Ljubljana Castle was dressed in handball colors on Thursday. The group draw for the preliminary round of the Women’s EHF Euro 2022 took place there. The ball dance determined that the Slovenian national team in Celje will compete against Denmark, Sweden and Serbia.

The championship will be held in three countries for the first time in history. In addition to Slovenia, which will host Group A (Norway, Hungary, Croatia and Switzerland) from 4 to 20 November in Ljubljana, the fights will take place in Skopje (Group C: France, the Netherlands, Northern Macedonia) and Podgorica (Group D: Poland, Montenegro, Germany, Spain).

Exactly 190 days before the start of Women’s EHF Euro 2022, the organizers organized an event to further draw attention to the largest women’s sports competition in the history of independent Slovenia. In a pleasant atmosphere at Ljubljana Castle, many important handball people gathered for the first part of the upcoming championship, including Michael Wiederer, President of the European Handball Federation, and Franjo Bobinac, President of the Slovenian Handball Federation.

The latter proudly repeats that he is already looking forward to the championship, which we have not had before. “After 18 years, the time has come to host the competition of the best women’s national teams of the Old Continent after the Men’s EHF Euro in our country. Dreaming in sports most often means longing for a top result. Clearly, this is one aspect. But it is even more important in these difficult times for the whole world to dream of connection, friendship, society, true values,” said Bobinac as the honorary president of the Women’s EHF Euro 2022 organizing committee, adding that they want to make their dreams come true.

For now, we can say with certainty that the Slovenian organizational team is on the right track. With a group of ambassadors of the European Championship, they have already rolled up their sleeves and taken a bite out of the project, which brings much more besides sports. “With our knowledge, energy, experience and enthusiasm, we will do everything to make the largest women’s sporting event in the history of our country not only different and special, but also magical and unifying,” Deja Ivanović said on behalf of 17 exceptional Slovenian women. The former Slovenian national team member adds: “Let women’s handball connect our continent in the desire for a better future, a more beautiful and fairer society. For today. For tomorrow. For a bright future.”

In addition to handball, the Women’s EHF Euro 2022 in Slovenia is being built by two other important pillars – the empowerment of women in sport and society in general, and the field of sustainability. The organizers draw attention to the first through all their events. Recently, the City of Ljubljana added its own stone to this mosaic, placing a silhouette of a pedestrian at 28 traffic lights at four locations in the immediate vicinity of the Stožice Hall, one of the venues for the upcoming European Championships.

In the field of sustainability, the organizers want to bring the November competition as close as possible to sustainable principles. A draw was also organized in this spirit. The vast majority of the documents needed to carry out the draw were prepared only in electronic form, and in cases where this was not possible, they were printed on paper to be recycled. A step towards sustainability has also been taken in transport, as trains, fuel-efficient electric vans, a hydrogen bus and an electric-powered funicular have been used to transport to the venue. The organizers also set special criteria for the reception.

The draw of the Women’s EHF Euro 2022 was also followed with great interest by the excellent Slovenian national team member Ana Gros and the selector of the Slovenian national team Dragan Adžić. “In the locker room, we talked to our teammates at the last national team campaign, that we have a feeling that we will meet Serbia in Celje. The team is led by our former coach, so this may be a somewhat specific match. Group B is demanding, all the competitors are of very high quality, but there are no easy matches at the European Championships. With our teammates, we are aware that we are capable of playing against all competitors,” said the captain of the Slovenian national team after the draw. “The championship will take place at home, and we have been looking forward to it with our teammates for a long time. Our first goal will be to break into the second part of the competition. I sincerely believe that we will succeed,” added Ana Gros, who also took an active part in pulling out the balls.

The Slovenians will start their performances at the Women’s EHF Euro 2022 in Celje, where they will try to win one of the first three places that would bring them a trip to Ljubljana. Half of the participating national teams of the second part will compete there – the other half will play in Skopje – and the entire playoffs will take place in Stožice.

“Before the draw, I had no special expectations, but this one gave us three extremely serious competitors. Ballroom dancing with the teams I’ve led in the past has never decided on a promotion and it won’t this time either. I believe in our girls and the professional staff and I believe that Slovenia will be a quality host. We will do everything to be competitive with all competitors,” said coach Adžić after the draw, adding in the same breath: “Three exceptionally high-quality national teams are waiting for us for the introduction. Denmark is on the rise, has a wealth of experience and deserves all the respect. I am glad that we will meet her in June in a friendly match. It is similar with Sweden, which also played in the Olympics and had an extremely demanding group at the last World Championships. Serbia is also on the right track with selector Bregar, but I am convinced that we are able to show much more than in the mutual match in December in Spain!” The fact that two semi-finalists of the last Olympic Games in Tokyo – Denmark finished second, Sweden fourth – and Serbia was six goals better in Granollers in mid-December – shows how demanding the draw was for the Slovenian handball players.

At the event at Ljubljana Castle, however, the eyes were not focused only on the draw. Wiederer and Zoran Janković, Honorary President of the Handball Association of Slovenia and Mayor of the City of Ljubljana, had a special honor – they bought the first tickets for the Women’s EHF Euro 2022.

“In 2004, Slovenia set milestones with the organization of the Men’s EHF Euro, and now, 18 years and 10 championships later, we will be watching the Women’s EHF Euro at the highest level at the same place. All three co-hosts deserve this European Championship, as they gave handball to top players and clubs. Former winners of the European Champions League also come from all three countries – Kometal Gjorce Petrov from Skopje, Krim Mercator from Ljubljana and Budućnost from Podgorica,” said the President of the European Handball Federation and Janković as a tireless fan of Slovenian sports added: “The fact that my girls will finally be able to fight for the medal on home court, first in Celje and then in Ljubljana, the most beautiful city in the world for me, is a real privilege. Let’s support them together in realizing their dreams!”

Tickets for the Women’s EHF Euro 2022 are on sale this Friday, when the Handball Federation of Slovenia will reveal all the details to sports enthusiasts.

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