World association teases traveling handball fans

No one knows where to go next
World association teases traveling handball fans

By Till Erdenberger, Katowice

The German national handball team faces an uncertain future: “The most difficult task” of the tournament awaits it with France in the quarter-finals. At the moment, no one knows what will happen if you win.

A handball world championship as an adventure trip? If you fancy a journey into the unknown, quickly hop on a car, train or plane and head to Gdansk on Poland’s Amber Coast. There, on the “Polish Riviera”, bordering beautiful Sopot, the homeland of Klaus Kinski, the German national handball team will play their quarter-finals against France on Wednesday at 8.30 p.m. (ZDF and in the live ticker on ntv.de). At least one thing is certain: what comes next? Nobody knows yet. A logistical trick is to blame: Poland and Sweden are hosting this tournament together, 32 teams in the tournament and 112 matches is too much for just one country. This complicates things.

About 1,500 supporters were in the hall in Katowice on Monday, and there were many more on Saturday against the Netherlands. Against “the toughest possible opponent” (national coach Alfred Gislason), the German supporters should once again become a factor. “The hope is there anyway”, that there is the support of thousands of people in northern Poland there, said Captain Johannes Golla. “Even if it’s not easy to dig during the week. We are extremely grateful for that.” The quarter-finals can still be scheduled.

1400 kilometers by land

Anyone who wants to follow the German team throughout the tournament after that has to be flexible: because it won’t be known until late Wednesday evening where Johannes Golla and his colleagues will play on Friday: in Poland or in the Swedish capital Stockholm. The organizers have come up with a special tip for fans, teams, TV channels and journalists: the two host countries are each allowed to organize a semi-final. The Poles play in Gdansk (more precisely: in Sopot), in Sweden they play in the Tele2 Arena, the football stadium in Stockholm.

In fact, according to the original tournament schedule, the quarter-finalists from Gdansk are also expected to play their semi-finals on the Baltic Sea coast. Really. Because if the Swedish team wins its quarter-final against Egypt, it will automatically receive home rights. The German team (along with German fans and German journalists) was due to travel to Stockholm on January 26 to play against 35,000 people and the favourites.

Between the two cities there are 555 kilometers (as the crow flies), 1400 kilometers by land and federal and a sea. It takes 19 hours by ferry, passing through the Swedish island of Gotland to Nynäshamn, to about 60 kilometers south of Stockholm. Unfortunately, places on the ferry can no longer be reserved at such short notice. If you want to try the train, you have to make your way through three countries for 23 hours. It would still be possible to fly in at the moment, but unfortunately Sweden only play Egypt at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, so by 10:30 p.m. everyone will know where to go. And what will happen if Sweden are eliminated, was the question posed in the press box during the German team’s main round final against Norway. Trend: Next, direction Stockholm.

“If Sweden were to qualify…”

The plan is so lacking in transparency that the world association felt compelled to “explain the rest of the tournament”. And everything is very simple: “If Sweden qualify, the semi-finals will be played in Stockholm, where they will meet the winner of the match between France and Germany. In this case, the winners of the quarter-finals 2 – Norway against Spain – and 4 – Denmark against Hungary – in Gdansk”, writes the IHF. “If Sweden does not qualify for the semi-finals, the first semi-final will be played in Gdansk between France or Germany and Egypt. The second semi-final will be played between the winners of the quarter-finals 2 and 4 in Stockholm.” So: semi-finals either here or there. Between here and there, there are 555 kilometers as the crow flies, 1400 kilometers by land and an ocean. There are less than 48 hours between the two games.

If Sweden qualify for the semi-finals, fans from different nations will meet somewhere between Stockholm and Gdansk. Because then the Danes or the Hungarians, who were allowed to play their quarter-finals in Sweden, would have to go to Poland for the semi-finals – then turn back after the game to play a final or the match for third place in Stockholm.

On Tuesday morning German fans are sitting on the train from Katowice to Gdansk, who are still firmly convinced that a possible semi-final with German participation will certainly take place in Stockholm. What everyone knows: The quarter-finals against France start on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. It was not clear at the final whistle against Norway. When do the semi-finals start? Friday somewhere.

National coach Alfred Gislason would have preferred to avoid the (sports) route via France. “I would have preferred to win the game today and have Spain,” said the Icelander. Gislason plays wherever planes and buses take him. The group victory would also have made everything logistically easier: the winner of the duel between Spain and Norway will remain in Gdansk for a semi-final. It doesn’t matter what happens in Stockholm between Sweden and Egypt. If you want to plan for safety, you have to hope that the German team will lose against France: because then it will certainly be in Stockholm for the matches from 5th to 8th place.

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