FEATURE: Füchse Berlin overjoyed by early qualification for the EHF Cup Finals
A dream came true for Füchse
When Frederik Petersen walked to the penalty line, he had enormous responsibility on his Swedish shoulders. The final action in a thrilling match was just ahead, when Petersen went to take the shot. Chambery Savoie were leading 25:24 against Füchse Berlin in Round 5 of the EHF Cup Group Phase.
Petersen kept his nerve and scored for the equaliser, there was pure joy for the rest of the German side. One goal made the dream of a whole club come true.
Thanks to the draw, Füchse Berlin clinched their berth for the EHF Cup Finals, hosted by them in Berlin on 17/18 May.
Berlin needed a draw to secure the top spot of their group – and by reaching it, they now skip the quarter-finals and can relaxed in wait for the next stage of this competition in April, when the remaining three participants of the EHF Cup Finals will be decided.
“Our dream came true,” said Füchse manager Bob Hanning, who has run the club for the last nine years. In this time Füchse promoted to the first division (2007), qualified for the VELUX EHF Champions League for the first time in the club’s history in the 2011/12 season – and made quite a debut by reaching the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne that very season.
The following season Berlin just missed out on the quarter-finals after a one-goal aggregate defeat to Atletico Madrid. The current season again started with unhappy faces at Berlin, as they lost the wildcard play-off against defending champions HSV Hamburg, denying them a third straight participation in Europe’s elite competition.
Füchse and the Max-Schmeling-Arena immediately agreed to bid on becoming the host of the EHF Cup Finals – and were awarded by the EHF in November.
“From that moment on, we worked for our dream to be part of this event on home court, and now we have made it. Simply brilliant,” said Hanning. And club president Frank Steffel added via Twitter right after the final whistle in Chambery: “What an incredible moment for our club!”
Now Füchse even hope to go all the way – and to continue the trand of German dominance in the competition’s history:
In the previous 17 yearsm the EHF Cup (in his old and current form) was won 15 times by a German club, latest by Rhein Neckar Löwen in the EHF Cup Finals 2013 in Nantes as the ninth straight German club to raise the trophy.
Füchse hope to further emulate Löwen as it was the first major title for the team from Mannheim.
Since their promotion to the Bundesliga, Berlin still wait for silverware – and now have double the chance within only four weeks, after they also qualified for the semi-finals of the German Cup on 12 April, facing Rhein Neckar Löwen in Hamburg.
As the two main contenders Kiel and Hamburg have already been eliminated, their chances are not that bad.
However, Füchse are eager to focus on their mission “Berlin calling”, which is the official motto of the EHF Cup Finals.
“We have great weeks ahead and I am so proud of this team, as we missed so many key players in the last weeks due to injuries. We are fighting, fighting and fighting,” said team captain Iker Romero, two-time EHF Champions League winner with FC Barcelona in 2005 and 2011, who joined Füchse after his final international trophy with the Catalans three years ago.
Coach Dagur Sigurdsson added: “We are simply happy. I deeply hope that all injured players will be fit for the EHF Cup Finals, as this is a once-in-a-lifetime-chance for everybody to be host and part of a tournament like this.”
More than 5,000 of 8,000 available tickets have been sold already and the organisers hope for a sold-out Max-Schmeling-Arena with fans from all over Europe.
“We are proud to be the host and we want to showcase what this club and the city of Berlin is able to create,” concluded Hanning.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
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