French handball hit by corruption allegations

The French professional handball scene was thrown into turmoil Wednesday after an investigation was ramped up into giants Montpellier over alleged match-fixing and illegal betting.

French handball hit by corruption allegations
Photo: Inside Handball

The south coast club has dominated French handball for the last 15 years and officials were quick to protest the innocence of their players, many of whom starred for the France team that won Olympic gold in the London Games.

A legal source confirmed that some players and their relatives would soon be questioned as part of the probe.

Montpellier president Remy Levy, a lawyer by profession, told the Midi Libre newspaper that he and coach Patrice Canayer had already been quizzed by police heading the investigation, without giving further details.

"I will defend the honour of the club," Levy said, adding that all club players knew the rules banning sporting bets.

"The cited players do have the presumption of innocence. We'll see what the investigation establishes. We'll see the truth behind these claims, these
bets, the identity of people who will be interviewed."

Suspicions were raised over a match that Montpellier lost 31-28 to Cesson-Sevigne on May 12. At the time, Montpellier were assured of a 13th league title in 15 seasons while the Breton club sat in eighth position.

Betting firm la Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) at the time reported abnormal betting patterns up to five times bigger than expected and suspended bets during the match.

Large bets reportedly came in at half-time on a loss for Montpellier, for whom stalwarts Nikola and Luka Karabatic, Mladen Bojinovic, Vid Kavticnik and Samuel Honrubia were not playing because of injury.

France 3 television reported that police had discovered that wives or girlfriends of players and club members had placed bets in three betting shops in the Paris region, the western region of Brittany, and around Montpellier.

Montpellier are currently in Germany where they are preparing for a Champions League match against Flensburg on Thursday, before returning to the French capital to play Paris Saint-Germain in a top-of-the-table league clash on Saturday.

"What should have been a big handball festival has been tarnished," said Montpellier president Levy.

"It's obviously the image of the club brand that's at stake. We've got a good image. We'll fight to restore our honour."

Cesson president Philippe Barberet said he was baffled by the investigation.

"No one saw anything during the match," he told RTL radio. "I don't understand. If ever these players were really involved in anything, it would really be a tragedy."

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Denmark stun France for men’s handball gold

Denmark stunned two-time defending champions France 28-26 to win the Olympic Games men's handball gold medal on Sunday.

Denmark stun France for men's handball gold
Denmark celebrates its gold medal in handball. Photo: MARKO DJURICA/Scanpix
It was a shock result given that in the last eight years, France have won two Games golds, three world titles and two European crowns.
Denmark's previous Olympics best was a fourth place in 1984.
“I'm super proud of everybody in this group, everyone has worked from the first minute that we showed up this summer,” said Denmark's Mikkel Hansen.
“Before I entered these Olympics my dad still had the record in the family. He came in the fourth place in 1984, so I'm happy to show him the medal,” Hansen continued. “I've broken the record in the family too, so it's going to be good to see him again.”
French key player Nikola Karabatic admitted that the Danes had been the stronger on the day.
“Of course we are very disappointed but we are happy that both the female and male French teams were in the final,” said Karabatic.
Germany won the bronze medal earlier Sunday with a 31-25 win over Poland.
With the handball victory, Denmark claimed 15 medals at the 2016 Rio Games. 
Even before the weekend's action got underway, the head of the Danish delegation said that this year's medal haul amounted to “the best Olympics we’ve ever had”.
“This is a fantastic experience here [in Rio] and it must also be for the Danes home in Denmark,” Morten Rodtwitt told TV2 Sport.