The Handball Federation of Sri Lanka (HFSL) have set their sights on winning a medal at the forthcoming South Asian Games (SAG) by getting down the services of two high performances coaches from Serbia Nedeljko Matic and Nenad Kraljevski.
The two accomplished European coaches arrived on the island on August 1 and have got down to the business of raising the handball profile of Sri Lanka with enthusiasm. The duo is here on a four-month contract till the SAG which will be followed by a post-Games analysis for three weeks.
“There is a marked improvement in the performance of the national pool within a few days of their arrival,” said Major General Dampath Fernando, president of the HFSL, as he unveiled their plans for the development of the sport at a press conference held at the National Olympic Committee (NOC) auditorium yesterday.
“We have been requesting the international handball federation for a long time to assist us in development by giving us experts to train our national team. My grateful thanks go to the Secretary-General of the NOC Maxwell de Silva for taking a personal interest in fulfilling our request and making it a reality. The Ministry of Sports has also supported us in many ways. Having Serbian coaches to train the national pool of men and women who are camped in Panagoda is a major boost for our chances of winning a medal at the South Asian Games and also for the promotion of the sport islandwide,” said Maj. Gen. Fernando.
The handball national pool of men and women comprising 26 players each has been training for more than one and half months at the Panagoda Army cantonment indoor gymnasium. “Since most of the poolists are from the Defence Services barring a couple of schoolboys, the players are undergoing in-house training. I must thank the Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake for providing this facility to help promote handball,” said the handball federation chief.
“Our aim is to bring home medals from the Kathmandu South Asian Games,” said Maj. Gen. Fernando brimming with enthusiasm and optimism. Sri Lanka will be participating in handball for the third time at SAG in December.
However, Matic said he would be focussing on developing the techniques of the players. “My focus will be on improving the technique of handball 80% followed by agility and power. I also could be provided international exposure before the Games because practice is different from match situations. Don’t ask me about medals but I will make sure handball in Sri Lanka is spoken with respect after December,” he said.
Matic said at the outset he would not give them false hopes of delivering success at the Games in December since it was early days for them to assess the team’s strengths and weaknesses.
The HFSL president reiterated that the team and even local coaches would benefit immensely from the international expertise of the two Serbian coaches.
“We have a small but dedicated team for handball. Our plan is to promote the sport in an organized and structured way, including promoting beach handball since we are an island nation,” said Maj. Gen. Fernando. He said lack of funds hindered their wish to provide international exposure to the national team ahead of the Games.
HFSL general secretary Gihan Dalpathado said handball was the second-fastest sport in the world and an Olympic sport since 1936. “It is a great sport to develop in Sri Lanka,” he said.
Vice president of HFSL and Chairman of Training and Development Col. Rajah Gunasekera said handball was played in 58 schools around the island.