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Handball offers new lease on life

National women’s handball coach Joanna Franquelli yesterday announced tryouts to form a 16-strong pool for both the indoor and beach events starting Nov. 23 at the ULTRA from 6 to 9 p.m. and every Wednesday and Friday on the same hours up to Dec. 14.

“We’re inviting volleyball, basketball, football and futsal players, even fencers to join,” said Franquelli who captured a total of four silvers and five bronzes in basketball and fencing in five Southeast Asian Games. “We’re not exactly starting from scratch because we sent a team to the Asian Beach Games in Haiyang, China, last June but we want to form a pool that will be committed to play for our country in the Asian Beach Handball Championships in May next year and the Asian Women’s Indoor Handball Championships in 2014.”

Shoo-ins to make the team are former national basketball players Aurora Adriano of FEU and Fatima Tolentino of UP. Adriano’s brother Kiko is a former PBA cager. In Haiyang, the women’s squad finished dead last with a 0-5 record but showed promise in nearly taking a half from India and scoring 13 points against China. The Filipina players were Global FC conditioning coach Madel Galvez, 2007 Southeast Asian Games fencing gold medalist and one-time UAAP Athlete of the Year Michelle Bruzola of UE, goalie Marian Pontejas, Jyn Camille Lim and Jica Lontoc of UA&P, Marian Resulta of Ateneo, Angeli Gloriani of La Salle and Mica Bautista and Kring Sangalang of UP. They were mainly recruited from varsity teams in basketball, futsal, fencing and softball.

“In beach handball, we play four-a-side including a goalkeeper compared to seven-a-side in indoor,” said Franquelli. “There are two 10-minute halves where the scores are independent of each other. For instance, if you outscore your opponent in one half, no matter the margin, you get one point. If you win the next half, then you win the match, 2-0. If you split the halves, then you play a shootout. Against China, we lost both halves, 21-6 and 22-7, but just to score was a big achievement considering we’re new to the game. Against India, we lost a close second half, 12-11.”

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Franquelli said since the Philippine Handball Federation (PHF) was recognized as a regular voting member of the Philippine Olympic Committee last year, there has been a frenzy of activity in the game with president Steve Hontiveros and secretary-general Manny Lopez at the helm. The International Handball Federation sent German expert Klaus Feldman to conduct a seminar here on the sport last year and Nabeel Taha of Bahrain to initiate a grassroots development program last month. Taha lectured on handball to 142 teachers, players and coaches from 51 schools in a three-leg series that went to La Salle Zobel, ULTRA and Ateneo. Franquelli recently went to Jordan for an intensive four-day handball course.

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Handball is an Olympic sport that’s been on the Summer Games program for decades and the Philippines is only now learning how to play the game. It is slowly gaining ground as a haven for athletes from basketball, football and even fencing who are looking for an option to extend their sports careers. Men’s handball was introduced in the 1936 Olympics but didn’t reemerge until 1972 while the women’s event started in 1976. Only the indoor version is played in the Olympics. The beach version is a more tactics-oriented game.

The handball differs in size and weight depending on who’s playing. For boys in the 8-12 age group and girls 8-14, the handball is 50-52 centimeters in circumference and weighs 290-330 grams. For junior men 12-16 and women 14-and-over, it’s 54-56 centimeters and 325-375 grams. For men 16-and-older, it’s 58-60 centimeters and 425-475 grams. In all sizes, the handball is easy to grip with one hand. The object of the game is to score points by throwing the handball into a net similar to a futsal goal.

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Franquelli, 36, is a shining example of a former basketball star and fencer who saw in the sport a vehicle for a new lease on life. She was the first UAAP women’s basketball MVP in 1995-96, led UST to two seniors titles and starred in hoops and fencing at the Southeast Asian Games. Today, Franquelli is a physical education teacher at the UA&P, conducts fencing sessions at La Salle Zobel, attends exercise science classes leading to a Master’s degree at UP and takes care of the national women’s handball team.

Franquelli said one of the world’s top handball players is Fil-Australian Bevan Calvert who performs in the German premier league as an import. At the moment, the PHF is focusing on the women’s team. Eventually, a men’s program will be laid out.

“We’re recruiting graduating women’s varsity players looking for a sport to represent our country,” said Franquelli. “It’s a long process of transformation but we can build on the basics of basketball, football, futsal and volleyball. We were invited to play in the Asian Championships in Indonesia next month but we declined because we’re not ready. We made an impression in the Asian Beach Games with our hard-working and good-looking players. For a first-timer, we were surprisingly competitive. From Mr. Taha’s series of lectures, we were able to organize a network of handball teachers and coaches. We hope to trigger a development program with a school league in the future.”


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