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12.10.2012, 13:35
BLOG: Too much kissing for my liking
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ehfTV commentator Tom Ó Brannagáin blogs the Match of the Week in Round 3 Montpellier vs Hamburg
 

BLOG: Too much kissing for my liking

MOTW 3 sees us head to the glorious setting of Montpellier. This is always a welcome relief for a poor Irish boy who is used to dressing up like an onion during the summer months, so imagine actually being able to walk around in a t-shirt on my visits to the south of France in the middle of October.

The trip there is only difficult because of having to change in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and then I get my yearly athletic training as I sprint through some of the worst queues in the world, bar Frankfurt, to catch my connecting flight. Once there, the arena, “Arena Montpellier” is visible from the airport. This year, I am taking the TGV, from Paris, so the dash is to get to Gare de Lyon before my train leaves.

Montpellier is a powerhouse of French handball and has been winning championships in France for fun for the last number of years. Their closest rivals being Chambéry haven’t been able to stop their roller coaster of victories. A new Paris handball may have a say this year, as might a rejuvenated Chambery. (In fact, the season isn’t going to plan in the league at the moment with a trouncing from Paris and another defeat that would have been unimaginable last season).  

However, in the Champions league they haven’t done so well. Last season a hard fought victory against Barcelona at home led to a terrible injury for Kavtičnik and the return leg trouncing would best be forgotten. This season started well with an away point at Flensburg, but was followed by a defeat at home to Ademar León.

Sadly, Montpellier is in the news at the moment for all the wrong reasons and the team we would normally expect to see may not be the team that actually takes to the court. However, I am still looking forward to a great match and who knows how the “young guns” of Montpellier may do against the mighty Hamburg.

I like to go there. There’s a bit too much kissing for my liking. It never goes amiss with a pretty lady, but the men also kiss each other. I can never figure out if it’s two or three or even four kisses on the cheek when in France, but Nikola Karabatic assured me it was three in their neck of the woods. Sadly I asked him at the end of our interview should we kiss three times and his reply was; “not if I wanted to live”. He is a mountain of a man so I took him at his word.

Montpellier’s  fan club is known as “The Blue Foxes”. They are a fantastic bunch. Outside, the back entrance to the arena, they have a little picnic on game days. I was lucky enough to be invited on a visit there. Pâté, French bread, wine, coffee, whiskey, you name it they had it. I ate my fill, but prior to the game, sadly, no “vin rouge”. They follow their team around Europe and are aged from early 20s to 60s. And boy do they know their handball.

This can’t be said for the first game ever played in the Arena for the VELUX EHF CL. We were lucky to be there for MOTW in 2010 and they played Hamburg, coincidentally enough the MOTW this week. Hamburg won, but you could tell that the crowd which had attended were not “au fait” with the nuances of handball.

On a return visit last year, with Kiel the visitors, you could tell that the crowd were much more “in” the game and the Arena, which had always been marvellous to look at, was now a genuine place of handball worship. Like a good French wine it took a few years to mature, but I am sure the atmosphere will be electric once again.

Follow the livestreaming of Match of the Week Round 3 on ehftv.com powered by LAOLA1.tv on Sunday, 14 October (19:00 hrs local time).


TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator
 
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