We knew from the beginning that the 2019 edition of Partille Cup was going to be a very important milestone for the youth Team Handball movement, so we started the process of participation early enough, even without knowing for sure if we were going to pull it off.
For this first participation we decided to combine the two best Middle School teams in our league and come with a really strong squad. That is how kids from Bret Harte and Castillero Middle Schools in San Jose, California, got together for tryouts and after a few hard decisions the 14 members were decided.
Lead by Thomas Schumake and Martin Bilello, the young group was conformed by: Eshaan Adusumalli, Samuel Custer, Connor Elliot, Ian Hodgson, Jooyoung Kim, Kyumin Kim, Calvin Kim, Andrew Konstant, Antonio Lopez, Jayson Nashed, Andrew Park, Daniel Scudero, Tejas Sha, and William Towers.
Practices started in March and throughout April, May, and June we tried to schedule some scrimmages with the SF CalHeat women and men’s teams, as well as with the SF CalHeat Youth Elite team and the Lycée Français de San Francisco High School team, as we knew the competition was going to be harder and more physical than what we were used to.
To culminate our preparation, a majority of players participated at the Bay Area Team Handball Summer Camp organized by SF CalHeat in the last week of June 2019. And right after the camp was finished, the whole team embarked on the journey to the 50th edition of Partille Cup: World of Handball!
After a long trip from San Jose to Gothemburg, with a stop in London, the team was received by the organization and bused to the school where we were going to be hosted. On the bus ride we got to know a team of girls from France that would later become our best fans. Needless to say that bus ride was as loud a reception as we ever had.
Monday was the designated day for all teams to arrive and since we were there already we went to visit Heden Park, the epicenter of Partille Cup, and saw how early the kids start playing Handball in Sweden. We also got the chance to see the pavilion of flags were the star spangled banner waved thanks to our participation.
Tuesday was the day for our first game and we were facing Skuru IK, a traditional Swedish club that got us a proper welcome with a 23 – 13 score. It was a hard fought game and a good wake up call for the boys as to how physical the play was going to be during the tournament. We prepared for a physical play, but until they were there they didn’t find out how real it was, and now they knew.
After that we went to Liseberg to participate on the opening ceremonies and to represent the U.S.A. at the Parade of Nations. We not only got the privilege of being on stage, but Danny Scudero got to say the English version of the Partille Promise and declare open the tournament! Since every team was able to pick their way of representing their country, the boys on the team decided to parade in true Californian style, wearing tank tops, shorts, and sunglasses, gifting the audience with some beach balls for their enjoyment.
We went to sleep pretty late that night, but on Wednesday we were ready to compete at a higher level and our first game of the day was the proof, we faced Frogner IL from Norway, a traditional Handball nation, and kept the score close the entire game, being up by one in the closing seconds, but finishing with a tie on 16 at the end. On our second game of the day we had the fortune to play with Hjortshöj Egå IF from Denmark, who not only schooled us, but later were able to finish winning the silver medal out of 114 teams. The score was 24 – 11 for the danish.
Our last day of group play was going to be tough and the weather certainly did not help. Cold, wind, and some rain were the common denominator throughout the day and the kids had to play with warm clothing under their jerseys to make it through. Up first were the hosts from IK Sävehof, and the weather together with some early difficulties made it so the game got out of hands early on. The final result would be 21 – 6 in their favor.
Our last game of group play was the one we were sure we had a chance to win. The entire team took the task to heart and even with the ball curving in the air because of the strong winds, we faced the team from India Birla Pilani with everything we got. It was a really hard fought and physical game, but slowly we were able to gain ground, go up on the score, and maintain the lead throughout the game. As the second half started the opposing players were getting nervous and some verbal exchanges started to happen, but our players kept their composure and just focused on playing. At the end we would finish with a clear 17 – 13 victory and thanks to the lottery a 4th place in our group. We even got a mention at the tournament’s website. The B Playoff were waiting for us the next day and we were ready for the challenge.
Playoff time meant we needed to win to keep playing, a loss was the end of our run. With that in mind, and a nice weather outside we went to face our rivals from Sweden’s Lugi HF 2nd team. The game was close all the way through, changing leads very frequently and no team escaping with a clear margin. The last minutes of the game saw us making a few mistakes and getting 2 minutes that put the Swedish side on top. We started a comeback where we were able to get just one goal down and got the last shot when the time expired, but it wasn’t meant to be.
All in all we were very happy with how the kids played and grew throughout the tournament. They finished playing very physically and matching up with teams and kids that had been playing for years, when our kids started playing just 6 to 18 months prior. The coaches were also very happy with the experience and the learning acquired during the competition. And finally the families that accompanied us on the trip, were not only happy with the experience, but already talking about the next year and how to reach to more kids and families back home to tell them about Partille and Team Handball.
We spent the rest of the day playing tourist on the streets of Gothenburg and watching the final game of the U17 National teams between the locals Sweden and the surprising Faroe Islands, with the latter winning in strong fashion and earning some Americans fans along the way.
The last day of the tournament was time for the finals in all categories and we were interested in watching the contests on the B15 category. We of course cheered for our fellow Danish teams and they were the ones competing on the finals after all. The rest of the day was spent on all the rides at Liseberg with special focus on their rollercoasters.
On Sunday, teams started to head back home and we started saying goodbye to our new friends from around the world, not before playing some scrimmages with them at the school we were staying in just for fun!
We headed back home very early on Monday, spending the entire day on flight after flight, but with the clear conviction that we were going to come back to Partille next year. Everyone from the coaches to the players, to their families, were already making plans for next year and how to prepare and plan better. Our goal was set even before we landed back in America: We were going to return to Partille, better prepared than before, and with higher goals as well!
Full game results on this link.
Video of our entrance at the Parade of Nations: