President of the Handball Federation of Russia gave interview to Sport-Express after the recent colorful speech at the Presidential Council on Physical Culture and Sport


On 11 October the Presidential Council on Physical Culture and Sport was held in Vladimiskiy region. Among other things, you called the national Olympic handball team “15 Cinderellas”. Could you please explain why?

Obviously, the victory at the Olympic Games is a sign of a certain kind of sport dominating in the country. It is a sign of prosperity, welfare and the right development. Unfortunately, we can’t say this about handball at the moment. Our sport is not at the good level of development, but it has great potential. I keep saying that the success of our women’s team at Rio Olympics happened not “due to” but “despite of” some circumstances.

The association between our players and Cinderella is not accidental. Tell me, how would you call someone who has to train and play at the shabby halls from the past century? With no conditions for handball development in the country. A vivid example: our team “Dinamo-Sinara” – one of the top-clubs of the country, that represents Russian at the EHF Cup, the second most prestigious tournament, – it has to play in the hall with sitting capacity for 1500 spectators, in a peculiar “inflatable” construction. There is almost no handball infrastructure in our country now. There are very few good halls for handball. We lack federal sport centers for training, sports equipment that would suffice for international requirements. How can you nurture top-class players without basic conditions for it?!

The victory of our women’s team at the Olympic Games is unique at the current state of affairs. Everything came together: great will-to-win, luck, coaching decisions of Evgeny Trefilov, support of the government and the Olympic Committee. For many of them the Olympic Games in Rio was the last chance to win the Olympic gold, because they were finishing the career afterwards. The team spirit that was created in the team is superb. Everything that was going on for 2 months after the Olympics is like a ball from Cinderella fairytale.

Now we have to face the real life where there are plenty of problems. The additional confirmation is the performance of our men’s youth teams at European championships. The team younger 18 took 11th place at the continental tournament, the team younger than 20 took the last 16th place…The results speak for themselves, normally the performance of young teams show the situation in every sport.

At the Presidential Council you said: “I would like to ask for help to develop handball in Russia, we need a little support”. Could you please specify what kind of support you need?

I would very much like to believe that catching, fantastic, emotional victory of our women’s team at the Olympic Games in Rio – first in history, will awake the interest to handball and will stir up Russian sport in general. After the Olympics we prepared our proposals on handball development and sent them to the Olympic Committee, to the workgroup on development of popular sport in the Presidential Council on Physical Culture and Sport Development, clearly separating development of professional sport and children’s and youth handball.

To be frank: we have problems in nurturing new generation of handball players, which are proved by the latest performance of our youth teams at large tournaments. Trefilov says openly that it is getting harder and harder for him to choose 28 players for preliminary selection, although the situation in women’s handball in much better than in men’s handball – our girls (U20) won silver at the World Women’s Junior Championship that was held in Moscow, and our U18 team won gold at the World Women’s Youth Championship. That’s why we need handball sport centers – to prepare the reserve. Preferably they should be in all federal regions of Russia. Or at least they should be in those regions where people know and love this game – Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd, Tolyatti, Ufa, Ekaterinburg, and of course in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

I already mentioned the mournful – can’t choose a better word – condition of the handball infrastructure, this problem requires immediate solving. We need to build halls that are suitable for handball and sport halls that conform to international standards. I am sure that it will give impulse to handball development among children and it will also allow professional clubs to apply marketing development. And finally, new modern, comfortable, beautiful sport halls will attract spectators. Look, after the brilliant victory of our girls in Rio people fell in love with handball, they got interested in it again, they want to know more about it. Of course, old, shabby halls do not contribute to keeping on of this interest. Fans are our precious value and we have to take care about their comfort.

Talking about professional handball, we need modern, interesting, strong and self-sufficient handball league supported by general sponsor. And only then we can talk about creating a high-quality sport product, attractive for spectators, TV, potential sponsors, that would correlate with current audience and marketing demands.

We expect the governmental support of children’s sport. We would like handball to become the third class of physical training in schools andthe all-Russian competition “Swift ball” to be resumed.Children and youth handball schools need support desperately. The salaries of coaches at these schools need to be raised.

Tell me about the idea to renovate the multi-purpose sport complex “Druzhba” and to create a handball center there. What is required for that? What is the possible deadline? How the complex will look like after the renovation? And in general, why do you think that Russian handball needs as you put it “own home, own, corner”?

We really want and try to bring back big handball, top-level handball to Moscow, the city where it was born. It already returned – can you imagine, after 15 years!

The Moscow team of the Olympic Reserve Academy No. 2 got to the Super League in the past season, and we welcome Moscow handball fans to their matches. They gathered young, perky and very ambitious collective that will definitely prove themselves and give fight to the leaders.

But the Russian national teams are different thing, they are always under the close watch of the spectators. It would be just great if the national team had its own hall, its home where everything is dear and familiar. It will allow us to attract more audience to the Russian national team. The fans will know that if the national team is playing in Moscow it will de held in the “home” hall and not in any other place.

