I am a fanArticle
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ehfTV commentator O Brannagain enters a completely new territory at the MVM EHF FINAL4.

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I am a fan

Hand on heart I am really looking forward to going to Budapest. As a relative newcomer to European Handball in the Men’s CL, my time has always been taken up with research, commentary and interviews with that section and so the women’s game has been relatively unknown to me.

When asked to commentate the MVM EHF FINAL4, I accepted with some trepidation. I knew some of the athletes from articles on ehfcl.com, but the competition as a whole had passed me by. I began, over two months ago, to take an active interest in matches and results.

My overall judgement was that this was top quality handball. These athletes are playing at the top of their profession and are producing displays worthy of full arenas and massive TV coverage. If I were asked where handball ranks among women’s sports as a whole; I would say that it is very near or at the top. The speed, agility, tactical and technical awareness of these players and coaches is of the highest order.

It is unfair to compare eras or sexes. That is my basic premise. How can we ever know how teams from different times would fare against present teams? In the same way, how can you compare men’s handball to women’s.

Athletes on average 30 kilos and 20 cm taller are of course going to be stronger. But I decided to watch these matches in isolation, to judge it on its own merits to never compare.

What I found were extremely tactical games. Team play was more in evidence and of course the individual play was exceptional.

Here we have 4 teams at the height of their powers. Their coaches are superb. The players are different class. Four players have jumped out at me on a personal level. Groot is my favourite centre player of the tournament. I love the way she plays. Style, finesse and understanding of where her teammates are.

Plus she writes a great blog. :-)

Loke and Cvijic are up there too for their rock solid commitment, power and no mean skill. And finally Dembele for her determination, power and defence.
And I haven’t even mentioned some of the world handball players of the year who will take to the court.

But that is just my personal view. Two matches on the Saturday will be very equal. I don’t buy into all the talk before the tournament about home teams, and youthful teams, and how we will give it our best shot. If all these teams are not here to win, then they have wasted the entire season, which is arduous, let me tell you.

The Györ vs FCM game is going to be fast and attractive. The Buducnost vs Vardar game will be more physical. What each team will experience is that two top level games in two days will even the playing field. There are no favourites here. Not from what I have seen.

They are all great teams in very different ways.

What I will say is that if you win your semi, then the team with the largest squad has a little advantage on Sunday. But first you have to win your semi.

You have to come out into the arena on front of 10,000 spectators and hope that your nerve holds. It’s a semi-final and the team that wants it most will win. The final, is a lottery.

Hungary, I have to say, knows how to host sports events. The fans know how to appreciate great athletes. They are great ambassadors for our sport and I will be one of the lucky few to have a ringside seat for what will undoubtedly be one of the great sporting finals of the year.

I am a fan.

TEXT: Tom O Brannagain, ehfTV commentator