An idealistic overview of leadership issues at the end of the Olympic cycle*
The coincidence of several events has influenced the course of women’s European club handball. The economic crisis, the leading cause of some drastic movements on the transfer market, has been long discussed. Other events are related to the natural curve of one’s handball life: the end of another Olympic cycle and subsequent retirement. This article will tackle the implications of a generation’s end of contract and the typology of leadership in the top European clubs of our times.
The traditional contenders Randers, Viborg and Budućnost, will be deprived of the mental and physical prowess of some of their leaders: Katrine Fruelund, Grit Jurack and Bojana Popović. Fruelund was the community person who ended her career by winning the national championship with her childhood club. Jurack was the leader by example, with courage and initiative. Popović – the mother figure who protects and cares for. All of the sudden, their former teams are expected to grow, with patience and skill, new main characters. While Viborg can temporarily count on Rikke Skov, Randers will still be guarded by Chana Masson, whereas Budućnost can only hope a true leader will rise in three to four years, just in time for a new cycle.
But are patience, cyclic planning and time investment still of relevance to our times and markets? As it turns out, teams are forced to give up on their best players, the ones expected to develop passion on top of passion – commitment to a team, to an audience, to a town and to a nation on top of their love for handball. We are therefore witnessing the regrouping of handball’s top players on account of financial temptation and short term planning. For instance, Metz and Itxako have lost their cornerstones: goalkeepers Amandine Leynaud and Silvia Navarro (incidentally to the same team, Oltchim Rm. Valcea). Both of them have been a true inspiration for their former communities. Retrospectively, the dismantling of Viborg in summer 2010, when the Lunde sisters and Popović left the club just like they had arrived, all at once, was a key moment in the transformation of values.
During the past few years, young players with immense potential have given hope to those who still believed in building teams for the future. Thus, Oltchim tried to build around Cristina Neagu, while Krim Ljubljana let go of their illustrious past and put Andrea Lekić in charge of their game plan. The future could not have looked brighter until Neagu went to surgery and Lekić went to Hungary. Health and seek of personal achievement have interfered with the plans of their respective clubs. Consequently, many foreign players were brought to compensate for the abandoned dream: the making of a team true in spirit and in character to the nation and the town that support it.
A symbol of hope in the current state of events is Anita Görbicz, the exception, probably the only star player with long term affective bonds. She may be the only moral reason why Györ should be regarded as the top seeded team in the Champions League. The other teams will spend time searching for a common language, something already within Györ’s reach.
As we look through the history books, we discover the names of Indira Kastratović, Marijana Bulatović, Snezana Petika and Heidi Astrup, players who have been committed to a single team. Does today’s handball world still allow us to have those types of players in top clubs after Görbicz, Skov, Tatari and Bodnieva? Or should we turn our heads towards not so glowing lands in order to find respected leaders? I wonder if we will still have role models or if this is the end of their kind, if it is possible to remain authentic while satisfying someone else’s thirst for true glory. Is there a time for business and another time for pleasure?
*This text was written several weeks ago and does not take into account the financial situation of CS Oltchim Rm. Valcea.