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Jurkiewicz: "Oh, there's a championship? Where do you play?"

Poland's left back wants to make sure that every fan knows that the final tournament takes place in his home country

With the EHF EURO in Denmark just concluded, the next step in the development of European men's handball is already on the horizon. On Friday, 11 April the qualification draw for the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland takes place in the nation's capital.

On the eve of the draw ehf-euro.com talked to Polish left back, Mariusz Jurkiewicz.

The 32-year-old, who now plys his trade for Wisla Plock, also played in Spain for many seasons and represented Poland at several major tournaments and he observed, from an athlete's perspective, how the image of has sport has changed.

ehf-euro.com: The EHF EURO 2016 is going to be next big event - after the UEFA EURO 2012, the World Indoor Athletics Championships and the upcoming Volleyball Men’s World Championships - which takes a place in Poland. Have you been following these events and the process of bidding for the EHF EURO?

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: I have been following these sport events in Poland as a fan and I was happy that they took place in my country. But the time came when we bid for the organisation of the World Championship 2015 and I perceived that a bit different, as handball is much closer to my heart than the other sports.

I remember that we were running neck-to-neck with Qatar. Of course, Qatar won, but I realised that our federation is serious about it and that we are treated seriously as a potential organiser.

That is why it seemed to me that we had much bigger chances in the bidding process for the EHF EURO 2016. And so it was. We were well prepared for the task and somebody must have done their homework properly, if the EHF decided to entrust us the tournament.

ehf-euro.com: Two younger age category EHF EURO events, the Women's 17 EHF EURO held last year and the Men's 18 EHF EURO 2014, precede the senior tournament. Where does the interest for handball in our country come from?

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: We have been present on each big event for a long time. Handball is popular among our fans and our fans are popular in Europe. The best example is recent tournament in Denmark. Many articles were being written about the atmosphere in Aarhus and how our supporters created the spirit of the hall.

Look at what happens during the Champions League matches in Kielce and Plock. For sure, all this makes it easier for the federation to fight for the organisation of such events.

ehf-euro.com: But neither Kielce nor Płock are on the venue map for the EHF EURO 2016...

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: But the halls chosen for the tournament are great, as they are huge arenas with professional conditions situated in nice cities. The access to these places will be quite easy for our guests. In the ERGO Arena in Gdańsk there is always an amazing atmosphere, we feel fantastic there.

ehf-euro.com: What about the hall in Krakow, where Poland will probably play?

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: This hall is still being built, but I’m sure it will be splendid too. The fact that we are entering such objects shows, how handball has already moved forward in a sport and a marketing way as well.

ehf-euro.com: What makes the Polish fans different compared to, say, the Spanish fans as you know them well from your time you played in the Asobal?

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: Well, Polish fans are a bit better organised in my opinion. In Denmark, during the warm-up, I used to see the people scattered over the stands according to the place they bought a ticket for. But with the beginning of the match they were forming an entity in one sector. It’s nice that the security allowed them to do that. I also think that our fans are more enthusiastic.

ehf-euro.com More than Spanish ones?

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: Yes, but in an organised way. I mean, the Spaniards are spontaneous. One screams, the other howls, the third one jumps and this is how it looks. Poles, however, are louder because of their unity.

ehf-euro.com: And what about their handball knowledge?

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: In Poland the majority of those who attend the matches, are very familiar witj handball. They come to see the game with their families. The halls are full and it is an amazing feeling when everyone supports you.
You know, there are moments, when you have no energy left and you ride on the adrenaline. And then with a help of your fans you are able to run away from your opponent, because he hasn’t got the same support as you.

ehf-euro.com: Handball is getting more and more popular recently. What are the reasons for this?

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: I think this is a matter of accessibility to the highest level matches. I remember that in my youth I wasn’t able to watch, for example, the World Championships because there were no broadcasts on TV.
At present we can watch several matches each day on TV, online, or even live when the Champions League visits Polish towns. Many people attend these events and you know, it must be something interesting about handball if the stands are always full!

ehf-euro.com: What, do you think Poland will offer those who visit our country during the EHF EURO 2016?

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: First of all, the atmosphere. The way we will celebrate the tournament. In Spain, for example, hardly anybody knew that there were World Championships taking place in the country. When you asked people on the street about the matches, you heard 'Oh, there’s a tournament here? Really? Where do you play?' (he laughs).

I’m sure, in Poland, even those who are not interested in sport, will know about the EURO. I’m also convinced that there will be great hospitality. We showed at previous events, how well our fans are able to enjoy it.

ehf-euro.com: So can the tournament contribute to the further promotion of European handball?

Mariusz Jurkiewicz: There is no bigger promotion than the results of the national team. You can make a lot of advertising campaigns but they will always be only an added bonus.

written by Magda Pluszewska / ts