Today we have the idea to create such “home” on the basis of the sport complex “Druzhba”. It is a compact sport facility for team sports, with a comfortable location and infrastructure. It was built in 1979 and requires renovation, it doesn’t meet international handball standards yet.

We still have to research the potential of the sport hall “Druzhba”. But preliminary capacity of 3,500 spectators is enough to suffice our expectations and requirements. There’s no doubt that we can gather such audience and Moscow citizens will get a chance to support our golden Olympic team, our men’s national team, which has good potential, and of course our younger teams.

Besides, the hall can welcome the games of the Moscow handball club “Lada”. Now we’re working on revival of the men’s club MAI – the legendary team that was the winner of the European Champions League and Cup Winners Cup.

We also need to hold a range of consultations concerning the renovation of “Druzhba”. But there is a reason to hope that Moscow will soon be provided with its own handball center.


What are other important matters that you have outlined in your report? What else did you want to say or didn’t have time to say?

Our key message: handball is vivid, dynamic, interesting team sport that brings lots of positive emotions. It is a kind of sport that deserves essentially different attitude towards itself. Don’t our girls who won the Olympic gold deserve that handball was more popular? The men’s national team headed by Dmitry Torgovanov and Lev Voronin is able to show some strong, handsome and powerful handball, giving joy to the fans.

Our sport doesn’t require grand financial investments, but at the same time settled victorious traditions and potential make room for new victories. I keep saying: we are ready for new achievements, we want to conquer new peaks, to work and to reach new level of skill, but we need state support.

Are you satisfied by the Council – for you and for handball, generally? Do you have any certainty that you have been heard and will get support?

My feelings after the Council are absolutely positive, because the President gave me a chance to make a small report sharing my ideas on handball development. Mr. Putin listened very attentively everything that was discussed during the Council. It is important for us that he gave instructions to note our proposals. We really hope that they will be mentioned in the final protocol of the Council.

What are the changes that you expect in Russian sport?

Mr. Putin set ways for Russian sport development in his speech, including state support for popular sport, children’s and youth sport and decline in funding for professional clubs. The new 4-year Olympic cycle for summer sports has started and obviously we have to think of bringing up the reserve. Trefilov by the way says the same thing. Our national team is already being renewed. At the “Golden League” tournament, held in Denmark, a lot of young players were invited. We will keep practicing that, because the change in generations is ongoing and we need to make it smooth. Right now, we need to include new players into the game – those players who in a while will be a new face of Russian handball.

As for your question, I think in the nearest future the key objective is preparing the reserve, many sports face the change of generations. I hope that the proposals on popular, children’s and youth handball development that we’ve made at the Council will be taken into account.

What is your opinion of Zhukov’s leaving the Olympic Committee of Russia and possible disbanding of the Ministry of Sport?

First of all, I would like to say that with Mr. Zhukov we’re friends for over 16 years, we played together for State Duma’s football team, cheered together at the Olympic Games for our handball team. I am very grateful for his support in many issues and I would not want to see Russia lost its position in the  International Olympic Committee. I would also like to congratulate Vitaly Mutko on appointment to Deputy Prime-Minister on sport, tourism and youth politics, and Pavel Kolobkov – on appointment to Minister of Sport of Russia. We have good working relations and I hope for its constructive development for the sake of our sport.

I was at the arena during the gala match between the “national teams of Russia and the USSR” at CSKA hall a few weeks ago. There were really a lot of spectators. How did you manage to gather such number of people in Moscow, satiated with events, for the tournament with no title? Are you satisfied with organization of the match?

The victory of the women’s national team at the Olympic Games gave this effect and one more time I want to say thank to our girls for this sporting achievement! You know, a few months ago, before the Olympics, I heard sometimes that handball is a “used-up”, interesting to no one kind of sport. This symbolic gala match proved them wrong! The tribunes of the CSKA sport complex were full, we didn’t drive anyone. Spectators, handball fans wanted to see our Olympic Champions, to talk to them. And not only them, we honored the Olympic champions since 1976!

Our national team got hearts of a big audience, for some of them even opened our kind of sport – very lively, emotional, dynamic ball game. The atmosphere at the match was spectacular, kind and friendly. I believe everyone enjoyed it. As for the show prior to the game – I personally liked it! And all participants of the match shared similar views and emotions – so much sincere smiles, happiness we haven’t seen since the Olympics. The spectators gave flowers, took pictures, autographs – Anna Vyakhireva, Marina Sudakova, Evgeny Trefilov – had a line-up of fans! All participants of gala match expressed a wish to make this an annual event. I think it talks for itself.

Tell us about the HFR initiative to transfer the revenue for tickets to the mother of Varvara Ilyina – young player who died in an accident. How did it happen? Did the HFR had any similar initiatives?

