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Date: 12/22/2018

As part of their commitment to global development, learning and sharing, the International Handball Federation provided one European-based IHF referee couple each for both the 2018 AHF Women’s Asian Championship and the 2018 CAHB Women’s African Championship, held in November and December.

In addition, and as is standard, an IHF Representative is also present at every continental championship which acts as a qualification for an IHF World Championship and/or Olympic Games, continuing the long-term partnerships with continental federations around the world to develop and expand the game globally.

Following the feature on German referee couple Tanja Schilha and Maike Merz and IHF Representative Ramon Gallego (IHF Playing Rules and Referees Commission Chairperson) from the African women’s championship, this second of two articles on IHF.info hears from those representing the IHF at the 2018 AHF Asian Women’s Championship, held in Kumamoto, Japan, from 2-12 December in an event, which was also used as a test ahead of the 2019 IHF Women’s World Championship, to be held in the same city.

The Asian women’s championship was won by Korea, who, along with China, Kazakhstan and Australia qualify through to Japan 2019, alongside the already-qualified hosts.

The established IHF referee pair of Vanja Antic and Jelena Jakovljevic from Serbia were in Kumamoto for the IHF and whistled four games – the preliminary matches between Japan and New Zealand, Korea vs Singapore and China vs Korea, before ending on the prestigious clash between Japan and China at the semi-final stage.

“It’s true – the matches are played with a lot of speed, this is the main difference in the games for us in Asia as European referees,” said Antic to IHF.info following the completion of the continental competition.

“The best teams from Asia were always using a quick throw-off so there is a lot of running in the 60 minutes and, as a result of such fast play, there are a lot more technical mistakes compared to the European style, such as lost balls, offensive fouls and too many steps – there is also much more use of the 7vs6, playing a lot more without their goalkeepers.”

Off the court, both Antic and Jakovljevic were recipients of the famous Japanese hospitality – something that fans can look forward to next year at the women’s world championship.

“It was a nice surprise that so many of the people we met in and outside of the court knew already that the world championship will be played in their city,” said Jakovljevic. “Everyone is looking forward to welcoming all the teams, officials and fans. Everyone we met was very kind, polite, nice and felt it was important to make us happy and our wishes come true. 

“Kumamoto is a great place to visit,” continued Jakovljevic. “It was an amazing experience to see Japan and the city itself, which has a lovely castle.

“We really enjoyed some of the traditional food and the city has lots of restaurants and shops, and for all fans coming next year they will see smiling faces on every corner willing to help, nice playing halls with lots of activities before, during and after matches.”

In the 12 months between now and Japan 2019, both Serbian referees will be looking to continue their development as referees domestically, continental and globally.

“In the last few years we have had more and less the same goals every season and that is to be as good as possible in every match,” explained Antic. “We hope that this will earn us nominations for every championship and this is our main goal over the next year – to do our best and be nominated for Japan 2019 so we can return next year.”

The IHF Representative in Kumamoto was Dietrich Späte, Commission of Coaching and Methods (CCM) Chairperson and his role was, firstly, to help the Asian Handball Federation (AHF) guide the competition under the IHF and AHF rules and regulations. 

In addition to being present at all matches, Späte helped to analyse videos of the matches for daily technical meetings with referees and technical delegates.

“My experience in Japan was excellent, both from a professional and personal side,” said Späte. “In addition to my official role as the IHF Representative of the championship itself, at the same time I had a very intensive exchange of information with the local organising committee of the 2019 IHF Women’s World Championship, which will be, of course, held in the same venues and city next year.

“These discussions took place informally and formally on an almost daily basis and we discussed a number of the requirements for next year – it is clear the city and its people are well aware the world championship is coming, and the excitement is very noticeable.”

Späte was also keen to point out the quality of performance from the officials in Kumamoto too, with the IHF adding to the continued development.

“The standard of refereeing and their training is well on its way,” added Späte, “but nevertheless, it was very beneficial to have Vanja and Jelena in the tournament, as they particularly helped the younger, not so experienced referees, but also were involved in a two-way exchange of information themselves.

“A personal highlight for me on court were two really high level, high speed games: the Japan vs China semi-final and Japan vs Korea final.

“I can say that I am really looking forward to seeing the progress of the organising of the world championship over the next year and returning in November.”

Photos: Asian Handball Federation