As a result of winning the National Schools’ Handball Title last year, Crispin’s Yr 11 Handball Team have just returned from competing against some of the best young handball teams in Europe at the prestigious Caban Cup in Poland.
Whilst handball is a relatively new sport to the UK, in many parts of Europe Handball is second only to football in terms of popularity and participant numbers.
It was therefore with a little apprehension, mixed with the excitement, that the 10 boys flew off to Krakow in the early hours of last Friday on their way to represent the UK. What happened thereafter will live long in the memories of everyone who was there.
After leaving Street at 3.30am the team arrived at the venue at lunchtime in time to watch some of their opponents in action. The standard of handball was something to behold, and the step-up in style and technical ability on show was clear from the outset. It was therefore with an element of nervousness that the boys went on court at 6pm, 15 hours after leaving the UK, to face their first opponents Olimp Grodkow. In a pulsating match Crispin were down 4-1 within the first 5 minutes, but fought back brilliantly to trade points all the way to 11-11 before eventually succumbing to a heart-breaking 13-12 defeat. However, the first match and the combination of enthusiasm and skill shown by the team demonstrated to the watching crowd that Crispin were not there to just make up the numbers.
The 15 teams were split into three groups of 5 for the initial round-robin stage and on Saturday morning Crispin followed up the great initial showing with another fantastic performance against hosts and tournament favourites Pmos Chrzanow. Despite giving away years of experience to their opponents Crispin made the game very competitive and it was only really in the latter stages when Chrzanow managed to pull away to record a 18-11 victory. By this stage the boys had come to realise that whilst their task was a daunting one, they had the ability and tenacity to be competitive in this rarefied company and this was to be demonstrated to the large and extremely vocal crowd when Crispin produced what many considered the result of the weekend by beating UKS Jedynka Myslenice 9-8 in a truly epic encounter. Most gratifyingly every member of the team was playing their part and goals from Joe Nelson, Kyle Strange, Matt Davey, Corey Baker and some epic goalkeeping by Jay Blackwood further confirmed to the other teams that Crispin were definitely not to be taken lightly.
Saturday’s final round-robin match was another competitive performance against Zew Swiebodzin, who ended the tournament in fourth place, and despite another defeat Crispin had enough goals (goals-scored, rather than goal difference being the deciding criteria in the event of a tie) to guarantee finishing 3rd in their round robin group. This was beyond their wildest dreams at the outset and meant that they were guaranteed to finish no lower than 9th in the overall tournament standings.
The final two matches of the weekend were against the two teams who had also finished third in their groups. The first saw Crispin lose to a very strong KS Vive Kielce side whose Men team won the European Champions League. Whilst a final win eluded them in their last match against PM Tarnow, the blow was softened by the fact that, by now, Crispin had been adopted by the supporters of all the other teams as their 2nd favourites and every time Crispin scored the entire crowd erupted with a crescendo of drums, horns and hooters. The icing on the cake was when several of the organisers made a point of naming Kyle Strange’s deft lob as ‘goal of the weekend’. Another particularly pleasing action was that almost all the opponents found it necessary to man-mark Crispins’ Joe Nelson and that that more than half the team were playing under the influence of heavy colds by the end of the weekend.
The tour was led by Mr Priddice of Crispins’ PE Department who commented “I am so proud of every player in the team. It has to be said that we are a school team and not a Club and therefore to compete at this level is mind blowing. If we had more opportunity for match practice before we went mixed with one of our key players Isaac Milford being well, I think we would’ve been up there! Above all else the attitude of the Crispin Pupils was exemplary and I’m excited for the future for the players.”
The team would like to thank everyone who made the trip possible, especially all the parents for their fundraising efforts and sponsorship from Jual Clothing, Howdens Glastonbury, TS5C, Encore Electrical, CrossFit Sweet Track, Holly Priddice’s Slimming World Group and everyone who attended the fundraising evening at the Victoria Club in Street. Also a special mention to Zibi Kopyto for co-organising, translating and coaching to a high level.
The team were: Jay Blackwood, Luke Roberts, jake Langley, Ewan Richards, Corey Baker, Isaac Milford, Joe Nelson, Matt Davey, Kyle Strange, Elliot Hegarty