The European Handball Federation, the Austrian Handball Federation and the Icelandic Handball Federation have issued a joint statement regarding last Friday’s remarks from an Icelandic broadcaster who favourably compared the country’s handball team to the Nazis.
In the statement, Jean Brihault, President of the European Handball Federation, for his part in the statement said that, “It is clear that racism and politics have no place in international sport and no place at these championships. The comments made in Icelandic television were regrettable, but I am pleased that the EHF, Iceland Handball Federation and Austrian Handball Federations have sat together to discuss the issue and decided to make this joint statement.”
Gerhard Hofbauer, President of the Austrian Handball Federation, added, “This is obviously an unpleasant incident for handball and the championship, but we understand that this was an isolated comment and does not reflect the views either of the Icelandic people or the Icelandic Handball Federation in any way. As a sign of our continued good cooperation with the Icelandic Handball Federation we have agreed to play two friendly matches in Iceland in April 2014.”
Davíð B. Gíslason, Vice President of the Icelandic Handball Federation, said, “We regret this incident but hope that this will not overshadow the excellent cooperation and long-standing friendship that exists between our two countries as well as the Icelandic and Austrian Handball Federations.”
As reported last Friday, television personality Björn Bragi Arnarson, commenting at the end of half time as the Iceland-Austria handball game stood at 17-9, said live and on the air, “The Icelandic national team is like the German Nazis in 1938. We’re slaughtering the Austrians.”
Björn apologised very shortly thereafter, saying in part, “I understand very well that people were offended, and they have every right to be. I naturally apologise for this. You maybe let a joke fly, and some go over the line, whilst others go way over the line. This was both poor and tasteless, and was wrong. I am very sorry.”
In turn, national broadcasting service RÚV issued an apology of its own, most likely without the aid of a proofreader.
Björn will retain his employment at RÚV, and was in fact participating in the broadcast of the Iceland-Macedonia game today.