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The President of the Handball Federation of Russia (the HFR) Sergey Shishkarev recalled the idea of ​​a joint bid of Russia and Ukraine for the major tournament. He also explained the reason for the renaming Spartak to CSKA.

The fans of the Russian handball were exactly those who were looking forward to the Tokyo Olympic Games. It seems that the women's team, which won the gold medals at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, has become only stronger in the past four years. But the coronavirus prevented it fighting for the first place in the coming summer.

Sergey Shishkarev contemplated on how the pandemic would influence the global and Russian handball, explained why Spartak was renamed to CSKA without waiting for the end of the season, and also recalled how he could have disturbed the President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky with his proposition of the joint bid.

This is the second part of the large interview with the President of the HFR. In the first one Sergey Shishkarev spoke about doping sabotage in the women's team, the budget of the Federation and Evgeny Trefilov’s state of health.


“We have two scenarios because of the coronavirus situation”

Mr. Shishkarev, the burning issue of the day is the coronavirus. How did the self-isolation and the quarantine influence handball?

Due to the current situation, the Russian Championship was suspended at least until the 30th of April. We see all the suggestions of the club representatives and consider different options. When we announced a pause in the Championship, we did not suspect that the situation would develop this way, and we planned to complete the tournament in May or June. Now we have two scenarios because of the coronavirus situation: either we recognize the Championship completed following the current placement, or we are still going to finish the Championship in summer without changing the schedule for the next season. In any case, we will wait for the decisions of the Government of the Russian Federation, the European Handball Federation and the Executive Committee of the Handball Federation of Russia.

Did you discuss the current situation with the global and European handball leaders?

Yes, we are in touch. I corresponded with the President of the International Handball Federation Hassan Moustafa last week, and recently we talked with the President of the European Handball Federation Michael Wiederer. They also do not have an accurate forecast on the development of the situation in the world, so all the solutions are intermediate. I agree with Mr. Wiederer that there is no ideal solution in such situation.

At this moment, the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League quarter-finals, where the Russian club “Rostov-Don” participates, are scheduled for June. There is an idea to hold the World Championship qualification matches at the same time. But we cannot approve the dates until the Russian Government, the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation and our foreign colleagues make their decisions. I can assure you that we will consider thoroughly all the factors that influence the decision-making. When we have any clarity with the Russian Championship, we will announce it. 

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When, do you think, can we expect the return of world of sport to normal, and handball in particular?

I would like to give a positive forecast, but I do not want to express a viewpoint of a man on the street and draw any conclusions based on the statistics in other countries. Russia takes the unprecedented measures today: the self-isolation mode, the preparation of hospital beds, the purchase of the equipment, the ventilators production and the construction of hospitals with the Ministry of Defense support. According to all the above mentioned it is still difficult to predict the dynamics of the disease spread in the country. Therefore, I will not give forecasts, but I understand that it will continue for at least a few more months.

"We will see who has the right to claim the World Champion’s medals"

Certainly, the coronavirus situation has influenced your business.

Yes, the current conditions influence everyone and obviously, we are on the frontline. Delo Group is the largest Russian transportation and logistics holding company. We operate in all basins – in the Northwest, in the South and East. Moreover, now we are finalizing the ownership of TransContainer.

Therefore, we have to deal with the emergency response to the epidemiological situation as well as the pleasant responsibilities for the Company’s development. The situation is complicated for us, as our company handles a large amount of transit cargo.

The security of all our employees is our absolute priority. For example, a few days ago, the captain of our partner’s vessel stated that six people on board were running a high temperature upon arrival to Novorossiysk. As a result, doctors came to this vessel, took tests and immediately sent them to Krasnodar for verification.

That’s a relief, all tests were negative. Only after that the vessel received a permission to reach the berth. This situation made us work out the procedures for such cases. We protect our employees by all means during daily operations. At the same time, the situation remains very unsettling.

How did you take the rescheduling of the Olympic Games to 2021? Do you see anything positive about it for the Russian women's team?

