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15.05.2013, 19:50
Esch punching above their weight in European handball
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Club profile of the first team from Luxembourg to reach a European Cup Final
 

Esch punching above their weight in European handball

Esch-sur-Alzette is the second biggest town in Luxembourg, with a population of 31,000 from 111 different nations. Minett is a region in Southern Luxembourg and got his name from the mining industry, which was extremely important in the 1950s. Nowadays, Esch is a modern city and a host of many multicultural events.

The new site of the University of Luxembourg will open in Belval in 2014 and promote Esch as the second most important city in the Grand Duchy. Besides the university, the town hosts a theatre, a conservatorium, the resistance museum and two concert venues.

Even if Esch is the second biggest town of the Grand Duchy, distances are very short. Some of the Handball Esch players go to the playing hall by foot. Most of them come from Esch, as does Martin Muller.

“When I was a kid, I lived next to the playing hall, just like Christian Bock and Sacha Pulli. It was obvious that we would all join a sports team in Esch.”

“We have a very close relationship to our fans and the people from Esch, that is why we like playing for Handball Esch,” explains Muller.

A successful club

Handball Esch was founded in 2001, after the fusion of Handball Club la Fratanelle Esch and the Fola and now 217 active and 250 non-active members form the club.

Since the foundation, Handball Esch has been very successful; they won their 6th championship title on Wednesday (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013) and they have been the winner of the cup final 4 times (2002, 2006, 2011, 2012). They were even awarded the title of best Luxembourgish sports team in 2010 when they made it to Round 3 of the EHF Cup.

In 2013, Handball Esch participated in five different national and international competitions: the Luxembourgish championship, the national cup competition, the super cup, the Benelux League and the EHF Challenge Cup. The amateur team plays 47 official matches this season, almost as many as a professional team.

A long way to go

Nevertheless, the Challenge Cup has been the most exciting competition of the season. It is the first time that a Luxembourgish club team has made it to a final of a European Cup competition.

Since their first game on 24 November, the team has overcome KH Pristina, RK Spartak Vojput, Initia Hasselt and CSU Suceava, leaving just SKA Minsk between them and the trophy.

Finding a place to host the final has been a huge challenge. Since the Salle omnisport Henri Schmitz in Esch was not suitable to play the final, the Coque in Luxembourg City became the best option.

The Coque management, together with the City of Esch, succeeded to free the arena on 18 May and Handball Esch can now welcome up to 5200 handball fans for the first leg of the final.

Martin Muller hopes that the arena will be crowded for their game against Minsk.

“Obviously, there will be a lot of fans from Handball Esch but also many others. We would be happy if the arena was sold out. It would be a great success for the club and a great opportunity to promote handball in Luxembourg,” concludes the left back.

Further information

Esch face Minsk in the first leg of the Men's Challenge Cup Final at home on Saturday, 18 May at 20:15 CET, with the second leg played a week later.


TEXT: Jil Welter / cor
 
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