Danish Language Blog

Days of Handball Euphoria Posted by on Jan 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

RUS - DEN (01) - 2010 European Men's Handball Championship

Danish handball star Mikkel Hansen is being held by Russian colleague Alexei Kainarow, 2010.

Yeeeeeees! This happy interjection – taken from English, but given a slight Danish twist (making it rhyme with gæs ’geese’) – must have sounded from thousands of Danish stue|r (living room|s) and værtshus|e (pub|s) yesterday, as the Danish male handball team became European Champions, beating the hosts 21–19 in a nervepirrende (thrilling, literally ’nerve-exciting’) match in Belgrade, Serbia. According to tv reporters, streets were empty all across Denmark as people were tuning in on TV2 to catch up on the kamp (match, literally ’fight’) ”of the decade”. Worries about the recent return of the winter – with temperatures sinking below zero degrees of Celsius all across the snow-whitened country – gave way to the excitement of watching star-player Mikkel Hansen (age 24) and the other ”dreng|e” (boy|s) fight their way through the Serbian forsvar (defence). Danes usually don’t like boasting, and prefer to talk about their country in a rather low-key manner. But yesterday, Danes from all walks of life had a chance to wave their little paper Dannebrogs (Danish flags) and rejoice together.

While fodbold (European football, soccer) may be the national sport in Denmark, håndbold (handball) comes as a close second. In fact, it is the only major international sport which has been invented in Denmark. (According to Wikipedia, it was Holger Nielsen from the Copenhagen area who published the first set of handball rules in 1906.) So, the English word ’handball’ is actually inspired by Danish, rather than the other way around (as is usually the case)! 🙂

The success of the reborn champions has often been attributed to coach Ulrik Wilbek, who is a well-known personality in Danish media. In the 1990’ies he was coaching dameholdet (the female team, literally ’the lady team’), propelling Anja Andersen (born 1969) and her teammates to countless triumphs, including gold in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.

For a decade, then, many people here had the idea that ”real” handball had to be played by women! This idea changed in the 2000’s, as Mr Wilbek took over herreholdet (the male team, literally ’the gentleman team’), successfully leading it to a string of victories.

Danish handballer Anja Andersen in her days of glory, as presented by a fan.

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.