FEATURE: Since four years TuS Metzingen are in the German Bundesliga, now they are EHF Cup finalists in their first international season
"Pink ladies" on the rise
“This is like a fairy tale, a miracle.” Ferenc Rott is more than impressed of the current season of TuS Metzingen. Hungarian-born Rott is the manager of the “pink ladies”, the nickname of the team, from the famous shopping outlet town near Stuttgart.
Close to the overall 83 huge shops of brands like Metzingen based Hugo Boss, Adidas or Esprit, women’s handball has a long tradition - but mostly in the second division. Next Saturday the European Cup debutants will face Hungarian side Dunaujvarosi Kohasz Kezilabda Akademia in the first leg of the EHF Cup final.
For 21 years the “Tussies” (another nickname in German for all dressed up and made up girls) were part of the second league, tried hard several times to promote to the Bundesliga, but always failed. Four years ago, the time had come to climb the ladder.
Phenomenon of Minevskaja
After a tough season in which they remained in the top league, one signature changed everything: 21-year-old Shenia Minevskaja arrived from German champions Thüringer HC, and she personalised the rising of Metzingen. Scoring 239 goals, she became top scorer of the season, clearly increasing the abilities of the “pink ladies”.
Thanks to this success the club management managed to increase the number of sponsors and fans - and thus Metzingen made the next step in 2014, when they announced the arrivals of the three German internationals Anna Loeper, Marlene Zapf (both from Leverkusen) and Julia Behnke (from Bietigheim).
Adding this quality to “goal machine” Minevskaja, who netted in more than 195 times in the 2014/15 season, Metzingen rose like Phoenix and made their dream come true to qualify for an European Cup competition in their third ever season in the Bundesliga.
Vital help from Hungary
But things changed in the Swabian Alps. Minevskaja left Metzingen for HC Leipzig, and the contract of coach Alexander Job was not extended. Rott had found an even bigger name for the “Tussies” bench in his home country: Csaba Konkoly.
The former coach of Györ and the Hungarian women’s national team sensationally settled down in Metzingen - a coup for a club, which was just about to start their international experience.
Konkoly, who had formed hundreds of talents at Györ’s youth programme before - like Anita Görbicz - took his first job abroad, after he had led Györ to the 2009 Champions League finals and Hungary to the 2008 Olympic semi-final.
A lot of experts had expected that Metzingen will not be able to remain on their high-flying level without Minevskaja. But the opposite happened. Under the helm of Konkoly, Metzingen went on growing - and mainly one player arrived in the bright spotlight: 1,67 metres small playmaker Anna Loerper. “Anna is in the form of her life,” says Rott.
In Bundesliga, the 217-times German international scored 197 goals so far in 23 matches, in the EHF Cup she already has 48 strikes on her tally to be Metzingen’s top scorer.
“It is not me, it is the team, it is the character of the squad,” Loerper remains humble.
Part of exciting race for the title
After four more or less easy wins in the first two rounds of the EHF Cup including a record breaking 50:21 against Nis (Serbia) - the quarter-final provided the debutants with the All-German duel against Leipzig. Internationally experienced HCL were the clear favourites in those duels - but within eleven days Metzingen beat Leipzig three times in Bundesliga and the EHF Cup to make it to the semi-finals.
Against Brasov, the team of Csaba Konkoly kept their still unbeaten record on international ground, now having eight wins from eight European Cup matches in their statistics. 2500 fans went crazy, when Metzingen clinched the final berth - and manager Rott said “simply sensational”.
Some days after the 30:23 in the second semi-final leg, Metzingen beat Dortmund in the Bundesliga to extend their incredible series of success to 18 consecutive wins in league and EHF Cup. The outcome was the first position in Bundesliga.
The winning streak ended last Saturday on home ground with a 30:31 defeat against defending champions Thüringer HC, thus Metzingen, THC and Leipzig are all equal in points three round before the end.
“We still have the fate of winning a trophy double in our own hands. To make it to the EHF Cup final is sensational, but we are not ready yet,” Rott says prior to the first leg of the finals on home ground against his Hungarian country-fellows Dunaujvarosi Kohasz Kezilabda Akademia.
History in the making
Metzingen’s chances to make history as the last winners of the competition before it will be merged with the Cup Winners’ Cup? “We are burning for those finals - and we can go all the way. We are definitely not under pressure,” says line player Julia Behnke.
Since the implementation of the EHF Cup in the 1993, no German women’s team ever won this trophy, the last team to secure the IHF Cup title was SC Leipzig in 1992. The last time, any German women’s team took a European Cup title was Buxtehude in 2010 (Challenge Cup).
TEXT: Björn Pazen / br
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