Handball EM: Omikron sits on the bench – Sport

Disbelief has become an integral part of this European Handball Championship. This has less to do with spectacular passes or unexpectedly strong teams. But with the corona virus, which apparently eats its way through entire teams at random. It has turned the tournament into a lottery in which everyone hopes that the pathogen will not creep into their own group.

The delegation of the German Handball Federation was hit hard in this inglorious raffle – despite great precautionary measures, 13 players and one person from the coaching team have been infected so far. “It’s crazy what’s happening to the German team,” said the Norwegian international Harald Reinkind, who plays for THW Kiel in the Bundesliga. The Norwegians have not yet reported a positive case. “We are very cautious, but so are the Germans,” said Reinkind, who spoke to his Kiel team-mate and German national player Patrick Wiencek. For the teams, it’s not just about clinching victory after victory, but staying healthy and spared from the virus.

Why weren’t the tactics of the 2021 World Cup adopted?

The European Championships in Slovakia and Hungary have long been dominated by the corona virus. Nevertheless, the European Handball Federation (EHF) had mainly practiced silence on the problem – no public statement, no reports of positive tests. The impression was created that the organizer wanted to keep the topic small. But the pressure on the organizers and the host nations Slovakia and Hungary grew with each additional Corona case. A few days ago, General Secretary Martin Hausleitner finally said: “The Omicron variant changes everything,” he said. “When the hygiene concept was developed, the situation was different,” Hausleitner defended the procedure.

But the question arises as to why no so-called bubble was created for the European Championship, as was the case at the World Cup in Egypt a year ago. At that time, the world association had separated players, officials, referees and journalists from the outside world and thus significantly reduced the number of corona cases, which were still common in some teams before the start of the tournament. Why was this tactic not adopted? “There was no vaccination back then, now we can’t do something like that anymore,” explained Hausleitner. The association had built on the fact that the risk of infection would remain calculable. Now he has to see every day that the reality is different.

The corona measures in Bratislava are currently stricter than in Germany

In Bratislava, one of the two venues of the main round of the European Championship, it looks like this: There are two hotels where the teams are accommodated, the teams themselves can isolate themselves, and they do that too. Nevertheless, the accommodations remain accessible to everyone. TV teams, among others, have booked into the Hotel der Deutschen to report on the EM.

That doesn’t mean there are no safety precautions. In Bratislava there is a general obligation to wear masks indoors and there is an obligation to use 3G. A tough lockdown only ended at the beginning of January, and restaurants now have to close again by 10 p.m. at the latest. The corona measures in Slovakia are currently stricter than in Germany.

However, the highly contagious omicron variant ignores these hygiene concepts. Even the strictest, self-imposed requirements did not help the German team. The DHB players are currently almost exclusively in single rooms, only leaving them to get food from the buffet, to train or to play. Team meetings take place digitally. In the defeat against Spain, the players on the bench wore masks throughout, which they only took off when they ran onto the field. After the games, the handball players drive back to the hotel without a shower. Direct contacts are avoided, they are only unavoidable on the floor.

“It’s a very crazy situation,” admitted Paul Drux. The Füchse Berlin backcourt player is one of eleven substitutes in the German team and lives in his room, shielded from his teammates. After all, Drux has known most of his colleagues for a few years. For Daniel Rebmann, the situation is much more bizarre. The goalkeeper from Frisch Auf Göppingen is playing his first international matches at the European Championships and is on the field with colleagues whom he actually doesn’t know at all. “There is also no opportunity to get to know the boys,” said Rebmann. The 28-year-old is living his childhood dream because he gets to wear the national team shirt. But he can’t enjoy it.



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