Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hand me that Ball!

Handball? What's that? For a guy like me who grew up in Manila it was a game using a skinned tennis ball (yes, it's often black underneath the fluro-green skin, much like a defeathered silky chook).

What about the racquets? Err..what racquets?

It wasn't like badminton or tennis. During that time (early 60s) racquets are expensive and unaffordable to us jobless Pasay/Manila teens. But we used a coping saw! What? To cut open the tennis ball? No, cut out round pieces of plywood for paddles; and for that velcro effect, we used strips of tyre interior to squeeze tight our playing hand onto the paddle (yey, a handle-less table tennis racket).

We hit the ball hard against any house or street wall pretending we're pelota or jai-alai players.

Pasay City firemen killed time playing this kind of handball daily (of course between calls of duty). It's a fast game and required enormous playing skill, similar to squash (which I played regularly at Ken Hiscoe's gym at Riley St. in the 80s ).

Arriving in Australia in 1979 I didn't have a clue that handball was being played here since 1923, attributed to the works of the Christian Brothers' Colleges, and mainly played in Victoria,
S. Australia and NSW. The brothers must have been bored using paddles and decided to get rid of them. However the ball is of a different kind, stitched leather but smaller than a soccer ball; and rules played much like one.

And so we now have the Australian Handball Federation. You wanna play handball? Well you gotta register first, mate, to relish the game (back in 1970, there were only 1,000 registered handball players among state associations). It's not as popular as cricket and footy, but hey the game is fast catching on.

And who's one famous handball player today representing Australia in international cups? Bevan Calvert, a Filipino-Australian! (above caricature)

Hooray for Bevan, son of friend Violi Calvert. Last year I interviewed Bevan and was about to feature him in this humble blog but things just got too busy and had to visit Manila. Bevan, since that interview (below) has made a lot of winning scores for Australia.

He's no turkey and is part of the Australian Men's Handball team to play in the historic Gallipoli Tri-Nations Tournament. Recently Bevan played in the German team and was top scorer, earning 5 goals.

I'm proud of Bevan, feel like he's my handball spirit extension.

Lest We Forget, here's announcement from AHF:

The Australian Handball Federation [AHF] is pleased to announce that the selection of players comprising the National Men's Team to participate in the historic Gallipoli Tri Nations Tournament has been formalised. The Gallipoli Tri Nations Tournament which is being sponsored by the Turkish Handball Federation, will be held in the city of Canakkale.Turkey during 21 st - 24th April 2010. This significant event aims to honour the unique friendship forged between Australia, Turkey and New Zealand, on the battlefields of Gallipoli. The tournament is designed to take the special relationship formed during the war in 1915 to a battle of the sporting kind. The tournament gives the Turkish, New Zealand and Australian handball teams the opportunity to pay tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in the battle in 1915 and gain a better appreciation of the sacrifices the soldiers made on their country's behalf. The Australian Team will promote the legacy of our forefathers, their values and the fighting spirit Australians are known for. The players will not only be representing Australia in a challenging sport event, but will also be taking part in honouring a significant and sacred period of our history.

This blogger's interview with Bevan:

- why play handball?

At the beginning I started playing handball just for something different. But I instantly felt in love with the sport. It combines so many skills that are needed for other sports. Its fastest land sport (after ice hockey) and very physical.

- what's future of handball in Oz?

At the moment we are a very low key sport in Australia, but it is the hope that one day we can build ourselves into a major sport. Perhaps not as big as the football codes but have a major following within the Australian community.

- how fit should one be to play handball?

One needs to be in quite good overall shape. There is no specific build type for handball. Big muscular players are just as useful as smaller toned players. But all players must have strong agility for explosive movements and tough upper body strength.

- proud of your Pinoy connection?

Of course! I am thankful for my heritage and hope my efforts can inspire many other pinoy athletes to excel in their chosen field.

- your dream?

My dream is to be a known player within the World handball stage. To be a professional player within the strong liga teams in Europe and to help Australia raise its status as a handballing nation, even maybe to another Olympic spot.

- something to tell the youth in our Fil-Aus community?

Dare to dream. Don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams aren’t worth chasing or are impossible to achieve.