Handball : sur le toit de l’Europe

Monday, 29 january 2024

French handball players have once again turned the tables and become European champions. Six months before the Olympic Games, the French men’s handball team, supported by the Caisse d’Epargne, recently won the sport’s most prestigious championship and claimed the 13th gold medal in their history!

Exceptional determination

There’s something beyond words, for which there exists no rational explanation, to explain the ability of French handball teams to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat! 

Just consider the 67th minute of the European Championship final: after trailing their adversaries throughout the entire game, with goalkeeper after goalkeeper on the Danish side performing feat after feat that would have discouraged the most determined of players, the French team managed to turn the match around against all expectations. Dika Mem, one of the world’s finest players, who until then hadn’t managed to score during the match, shot the ball into the back of the net while goalkeeper Samir Bellahcene, who’d been a little shaky until then, saved a decisive Danish shot. 

Just like in the 59th minute, with France still trailing their opponents, Elohim Prandi, the son of two international handball players, scored a game-saving goal to escape defeat and snatch a bit of extra time. This is all the more significant as the player had thought his career was over – and that he would even lose his life! – when he was attacked on New Year’s Eve two years ago. Prandi is the prominent figure in the tale of these European championships, a narrative that French handball players are so adept at writing. Indeed, it was his last-second move in the semi-final against Sweden that will go down in the annals of French handball. Trailing by a point, the fate of the match once again seemed sealed. With only one direct free throw remaining – 19 times out of 20, the shooter fails – Elohim leapt to the side and barreled a hip shot into the top corner of the Swedish keeper’s net! France equalized and went on to win during the period of additional time. The rest is history, with the French team winning 33-31 over their old adversaries Denmark in the final. The Danes won last year’s world final 34-29, and Guillaume Gille became the first coach to win the European Championship as both player and coach. He has already achieved this feat with the Olympic title.

French handball at the very summit

The French have won the game’s toughest competition, a characterization justified by the sheer number of European championships played in a sport that has always been dominated by the Old Continent. In six months’ time, it’s almost certain that a European nation will become the Olympic champion. Throughout this latest competition, the French were determined to keep things in perspective. They intended to win this championship for what it is, knowing that the Olympic Games Paris 2024 will individually and collectively be the greatest event in their careers. Guillaume Gille will have the difficult task of drawing up a list of just fourteen names.

These players will be able to build on the confidence and strong personal bonds forged during the competition in Germany. They still need to work on their game, but the most important thing at this elite level of the game – that collective strength, that fighting spirit, that determination to overcome – is a quality deeply engrained in their bodies. As a result, French handball is the reigning European and Olympic champion on the men’s side, and the reigning World and Olympic champion on the women’s side.
This is something unique in the annals of French team sports.