FEATURE: Frisch Auf Göppingen’s manager and EHF Marketing managing director highly satisfied with the final outcome of the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals
Hofele: Hand in hand for a great event
When the big party in green and white just had started on Sunday night, Gerd Hofele found the time to think about and recall what just had happened. Hofele is the manager of Frisch Auf Göppingen, the hosts and ultimately the winners of the LIQUI MOLY EHF Finals.
Since the start of the season, it was the dream of the now four-times EHF Cup winners to host the event. In December, they won the chance to organise the fifth edition of the EHF Cup Finals.
“From that moment on, all in our club worked extremely hard to be a perfect host – and I believe that we did a great job,” said Hofele. “I am completely fascinated by this weekend, mainly of course by the great success of our team, but also from what we managed to do off the court.”
A total of 350 to 400 people were involved in the event.
“Our biggest strength was the teamwork and the cooperation, all worked hand in hand – local politicians, businessmen, companies, volunteers, paid staff of the club. All were part of a great team, which enabled our great team on the court to finally raise the trophy,” said Hofele.
He added: “Of course you can prepare an event like this in a perfect way, but when it counts, you definitely need the sportive success to have an incredible event like this. Truly, our team exploded twice on the court, our fans were loud and frenetic and pushed our team to the limit.”
The players' performance ultimately earned this extraordinary support.
“To be honest, there were some nights, when I could not sleep. Our performances in Bundesliga were mostly weak in the last six month, we had big problems,” Hofele admitted.
“But then we put all our efforts around the team on the week prior to the tournament. We set the tension in a right way, we gave the players all they needed to be well-prepared. And then you see players like Lars Kaufmann, who becomes MVP in his last international match. Or Christian Schöne, who normally is the boss of our youth centre. He helped the team, though he ended his career two years ago. A true hero of a story which can only be written by sport.”
Under Hofele’s leadership it was the fourth EHF Cup trophy for Frisch Auf – but was the one on Sunday also the best ever title?
“Right now I would say yes, in a ranking together with the first ever trophy, because this was our dream. But now we won it at home, as the hosts of a great tournament, being the first team to defend the title in the new playing system after we had been the last team to win and defend the title in the old system. Simply brilliant,” he said.
In fact, it was not only the sporting success, or the two times sold-out EWS Arena, with an overall of more than 11,000 fans on two days, but the positive feedback from all sides for Hofele.
“Regardless, if it was the EHF, the visiting teams or their fans. All praised this event, which makes us extremely proud,” said the manager, whose club also managed to re-finance the expenses and costs of half a million euros.
Impressive athletic performances, combined with entertainment elements, the fan village and the fan party in the city – it was the whole package which helped Göppingen become a great success, according to Hofele.
“Of course, the fans of the other teams were part of this success, as we had a really friendly atmosphere in the spirit of fair play,” he said.
Live and breathe handball
Like the organisers, the EHF was highly satisfied on Sunday night.
“My conclusion is very positive. The cooperation and communication with Frisch Auf Göppingen was a perfect example, both in the bidding process and later on in the implementation too,” said David Szlezak, managing director of the EHF Marketing GmbH, the marketing arm of the EHF. “All the feedback on the organisation, from officials and teams, was highly positive.”
Like Hofele, the former Austrian international points out that “this arena is well-known for its great atmosphere, which we experienced for two days. People live handball at Göppingen and the fans are so close to the court, that you can even breathe handball here. I guess that the club is highly satisfied with the number of fans, - we are.”
For the first time, the EHF Cup Finals were under the patronage of a title sponsor, oil and additive producer LIQUI MOLY.
“We could offer our first title sponsor a perfect package and platform and we could pay them back,” said Szlezak.
And will Göppingen host the event again?
“We have to see if we bid again,” said Hofele. “Immediately after the final our mayor approached me and asked if we should again host the tournament.”
TEXT: Björn Pazen / jh
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