It was somewhat apt that I visited Doncaster’s newest sports club on the night that the world apparently came to a standstill.
Manchester United might have been playing Real Madrid but, while Jose Mourinho was prowling the Old Trafford touchline, a Champions League coach of a different kind was strutting his stuff in Rossington.
Former Hungarian international player Attila Schmidt, whose handballing CV is the equivalent of ‘The Special One’, has been hired by Doncaster Rovers Handball Club to build a new team from scratch - and there is no time to waste watching football.
Helping Schmidt is fellow Hungarian native Susan Cassidy, a former professional handball player who moved to Doncaster in her early twenties and settled in South Yorkshire.
Between them, the pair are on a mission to educate Doncaster about one of Europe’s most popular sports, and they have set their sights high as they aim to turn the town into a handballing hotbed.
“We want to be the Manchester United of the handball world in England,” said Susan, whose SMTXtra company manages the club.
“We’ve got the qualified people here. We just need the players now to come and join us.
“Handball is the most popular female team sport in Europe and the second most popular for men.
“In England it is not the same. A lot of people aren’t aware of the sport - but that’s why we’re here.
“We’re hoping to build up interest in Doncaster and enter a team in the National League in September.”
Doncaster Rovers Community Handball Club have adopted the name of the town’s football club after the venture was launched by Rovers’ wide-reaching Community Foundation last year.
It is hoped that the Rovers brand name will add prestige to what Schmidt and Cassidy say is a long-term project.
“At the moment our training is aimed at people aged 16 and over,” she said.
“But our ambition is to get into the schools of Doncaster and spread the word about handball.
“Handball is a great sport for getting fit and healthy, and it also improves agility and flexibility.
“And we believe that there are lots of students in this town who have a talent for handball but have not yet been introduced to the sport.
“The next generation of British handball players are out there,” she added.
“In five year’s time I’d like people from Doncaster to be playing in the England handball team.
“Obviously it’s not going to happen overnight and it’s a real challenge for us, but I won’t be content until we’ve achieved something.”
Rovers Community Foundation coaches Dave Cowell and Muzza Haider have been bitten by the handball bug.
The pair currently assist with coaching at Rossington CSV and have quickly developed a passion for the sport.
“Before I did my handball coaching qualification I had no experience in the sport whatsoever, but now I absolutely love it,” said Dave, 20, of Branton.
“It’s basically football with your hands. It’s great for fitness and I really like the physical element of the sport. “
“I’m hoping to play for the new Rovers Handball team.”
Muzza, 19, added: “The sessions are inclusive for everyone.
“You can learn new skills here and it’s a really friendly, enjoyable atmosphere.
“I’m quite particular with my sport and don’t usually play any other sport than football but I really do like handball.”