BLOG: After commentating on his first women's event in Budapest two weeks ago, Tom is set for another debut, as he takes the mic for the EHF Cup Finals in Berlin this weekend
The forgotten re-enter the limelight
I always enjoyed science at school. If, like me, you enjoyed playing with test tubes and Bunsen burners at the back of the class, then you will remember that there are important things you forgot. Compression and rarefaction is probably one of them. I always remember the teacher showing us a spring. He pressed it closed and allowed it to spring back open. Easy!
The four teams that travel to Berlin this weekend for the EHF Cup Finals are another version of this simple experiment. Compressed into the early qualification tournaments in the VELUX EHF Champions league, they foundered, and the vacuum this created led them to be sucked instantly into the EHF Cup competition. The resulting action for them was a journey against some well-known teams and some lesser known. The games were at times easy and at others, very difficult indeed. The net gain was a place in these finals. The terminal will be the Max-Schmeling-Halle this Saturday and Sunday.
Like our little-known scientific facts that we may have forgotten or stored away, our four teams; Berlin, Szeged, Montpellier and Constanta have been forgotten, by most, over the course of European action this season. The fact of the matter is that this is a top quality competition between four teams we have come to know and love over many years in the CL. They also lost narrowly, in qualification, to teams that performed well in the CL this season.
Szeged lost to Metalurg, who went onto play in the quarter-finals. Montpellier and Berlin lost, respectively to Plock and Hamburg, both of who played in the Last 16. Only Constanta cannot claim to have played against a knockout opponent as they lost to Porto.
And as compression and rarefaction are factors of pressure, so there is pressure on all these teams come the weekend. Wave after wave of attack will lead to ebb and flow, a push and pull, which will inevitably lead to a vacuum for two of the teams after the semi-final on Saturday.
Montpellier plays Constanta. Szeged will play Berlin. The fact is that these teams haven’t changed drastically over the intervening absence from the group phase of the CL. In fact most fans will recognise quite a lot of the players from each team, with the exception, perhaps, of Constanta. Each team has a lot of home grown players and this cluster centric approach gives the teams identity, not just on a club level, but on a national level as well.
There are many great players on show, too many to list, but suffice it to say, there are world champions, Olympic champions, and CL champions. This is worth a watch as a spectacle because the level of handball will be top-notch.
One of these greats is the one, the only Iker Romero. This weekend is to be his swan song. He is the epitome of character and also the possibility that handball is not only about how fast, tall or strong you are. His brain still operates at a quicker level than most others and his time at Berlin has been an eye-opener culminating thus far, in a German cup win and a place in the FINAL4 in Cologne. It is a time of celebration for a player who has given every ounce of his being to become and remain the player he is.
The setting is unreal; an arena that has given us one of the truly abiding memories of CL handball (the Leon comeback).
Stuffed to the rafters with almost 10,000 it will surely give a lift to the “home” team, Berlin.
This crowd can rock. For every action on the court, there is an instant reaction from the crowd.
They can blow the ball out of the net or suck it over the line.
A kind of compression and rarefaction in itself!
TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator
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