THERE is one question about sport most Europeans in the UK ask themselves.
It is not about the alien nature of rugby, nor the pub sports or the cricket. Rather, it is about the seeming non-existence of one of Europe’s most popular ball games in such an otherwise complete sporting nation. Where is the handball?
That was certainly what members of Cardiff Handball Club asked as they crossed the border. As they have found, there is a British handball league with teams scraped together to form two divisions, but in reality few have even heard of the sport. In fact, Cardiff Handball Club is the only one of its kind in Wales.
“It is the lack of exposure on TV in favour of football and rugby,” says Marie-Laure Chevalier, one of the group founders. “Also at school in France, most of us play it because it is part of the basic curriculum. Here they never grow up with it.”
Together with three other people Marie-Laure started the handball club four years ago – in a place where no interest or facilities existed.
It wasn’t easy. After a year of searching they finally found a permanent hall, only to find there were no goals around. They started strapping tape on the walls as handball goals before finally managing to import proper ones from Hungary.
“At one point we even had plastic goals from Simba, which are for children,” Marie-Laure said. “But they did not work for us.”
The club is now well established, with 20 active members training once a week. Naturally, most of them are European, with the French and German being the dominating nationalities. Other nations involved include Norway, Sweden and Hungary.
Many of them had been looking for a long time. Their German goalkeeper, Marc Schweissinger, spent eight years in Cardiff before finding a club to play for.
But there are actually three Brits playing in the team too. One of them is Spencer Lewis, who discovered handball at university six years ago. “I had heard about it at the time but I had no idea what it was,” he said.
So what actually is handball? Marie-Laure portrays it as a mixture between football and basketball, primarily involving running, shooting and passing. “But we are a very flexible group and try to accommodate as many people as we can,” Marie-Laure says.
The team is now trying to get enough players to get into the British second division, but need another handful of players to complete the registration.
Now the team is hopeful the Olympics in London can boost the sport’s reputation next year. “Although it will probably be on the red button at 3am," Spencer laughs.
Want to get involved in Cardiff Handball Club? Get in touch with Marie-Laure Chevalier on 07897 942162 or click here