The prominent Russian coach Evgenii Trefilov comments on the bans of Russian teams and clubs, attempts to put pressure on the international federations and the future of the Russian handball in these turbulent times. Olympic champions talked for Russian Express, while Handball-Planet.com presenting original of the interview.
– What was your reaction on the EHF and the IHF decision to ban Russian teams and clubs from performance on the international arena?
– In my opinion, that is unfair. Let us remember Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, – he spoke differently about relations to the sport in such times. Unfortunately, today’s sport and politics are closely intertwined. It’s better to settle anything on the court or in the ring, than look at each other through the crosshairs. There is one thing that concerns me, though – look at how the opponents scream in unison. If ten people, for example, decide to sing the same tune at the same time, one of them will start earlier, the other will drag, the third one may even keep silence. But what we witness is a complete unanimity. I think, it means that this was prepared. You know, i like watching documentaries about wild nature – there, when a lion kills an ox, hyenas always start to howl, just as what’s going on now.
– Were you prepared for such turn of events?
– It didn’t start yesterday. We’ve already performed with no flag on several Olympics, we were denied in singing our national anthem. And there were no military conflicts back in 2019. Last summer, when we were in Japan, the representatives of the Polish Federations almost chewed our faces, and now they were the first to send request demanding to ban us. What is this all about? You’re the men, you sat at one table, you gave promises to each other, and now, it’s not very manly actions you make, at least remain indifferent! I understand that all of us have bosses, but you need to use your own head for once.
– Is there something rational is this decision from any perspective, sporting, everyday or other?
– I see nothing rational for a global handball whatsoever. Our absence will be reflected in overall tournaments’ level drop. But we, Russia, may even gain something from it. Take a look and the Soviet Union – largely, it was locked down from whole other world, the only thing we had was the Olympics and the World Championships. However, we had much more time for training camps – up to 200 days in an Olympic year, could you imagine? As a result, when handball appeared in the Olympics’ program in 1972, both of our soviet teams, men and women took gold in four years under the leadership of the greatest Anatoly Evtushenko and Igor Turchin. Maybe now is the high time we looked closely at ourselves, trained new players and increased technical and tactical level.
– Not only grown-ups are banned from participating in tournaments, but the youth as well. It looks suspicious and strange, don’t you agree?
– Well, of course. It immediately raises the question – why the children? They understand nothing, and you ban them from participations. It’s backstabbing, as if you’re taking a lollipop from a kid.
– In addition, the representatives of several federations, namely Norwegian, go even further – they demand from the EHF and the IHF to turn down all Russian and Belorussian investors. Could these measures be rationalized?
– Answering a question with a question – is this their business? Is it their place to decide who should and should not be an investor? The EHF and the IHF heads will deal with this themselves. And if every federation member starts to declare with whom he or she wants or does not want to work, what will it be? There’s the definite regulation! If we agree to play anything – chess, cards, you name it, – we, therefore, agree to follow the rules. Then why do you change them half way through the game? Stop acting like pigs, because even a pig do not shit in the trough it eats from. This is the problem – they’ve stopped being real men in Europe, and became way too tolerant.
– After termination of the contract with Gazprom The UEFA head Aleskandr Cheferin admitted that it would cost a lot for the European football. Will the cessation of all relations between “Delo” group of companies, the main investor of the Women’s Champions League, and the EHF be that painful?
– Surely, there are no pros. The lesser the investments are, the lower the tournaments’ level will be, that is all. Another counter question – private property is the milestone of capitalism. Why did they strip our oligarchs who invested tons of their money in Europe, why did they take it all away from them? Look at this, Roman Abramovich, who raised Chelsea up to unbelievable heights, right now are sent away from England, and his club is being taken away. Where are your highest principles? There are none. All of us know how deeply Sergey Shishkarev is involved into handball, it’s his ultimate passion. He invests money, and some finds it inacceptable, as well as the money! We’re not interested in the foreign federations’ investors, where the money comes from. So, please, be quiet. They have already taken the wrong turn, and now they’ve begun to imagine things. The truth is, it’s the bickering among international federations, and the Norwegians, for example, are defending their own interests.
– How do you think, should our companies stay in the place where nobody wants their presence? Maybe, it would be better for them to focus on supporting Russian handball, what can you say?
– Shishkarev has agreements with the EHF and the IGF heads. He sees the whole picture – some is playing fair and square, some is not. Let Sergey Nikolayevich decide for himself. I would, of course, invest the money in our children’s’ sport, so, when it all calms down, we would be ready to level up. Paying to the EHF and not participating in the European cups and European Championships is the same as to throw the money away.
– An Icelander Thorir Hergeisson, the Norwegian team head coach, unappealably declared, that the Russian sport would be isolated for as long as the President and the authorities stayed at their places. Could you comment on your collegue’s statement?
– I have the same question for him – Thorir, do we tell your country Iceland who should be your President? Moreover, let’s remember, that, first of all, he should train the team, and not tell the press who should take which position. I think, sportsmen shall step aside and do not meddle into politics. So, let Hergeisson earn his money and stay quiet.
– Fans remember incidents occurred with the Norwegians also in skiing and biathlon fields. How do you think, are these incidents connected? Where does such special Norwegian “love” for Russian sportsmen come from?
– All of it has nothing to do with sport. It’s not the way it should be! There were times, I lost my temper too, but came to my senses in an hour or so and apologized, and we told jokes and even drank brotherhood, and said goodbye. This is sport! That is what I always tell my girls. How could you, for example, step on someone else’s ski at the finish? This is a sportsman, the same as you are! Sweat and tears are the same. And how the Norwegian behaved themselves for the past couple years… Maybe, we did let them do this, stepping back little by little. They took our weakness as their victory. Fellow Vikings, chill out! Sit and wait when it’s all over.
– By the way, the Norwegian women handball team lost to Russian girls at two Olympics in a row, and their men’s team – at the recent Euro. Could you assume that the Norwegian grievance might have pure sporting roots?
– God be with them, they taught from us! Marit Breivik who shaped the global leader out of women’s team was the disciple of the great Turchin. Right now Norway is a powerful force. But, guys, you lost to us in Rio and in Tokyo! Since Breivik left, things became rough. Let them find their own mistakes. If you’re that powerful, how come you didn’t win the Olympics? Why all of your players are leaving? Do you remember the Scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz”? He had straws and thorns pointed out of his head. That’s the same thing – you may hide your interest all you want, the truth always comes out.
– What is your opinion towards the attempts to resolve problems secretly, and not on the courts?
– I’m old enough to know that way too many questions are answered and resolved behind the closed doors, rarely are they resolved fairly. Unfortunately, the “truth” comes from the power for most of the time. That is the way the world works. I repeat – right now we need to focus on ourselves, to work on ourselves and to wait until this is over – concluded Trefilov.