The German handball player of the century has died.
Erhard Wunderlich passed away aged only 55
The European Handball Federation and the whole handball world received the sad news of the passing away of Erhard Wunderlich on Thursday night, aged 55. According to his family, Wunderlich died of cancer in a hospital in Cologne, Germany.
Wunderlich became world champion in 1978 and then won all possible titles on club and national team level, a handball player could have won except Olympic gold. He started his career at VfL Gummersbach, together with German handball legend Heiner Brand. With VfL he became four times European Cup winner, and several times German champion and cup winner.
“Erhard Wunderlich was the biggest handball talent, we ever had in Germany,” Heiner Brand is quoted on the website of the German handball Federation DHB. “This is a tragic loss for the German handball, Erhard Wunderlich was a genius and a great character,” Ulrich Strombach, President of the German Handball Federation said.
After winning the Champions Cup (forerunner of the Champions League) with Gummersbach in 1983, scoring six goals in the final against CSKA Moscow, he transferred to FC Barcelona, as the first German handball player ever. But after only one season he returned to Germany and joined upcoming team Milbertshofen in Munich. Later-on he also played for Bad Schwartau, but never ever gained the success he had at Gummersbach.
In 1999 the two times German handball player of the year (1981, 1982) was awarded “German handball player of the century”, ahead of stars like Brand, Bernhard Kempa or Jo Deckarm. In 140 international matches for Germany Wunderlich scored more than 500 goals. Besides the gold medal at the world championship 1978 he became Olympic silver medallist in 1984. In 2003 he took part in the inaugural European Masters Championships in Austria where he won the bronze medal with his team Kafeehaus Jumbos in the 45+ category.
“His death is a tragedy and I am deeply shocked,” Vlado Stenzel, coach of the 1978 world champions, said.
As a mark of respect to this handball great a moment of silence will be observed before two VELUX EHF Champions League Round 2 matches - in Wunderlich´s former club Barcelona which will host Füchse Berlin on Saturday (16.15 hrs local time) and in Kiel - the only German club playing at home this weekend (vs. IK Sävehof on Sunday 16:45 hrs local time).
TEXT: Björn Pazen /br