Handball World Cup 2023: Players criticize the IHF’s Corona rules

Status: 05.01.2023 00:03

The corona virus caused chaos at the 2021 World Handball Championship and the 2022 European Championship. Before the 2023 World Cup, some players are now criticizing that the IHF rules are too strict.

Icelandic national goalkeeper Björgvin Pall Gustavsson is no stranger to Germany. The now 37-year-old played for SC Magdeburg and Bergisches HC in the German Handball League until 2017.

Gustavsson vented his anger in an open letter on his Twitter account earlier this year. The aim of his criticism: those responsible for the handball world association IHF and the corona rules that the IHF has set for the world championship starting on January 11th.

The Corona rules for the 2023 World Handball Championship

Excerpts of these are as follows:

  • All persons directly involved in the game must be (sufficiently) vaccinated or have recovered and had to prove this in advance.
  • Three days before arriving at the venues in Poland and Sweden, everyone involved must present a negative PCR test
  • After the preliminary round and after the main round – and if symptoms occur – all players and those responsible must undergo a quick test
  • If the test is positive, the person will be isolated for at least five days and can only take part in the tournament again with a negative PCR test

Rules stricter than laws in Poland and Sweden

These rules are significantly stricter than the legal requirements in the venues. Poland and Sweden have already suspended quarantine and other measures. The fact that the IHF has nevertheless decided to write an obligation to isolate in the tournament’s own corona rules is not well received by some players.

Gustavsson: IHF doesn’t protect the players with that

Gustavsson and other handball players have already spoken to lawyers to check whether the rules set by the IHF are even legal, as Gustavsson writes in his letter. The human rights of the players are curtailed by the rules.

“Players are aware that they can end their quarantine themselves at any time and refuse to be tested.”it goes on to say. “If the IHF wanted to implement these measures to protect the players, they achieved exactly the opposite. And I think I speak for everyone. The corona trauma of the last tournaments is still very present among the players and affects the athletes, who are healthy, like a horse, more than Corona.”

Landin, Schagen and Co. share the tweet

Whether Gustavsson really speaks for all players is at least questionable. However, some actors seem to agree with him. Denmark’s world-class goalkeeper Niklas Landin from THW Kiel, his compatriot Rasmus Lauge and Dutchman Bobby Schagen are just three examples of World Cup participants who at least shared Gustavsson’s tweet. Sweden’s assistant coach Michael Apelgren had previously criticized “Aftonbladet”: “It’s a shame when you’re playing a World Cup at home and you can’t live like we do in Sweden.”

Many corona cases at past tournaments

At the European Championships in Hungary and Slovakia in 2022, there were a total of 18 corona cases and various subsequent nominations in the German delegation alone. It had been tested closely with PCR tests and players who tested positive also had to quarantine for at least five days. Also at the 2021 World Cup, Cape Verde could not compete against the DHB team because of too many positive tests in the team, the Czech Republic and the USA had already had to cancel in advance.

In the run-up to the 2023 tournament, only a few positive corona tests among nominated players have become known. The Dane Simon Pytlick, who tested positive, has been back with his team since Wednesday (January 4th, 2023) after apparently surviving the infection without symptoms and with a negative test. The Dutch FA also announced on Wednesday that Jorn Smits and three staff members had also tested positive.