TO THE FINAL: Qatar is in the final of the World Championship. But should they be there? REUTERS/AK BijuRaj
TO THE FINAL: Qatar is in the final of the World Championship. But should they be there? REUTERS/AK BijuRaj

It's just embarrassing

Qatar have bought a place in the final of the World Championship. Now the handball family has to clean up in their house.
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It's no big surprise that Qatar is playing the final of the World Championship Sunday.

They have got one of the best goalkeeper teams. They have quality players in every position, and they have one of the best coaches in the World - who's been able to prepare the team as a club team for this championship.

But it should have been impossible. The only way Qatar could do this was through spending money. A lot of money.

Because handball is a miniature sport compared to football. The wages in international handball are ok. But in a year the best paid players doesn't make what Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo do in a month.

Then you could understand that a 37 year old player like Danijel Saric is talked in to change his citizenship for a couple of months, when the carrot hanging in front of him is millions of Euros for three weeks of work.

In football the regulations forbid a player to play for another National Team if he's played for his home nation. In handball you could change National Team as long as you didn't play regular matches the last three years.

This rule has been exploited before. Austria raided Balkan and the Baltic nations for women players in the 1990s. While Spain recruited both Talant Douchebaev and Arpad Sterbik. Carlos Perez wasn't a full blooded Hungarian either.

But now this rule has been systematically exploited. Qatar has bought a complete squad. Valero Rivera wasn't able to shop from the top shelves, but he's been able to put together a team with players with complementary skills. No one can argue the achievement of taking a team without too many stars in the final. But they are not from Qatar.

The Polish players gathered around the Serbian referees and applauded them for their effort for taking Qatar in the final. Something they probably will be punished for.

But it's difficult not to sympathize with the Polish. There wasn't to many big decisions that went against them. But they had to fight harder for each goal than the Qataris had to do.

Where the Polish was punished with two minutes suspensions, the referees decided to punish them for offensive fouls for similar episodes in the other end of the court. And at least two times the referees had to see that the Qatari players stepped in the goalkeeper area when they scored. Or they didn't want to see.

The same happened in the matches against Austria and Germany.

The Austrian coach Patrekur Johannesson said after their match against Qatar.

– I believe Qatar will become World Champions. The referees I don't want to comment!

Not many words, but they still tell a lot.

It's no coincidence that the referees in Qatar's knock out matches are coming from Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. I'm not going to put a finger on these nations. But if you look at it in a historic perspective Balkan has been an area where you had to be ten goals in front before the second leg of a tie in the European cups. 

There are few referees there are so many questionable stories around than the Macedonian Dragan Nachevski. Together with his cousin Marjan he was notorious in the 1990s.

Now he's head of referees in EHF, and a permanent participant at the referee's table in big championships. And his son Gjorgji has taken over the whistle.

Thoughts went through my head when I saw Nachevski senior was time keeper in the Qatar - Germany match, while junior was going to referee the match.

And my assumptions weren't wrong. Even though the referees never made any controversial decisions against the Germans. You sensed how the feeling of disbelief spread through the German team. They got two minutes suspensions for small offenses, and was adjudged to take too many steps when they only had taken two steps with the ball. They even got punished for offensive fouls when they didn't move and a Qatari jumped in their backs.

They actually had to be seven or eight goals better than Qatar to be able to win the match. Which they weren't. Qatar is too good.

I'm not going to accuse the referees of being paid off. But in international handball it's all about having the right contacts. If you want to go somewhere you have to be on terms with the IHF president Hassan Moustafa.

And in Moustafa's eyes, it's propaganda for the handball that a nation outside Europe is doing well. That's why Qatar's place in the final is a triumph for him. Even though the players who have put them in the final is mostly Europeans.

That's why the referees for Qatar's matches are hand picked. That's why it's ok that Danish and German fans' tickets suddenly are invalid to make room for more local supporters in the arena.

This is where the handball family has to act. Moutafa can not be allowed to play around with the sport like he wants to anymore.

