At the Men's EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia, the Swiss journalist, Hans Hugentobler, became became second journalist to be awarded with the ‘Siân Rowland Special Media Award’, named after the former EHF Media Manager, who sadly passed away in 2008. Hugentobler has covered handball since 1978, first for the radio, then for the national newspaper Neue Züricher Zeitung (NZZ), based in Zurich.
Speaking to the EHF correspondent, Björn Pazen, Hugentobler looks back on the past 25 years of reporting on the EHF and to the development of handball and the handball media:
“In 1978, I was forced by my bosses to cover the C-level Handball World Championship, which had been staged in Switzerland after our team had relegated from the B-level one year before,
But on home ground we managed to go up again, and thus I was told to cover this B-World Championship 1979 in Spain, later on I was at the Olympic Handball tournaments in Moscow and Los Angeles - those boycott Games, for which Switzerland had qualified. This was my initial period in handball coverage,” he continued.
It is impossible to compare handball nowadays and back in the 1970’s, as usually 40 goals in 45 attacks were scored in the whole match, today we have more than 80 attacks. Speed and athletic have become crucial parts, the handball players had to develop physically and mentally and later-on, tactical adaptations such as the fast throw-off have changed handball too.
Even more changes occurred in the field of media work: When I started to cover handball, neither the fax machine nor the mobile phone or internet had been invented, so we send our articles via telex from post offices. Also researching was anything but easy, as we needed to find information in certain newspapers, from which I remember most the “Sportecho” from former GDR.
The most funny situation I remember from the early years, was, when I had to transmit a radio report to Switzerland. The telephone line in my old hotel in Valencia was not good enough, but I found a farmer, who allowed me to use his telephone. In exchange, I had to help him for two hours with harvesting oranges.
In the last decades when I worked as a newspaper journalist, I had a quite critical approach to handball. But I like how EHF copes with constructive criticism in a very professional way. I am sure that handball can only move forward if all problems are discussed openly.
I am still fascinated by handball personalities such as Magnus Wislander, Stefan Lövgren, Jackson Richardson, Andrei Lavrov, Frédéric Volle, Nikola Karabatic, Andreas Thiel, Markus Baur, Talant Dujshebaev, Stefan Kretzschmar and many more, who have made their mark on this sport. It is because of this that my interest in the sport is still huge.
The only things that makes me feel unhappy is the performance level and significance of Swiss handball today. Our men’s national team has not had the success it did in previous years, and because of this, the media interested in handball has decreased significantly.
Only our club teams like Kadetten Schaffhausen raise interest on a regional level, but in a national context, they are far below behind those earlier days.”