Wales hosted its first ever official IKF event last month, when the Europa Cup First Round took place in Cardiff. Raptors Korfball Club were chosen to represent Wales in Europe’s premier club competition, making their debut at the event is a major milestone for the club. This was one of the largest First Round events in the history of the tournament as seven other national champions descended on the capital of Wales to compete for a place at the finals next year.
“It was a great feeling to see the club take part in the Europa cup. The club is quite young in terms of korfball in Wales and we are only just entering our 5th season, but due to hard work from the club’s committee we have grown in size and now have 3 teams competing over 2 leagues. So to see the club compete against some of the best players and clubs in Europe confirmed to all the volunteers involved at the club over the past 5 years that the hard work was worth it.”James MacLeod
The teams competing at this prestigious event came from all around the European continent:
Adler Rauxel (Germany)
Edinburgh City (Scotland)
Prievidza Dolphins (Slovakia)
Kocaeli University (Turkey)
Raptors began their tournament with a tough encounter against a strong Polish side, WUM Warzsawa; it was a tough introduction to international competition for the Welsh club, as WUM Warzsawa totted up a commanding scoreline to run out 24-5 winners. Commendations must go to the Welsh side for getting goals on the board, in a match where they really found their feet in the second half.
On Saturday evening Raptors faced the Slovakian champions, Prievidza Dolphins, and managed to contain their offensive manoeuvres and contain their opponents scoring. Despite their best efforts the Slovakians emerged 18-6 winners but this represented a rapid improvement for Raptors.
Prievidza Dolphins and WUM Warzsawa went on to have an electrifying encounter for the final Europa Cup Finals spot. Dolphins lead throughout the match but Warzsawa always kept themselves within reached and pipped them right at the end to take a 15-13 win from the devastated Slovakians.
The following morning, Adler Rauxel, of Germany, were up next. The Germans had already secured a place for the finals next year but there was still pride to play for. Raptors started strongly, keeping pace with the Germans for the first few minutes with goals from Gavin Robins and Cheya Tyson. Unfortunately the experience of Adler Rauxel helped them ease out a fairly comfortable 16-6 victory.
Raptors were consistent throughout and their final match promised to be enticing; a British derby against Scottish champions: Edinburgh City. Wales international Will Hayward top scored for the home side with four goals in a game which was never out of reach. Raptors fell behind early on but came back to within a single goal on multiple occasions. Edinburgh City is a club filled with experienced international players though, and their tenacity paid off when the final whistle sounded and the scoreboard displayed 14-10 to the Scots – but this was by far the strongest showing from Raptors at the entire event.
Raptors will be keen to test themselves at this level again next year, and other Welsh clubs will have been looking on with interest. This was the first appearance of a Welsh club in the Europa Cup after an absence of three years. Wales Korfball hopes that a renewed energy and focus on the competition will encourage consistent participation from Wales’ national champions in future – which club this will be remains to be decided as the expanded Welsh National Korfball League throws-off next weekend.
The final standings for Europa Cup First Round, 2016 – Cardiff/Caerdydd
Qualified for the Finals 2017: