Olympic weekend watch: Handball team have tough test against 'Les Experts'


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The Independent Online

Britain start their handball campaign tomorrow night at 7.30pm against the hardest possible opposition.

Les Experts, as the French men's team are known, are the current world and Olympic champions. They have just lost their European title but are still the world's best, and will give Britain a ferocious challenge in the Copper Box.

It is not unfair to say that handball in Britain is not quite as serious as it is on the continent.

But Team GB captain Bobby White now plays in the elite French league despite only discovering the sport within the last five years.

He used to be a semi-professional footballer, playing in goal, and only through UK Sport's Sporting Giants programme did he realise that his skill-set might be better used elsewhere.

Now White is delighted to be where he is. "Handball wasn't my first love, but I am 100 per cent into it now," he said. "It's just the sport for me. In football, you can go 20 minutes or longer without touching the ball and it seems so mundane looking back at all those days I spent out on a Saturday afternoon in the sticks.

"In handball, you're involved every couple of minutes and can have a really big impact on the game as a keeper and I absolutely love it."

Team GB are not quite favourites for a medal this summer, and lost their last warm-up match 44-12 to Hungary.

But White is keen that the players should retain a professional attitude throughout, regardless of what happens.

"I'm immensely proud to be the first man to lead out a Team GB men's handball team at the Olympics," he said.

"I try to bring a calming influence to the dressing room with the boys. There's new experiences for us every day but I'm keeping the boys' feet on the ground and not letting them get sucked away by any distractions there may be."

France will certainly be desperate to win after the frustration of losing their European title earlier this year.

"There was a lot of work and preparation after the European championship, but this is a new competition and we must play better," demanded goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer.

"There are a lot of good teams that want to win, especially Denmark and Spain. It would be the first time a men's handball team win two gold medals in a row."

Technical director Philippe Bana agreed: "We are very humble. To be two-time Olympic Champions is a dream but we can't say that will happen for sure."