Ferenc Ilyés is running for the presidency of the Hungarian Handball Federation – interview

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2023.03.08. 00:01
According to the former Szeged and Veszprém star, the fate of Hungarian handball in general depends on the success of the senior national teams (Photo: Magyar Nemzet/István Mirkó)
Ferenc Ilyés is one of the few players to have played for the Szeged, Veszprém and Tatabánya men's handball teams. And he is one of the even fewer who were liked and respected even as opponents in these three cities and clubs. He will also need this "collective" support because, as you can see below, he has decided to run for the presidency of the Hungarian Handball Federation at the spring general assembly.

What do you think about some people saying that the current president has already appointed his successor and that is you? Is it as simple as that?
– Of course, it is not that simple, and that is not what happened. When current-President Máté Kocsis announced in an interview that he was unlikely to stand for re-election, I first contacted and informed him about my intention to run for presidency. He had already asked me to be his presidential adviser before that, so I do not think this is a sign of mistrust in me on his part. I then told my former playing teammates, many of whom are now club managers and coaches, what I was up to. I got positive feedback from all of them.

No misunderstandings, no shocks, no attempts to discourage you?
– None, just mentioned that it's a big task.

How would you tackle it?
– I would be a full-time president if elected, I will devote all my time to it. I am aware that I would have to give up the work I started in Tatabánya for this. In the short term, of course, one of the main goals is for both our senior national teams to qualify for the Olympics, and for the girls to even reach it first. I would not go into detailed professional plans now, an interview is not the best forum for this, but I will say that, while respecting and continuing to involve the legends of the sport, we need to find young athletes who represent professional innovation and the most modern approach to handball. I believe that, as always, hard work pays off.

And why should voters believe in you?
– Because I was born into it and I've been involved in handball ever since. I don't think anyone questions my commitment. I've been to all three top clubs, and I think I've been accepted at the very least, and it's no coincidence that I was captain of the national team at the London Olympics. The fact that I was able to achieve all this coming from Odorheiu Secuiesc is due to the fact that my heart and soul belong to Hungarian handball, and wherever I played, in whatever capacity, I always gave my all.

There are undoubtedly very few people who can boast a career like this. What you have achieved is a lot, but it is not enough to be president. Whom with and how do you plan to replace the influence and advocacy potential of the current president?
– I am convinced that he loves handball, the sport, the people who work in it, so much that he will not let go of our hand just because he is not standing for re-election.

What would you have done differently in recent years, or what would you do differently in the future?
– The number of athletes in the sport has been increased, the necessary facilities and infrastructure have been built, and we are doing well in the junior age groups. In an interview with Nemzeti Sport, Máté Kocsis said that only the future can be built, the present is here. Thanks to the work done in recent years, the foundations are solid, and Hungarian handball is facing unique opportunities which must be taken advantage of. That is why the transfer of successful junior players to the senior national team is a cardinal issue. As a first step, it is necessary to examine whether the difficulties only arise when the players change age-group teams, or whether these originate earlier, are more deeply rooted and already have problems in the system itself.


Máté Kocsis, President of the Hungarian Handball Federation: “Hungarian handball is full of great and successful athletes and leaders. I know many people who are capable of leading the federation, but Ferenc Ilyés is perhaps the least divisive of them all. He is a popular man, he has played for the top Hungarian teams, he has experience abroad, he has gained prestige as captain of the national team, and he has always played a big role in bringing the players together. The latter ability will be needed as the head of the Hungarian Handball Federation. Ferenc Ilyés needs no explanation in the sport of handball.

How capable and willing are the clubs' decision-makers, and perhaps more importantly, the players who earn the vast majority of their income there, to think in the interests of Hungarian handball as a whole? For those who are less so, can this be forced by central will and pressure?
– In the long term, the success of the senior national teams will determine the fate of the sport and all of us. Even if this does not always seem to be the case for everyone, it is still true. At the same time, it is difficult to measure exactly how much the federation can be involved in the day-to-day work of clubs. I can tell you from my own experience that, even after the end of their careers, individual players are judged by their results in the national team and their attitude towards it. Then it is not the goals scored in club matches last weekend that count, but the big picture. Of course, there are still partial interests, and not all players in the sport will always be going in exactly the same direction, but I believe that I can bring the parties involved as close as possible on important and common issues.

You have a strong and mature opinion while you've been a sports leader for only two years – you are inexperienced per se. How do you react when you hear this?
– I am forty-one years old, which is a condition I cannot change. It is more about the fact that I played for the national team until I was thirty-eight, but I hope that is not a disadvantage. Because being a national team player is not something that would be of value to me if I were elected president only. Throughout my career, I have known and felt exactly what it meant to wear the national jersey, and I have tried to pass on this knowledge and feeling to the younger generation. I've actually been working in the federation since 2018 – I started with the academic system of Hungarian handball beyond the Hungarian borders, and now I'm the presidential advisor. There is another traditional Hungarian success sport, whose new president is also of my age and was an active player until recently.

Do you already know who the other presidential candidates, your future opponents are?
– I don't know, but on the one hand, I have to concentrate on my own agenda and my own work, and on the other hand, I wouldn't consider them as opponents, because whoever becomes president will have to build up, or rather serve, Hungarian handball, not himself. Otherwise, there is no point in all this.


At the turn of the millennium, the Odorheiu Secuiesc-born left back moved to Szeged
At the turn of the millennium, the Odorheiu Secuiesc-born left back moved to Szeged
Three seasons in two parts in Veszprém
Three seasons in two parts in Veszprém


He finished his playing career in Tatabánya
He finished his playing career in Tatabánya
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