Beauty must coexist with the beastArticle
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BLOG: The heroines of Budapest resembled legendary warrior queens and ancient mythical female characters for the ehfTV commentator Tom O Brannagain last weekend.

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Beauty must coexist with the beast

Congratulations to Buducnost. After two days of top quality handball from them, they can rightly say that they are queens of Euope. They were peerless in Budapest with no team even coming close to the level that they achieved.

The devastation of last seasons final loss was banished into the mists of time giving even more credence to the adage that you learn more from your defeats than from your victories.

Once again at the start of May, women took centre stage at the MVM EHF FINAL4 and the old mythologies of women and power were brought back to a man who lived for legends as a young boy.

The queens; Maedhbh who fought her own husband for control of Ireland, to the British heroine Boadicea who almost brought the Roman Empire to its knees.

Women in history have shown a marked reluctance to bow before the seeming superiority of men and the ladies who took to the court over the weekend were prepped for battle in what, pre-match, appeared to be two close semifinals.

The truth was rather more stark. Dinamo-Sinara never got up and running with too many of their stars just underperforming. The difficulties for Vardar run deeper as they never came to terms with a very structured and uniform attack concept from Buducnost.

The inability of all concerned to see what occurred on at least twenty occasions in the attack would raise questions for me as to what exactly the plan was to cope with Buducnost's plan A. If the latter had a plan B we never saw it because they didn't need it.

Come finals day we saw a fantastic third place game with both teams showing remarkable resilience to come back from devastating defeats the previous day. It was a tremendous game between Dinamo and Vardar and we were treated to some nerve jangling final moments with Vardar once again emerging victorious for the bronze medal.

The final was a strange game for me. Albeit a coach has only one night to prepare for this game, you might have thought that Larvik would have been better placed to deal with the "Plan A" of Buducnost.

They weren't, they didn't and the game at the start of the second half looked all but over. A late rally for Larvik faded as the legs and brains grew tired, but I for one, am amazed that the girls from Montenegro were allowed to play an almost identical game as the semifinal with apparent ease.

There were tears and tantrums (not really) at the end of the game, but no one could begrudge Buducnost their win. Speaking later with many of the players I got the feeling that not all were happy with the "strong-arm" defensive tactics of the Podgorica club. And therein lies the dilemma for women's handball.

Sport is a serious game and women want to be taken seriously as athletes and rightly so. However the game cannot always be beautiful and artistic. It cannot always be feminine and ladylike, because it is sport. And in this arena destructive as well as constructive should be equally applauded.

I am not personally a fan of the "stop at all costs" defence, but it is not just up to the people with the whistle to stop this. It is the duty of an attack to find a way to counteract the defence. Just look at how Barcelona dismantled Zagreb and you see how planning and tactic can achieve so much. You cannot always hope that your way will always prevail, you must play the "chess game" and then see who wins.

For all the efforts of those involved in the overall management of handball, the game for women cannot be condensed into a few buzz words that make it sound fabulous, it must be embraced in all its facets.

The smiles, the tears, the emotion, the strength, the speed, the fouls, the team, the individual: All that is good and bad goes into the pot to present us with a women's team sport that is just about the best around. I cannot labour the point enough; you cannot have your cake and eat it too. To be accepted and lauded as a top quality sport, then the beauty must coexist with the beast.

Women's handball is not equally viewed with men's handball and this is the vibe I got from the girls themselves. I like a little "locker room gossip" and having been raised with six sisters I can gossip with the best of them.

They are right, but we, as the handball viewing public, are not comparing like with like. We've already discussed (in previous blog) that it is the same game, but it's approached differently. And we should approach the viewing of it in the same way.

There were so many mistakes and turnovers and technical fouls, that it would make a coach blush, but therein is the beauty of the game for me. It is the pursuit of excellence that doesn't quite always work out, but when it does it is sheer class. The mistakes add for an excitement that, on occasions, can be sadly lacking in men's handball.

And during these dark moments that would have a coach reaching for the Valium there are moments of high level. Mørk for Larvik is simply a pocket Dynamo. Anja Hammerseng-Edin who had to step into an injury breach at the last moment was simply brilliant in terms of effort and will. Penezic can do things on the court I could only dream of. Dmitrieva is world class at nineteen years of age.

And at the zenith is Clara Woltering. Like a Valkyrie of old, she rose above them all and delivered a goalkeeping performance that towered above anything I have seen. Her fast break save as Larvik were just coming back into the game was outstanding and had me jumping out of my seat.

"From sunrise to the sundown, no paragon had she.
All boundless as her beauty was her strength was peerless too." (Marco Polo)

I cannot express enough, my admiration for an intelligent, beautiful and world class athlete. She is what women's handball is all about. A winning smile, a charm and a will to win.

When all is said and done Buducnost won. They followed Henry Fords advice when he said:

"Coming together is a beginning,
Keeping together is progress
Working together is success".

They were the same core team of last year and Adzic, their coach instilled in them a belief in his plan. He was the Roman emperor who came and saw and conquered.

This didn't begin for me as an opinion piece, but I'll venture one anyway. I won't say that I have had a Saul on the road to Damascus moment, in that, in a flash of lightning and a burning bush (if I can mix my biblical references) that I suddenly realised women's handball is something I really enjoy.

Rather it has seeped into my consciousness and I'm so glad it did. As the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology once reigned in harmony, so too can women's and men's handball. There is room for both, there is need for both and giving it a watch is not damaging to your health. You too might see and believe.

I leave with a little message for all the super athletes who appeared over the weekend. Coco Channel once said:

"A girl should be classy and fabulous too"

She was right.

You girls are.

Thank you all for giving your all.

TEXT: Tom O Brannagain, ehfTV commentator