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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Young Referees Benefit From Tournament

Referees Martin Hjortshøj and Jakob Hensen are presented with Tournament momentoes
by BHA General Manager Paul Goodwin and Director of Communications Paul Bray.

THE Four Nations Tournament in Sheffield last month gave British Handball the chance to gain experience of staging a top level event - but it wasn’t just the governing body who benefitted from the event.

Two of the four referees at the Tournament - 20-year-old Martin Hjortshøj and 22-year-old Jakob Hensen from the Danish Handball Federation - were there as part of the European Handball Federation’s Young Referees Project (YRP), and were given three games to officiate as part of the link-up between the Danish Handball Federation and the British Handball Association.

The YRP focuses on the development and education of young referees around Europe and both Martin and Jakob made the journey to the north of England to experience what Britain has to offer the handball world.

“Last year we were the best two referees on the project in Denmark,” explained Aarhus University student Hjortshøj. “We were sent to the Partille Cup in Sweden last year and following that were then nominated to come to Britain for the Four Nations Tournament as part of the co-operation between the two associations.”

Both referees had played handball as youngsters and started to whistle at a young age with Martin making the step at 12 and Jakob at 14. They both progressed through the levels and, thanks to the project, are now able to travel around Europe to test their skills.

“We were really excited to come to England to whistle,” enthused Jakob.

“However, we weren’t nervous as we have refereed in this situation before - but as referees we are always very critical and are our own worst critics.”

The three games they officiated all featured Latvia – firstly against the Faroe Islands in the tournament opener – then against the hosts, Great Britain, before rounding up their tournament with the Latvians’ match against the Turkish U21 side.

“We knew that the British Handball Association are aiming for the London 2012 Olympics,” said Jakob, “so this competition was designed to be competitive and for them to create a good, competitive team.

“The Great Britain v Latvia match was a little surprising for us as Britain won by five goals,” said Martin.

“It was a very good match to whistle; the two teams played really well and the level was higher than our first match. There was also a very excited, good crowd, which was great and the match was tough for the players.

“It was really easy to communicate with the British team as some of their players and coaches speak Danish, so it made it easy to co-operate.”

The final match for the young refereeing pair was the 22-21 win by Latvia over the Turkish U21 side – a thrilling match that went right down to the final seconds and was a great spectacle for the neutral observer.

“The Latvia v Turkey game was very different then we expected,” said Jakob.

“The Turkish team had suffered quite a large loss in their first match and we had not expected such a close game - it was very exciting for the crowd, and for the referees!”

So with the tournament finished for Martin and Jakob, they were able to take a seat in the stands and see the British side win the tournament overall, despite losing against the Faroe Islands in a pulsating, final match.

But what did they think of the tournament overall?

“Throughout the tournament the teams were well behaved and good to referee,” said Martin. “There is no doubt that the facilities here in Sheffield are very professional and at a very high level for such a new handball association.

“This tournament was handled very well and was very well organised. As a referee you don’t want any distractions and the organisation here meant that we could just concentrate on our whistling and the court.”

So what next for the two young Danish men?

“We return to Denmark for a men’s First Division game,” said Jakob. “Our big objective for us is to do well in the next few games and maybe we will go to the next level up – but only if we are very good.”

Text: Andrew McSteen,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Faroes Beat GB, but Hosts Win Tournament

Four Nations Tournament winners - Great Britain celebrate!

GREAT Britain were crowned winners of the Four Nations Tournament on Saturday, despite narrowly losing out 15-16 to the Faroe Islands in their final game at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

The Faroes' victory meant they, Great Britain and Latvia were tied on four points each - and the fate of the Tournament was decided on goal difference in the match between those three teams, in accordance with EHF rules.

With results involving Turkey Under-21s having been stripped out, GB were left on +4, Faroes on -1 and Latvia on -3.

The evening began with an air of anticipation as the crowds arrived at the EIS with the GB knowing a win would see them lift the trophy in front of their home crowd.

