It’s a small turning point. With Benfica’s victory in the men’s European League, no Bundesliga club won the coveted trophy for the first time in eight years. What’s more, for more than a quarter of a century only two teams have managed to break into the German domain – with the Portuguese there are now three. This may also have been a reason why the European Handball Federation decided to reform the competition two years ago.
The cup should be more attractive and exciting internationally in order to be able to market the sport more attractively. The concept worked. The top-class field of participants inspired this year with valuable sporting performances, a lot of speed and a high number of goals. The German clubs, however, fell by the wayside. Of the five Bundesliga teams that competed, only one made it into the Final Four – another fact that hasn’t existed for years. Although SC Magdeburg ultimately qualified for the final, the designated German champions lacked the usual effectiveness and flexibility on the defensive at 39:40 after extra time.
Now it is difficult to attribute these criteria to the higher workload of the German club in the domestic league – in a final this fact fades into the background. If you look at the competition as a whole, however, the question arises as to whether the consistently high level of competition in the often proclaimed “strongest league in the world” can be internationally disadvantageous. Whether too many games are not opposed to too little regeneration.
Now German handball should not be written off immediately because of a tournament. After all, the sporting quality is still extremely high, with THW Kiel once again making it into the final four of the Champions League this year. Nevertheless, the warning signal should not be overlooked. Handball projects are growing across Europe and will ensure increasing rivalry in the future. So it’s important that clubs, leagues and associations in Germany grow with them.