The decision of the International Olympic Committee must be considered in the context of what is happening in the world. If the Games were rescheduled due to some other reason, it would be very disappointing. It is difficult to see it as a positive. The only thing is that by 2021, we will be able to recover several important injured players - first of all, I'm talking about Daria Dmitrieva. In general, we have to be realistic. The main thing is that the decision has been already made and unlike the other tournaments, here we have at least clarity with the period of the Olympics.

Of course, it would be better if we didn’t have the coronavirus situation. I think we have a good team. I even joked with the President of the Handball Federation of the Netherlands: "You may own the World Champions medals now, but in August we will see who has the right for them." The Netherlands are lucky in this regard - they can rejoice at their medals year and a half (smiles).

“I guess I distressed the President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky”

Do you consider the current relations with the European and International Handball Federations satisfactory and promising for the Russian handball?

First of all, we strengthened our relations in partnership with Delo Group that became the Title Sponsor of the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League. To tell the truth, these are quite different figures than in men's handball — the costs are much lower. But as for the marketing I see this cooperation very efficient. Our relations with the EHF and the IHF are close to perfect in terms of mutual understanding, in terms of restoring our sovereignty, which is respected by our European and world partners.

At the end of February, the EHF President Michael Wiederer made a first in the last 20 years visit (if I’m not mistaken) to Russia . Mr. Wiederer met with the Russian sports executives, with the Russian Olympic Committee President and with the HFR representatives. We were lucky to welcome him at our terminals in the port of Novorossiysk, as well as the Champions League match “Rostov-Don” - “Metz” in Rostov-on-Don. He was very kind and enthusiastic with what he saw in Russia.

We keep in touch with the President of the IHF Dr. Hassan Moustafa not only by official correspondence, but also by phone or instant messengers. His visit to Russia was planned for the 40th Moscow Olympics anniversary, which was to be festively held at Luzhniki stadium. He gratefully accepted our invitation, but now this visit is unlikely to take place because of the coronavirus pandemic. We will look for other opportunities and options to invite the high guest. I am sure that he will come to Russia and we will tell him about everything what happens in the Russian handball.

By the way, thanks to Dr. Moustafa, the project "Handball to school" is actively developing in our country. For example, in the Astrakhan region. Now the IHF is preparing to send a large amount of balls for kids to Russia, which are softer than the ones for adults, special gates, toy cars, colorful handball booklets in Russian.

I should note that Dr. Moustafa was very concerned, and warmly interested in Mr. Trefilov’s health, he demanded him to lose 12 kg by the summer! We talked at the last European Championship, Mr. Moustafa asked me to translate accurately his words to Evgeny Trefilov. Evgeny tensed up of course, but decided to play along - poked me in the side, promised to lose his weight, but he also demanded the same from me.

I was asked a lot why we could not win the fight for the 2024 Women's EURO. But it is very complicated to fight with the united bid of the three major handball countries. That’s why I proposed to hold the tournament with Belarus and Ukraine. I guess I distressed Vladimir Zelensky. I don’t know who told him, he was celebrating his birthday in privy on that Saturday, but the next morning the Internet was buzzing. The Secretary General of the Handball Federation of Ukraine Alexander Gladun told me: “You did more for the Ukrainian handball in one night than I did in my entire career.”

Well, one more point I would like to outline that for the last five years there have been the achievements to be proud of. After the 2016 Olympics, many specialists were awarded state orders and medals thanks to the girls’ performance, many coaches received the title of Honored Coach of Russia and some. The Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and the Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko supported me at that time so Evgeny Trefilov was awarded the Order of Friendship. The late Levon Akopyan, Mikhail Seryogin, and Dr. Said Almyashev were awarded orders and medals. I would also like to thank Viktor Ryabykh, Pavel Sukosyan, all the coaching staff for preparing the team for that Olympics. I need to express special thanks to the children's trainers. Together they did everything for the ultimate success. 

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“Renaming Spartak to CSKA? The main thing is the development of handball”

The recent news about the renaming of the men’s Spartak to CSKA made a lot of noise among the fans. Tell us about your decision. Why was it necessary?

