Former chair of the IHF Playing Rules and Referees (PRC) Commission, Christer Ahl, takes the IHF and Qatar to task for inconsistent officiating and unfair advantages for the host nation.
This should have been the exciting, biennial competition, where all the focus would be on the star players and the entertainment and excitement they are able to offer. There would be an expectation of fair play and evenhanded refereeing, in the spirit of ‘let the best team win!’ But this time, the IHF and the Qatari host conspired in various ways, so that the focus instead was on the mercenaries of what purported to be a Qatari national team, the many advantages they obtained, and the totally inconsistent refereeing which often was the deciding factor in key games.
Can everything be bought?
It all started in 2011, when to the surprise of many, the IHF Council decided to award the hosting of the 2015 event to Qatar. Especially against the background of the more publicized affairs around the awarding of the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar, there have also been many suspicions and accusations surrounding the IHF decision for handball. It is ironic that the country favored to be awarded this event in 2015 was precisely France, the opponents of Qatar in the final, who now had to deal with the extra burden of being up against the home team and all that this implies.
But the main topic for many observers was that Qatar had imported eleven players to fill all the key positions on their team, taking advantage of their own rules for awarding ‘half citizenship’ in Qatar, in combination with the very lenient rules of the IHF regarding changes in citizenship. (By contrast, FIFA has much stricter rules in football). We find it normal that wealthy club teams use their resources to acquire the best players in the world, but we have come to expect, until now, that national teams are genuine national teams.