Thursday, January 13, 2022
Handball stars rage before EM
Hungary’s corona policy is stunned
In the midst of the Omikron wave rushing through Europe, the handball championship begins in Hungary and Slovakia. Even before the tournament starts, the stars of the tournament are raging about the conditions in Hungary. You don’t wear a mask there, you can’t see a bubble. The organizers reject the allegations.
A lack of distance, guests without masks and a chaotic organization: The European Handball Championship had not even started when the corona worries of some nations erupted in angry words. “We are stunned by the conditions under which this European Championship is taking place,” moaned France’s exceptional player Nikola Karabatic, putting co-host Hungary in trouble. Critical tones could be heard almost exclusively from the camps of the nations accommodated in Hungary before the start of the tournament on Thursday evening. “We followed strict protocols to avoid catching the virus. And then we arrive here at the hotel and we move among guests who don’t wear masks. We also eat in the same places,” reported Karabatic angrily.
The French are staying in a hotel in Szeged, Hungary – and are not alone in their experiences. The Serbian coach Toni Gerona wrote on Twitter about a “chaotic organization” in Szeged. Iceland’s national coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson also reported from Kosice: “There is no bubble in this hotel. There are people here who are normal tourists.” According to the hygiene protocol of the European Handball Federation (EHF), a classic bubble is not planned at the “2G-EM”, but the teams have been assured of shielded areas for meals and meetings. The Hungarian organizers meanwhile rejected the allegations of the Serbs and French with “incomprehension”.
“We’re doing relatively well”
But concerns about infection with the virus are huge, especially in Hungary. The country is known for its rather lax handling of the pandemic. There are not even spectator restrictions in the three arcades during the tournament. For comparison: In Slovakia, the capacity is limited to 25 percent. “It can’t go well,” said sports medicine professor Wilhelm Bloch of the sports show with a view to the recent cases: “If so, then only with a daily test, but even then there is still a risk.”
A number of professionals were caught 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) are missing due to corona when the Croatians start the classic against France.
In the meantime, there is hardly any dissatisfaction in the co-host country Slovakia. “Everything has been very good here so far, everyone is walking around with a mask, not like we heard from Hungary,” reported national coach Alfred Gislason. In view of the reports from Hungary, backcourt player Julius Kühn suspected “that we are actually doing relatively well”. Nevertheless, the virus came threateningly closer for the German team, which had so far been spared infections in the preparation. The Poles, the last German opponent in the preliminary round next Tuesday, reported five cases of corona among players after their arrival in Bratislava. The Polish team is accommodated in the same hotel as the German team.