The World Championship in Qatar has been a farce since they were awarded the tournament in 2011. The TV rights were sold to BeIN Sport, who planned to make money on selling them on. The price was so high that a couple of weeks before the start of the World Championship France was the only nation who would broadcast the matches. Because BeIN is broadcasting in France.

Eventually Moustafa understood that it would be a bullet in his own foot to arrange a World Championship without any viewers in Norway. That's why the price went down.

Germany didn't qualify for the tournament. That was another problem for Moustafa. The biggest marketing area for handball in the World. He was in need for a good advice. The solution was to throw poor Australia out of the World Championship.

Suddenly Oceania wasn't acknowledged as a continental federation. In the summer they changed the IHF charter and gave the IHF council the right to throw out teams that doesn't have the quality they want in the World Championship. And then the decision of throwing out Australia went under this rule.

Then there was a space open for Germany. But they were not the first reserve nation from Europe. Iceland objected. But conveniently Bahrain and United Arab Emirates withdrew due to political issues with Qatar. Suddenly, Iceland was in the World Championship as well.

I gave the World Championship the name «Dr. Hassan Moustafa Invitational» before the tournament. And I can't remember one person having such big influence on a championship ever. If Moustafa hadn't pulled his strings here and there, Qatar wouldn't be in the final.

Maybe we wouldn't have so many men dressed in white in the stands, but everything would be more fair. It's ok to buy players for a club team. But buying and selling hasn't anything to do with National teams. You are playing for your country. You should put your hand on your heart when you sing the National anthem.

I know my history. And I know the home nations are favoured by the referees. This was used against the Germans when they complained against the referees when they went out in the quarter final. The Germans would never be World champions in 2007 if it wasn't for the help from the referees.

The Norwegian referees Kenneth Abrahamsen and Arne Mikael Kristiansen got to experience this when they were attacked by a French Physio who thought they were the Swedish referees who cheated them from a penalty shoot out against Germany in the semi final.

But the refereeing is just the tip of the iceberg. It's so much more that makes it easy not to like Qatar. Even though they just exploits a set of rules that are reprehensible. But Qatar is now the symbol of everything that's wrong with international handball.

Some of the biggest federations in Europe are trying to fight Moustafa, among them Norway, but when Europe isn't able to be united it's not easy.

An opponent to Moustafa would be ridiculed at an election at the IHF Congress.

Moustafa's closest ally is Sheik Ahmad Fahad Al-Ahmad from Kuwait, who's president for The Asian Handball Federation. He's also a member of the IOC Council, and is one of the most powerful persons in international sports at the moment.

He makes sure that the big money goes into the IHF, which makes Moustafa able to give development funds to the small member federations.

When it's election in the IHF the representatives from Gabon and Puerto Rico knows very well who's made sure that they are able to participate in the congress. And the vote of Benin counts just as much as the votes of Germany and Norway.

But now international handball is about to be as ridiculed that something has to happen before it's totally ruined.

The Bundesliga clubs have started their crusade.

They won in the first round in court against the IHF. They have sued Moustafa & co for the right to refuse their players to play for the National teams as long as IHF doesn't compensate the wages and insurance of the players during the World Championships and the Olympics.

But I'm afraid this isn't enough to knock Moustafa of his throne. And his hand picked allies will probably follow the same route when he's gone.

But if the Bundesliga clubs win the court battle the World Championship will be finished as we know it today. Then we will see the big stars in the European Championship every second year. Then Moustafa can have fun in his luxury while a group of happy amateurs is throwing balls in the World Championships.

But I'm not going to paint everything black. Because we have seen some wonderful matches in this World Championship. Denmark - Spain was a fantastic match. But the semi final between France and Spain was even better.

Thanks to Thierry Omeyer who was out of this World, the gold collectors from France is on course to win back the World title against Qatar on Sunday.

In my eyes the Danish referees Mads Hansen and Martin Gjeding are the best in the World Championship, and I'm pretty sure they would referee the final if it was France - Poland.

Now I'm not that sure anymore. I have a bad feeling that we will see Gjorgji Nachevski and Slave Nikolov again. Then France will have to work hard for the title.

But if the handball wins, we will see Danish referees and a great final between two great teams on Sunday. But only one of them is a National team...

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