We always look forward to events in the Czech Republic, says the president of the ISBHF, Elio Pascuzzo

The recently concluded Masters World Championship in Nové Strašecí and Kladno was simply successful! The ISBHF, led by the new president Elio Pascuzzo, could not praise the better organization, but also the quality of the matches. More in an exclusive interview with Elio Pascuzzo!

Organizing such a big tournament is always a challenge

How can the past Masters Worlds be evaluated from the point of view of the ISBHF?

The 2022 Masters Worlds in the Czech Republic was a major success. The event was very well organized and all of the eighteen (18) teams had an enjoyable time, were able to participate in competition and establish new relationships with players and staff from other nations. As this Masters event was the first one since 2018 Bermuda, the ISBHF was delighted with the host’s organization of the 2022 event as the Masters players enjoyed a world class event again after four years.

The organization of both locations, Kladno and Nové Strašecí, was very impressive from the beginning with the availability of practices for the teams to help them prepare for the tournament. The game schedule worked well with all Preliminary round games being completed on schedule (with minor delays) and the placement, quarter-final, semi-final and medal games were very exciting and on schedule. The host Czech Republic invested plenty of resources for arena staff and for transportation logistics which helped the past Masters Worlds be a success. The main reason the eighteen (18) teams travel to play in a World event is to compete and try and win a World Championship. All the teams in this event were given every opportunity to succeed on the floor and compete for a World title. The ISBHF thanks the Czech Republic and local organizing committees for a wonderful event for all of the participants.

How difficult is it to prepare and organize the Masters Worlds for 18 teams?

It is always a challenge from an arena and accommodation scheduling perspective. The local organizing committee has to be prepared with arena venue locations along with providing the proper hotel accommodations for all of the visitors to the host nation. The game schedule must be organized in a method to provide the proper rest in between games for the teams and making sure that the schedule is fair for competition in all of the categories. In addition, the transportation of the teams is very challenging as the schedule may be delayed or change due to the weather and also playoff matchups are unknown until closer to the match times. Providing safe accommodation and transportation for all of the visitors is always a priority for an event of 18 teams.

One of the challenges is to make sure that the divisions have strong competition and give opportunities for every team to be competitive. As the Masters Worlds grows, balanced competition throughout the Preliminary rounds must be prioritized. In the Senior Men’s category, presently there is an A and B category for competition and the Masters Worlds may have an opportunity in the future due to it’s growth to follow in this format. It will assist the growing nations to send Masters teams and gradually compete at their accustomed playing level. As more teams enter a tournament, the difficulty in organization increases.

What are the reactions of the participants of the ISBHF Masters Worlds?

The reactions of the participants of the ISBHF Masters Worlds have been very positive and they are looking forward to the future events. The participants enjoyed travelling to the Czech Republic and being able to spend time in Prague and surrounding areas. Many players and staff were impressed with the passion of the hosts and enjoyed being able to play in an outdoor open environment. The reactions were positive during the event and after the event there have been many positive reactions from all of the nations that participated, whether they won a medal or participated in placement matches.

What further direction and development is the ISBHF planning for the Masters category?

Recently, the ISBHF expanded the Masters category to include a 35+ category played every second year as well as a 45+ category playing in the alternative year when the 35+ isn’t played. This will give more players and staff the opportunity to experience a World ball hockey event. The 35+ category, which has been in place in the Women’s Masters, now allows nations of Men’s teams to have more of their players to have eligibility to play and not wait to reach the 40+ age threshold as previously was the case. This may assist nations who have been represented in the past at Senior Men’s and Women’s Worlds but did not have a team for the Masters category. In addition, the 45+ category will allow our players and staff who have given so much to the sport over the years an event to participate in and enjoy the competition and travelling as they proceed through their ball hockey journey and stay involved with the sport.

Players and staff will now have opportunities to possibly play in ISBHF Juniors, ISBHF Seniors and ISBHF Masters events without a large gap in between age categories.

The approach of the organizers in the Czech Republic is always great!

What is your greatest experience that you remember while organizing tournaments in the Czech Republic?

One of the greatest experiences that is remembered from tournaments in the Czech Republic is the passion and commitment to the sport that the people from the Czech Republic have in providing a welcoming sporting experience to the travelling nations. For example, in 2019 the U16 Boys and U18 Girls event was held in Česká Třebová and Litomyšl. The event was held in smaller towns of Czech Republic (population approximately 15,000 and 10,000), but the passion for the event was still the same as when it is held in a bigger town or city. The organization, number of staff assisting and attention to details every day made for a great experience.

Also, most recently, the Masters 2022 Worlds in Kladno and Nove Strašecí is another example of hosting and embracing a ball hockey world event and welcoming the world with preparation and excitement. Although Kladno is a bigger city, the town of Nove Straceci is much smaller and the local organizers did a great job of preparing to host the event and then making sure every day that the teams and staff enjoyed the venue and experience. Both venues had a passionate local community to support our sport of ball hockey.

In summary, whenever a tournament is held in Czech Republic, the passion and pride of each host location is very evident and it shows by the success of the events.

Are you looking forward to the events held in the Czech Republic and why is that the case?

We always look forward to events in the Czech Republic. The events are always well organized and that is mainly due to the commitment of the Czech Ball Hockey Federation to provide the proper resources to operate the event. The number of staff required to successfully hold a World event is very important and the Czech Republic always has enough staff on site to accommodate all of the aspects of the tournament. Also, the Czech Republic pre-event planning meetings are very structured. I was able to experience such meetings prior to the event in 2019 Česká Třebova and they are very well organized.

Historically, players and staff from all over the world look forward to attending the ISBHF events in the Czech Republic. Another reason to look forward to the events in the Czech Republic is the different areas that the Czech Republic selects to host the events which provides the players and staff from many nations the ability to experience different parts of the country and be able to play in nice venues. Lastly, the experience level of the organizers in the Czech Republic is very high and we always look forward to the events held under the supervision of an experienced host.

How do you think the Czech organizers' approach to event planning differs from that of other federations?

As mentioned, the Czech organizers‘ approach to planning is very organized with respect to providing the number of staff required to assist with the event. Whether it’s the organization all of the matches at the arena or the organization of transportation and accommodation, the Czech Republic makes sure to recruit a large number of staff to assist. For example, during the game matches, the penalty box and scorekeeper area is properly staffed to support the referees, ISBHF staff, players and team staff for game management purposes. Transportation logistics are always communicated in a timely manner to assist the nations with their preparation for game times.

This is very important as it allows all of the players and staff to always maintain focus on playing the games at the highest level possible without having to worry about their transportation and game procedures.