opening ceremony featuring the worldwide smash hit act 2CELLOS. Were you ever worried that people might not come which would make it a success?

Gabriella Horváth: Well, with just the right combination of event-marketing, corporate identity elements, TV, advertisements, smooth organisation and, most of all, our loveable, charming and talented team the championship became a huge success for us.

We knew from the beginning that even if everyone does their best and invests all the money in the world into the organisation of the event, only a well-performing home team can make it a complete success - and the Hungarian team certainly played their part in the event.

They charmed the whole country with their creative game, team spirit, humbleness and, of course, their ability to win. They also quickly grew into their roles as protagonists and were very mature and professional, serving the event on and off the court.

IHF.info: Now you have had a few days to reflect on Debrecen, what thoughts are you left with?

Gabriella Horváth: Due to all of what I said previously, the championship in terms of visitors and TV viewers went far beyond our expectations.

We had close to 25,000 spectators attend the whole event and were able to put up the ‘sold-out’ signs for the semi-finals on Friday and final on Saturday on the Thursday night before – this resulted in a final weekend we were very proud of. We had over 5,500 spectators on each of those last two days and I will never forget the atmosphere. It is important to emphasise that we had two sold-out days in the second biggest arena in the country.

I would also like to thank all the staff involved with the planning and execution of the event, our 150+ volunteers who gave up their free time and with whom we couldn’t have produced this amazing event, our sponsors, partners, teams, the IHF and everyone else including players from the senior national teams who visited and supported the event like László Nagy, Anikó Kovacsics and Klára Szekeres. 

Also, we had many of the women’s top club coaches attend as well as our national coach Kim Rasmussen.

All of their support for the event, and particularly the players, will help to continue to promote and push forward not only women’s handball, but handball generally in our country.