A highlight for Daniel and I over the break was the chance to see the Hungarian national team play a handball match. The team handball world championships will be held this month in Spain and the Hungarian team faced off against Serbia in a warm-up match in the nearby city of Veszprém. Daniel and I (along with Dora’s dad) drove down to see the team and sport first-hand.
Team handball doesn’t get a lot of attention in the US (an understatement), other than getting some coverage in the Olympics every fours years. In Hungary (and much of Europe), it is quite a different story; the game is quite popular with fully professional leagues and televised matches (it is a similar case for water polo in Hungary). For those not familiar with the game, I offer this link to highlights of Hungary’s upset of favored powerhouse, Iceland (yes, Iceland) in the last Olympics as an introduction. In this game, Hungary trails by 1 in the final 10 seconds and concedes a penalty shot to Iceland. Usually these things are automatic, but… well, watch the video. I feared for my mother-in-laws health when she watched the game this summer.
But I digress…Daniel was pretty excited about going to the match. The day before the match we were at a music/craft festival and the kids made masks. Daniel made his using the design of the Hungarian flag. Here he is in his mask at the game (with the Hungarian squad warming up in the background). You can see that Dora managed to get us pretty good seats (4th row near midcourt); since it was an exhibition they didn’t cost very much (~$10).
We also had a chance to see one of Hungary’s most famous sportsmen up close. Nagy László is Hungary’s best player (and one of the top 10 in the world): tall, athletic, and left-handed (all advantages in the sport). Combined with his rugged good looks, he is easily one of the most recognized figures in the country.
As for the game itself, it was an entertaining match. Both teams competed hard, in fact there was almost a fight in the second half when Nagy László tussled with one of the Serbian players. The game is very fast-paced with two 30-minute halves and almost no breaks. Even after a goal (pretty frequently, the game ended with Hungary winning 36-31), the keeper usually quickly throws the ball to midcourt for a quick restart to try to catch the other team out of position. The game is pretty physical, the players in the middle are typically pretty big and push and grab a lot (sort of like post players in basketball). The players all are pretty athletic — jumping high and releasing killer shots with accuracy. The goalies don’t often have a chance, but every now and then come up with an amazing save. Here are a couple of pictures from the game; I tried hard to get the perfect action shot — a player rising high and releasing a shot — but that’s pretty tough to do!