-When the idea of creating men's and women's clubs in Moscow was discussed, the goal was to revive handball in the capital. Moscow is one of the largest cities in the world with huge fan, marketing and commercial potential. When we were choosing a name for the men's club, a personal and slightly emotional approach prevailed. I am ready to take the oath of allegiance to the football Spartak once again. I grew up loving this team and I still love it. I can name the squad of the red-white team of the 80's, 90's, 2000's unmistakably. I was at the match at the Luzhniki stadium in 1989 when Shmarov scored the winning goal from a free kick into the left upper corner, to the right goals of the central stand. There was no happier person in the stadium at that moment. Dynamo Kiev was beaten.

I remember the 2nd of November 1983, when my favorite player Fedor Cherenkov scored two goals against Aston Villa on their ground, and the second one was in the 89th minute. It was already a deep night in Novorossiysk. My scream woke the whole building and my mother ran into the room with a strap: “What happened? You raised the whole house!”

That‘s why, when the leadership of the future club was thinking about the name, the emotional component prevailed. In addition, at that time we had very good partners. Nail Izmailov, the Deputy General Director of Spartak, supervised relations with the handball club and the Federation. I have a long-standing relationship with the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Spartak, Sergei Mikhailov. We worked with him in the 90s on the Board of Directors of the Novorossiysk Sea Port. But there was another very important issue in this dialogue. I speak on behalf of the Head of the Federation, a man who carries many of the problems of Russian handball. The most global challenge we are facing is the construction of a handball house. Frankly speaking, we are like orphans, we don't have a single hall of our own and we have to negotiate with the stadiums for the matches of clubs and national teams. The female CSKA has a mini-house in the Igrovoy hall on Leningradsky Prospekt. But, nevertheless, the Federation faces the task of building a full-fledged playing hall for 6-10 thousand spectators.

There will be the office of the Handball Federation of Russia, the Handball Museum, training halls, a hotel and classrooms. All our servers where we store a lot of information will be located in this complex. Everything should be modern and convenient for spectators and teams. We plan to create all the necessary infrastructure so that fans come to handball with their families, can walk around the stadium, eat, buy merchandise and take part in various activities. At the same time, the arena must be universal, so concerts or other sport competitions could be held there between handball matches. So, at the stage of forming the club, there were big plans to build a sport complex near the Otkrytie Arena stadium, where concrete foundations had already been laid for a long time. I am very grateful to our partners for the time of fruitful cooperation, but, unfortunately, things are still there. The implementation of the project hasn’t moved a step forward despite an obtained territory.

Second moment. During my work in the Handball Federation of Russia, we have established very good partnerships with the Ministry of Defense. The CSKA Women's Club appeared largely thanks to help and ideological support from the Ministry of Defense. The Board of Trustees of the club was headed by Deputy Minister of Defense Timur Ivanov. CSKA Women's Club exists only for the first year, but it already has its own hall, which turned into a home for handball players and fans, it has its own atmosphere. Today, CSKA players conduct master classes for girls in the military (smiles). In just six months, girls have attended matches of the CSKA football, basketball, and hockey teams. Everywhere they are presented by the announcers, fans warmly welcome them.

I will not hide the factor of the relationship between the clubs which also affected the situation. When the female CSKA handball players came to the matches of the male Spartak, they were booed and even shouted some bad words when they were announced. I do not blame anyone, we have such a fan culture, but still the question arises: what to do next? How will a CSKA fan come to the hall next to the Otkrytie Arena, which by definition will have the word “Spartak” in the title? And our task is to create a hall for all Moscow clubs and for the Russian national teams.

We can’t ignore the financial aspects. The sources of funding for both clubs are roughly understood. And work under the control of one administrative structure allows us to save costs.

It is also important to understand that Moscow had never known Spartak handball team before, but still remembers and loves CSKA, as well as MAI and Kuntsevo. CSKA is a 9-times champion of the USSR, a 2-times champion of Russia, and 2 times won the Russian Championship under the brand name “CSKA-Sportakademclub”. And only then CSKA did disappear somewhere in the Moscow region due to the reasons of that time. This is a famous club with great traditions, brought up many Olympic champions.