However, the Faroes opened the scoring through their top-scorer Simona Petersen as both teams competed physically with a number of personal duels taking place all over the court.

Most noticeably was the threat posed by the Faroes Gurid Mortensen who acted as human brick wall for the GB attack, as well as converting a number of penalties to give the Faroes an early advantage.

A Daniela Sposi penalty on 13:01 brought the scores level at 4-4 and GB took the lead for the first time with another Sposi penalty just 30 seconds later.

Further strikes from Kelsi Fairbrother, Lynn McCafferty and Yvonne Leuthold opened up an 8-4 lead to GB by 20:39, but the Faroes replied through Ninna Johansen and Mortensen who then converted two penalties just before the break to take the teams in 8-8.

Left-winger Holly Lam-Moores gave GB the first goal of the second period, but Unn Kragesteen started to make her presence felt as she brought the game level again at 9-9. Fairbrother then stepped up again with two strikes, including a penalty, but the Faroes were never too far behind and the teams exchanged goals and penalties until midway through the second half as GB made some elemental mistakes in attack which put paid to them opening up a lead.

GB were helped with withdrawal of Mortensen through injury in the second half, but the Faroes were still more than a match for the home side as they continued to threaten through Petersen and Kragesteen and it was these who started to open up a lead for the Faroes.

First Petersen scored following a rebound off of Sarah Hargreaves’ head after it struck the post and then again following good build-up play from Kragesteen to make it 16-14 with less than five minutes left at which point GB called a time-out to rally their troops.

Following the time out GB were again guilty of basic errors, perhaps due to nerves, as Sposi hit the post, but Leuthold’s strike with just over a minute left got the crowd off of their feet to make it 16-15 to the Faroes.

With just 30 seconds left the crowd had thought GB had brought it back level but Britt Goodwin’s finish was ruled out for stepping inside the area.

However, the drama didn’t stop though as the Faroes called a timeout which worked up the crowd for the finale as GB desperately tried to snatch the ball from their opposition who played out the final seconds to clinch the win, but not the tournament.

Daniela Sposi top-scored for GB with five goals to end the tournament as the hosts top-scorer, but the title of the tournament top-scorer went to the Faroe Islands’ Simona Petersen with her eight goals in the match taking her final tally to 23 for the tournament.

Faroe Islands Scorers: Simona Petersen 8, Gurid Mortensen 4, Unn Kragesteen 2, Ninna Johansen 1, Una Olsen 1.

GB Scorers: Daniela Sposi 5, Kelsi Fairbrother 4, Yvonne Leuthold 3, Lynn McCafferty 1, Holly Lam-Moores 1, Britt Goodwin 1.
Text: Andrew McSteen,

Great Britain v Faroe Islands – Preview

GB go into the match tonight knowing a victory will ensure they win the Women’s Four Nation International Handball Tournament.

With a 100% record in the competition so far, Britain will be looking to defeat a Faroe Islands side in great form following their impressive victory over the Turkey U21 side yesterday.

GB will face the Faroes full of confidence following an inspiring 25-20 victory against Latvia last night and left-winger Holly Lam-Moores, voted player of the match in that game, is looking forward to the test.

“The match against the Faroes Islands will be tough,” said the 18-year-old. “Personally, I want to just come on and do something today as I felt I had a poor performance against Latvia.

“The fans tonight will see a good fight and we’ve got a great fighting spirit, which is like our eighth man. British Handball is on a big high at the moment and we are working very hard – hopefully the home crowd can see us lift the trophy.”

Meanwhile, GB will have to be wary of the threat posed by the Faroe Islanders dangerous left-back Simona Petersen, who is poised to become the tournament’s top scorer as well as playmaker Asa Dam a Nystabo, who has been voted as the best player on the court in both her two games so far.

Faroe Islands manager Sofus dal Chrstiansen has said that his team is out for revenge following their 19-16 defeat back in April at the EHF Challenge Trophy.

The match starts at 6:30pm here in Sheffield, with a half time and full time report posted online.
Text: Andrew McSteen,