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Date: 12/22/2018

The 2019 IHF Men’s World Championship in Germany/Denmark is ready for action as 24 teams will battle it out for global glory over 96 matches in six venues spread across the two European countries from 10-27 January.

But the tournament features a ‘25th team’ – the referees, with 16 pairs (+ two reserve pairs) announced back at the end of October by the IHF.

One of the 16 pairs are French brothers Karim and Raouf Gasmi and over the past few years – in addition to their duties at home in France – they have officiated at several senior African and Asian continental competitions, in the Men’s VELUX EHF Champions League, at two IHF Men’s Junior World Championships and, most recently for the IHF, at the 2018 Women’s Youth World Championship in Poland where they took charge of the final as well as numerous other matches.

IHF.info spoke with the Bron-based 33-year-old Karim and 31-year-old Raouf as they enter the final preparation stages of the global handball showpiece event following the IHF refereeing workshops held in Frankfurt and Wetzlar in October.

IHF.info: What inspired you to want to become referees?

Raouf: We first discovered handball through the Bron Handball Club, a team in Bron, a town which is on the outskirts of Lyon, the second city of France. We were players and coaches for the youth teams as well as referees and we just thought, finally, ‘let’s focus on becoming the best referees we can and work together’.

We actually created a ‘School of Refereeing’ programme at the club which is still going on today.

Karim: In France, back then, around 1996, there was a programme for very young referees, which saw the French National Technical Director launch a plan aimed at young referees whistling younger age matches.

So, since 1996 there has been referee talent scouting throughout all the youth competitions and from this, young referees are seen by teams of technical and refereeing managers.

Even though we are now IHF referees, it is important for us to continue to participate in training and mentoring young referees in France.

IHF.info: What do you enjoy most about refereeing?

Karim: Off the court, it is all about the different people we meet and discovering so many different cultures. On court though, the most important thing about it is to practice our sport at the very highest level.

Raouf: Like Karim said; meeting and enriching oneself through other cultures. This allows for a more open view of firstly, yourself, and then the people around you.

IHF.info: Have you been to Germany or Denmark much as a referee?

Raouf: Of course. We have been travelling to Germany for many years, and more recently Denmark too now to whistle. This has included national team games, but also Men’s VELUX EHF Champions League and EHF Cup games.

Karim: Silkeborg, Holstebro, Magdeburg – many places. Most recently, we were at the Rittal Arena in Wetzlar for the Germany vs Israel 2020 Men’s EHF EURO qualifier.

IHF.info: What other sports do you like?

Karim: We enjoy many other sports including football, but especially the NBA in the United States. 
Great players are revealed each year and become global stars.

Raouf: Well, we were neighbours of the (French international striker Karim) Benzema family, and I was at school with him, so football.

IHF.info: How long have you been refereeing together?

Raouf: Since we were born (laughs).

Karim: Well, we shared the same room for 25 years…so…a long time!

IHF.info: Can you remember the first match you whistled together?

Raouf: It was a club match, maybe the 2003/04 season?

Karim: It was an official match, yes, not very far from us – an inter-regional match in 2005.

IHF.info: Tell us something about your referee partner that no-one else knows?

Raouf: Ha ha. That is a secret which should stay in the family….

Karim: …you’re a joker (laughs).

IHF.info: What are you doing to prepare for Denmark/Germany 2019?

Karim: We started with meetings and physical testing at our IHF training in Germany in early October and have been going about training in a technical way, with many games, but also video analysis (debriefing, match preparation).

Raouf: We have also been physically preparing with a programme established by the physical trainers from the IHF.

IHF.info: Apart from the games, what are you looking forward to the most at Germany/Denmark 2019?

Raouf: As usual we will enjoy the moments where we are meeting people, volunteers, the fans and our fellow referees from across the world.

Karim: The same things, but also to see the opening match with the Unified Korea team because this match goes beyond sport.

IHF.info: Who are your favourite referee(s) in other sports - living or dead, working or retired?

Karim: Pierluigi Collina, the former Italian football referee.

Raouf: The same answer.

Alongside the Gasmi brothers, the Norwegian pair of Havard Kleven and Lars Jorum will also be whistling at their first-ever senior world championship with the Swiss couple of Arthur Brunner and Morad Salah the youngest couple – however, it will be their second senior world championship, after they took charge of games at France 2017.

2019 IHF Men’s World Championship: Germany/Denmark

Referee Nominations

Julian Lopez Grillo & Sebastián Lenci (Argentina)
Matija Gubica & Boris Milosevic (Croatia)
Vaclav Horacek & Jiri Novotny (Czech Republic)
Martin Gjeding & Mads Hansen (Denmark)
Oscar Raluy & Angel Sabroso (Spain)
Karim Gasmi & Raouf Gasmi (France)
Robert Schulze & Tobias Tönnies (Germany)
Majid Kolahdouzan & Alireza Mousavian (Iran)
Gjorgji Nachevski & Slave Nikolov (FYR Macedonia)
Ivan Pavicevic & Milos Raznatovic (Montenegro)
Havard Kleven & Lars Jorum (Norway)
Duarte Santos & Ricardo Fonseca (Portugal)
Bojan Lah & David Sok (Slovenia)
Arthur Brunner & Morad Salah (Switzerland)
Mirza Kurtagic & Mattias Wetterwik (Sweden)
Ismail Boualloucha & Ramzi Khenissi (Tunisia)

Reserve Referee Nominations

Yousef Belkhiri & Sidali Hamidi (Algeria)
Kursad Erdogan & Ibrahim Ozdeniz (Turkey)