SF CalHeat Competes at IHF SuperGlobe; Wins First Ever Match for North American Club
by Matthew Collins
San Francisco CalHeat recently finished the 2023 IHF SuperGlobe tournament, held in Damman, Saudi Arabia from November 7 to 12, giving valuable international experience to the Bay Area-based club.
As the North American and Caribbean Senior Club Champions, CalHeat secured its spot at the 17th edition of the IHF SuperGlobe. CalHeat most recently participated in the 2021 tournament, held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Slated in Group D alongside CalHeat were Industria Kelce and Al-Namja. Industria Kelce was the silver medalist in the 2022-23 EHF Champions League and is the most successful handball club from Poland in terms of Polish league titles. Al-Namja, hailing from Bahrain, won the 2023 Asian Club League Championships to secure a spot in the tournament.
After a training camp in Montpellier, France to prepare for the SuperGlobe, CalHeat's first match came against Al-Namja, where they were defeated by the Bahraini side by a final score of 29-22. Felix Raff led the scoring for CalHeat with 7 goals.
The following day, CalHeat took on Industria Kelce and fell to the top-level European side, with a score of 49-23. Raff once again led San Francisco with 7 goals. Drew Donlin, who flew straight to Saudi Arabia after his performance at the 2023 Pan American Games representing the USA, chipped in 5 goals.
Their group stage results set up a match versus the University of Queensland in the 9th-12th place semifinals.
In their match versus the Australian side, CalHeat jumped out to a 5 goal halftime lead, and behind a 7-goal performance from Felix Raff, 5-goals added by Kasper Smidt Ogendahl, and Benjamin Geisser supplying 4, CalHeat secured a 27-22 victory.
In their final match of the tournament, the 9th place match, CalHeat took on Al-Noor, where they were beaten by a scoreline of 29-24. A close match in the first half, with a score of 13-12 in favor of Al-Noor heading into the break, the Saudi Arabian side opened the gap in the second half.
Out of the 12-team tournament, CalHeat finished in 10th place. SC Magdeburg, Fusche Berlin, and Barcelona finished first, second, and third, respectively.
SF CalHeat Head Coach Danilo Rojevic, who also serves as the Junior Men's national team coach for the US, talked about the team's victory versus the University of Queensland.
"This win marked the first ever in the competition for a U.S. and North American team. This performance...with play a major role in improving the perception towards our broarder community," Rojevic said.
Rojevic also spoke about the level of competition at the tournament, adding, "Looking back, this year's IHF SuperGlobe was more competitive than I predicted. Europeans were and remained clear favorites, but both Al Ahly (Egypt) and Al Khaleej (Saudi Arabia, host) managed to challenge them in the round-robin.
"The gap between the Middle Eastern teams and San Fernando [Argentina] and CalHeat was also minimal. Teams are progressing and adapting to the highly competitive nature of the tournament."
CalHeat Wing and USA Beach National Team player Drew Bradley discussed the athlete experience at the SuperGlobe.
"The SuperGlobe was the handball experience of a lifetime for all of us, including guys on the team who have played professionally or with their national teams."
Bradley also echoed Rojevic's sentiment about the progression of the club and how they are not competing with such high-level international competition.
"Our historic win against Queensland was a highlight, but the game against Asian Champions Al-Najma and the hosts Al-Noor really showed us that we can compete with the top full-time professional team," Bradley said. "I think it was a big step forward for club handball in the US, and hopefully inspires other teams in the States to push even harder for a spot in the competition in the future."