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29.08.2018, 12:00
Aiming high second time around
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown: Wacker Thun (SUI). Even with a semi-professional squad, Wacker Thun hope to take their first ever Champions League victory in what is their second campaign
 

Aiming high second time around

They start their second ever VELUX EHF Champions League campaign after gaining international experience in the previous EHF Cup Group Phase: Wacker Thun have dethroned Kadetten Schaffhausen in the Swiss league, and though they lost their two stars Lenny Rubin and Lukas von Deschwanden to the German Bundesliga, optimism is high.

Three questions before the new season:

Will Wacker take their first ever Champions League victory?

When Thun played their so far only VELUX EHF Champions League season in 2013/14, they faced opponents such as Barcelona, PSG, Vardar Skopje and Dinamo Minsk – and all the hurdles were too high. The final outcome was a single draw (24:24) against Metalurg and 11 defeats.

Now, playing in the Group C/D system, the chances for Wacker to take their first ever Champions League victory are much higher. Cocks, Elverum and Bucuresti are definitely within reach for the Swiss side in their home matches. In the 2017/18 season for example, Thun beat Spanish club Granollers in the home leg of the EHF Cup Group Phase.

Will home matches be home matches?

As their regular Lachen Arena in Thun does not meet the EHF Champions League requirements, Wacker Thun will travel 24 kilometres north to Gümlingen, in the suburbs of Swiss capital Bern. The newly built Mobiliar Arena, which just opened at the end of August, will be the Champions League home for Wacker. The arena has capacity for 1,400 spectators and is the regular arena for Bern Muri, as well as being the future home of the national handball performance centre. “We hope for the same great atmosphere as in Thun. We want to excite the fans,” says manager Remo Badertscher.

Can a semi-professional club cope with the challenges of the VELUX EHF Champions League?

“For us, being part of the VELUX EHF Champions League is a gift from the sporting point of view, but  the biggest challenge in terms of organisation and money the club ever had,” says manager Remo Badertscher. “We – a club with only some professionals – will enjoy every minute of the group phase.”

The excitement is huge in and around Thun, new sponsors have been found and many tickets are expected to be sold. In terms of results, any victory will cause a big party.

Under the spotlight: Philip Holm

26-year-old Dane Philip Holm is the only foreigner in Wacker Thun’s squad. Left back Holm will replace Swiss international Lukas von Deschwanden, who transferred to German side Stuttgart. Holm arrived from Ribe-Esbjerg, and it was by chance that coach Martin Rubin received some information on him. “After two training sessions we knew that he would fit in the team,” Rubin says. Alongside his semi-professional handball life, the Dane will continue working as a physiotherapist.
 
Self-esteem

At Thun, the first hope is to learn a lot from the international matches, as they did in the Champions League and the EHF Cup in the past. “At the end, we want to enjoy our fans and give them unforgettable moments in the biggest competition in club handball,” says Badertscher.

Wacker were lucky with the draw and their upcoming opponents. New team captain Reto Friedli is truly enthusiastic: “I want to win every match and our team will fight for each centimetre. We will never give up and show the quality of Swiss handball clubs, even though we lost some really good players. It is always interesting to compete with big teams from other countries. Elverum and Leon will be the favourites in Group D.”

Fun fact

It is the year 2018, and if you pay 2018 Swiss Franc you can be something like a team sponsor for Wacker Thun’s Champions League campaign, as you receive a special experience at one of the club’s VELUX EHF Champions League away matches. You will accompany the team to the match, fly with them, be in the same hotel, get a match ticket and be as close as possible with all players. As this campaign was a success in the EHF Cup 2017/18 Group Phase, the club repeated it for the Champions League.
 
What the numbers say

Since the start of this season, two brothers have been reunited at Wacker Thun, as Simon Huwyler joined his older brother Stefan. The brothers were previously playing in the same team with TV Endingen and both are defence experts.

Wacker Thun (SUI)

Qualification for the VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19 season:
Swiss champions

Newcomers: Philip Holm (Ribe-Esbjerg), Ron Delhees (Kadetten Schaffhausen), Simon Huwyler (TV Endingen), Gabriel Felder (TV Steffisburg), Ivan Wyttenbach (TV Steffisburg)

Left the club: Lenny Rubin (HSG Wetzlar), Lukas von Deschwanden (TBV Stuttgart), Viktor Glatthard (Haslum HK), Roman Caspar (end of career)

Coach: Martin Rubin (since 2006)

Team captain: Reto Friedli

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): two
Group Phase (1): 2013/14

Other EC records:

Cup Winners’ Cup:


Last 16 (1): 2006/07

EHF Cup:

Last 16 (1): 2005/06
Group Phase (1): 2017/18

EHF Challenge Cup:

Winner (1): 2004/05
Finalist (1): 2011/12
Quarter-final (1): 2015/16

Swiss league: two titles (2013, 2018)

Swiss Cup: five titles (2002, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2017)


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg
 
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