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10.02.2016, 14:30
Every silver lining has a cloud
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BLOG: Tom heads to northern Germany where three champions have become two, but that makes the ehfTV Match of the Week between Flensburg and Kiel no less tantalising
 

Every silver lining has a cloud

One of my favourite Irish poets is the Nobel Laureate W.B Yeats, and if you have not had the pleasure of reading his verse, then have a go. His poetry is a mix of Irish legend, mysticism and no small amount of love (the unrequited kind, which to my mind is the best).

Our journey takes us northward this weekend, to the border town of Flensburg and I for one am quite maudlin at the prospect. What awaits us? Who knows? And in this tearfully sentimental state, I was reminded of a superb opening couple of lines from Yeats:

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire,

Take down this book and slowly read ……”

The poem is actually about love lost, but I always choose to think of it as any kind of loss.  Hence my wonder as to what awaits us in Northern Germany. Because amidst the euphoria of the most earth-shattering sporting result, just about ever, there was the quiet demise of a great Champions League club. Almost imperceptibly, it nodded off, by the fire, into obscurity, just another name to add to the list of clubs that has faced financial ruin and failed the test.

There is a kind of ever decreasing circle about the love affair between teams and the CL. In some ways media has been the boon that clubs craved and in another it was a death-knell as more and more money was needed to compete, to garner the air-time. Sadly, what was once (at least in my short handball lifetime) a triumvirate of clubs vying to master the northern reaches of Germany, it has now becoming a duet. No less tantalising, but shorn of a certain intrigue, much the same as when Augustus was left with Lepidus after the death of Antonius (Mark Antony).

No longer can we use words beginning with tri- in referring to these erstwhile derbies and let’s be honest a triangle is far more interesting than a straight line.

But amidst the sadness there is a sense of innocence re-born. The amazing feat of the “Bad Boys” (although they were very good) has given German handball a shot in the arm. These young warriors, three of whom are found in the ranks of Kiel have blown all previously accepted handball expertise out of the water.

It will be interesting to see the reception these three young men (Weinhold, Dahmke and Dissinger) get when they arrive in Flensburg. Of course due to injury they may not all play, but as a psychological weapon, I would be parading them around the arena for all to see.

Indeed, Kiel is led by the evergreen Gislason, who it turns out according to an Icelandic journalistic piece, is the godfather of all things handball in Iceland. Should you need a helping hand or a quiet word of advice, his phone number is readily at hand and should the red telephone buzz, he answers. Let’s not forget that Dagur, mastermind of the German EURO success is an Icelander. Will the fans of Flensburg be chanting “Alfie, Alfie”, knowing that he, in some small way, may have been involved in the German success.

You couldn’t write it to be honest.

As if that would ever happen in Flensburg.

In terms of the match, Kiel are experiencing one of the worst injury crises in handball living memory. I mean, it’s not enough that Kiel players get injured in the league, but they were falling like ten-pins for the fatherland in Poland.

Not to worry though. Flensie lost a line player, Kiel lost two, so all you have to do is pop out to your local Croatian Line player shop and pick one up. Kozina for Flensburg, albeit they had to go to Austria to get him, Kiel just got Brozovic from HSV thus giving credence to the old adage “One man’s loss is another man’s gain”. Replacing Dissinger and possibly Weinhold won’t be so easy.

The match itself is in the melting pot. Vranjes early season understanding that you needed a big pool of players for a two-pronged attack on CL and Bundesliga is paying dividends. They are well placed in this group. Kiel will be happy to be in the mix, but might not count on a victory here; which is why I would be parading the heroes of Poland at every available opportunity.

You know, I’m only half-serious.

I am quite sad about the situation in handball in Northern Germany, maudlin in fact, and certainly when we are old and grey, we will wonder about lost opportunities, but we also have memories.

The memories of my time here are deep and joyous. I have encountered all three clubs at varying states of domination. All three, now two, have won the CL and as long as we have some semblance of a derby, we can continue.

The poem quoted at the outset concludes with the lines

“And paced among the mountains overhead,

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars”

That’s what I’ll be doing on Sunday, hiding my face amid a crowd of stars. Just about all of these men were stars in Poland, now the time is ripe for them to shine again.

Northern Germany needs it.

We crave it.


TEXT: Tom O'Brannagain, ehfTV commentator
 
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