5. 7. 2023 - David Schlegel

Elio Pascuzzo: It has been a great festival for the sport

Canadian Elio Pascuzzo was elected the new President of the ISBHF last year at the Annual Conference in Kladno, Czechia. He replaced a ball hockey legend George Gortsos who served as a president for ten years in the span of 2012-2022. Two days before the end of the championship we talked with Mr. Pascuzzo about this year's ISBHF World Ball Hockey Junior Championship in Liberec and also about the future of ball hockey.

What are your thoughts on the ball hockey junior championship so far?
It has been a great festival for the sport. As everyone knows, this is the first junior championship after the pandemic. Many young players missed out on the opportunities tournaments like this are creating. And having it here in the Czechia has been great. It is very well organized as usual. Last weekend we had some great entertaining finals and this week we have another two categories playing. My impressions are that things are going very well.

Five categories are playing across the span of nine days. What do you think about that?
I believe that the more people that play our sport and can be introduced to the international level of play, the more beneficial it is for the growth of the game. For me, having players play on a high level and also having them play different nations gives them new experiences and helps them meet new people. Which not only helps them as athletes but also helps them develop as they grow older as adults.

Seven nations are competing. Are you satisfied with these numbers?
I have to honestly say that these are solid numbers. Coming out of the pandemic, many nations had to rebuild their teams and get back to playing. Our goal for future years is to increase the nation participation. This year Hungary took part. And they have already committed to next year's U16 tournament. And we are hoping that other nations will commit as well. Usually, the U16 category is the biggest one, because we have a lot of entry teams and our hope is they will be able to develop and make it to the U18 and U20. So, coming out of the pandemic my expectations weren't so high. I just wanted to see the nations that could participate come and make this one exciting tournament after another exciting tournament year after year.

A Ball Hockey Congress took place during the championship already, so what did it tell you about the future of the sport?
At the annual conference nations federations discuss many topics including how we can grow the sport. Youth development is one of the major focuses of the ISBHF, but we also want to get more into coaching, especially the assistance in this issue for the developing nations. It is important for us that we have some really strong nations like Czechia, Canada, Slovakia, the United States, and Switzerland. These are the nations that have a lot of history. But we have many nations that are just coming in and they need support. For example, online coaching seminars, that they can take and help them along with learn to play programs, where we can establish sending them equipment and assistance. On top of that to have camps to learn the game. Another part of this is that the strong nations have to be the leaders, they have to be the ones that give other countries their knowledge and all the experience. Similar to life, the more experienced person helps the inexperienced one to learn and grow.

Did you decide where the next world championships will be held?
The Men's and Women's World Championship next year will take place in Switzerland and the World Juniors will be held in Žilina, Slovakia. There is also the Legends tournament for players over 45 years of age, which will be played in Canada, with a location still to be determined. Then we also discussed the 2025 and 2026 calendar. Nations will be sending their bids in mid-September this year and towards the end of September, we will determine the hosting countries for some of the 2025 events.

For the U23 finals, over two thousand people found their way to the stands. Are you satisfied with that?
The audience for the World Juniors usually is not as big as for the Men's and Women's senior Championships, but I was really stunned by the numbers. Not only were there thousands of people in the stands, but their passion and emotions they were supporting their team with made it sound like there were much more of them. The venue was incredible, the Home Credit Arena and then two rinks at the Svijanská aréna. When the seats at the first rink were full, it made up for a really electric atmosphere. For the attendance, it is within my expectations for the World Juniors. A few thousand people regularly show for the Junior finals. When it comes to the Men's and Women's category, the crowds tend to be bigger.

Last words from your side. What do you want to add toward the end of the interview?
I would like to thank Czechia for hosting the ISBHF, the whole organizing committee, Martin Komárek, Jiří Cícha, David Tor, and Andrej Nemček from the ISBHF working very hard along with their staff who have done a great job and to everyone who contributes to this beautiful sport. It is important that everybody here has their own role to play. It is like a ball hockey team, we work together to get to the place to achieve our goals.

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