The tragedy happened on 2 October on 1st Vladimirskaya Str. not far from handball hall “Luch”. Varvara Ilyina, a student of the Specialized Children and Youth Sports School of the Olympic Reserve No. 53 was coming to the match of Moscow Championship with her step-father, they stopped at the crossroads, waiting for the green light. At this very moment a driver was passing on the red light, in order to avoid collision with a passing car, he turned the wheel and got on the sidewalk. Three of four people, he crashed into died – unfortunately, one of them was Varvara and her step-father.

We express deep condolences to the family of our handball player, we know that her mother was left alone with two children. Of course, we couldn’t stand aside this tragedy and decided to transfer all money from the sold tickets for the Euro-2018 qualification tournament between Russian and Slovakia teams that will be held on 2 November at “Dinamo” sport complex.

The HFR gives support when it is needed. For example, after the Olympic Games, the girls took the initiative and decided to send a part of prize money to support our Paraolympic team, which was not admitted to the  Paraolympic Games. We transferred 2 million rub to Paraolympic Committee of Russia – 1.5 million  from the national team and 500 thousand rub from the HFR.


– What result will satisfy you on December Women’s European Championship-2016, taking into account the status of the Olympic champions?

The women’s national handball team is undergoing a gradual generation change and is in the process of restructuring. Some players – Tatiana Erokhina, Irina Bliznova, Olga Akopyan – have retired. Some other players will probably finish their career in the national team soon. At the moment we should think about the next Olympic Games, so Trefilov has decided to rejuvenate the team, inviting young players. The team renewal could not go unnoticed. In October, we took only the fourth place in the tournament “Golden League” in Denmark, but at the same time, the team gradually progressed from match to match. I liked that some young players got used to the demands of Evgeny Vasilyevich quickly. For example, 17-year-old Antonina Skorobogatchenko, the winner of the Junior World Cup, didn’t lose courage in front of the national teams of Denmark, Norway and France, scoring nine goals.

Anyway, there are reasons for optimism. Trefilov has proved over and over his professional skills. I hope that our team will be ready for the European Championship. At least, besides young players in the team, we have experienced handball players, the current Olympic champions and participants of the European cup..

At the same time, we won’t put super-tasks – to win gold medals by any means. In view of changes, the good result will be to get on the podium. However, the gold medal of the European Championship is the only award missing in Trefilov’s collection. Surely, Evgeny Vasilyevich will set a goal to win the missing trophy.

– Handball is actively broadcasted on “Match TV”. Which games and competitions will we see and how often will handball appear on TV now?

– We are working hard to broadcast more handball on the central federal sport channel, so that the audience gets used to the handball on TV. We have the first results. On the last weekend “Match TV” showed a game of the Champions League between “Montpellier” and “Chekhovskie Medvedi”. And although “Medvedi” lost, but there was a beautiful TV picture, fans in France created a wonderful atmosphere at the arena and the match was lookedadvantageously.

At present, together with the channel’s management, we are studying the possibility of broadcasting the matches of the Russian national teams, games of Russian clubs in European competitions and central meetings in the national Championships. Also, we are discussing the launch of an analytical program about handball: we are exploring options of such a program and thinking about its format.

– What are the three main HFR purposes in 2017 to get your satisfaction? List three major events for you in 2016.

– The main event of the last twelve months for us is the gold medal of the Olympic Games in Rio of our Women’s national team. It’s a brilliant, bright, dramatic and emotional victory! In summer, shortly before the start of the Olympic Games, Moscow had an important event – the World Cup U-20 among girls. I am very pleased that the capital of our country has seen professional handball, exciting matches and our team, in which many players, I’m sure, will grow to the national team. Our team won the silver medal. Moreover, we have been praised by the International Handball Federation for the World Cup organization and we proved that we had the right to apply for hosting major tournaments in the future. Also, I would like to mention holding of the Congress of the International Handball Federation, which we organized in a short time and held in Sochi in November 2015. Thanks to it we succeeded in enhancing relations with the IHF, and then with the European Handball Federation, which made it possible to achieve the objective judging at the Olympic Games. Finally, in the middle of November, the elections of the head of the European Handball Federation will be held. We have nominated several candidates from Russia to the executive and administrative bodies of EHF, and we hope that they will be elected.

In the short term, at the end of December 2016 the HFR will hold a report and election conference, which will determine the near future of Russian handball. I will decide whether I will run for the HFR President for the next term, and whether my candidacy will be supported if I decide to do it.

As for the sports scores in the year of 2017, it will be the successful performance of men’s and women’s national teams at the world championships. We also want to revive the legendary men’s club MAI, which became the winner of the European Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup at its time. We hope that next year we will begin an active work on creation of the Russian handball league, which could become a high-quality sports and marketing product. And, of course, we are expecting that after the Sports Council our proposals for the development of handball will be realized. It is extremely important to us.