Beach handball history goes way back in 1990’ and traces its roots from small island at the south of Italy, Isola di Ponza. First beach handball tournament was held in 1992 and the host was symbolically, Ponza island. Beach Handball Organizing Committee was founded the same year. First international tournament was held in 1993 and was followed by the recognition of International Handball Federation (IHF) in 1994.
Fist ever European Beach Handball Championship was held a long time ago, right at the beginning of the 21st century, year 2000. Host city was Gaeta, one of the Italian islands where some of the first beach handball actions took place.
Italian island hosted 16 teams in total, eight teams in men’s and eight in women’s competition and the first team that took the title of the European Champions in men’s competition were Belarus. They won Spain with 2:1 in sets. Team of Ukraine took the golden medal in women’s competition.
Two years later Spanish city Cadiz took the organizational role and the number of participants doubled. Spain topped the podium in male competition and Russia in female.
In 2004 Croatia appeared for the first time at the European stage, lost in the finals against Russia, which then took their second consecutive title in women’s competition. As it for men’s, Russia dominated and won their first gold.
Spain and Russia in men’s and Germany and Croatia in women’s won the titles in 2006 and 2007. It was the period when two European Championships were player year by year and since then, the ECH is played on odd years.
After 2007, Croatian teams started their domination, which resulted with four consecutive European crowns for men’s team. They won Russia three times in a row and Spain in 2015 finals. As for the women’s team, they brought home bronze medal from Norway in 2009 and won golden medal at home in 2011.
Croatia is on top of the medal table in both competitions. Croatian men’s senior team has five medals (4 gold, 1 silver) in men’s tournaments, but interesting, Russia has one more (2 gold, 4 sliver) and it’s still on the 2nd place. Women’s team is the only team with five medals (2 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze) from European Championships. All other teams have four or less medals.
Junior Championships were first held 2008 and since then are played every two years. The last European Junior Beach Handball Championship was hosted by Spanish Lloret de Mar. Russia in men’s competition and Hungary in women’s took the golden medal.
In 2016 first U16 European Beach Handball Championship was held. Portuguese Nazare hosted the tournament for girls and boys aged under 16. The host took the title in men’s competition while Netherlands took the title in women’s.
The upcoming ECh will take place at Zagreb’s Lake Jarun and will gather the best European beach handball players – full of action, fun and attraction!