Bobby White: His Team GB exploits, handball legacy, and not liking France

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BOBBY White’s Olympic dream may have come to a slightly earlier end than he would have liked, but the man from Milton Keynes is planning to forge a career out of coaching the next generation of British handball players.

At 29 the Team GB goalkeeper and captain has decided not to return to his club side in France, and is instead likely to accept an offer to head up the British Handball Centre of Excellence based at the Biddenham International School and Sports College in Bedford.

White targeted a quarter final place for his side at London 2012, but despite giving all five of their opponents a good run for their money, Team GB’s men failed to register a win and bowed out of the competition in the group stage.

They may have lost to France, Sweden, Argentina, Tunisia and Iceland, but the British boys did themselves proud and put on a great show for the 6,000 fans that turned out for each of their games.

Given the high standards he sets himself, White said he felt slightly disappointed with his own individual performance in four of those matches, despite one or two memorable moments along the way.

“I thought our first half performances against France and Iceland were very good – and they were against the two teams who contested the Olympic final in Beijing four years ago,” he said.

“That first half against Iceland was probably the best I have ever seen us play. But like in the other games, we couldn’t keep it going in the second half. Not from a fitness point of view, but probably tactical as other teams realised our strengths.

“We’re walking away from the Games with our heads held high though. I think maybe making the quarter finals was a bit unrealistic given the group we were in, but we still enjoyed it. I had only been playing handball for five months when the last Olympic final was played.

“I came off the bench to save a penalty in the Argentina game and the team broke down the other end to score, so that was one great moment.

“The atmosphere in the Copper Box was incredible. We came out for the first game and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The novelty never wore off in the other games either and the fans stayed with us throughout, even when we were losing.”

After Team GB’s final game against Iceland on Monday – in which the home side held the Olympic silver medallists to 18-15 at the break – and the obligatory media and corporate commitments, White got the chance to return to Milton Keynes on Thursday to spend the night with his girlfriend. And he sees his future a lot closer to home than where he spent last year.

“I won’t be going back to France,” he said. “And unless a fantastic offer to keep playing comes in then I will accept the role at the Centre of Excellence and concentrate on coaching. It’s all about the legacy of handball in the UK now.

“I’m not going to retire from international handball, but if I’m not playing at a high level then I don’t expect to be picked.

“My priorities in life are changing now. I’m nearly 30 and I’ve been with my girlfriend for a long time so I’ll probably be moving back to Milton Keynes.”

World champions France remain on course to defend their Olympic title after overcoming Spain 23-22, setting them up with a semi final against Croatia. The other final place will be contested between Hungary and Sweden.

“I hope Croatia win it now,” said White. “The experience France have might see them through, but I think Croatia are the better team. I wasn’t a very big fan of France.”