Initially, it was planned to rename the club after the season, but in the end the decision was made earlier, following the results of the Final Four of the Russian Cup in Perm. It became clear that there would be a long pause in the Russian Championship. Now the club has time to resolve all administrative issues, to purchase new uniforms.

I thank the fans of Spartak, who supported the team for three seasons and invite them to cheer for handball under the new brand. The handball development is the main thing for us. It is important to have strong teams in Moscow, because the capital is an attractive point for our colleagues from the European and International Handball Federations. I assure you that one day handball matches in Moscow will have full houses. We are doing everything for this. I hope my arguments will be heard, but if it is necessary, I am ready to meet the fans of both clubs to talk and discuss this issue.

Do you feel some jealousy for CSKA from Chekhovskie Medvedi? They also position themselves as successors of the victorious traditions of our handball.

How can they be not jealous? The club from Chekhov has been a champion for 20 years in a row and now there is a real threat, real competition. CSKA (we will call the team like this already) became much more competitive with new signings in this transfer pause. But this is not for the sake of strengthening a particular club, we wanted to bring more people together for Velimir Petkovich so that the guys would play together. Chekhovskie Medvedi sees it and understands that its dominance may end, so some fears and jealousy are quite natural. But let's be gentlemen. If we develop handball together, we must be able to lose. I don’t call for this, let the strongest win. But 20-time champions need to be prepared for any outcome.

“We don’t want to leave the job halfway”

Sergey, what are your priority plans for the future?

We need to rebuild men's handball, of course. I absolutely disagree with the statements that we do not have it in the regions and that sports schools don’t work. This is not true. Men’s schools work, maybe a little less efficiently than the women’s ones. By the way, Trefilov recently told me that he was watching the training camp’s activities of the Russian women’s junior team in Rostov. How many good young girls 16-17 years old we have! And for the boys, a lot of work is going on in Krasnodar, Tolyatti, Perm and Moscow. School of Olympic Reserve No. 2 is an almost perfect vertical line: the club - the second team - youth handball - children's handball. The most important thing is the transition from the age of 17-18 to professional sports, it is important not to lose these guys.

We need to increase both the material base and the sponsorship. I will not disclose the budget figures today. But I will say that the budget that we had in the first year has increased several times. And in this regard, I must mention the work of our Marketing Department, thank Lev Voronin, Olga Bugaenko and the entire staff of the Federation for the fact that they learned to work with sponsors. Federation has already a budget without deficit.

Recently I had a reason for joy. Previously, we ran around and asked to show us on TV, and sometimes we were paid money for it. And in the recent Spartak-Chekhovskie Medvedi match, the cost of broadcasting the match fell on shoulders of the channel, and the club received 500 thousand income. Yes, the football guys will laugh at us, but for us this is a great achievement.

You have comprehensively talked about the results of the work for the five-year period. But ahead of the reporting and election Conference. Are you going for a new term?

A certain legal conflict arose about the conference. According to the rules, we must hold the Conference after the Olympics and before the end of the calendar year. On the other hand, the Conference elected me, the Executive Committee and the General Director for a four-year term. It is clear that the Olympics have been rescheduled and in this case the situation must be considered from the perspective of the Olympic cycle. But still, taking into account all the circumstances, we decided that the Conference should be held this year. Probably it will be in December. Perhaps it will be coincided with some sport event.

I'm not going to hide it, I will run for the position and hope that I will be elected. I hope that my opponents will not create serious obstacles. On the other hand, you know that I am a fighter steeled in political battles. However, I think that it will not come to this. I am open for a dialogue, I can and I love listening. I don’t want to pretend to be a great handball specialist, although I’ve learnt something over the past five years. I always listen to everyone who comes to us with the desire to help and interact. It will be good if a civilized discussion takes place within the framework of the Conference. And I will not allow the Conference to turn into a big scandal. Once again, to sum up: Yes, I will run for presidency, because I do not want to give up what I started halfway and if we talk about men's handball, then in general we are at the very beginning. 

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