History in the making in Esch
No other team in the history of sport in Luxembourg made it that far as the players of Handball Esch in this season of the Men´s Challenge Cup. After they eliminated Kosovo´s KH Prishtina in Round 3 and survived a second leg chase of Serbia´s Spartak Vojput in the last 16, they managed to upset another favourite in the quarter-finals as they ousted Belgium´s Initia Hasselt by winning both legs by a narrow margin (28:26 and 28.27).
Top scorer Martin Muller and coach Werner Klöckner revealed for eurohandball.com what has made the unlikely run of Handball Esch possible.
“We, as a team, did this and I’m incredibly proud of my team,” Klöckner underlined. “In the first leg Andy Mauruschatt and Martin Muller were in a great shape, in the rematch Jeff Decker and Sedin Zuzo were able to fill in for them. That’s the proof that we are a great bunch of players.
“We saw that our mental strength can beat a good physical shape. Due to the matches in Prishtina and Vojput, the team have developed this mental strength, which helped us to beat the Belgian side who were physically stronger than us,” coach added.
The hall Centre Omnisport was completely packed for the home match last weekend and nearly seven hundreds of passionate fans were trying to help with their voices as much as they could.
“All those people helped a lot. At the end of the game, Hasselt became nervous and our fans kept pushing us forward. They gave us a lot of confidence. We knew they would support us no matter what and this can always change a lot,” praised the support from stands the top scorer of the team and the fifth best scorer of the whole competition Martin Muller whose tally has reached 45 goals after two legs with Hasselt.
“We hope that the audience will be the same for our next matches,” he added.
And exactly the great symbiosis between the team on the court, the club staff and the fans Klöckner finds as the biggest strength of Handball Esch. “We are a big family. It’s not only the players; it’s the environment, the club, the fans and many volunteers. We are a big family and Luxembourg can be very proud of this team,” he underlined.
Esch take part in four competitions, the national championship and cup, the Benelux League and the EHF Challenge Cup; many players will join the national team this week, but Muller believes they cope with this pressure.
“Of course, it’s difficult. Right now we manage the many competitions pretty well but we all know that there may be a gap. During our practices we try to prevent such a gap in order to play on top all the time,” he said.
No doubt their next hurdle in the Challenge Cup will be the toughest one as they take on the former runners-up of 2008/09 edition CSU Suceava from Romania.
TEXT: Jil Welter / br