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Date: 12/19/2017

The New Zealand men’s team will participate in their first major international tournament outside Oceania in January, when they attend the 2018 Asian Men’s Handball Championship in Republic of Korea. The team’s previous experience includes Oceania Nations Cups and Pacific Cups, where they have most often ranked a close second behind the continent’s dominant nation, Australia.


It is the first time that teams from Oceania will participate in the Asian Championship, following the trend set by other sports such as football and volleyball in qualification for World Championships. By joining the Asian continent for the qualification event, New Zealand and Australia will gain considerable experience and have the opportunity to reach the next Men’s World Championship in Germany and Denmark in 2019.


“We know it is very unlikely that we win this event, but we do our best to take this path. For the Asian championship, our main goal will be to play the best we can for the complete duration of the tournament and raise our level as high as we can,” says New Zealand coach Ludovic Galliegue. “We know we are far behind the major nations that will attend the event, but we don't know how far, so we need to gauge the gap and learn the steps to bridge it. We want to produce the best we can and start to pave the path for international victories.”


New Zealand will travel to Suwon to contest the Asian Championship alongside 14 other teams, beginning their campaign in Group D, where they will face Qatar, Saudi Arabia and PR of China. Galliegue says the team range in both age and experience, with some players ready for their first major event and others having gathered international experience within Oceania.


“The players are great guys that are passionate about our game. They are making a huge commitment for this event,” says Galliegue. “They are a great group to work with, very eager to progress and taking ownership of the development.”


Galliegue believes the Asian Championship, from which the top four teams will qualify for the 26th IHF Men’s World Championship in January 2019, represents a crucial step forward for handball in New Zealand:


“This is a great step for New Zealand handball, but also for Oceania Handball. We need these kinds of opportunities in order to develop handball in our region.


“In New Zealand they are two types of people: people that love handball and people that don’t know what handball is. This event and its preparation are giving us a great opportunity to make New Zealanders aware of what handball is. We can already see the growing interest around us.


“For the team this event is a bit of unknown, it is scary and exciting and brings lot of energy in the group.”


Supporters can follow the New Zealand Handball Federation on their official Facebook page.


Photo: New Zealand Handball Federation