Women from the West make history
The town of Holstebro in the far west of Denmark is making handball history. Not only has the men’s team from Team Tvis Holstebro qualified for the finals of the EHF Cup.
Simultaneously, the women of the club have qualified for the EHF Cup final for the second time within three years and for the Danish championship final for the first time in history – which means that they will be entering the qualification tournament for the EHF Champions League next season as the very least.
But how can a town with a population of little more than 57,000, in a competitive sponsor market manage to have top teams on both the women’s and men’s sides?
“We have an ambition of being Denmark´s or even Europe´s best two-stringed club, meaning that we will always endeavour to have both our league teams in the top five.
"This may sometimes mean that neither of the teams can reach the absolute top, but to me a silver medal for one of the teams and a bronze medal for the other one is more important than one gold medal for just one of the teams,” Team Tvis Holstebro´s director Jacob Jørgensen told eurohandball.com.
“Besides, the fact that we have two teams in the upper halves of their respective leagues gives us by far more TV matches than any other club in Denmark. This obviously gives us a unique chance to offer our sponsors nation-wide exposure,” Jacob Jørgensen added.
Nevertheless is it a fact that this winter the club had to consider, if it would still be possible to continue with two teams at top level.
“We gathered our sponsors and made it clear to them that if we were to stay in top with both teams, it would take more money from them in future. Fortunately, this was accepted, and we can look to the future with optimism now,” the director said.
Fast play and flexible defence
Head coach Niels Agesen has been in charge of the team since it played in the second best league, the 1. Division five years ago, and to him the development over the last few years has been an adventure.
“Recently, Pehter, my colleague (assistant coach Pether Krautmeyer) reminded me what we said to each other four years ago: If we could survive in the league, it would be a great achievement.
“I never dreamed that we would get this far, but I think that our success is partly due to the fact that we play in a way which many other women’s teams are not used to.
We play with a very offensive and flexible defence, and in the attack we play very fast. The teams we have met in Europe have been particularly unfamiliar with this way of playing,” said Niels Agesen, to whom the fact that his team has qualified for the Champions League qualifiers is still quite new.
“In fact, we only realised Sunday after having qualified for the Danish championship final that the Champions League was also in the picture now.
“There is no doubt in my mind, though, that if we qualify for the Champions League one way or the other, we will need to either have a larger squad or to work more with our physics, if are to stand a chance in the Champions League and in the Danish league at the same time.
“However, the Champions League would de another great challenge for us,” Niels Agesen told eurohandball.com.
Changes in the squad
It is a fact already that the Holstebro team who will appear in the Champions League qualifiers, and perhaps in the Group Matches phase, next season will be somewhat different from the one appearing in the upcoming EHF Cup finals.
Danish internationals Louise Burgaard and Kathrine Heindahl will be leaving along with German international Anna Loerper and Iceland international Thorey Rosa Stefansdottir. So far four new signings have been made for the coming season.
Brazilian international Karoline Helena de Souza is joining from Hypo NÖ, while Norwegian international Ida Alstad is arriving from Byåsen.
Anne Sofie Hjort, who is on the fringes of the Danish national team, has been signed from 1. Division club Ringkøbing and finally Mille Hundahl is returning from league rivals Skive.
“If we win the Danish championship and thereby qualify directly for the Champions League, we may go look for a further reinforcement.
“If not, we will probably stick to the squad we have which will also include some of talented youngsters from our U18 and U16 teams,” explained director Jacob Jørgensen.
In the EHF Cup finals Team Tvis Holstebro will be up against Metz Handball from France, while their opponents in the finals of the Danish championship will be FC Midtjylland – the same team they eliminated in the semi-finals of the current EHF Cup.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor