MANNHEIM- Formed in 2002 thanks to the merger between Kronau and Ostringen, the Lions of Rhine-Neckar, whose main base is in Mannheim, located south of Frankfurt/Main, has been a handball team that has quietly climbed up the standings to the top four, stalking the teams of Kiel, Hamburg, Flensburg-Handewitt and Berlin like a lion, in hopes that it will get its kill in the end.
On Sunday, the team got its prey in the form of the German Handball League title, but just barely!
After winning the European Handball Championship in 2013, the Lions won their first German Premere League title ever on Sunday, by sending their opponents from Lübbecke on its way to the second tier of the League in style. Thanks to an aggressive offense led by Andy Schmid and Uwe Gensheimer, the Lions took the lead right away and never looked back, taking an early 6-2 lead and leading by as many as seven points at halftime (17-10) before putting the game away in the second half. The final score was 35-23. Lübbecke, which joins Eisenach in the second league in the upcoming season, could not find any answers to a hungry Lion offense, which pounced on them all day with several blocks and interceptions.
The Lions’ victory added the last nail to the coffin of Flensburg’s title chance. Despite SG Flensburg-Handewitt’s stunning 41-27 victory over the Bergisch SC handball team, the Albatross’ quest for their first title since 2004 fell just a point short of their goal. The team had split the series with the Lions during the regular season. Despite finishing as Vizemeister (the name for runner-up) both Flensburg and Rhine Neckar have automatically qualified for the Champions League in the coming season. Sadly for the Lions, the title was bitter sweet, as the team is bidding farewell to Gensheimer. After 13 years playing for his hometown team, he will play his next season at Paris St. Germain in the French League this fall.
Archrival THW Kiel finished third in regular season play, by beating Stuttgart 32-23. For the Zebras, they finished their regular without any championship title for the first time since 2003. Stuttgart wrapped up its first regular season in the Premere League and together with Leipzig, which edged Wetzlar 30-29 in its final game of its first season in the Oberhaus, will be competing for the Handball Crown come next season. The two teams finished in 15th and 11th places respectively.
The Files would like to congratulate the team from Rhine-Neckar on their first ever German Premere League title and wish them all the best in the next season. You guys deserved it! 🙂
Magdeburg avenges Flensburg-Handewitt in the Handball German Cup, FC Bayern Munich wins another title, German Invasion in American Football?
The weekend of May 1 will go down as sensation made in Germany. A heavily favored team goes down in handball, the ladies soccer team beats the men at the title and lastly, a German is coming to Minnesota to play for his favorite professional football team. How did this happen? Let’s have a look at the highlights.
MAGDEBURG WINS FIRST GERMAN CUP IN 20 YEARS
Last year, the Fighting Albatrosses of SG Flensburg Handewitt stole not only one but two titles, including a stunning come-from behind victory against SC Magdeburg in the German Cup. This year, the team, with its aspirations of going for the triple crown, including the regular season title, may end up finishing the 2015/16 handball season empty handed. After being eliminated in the Champions League by Kielce (Poland) last week, the team had its last chance of redemption spoiled by SC Magdeburg. The team, currently in 10th place, not only beat the current second place team 32-30 today in Hamburg, taking revenge of last year’s defeat in the German Cup. Magdeburg’s German Cup championship is the first in 20 years. The team took advantage of early misques early by Flensburg and lead for much of the Finals game. Despite beating the Rhine-Neckar Lions 24 hours earlier, FH will need to win out and the Lions lose half of the remaining six games in order to win the regular season title. While Magdeburg is celebrating its first title in ages, this may serve as momentum going into the next season, as their place in the premere league is secured. 20 years was worth the wait. 🙂
FC BAYERN MUNICH WINS ANOTHER TITLE
The record is getting old and tattered and the songs are being played over again. But another soccer title is coming to Munich…..
GERMAN AMERICAN FOOTBALL PLAYER COMES TO MINNESOTA
America has long since been the place where people go from rags to riches, even in professional sports. While the Baltimore Colts picked up a jem off the streets in Johnny Unitas and made him a champion quarterback (read about his history here), there is another person that is following his footsteps. The catch: he has played American football for only five years but never at an American college. And he’s from Germany! Moritz Boehringer, who played only one season in the Bundesliga version of American Football for the Unicorns of Schwabish-Hall, is heading to the Minnesota Vikings after the team drafted him on Saturday. He plays wide-receiver, has speed and can outsmart the defensive secondary. The question is with only a handful of years experience, can he pull it off in the big leagues? Growing up watching fellow Viking Adrian Peterson (who is running back) play, he will have his wish come true by meeting him and perhaps work together to get him acquainted with life in Minnesota, which is not only laden with American football on all levels in the fall, but also anything pertaining to the culture of snow and cold, which is typical of the professional sport. But for the German, who is entering a different culture, he will feel right at home as not only the team, but also the people in the state are keen of having a chat over hot chocolate, going ice fishing, displaying their prized animals at the state fair, golfing, travelling to the lakes area for a swim, watching baseball,….. In other words, herzliche Wilkommen in Minnesota von einem aus diesem Bundestaat gestammten Amerikaner, der seit fast 20 Jahren dein Land und seine Kultur als Kolumnist und Englischlehrer genossen hat. Viel Spass und viel Glück! 🙂 More on the German football player in Minnesota here.
Giant Storm Causes Widespread Damage throughout Germany. World Cup in Brazil in Full Gear. Hamburg SV Handball Team Finished?
Getting off the train this morning at Erfurt Central Station in central Thuringia, passengers received a shock of their lives, as the sounds of thunder and lightning made the state capital sound like warfare going on. Pick any war in the last 20 years and it was reenacted by mother nature. And this in addition to heavy rains that flooded streets and brought the vehicular infrastructure to a complete standstill for a time. But this was the overture to the series of storms that occurred over the course of two days, ending today, which is comparable to Hurricane Kyrill in February 2007, and caused severe damage throughout all of Germany. More on that and a pair of sports-related items in the Files’ Newsflyer.
Local Flooding in Cologne, Rostock and Berlin. Downed trees in the Ruhr River area, northern Hesse and Saxony-Anhalt. Train services suspended. Power outages everywhere. This was a familiar sign when Kyrill brought all of Germany to a complete standstill in 2007. Yet with the storm system sweeping through Germany yesterday and today, it brought back memories of the event. Sweltering heat gave way to golfball-sized hail, high winds and torrential downpour that caused critical damage to many cities throughout Germany. Fallen trees and flooding caused several raillines to suspend services, including the hardest hit area, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the German railways suspended all services statewide yesterday for the fourth time since 2007. Officials there are predicting services to return to normal by the weekend. Stations in Essen, Dusseldorf and Cologne were cut off from the rest of the rail network. Raillines between Berlin, Hamburg and places to the north and west were either closed down or rerouted. Over 100,000 travelers were stranded or had to find alternatives, which didn’t fare better with motorways being blocked due to downed trees and other objects. Damage is estimated to be more than $135 million. News sources are predicting a clean-up effort taking up to more than a week to complete; this includes restoring the infrastructure affected by the storm. More information and photos can be found here.
Hamburger SV Handball Team to Fold?
Once deemed as the one of the powerhouses of German handball, especially after winning the Champions League Title last year, the handball team from Hamburg’s days as a Premere League team may be numbered. Faced with a 2.7 million Euro deficit (ca. $4.4 million), no president since the resignation of Andreas Rudolph in May and with that, the team’s main sponsor withdrawing its financial support, the team was denied entrance to the first and second leagues. Its last attempt to save face and be allowed to play next season in the Premere League is to overturn the decision by the German Handball League through the arbitration panel. The decision should take place on Wednesday. Should the panel uphold the decision or Hamburg withdraw its appeal, the team will be forced to play in the Regional League (3rd League) in the next season. In addition, the team will not be allowed to participate in the European Cup in the next season, despite finishing fourth in the standings. Melsungen would replace the spot left vacant. And lastly, the team will most likely file for bankruptcy, which could lead to the club being liquidated, should no one step in with money to help them. Such a free fall would be catastrophic, as Hamburg has competed well against the likes of the 2014 Season and German Cup champions, THW Kiel, as well as Berlin, Rhine-Neckar Lions, and the 2014 Champions League winners, SG Flensburg-Handewitt. More information can be found here.
World Cup begins tomorrow
Germany and the US are two of 32 teams that will go head-to head with the competitors beginning tomorrow. The 2014 FIFA World Cup will take place in Brazil at 12 several locations, with the Championship to take place on July 13th in Rio de Janeiro. For the first time since 1930, all the teams winning a World Cup will participate in the competition (Argentina, England, France, Italy, Spain, Uruguay, and Germany). Spain is the returning champion, having edged the Netherlands in the 2010 Cup. This is the fifth time the Cup is taking place in South America, which has been won by teams from that continent the last four times. That means Brazil is the heavy favorites to take the Cup. More interesting is the pool play, in particular, Group G, where the US and Germany are in. They are scheduled to meet on 26 June in Recife. The stakes are high for the head coaches of both teams, who are both looking for their first World Cup title. Jurgen Klinnsmann is being criticized for the American team being Europeanized, which could be his downfall if his team does not make it. Joachim Loewe is hoping that winning the title will improve his chances of a contract extension before 2016. With both teams hobbling with players banged up from regular season competition, it will be interesting to see how the match will turn out, let alone, who will go far in the Cup. More on the Cup to come in the Files. If you want to know more about the tournament, click here for details.
The German handball team of SG Flensburg-Handewitt had been, more or less, owned by its archrival to the east, THW Kiel in the last seven years, with the zebras taking the crown on the national and international fronts. This includes winning the triple crown (the German Super Cup, the German Regular Season Title and the Champions League Title) in 2012 with an unprecedented 36-0 record- the first team ever in Germany to achieve that feat. There would be a time when the albatrosses from the Hölle Nord (also known as the Flens Arena) would finally get their revenge.
After upsetting Barcelona in the semi-finals, the team found itself behind early, as Kiel, fresh from knocking off MKB Veszprem, had built a six-point lead and was bound to run away with its fourth Champions League title in the team’s history. Despite being down 11-5, FH mounted a comeback of Herculean portions, thanks to aggressive offense and goalie Mattias Andersson denying one goal after another coming from the zebras, led by Aron Palmarsson. After trailing 16-14 at halftime, FH took its first lead in the 39th minute and never looked back. Despite a frenzy comeback in the last minute after being down 25-21, Kiel finally ran out of steam as time expired, and the crowd of 20,000 celebrated FH’s first ever Champions League title in the team’s 24-year history.
Sensational is the word to describe FH’s heroic deeds, as the comeback was the second in a row, after it upset Barcelona in overtime of the semifinals, despite being down by six goals with eight minutes left in the game. This time SG Flensburg-Handewitt was the team outscoring everybody, giving THW Kiel something to digest in the offseason while their archrivals celebrate their first ever title on the international scale. After a welcome-home celebration which will fill the streets of Roter Strasse (Flensburg’s city center), the next item on their to do list is the German championship and defending the Champions League title, a goal that was once unrealistic two years ago but is now within their grasp after the team’s successful run for the Champions League title and ending the 2013/14 season with a loud bang.
The Flensburg Files would like to congratulate the SG Flensburg-Handewitt team for its sensational run for the Champions League title and for giving the fans the best game of the season. You guys definitely won a lot of hearts with your run and gave the author another incentive to bring more expatriates to Flensburg to watch some handball games at the Flensarena! Revenge is sweet, but something like this is the most memorable and will set the stage for more successes to come.
Going to a soccer game on a Saturday at a German soccer stadium is a ritual for at least 10 million fans. For 90 minutes they enjoy the company of their friends and family, cheering for their favorite team, booing at the referees for making a wrong call, singing and supporting their team with slogans and fan waving, and when their favorite team scores the winning goal, they race to the entrance of the locker room, cheering and congratulating the team on a job well done.
Yet looking at soccer in Germany this year, the scene presents a rather different story. Instead of cheering for their team, fans are taunting them even if they lose, throwing firecrackers and smoke bombs in the stands and on the field. Fights are breaking out between the fans of both teams, while some are chasing the fan bus, throwing stones at the windows and harassing the driver. And the most climatic event to signal the end of Premier League Play was on 16 May in the relegation play between Hertha BSC Berlin and Fortuna Duesseldorf, when thousands of fans stormed the soccer field to celebrate Duesseldorf’s promotion to the top flight league and Berlin’s relegation to the second tier league- but with two minutes left in regulation! It took 20 minutes to bring the fans back to their seats before the game could continue, which had contain so much chaos, and as a consequence, involved the German government afterwards. While the team from Hertha filed a complaint and demanded that the game be replayed, it fell on deaf ears on the part of the German Soccer Federation (DFB) and the DFB Supreme Court. Still, it is a cause for alarm in Germany as the problem with fans, the team and even the law enforcement has reached a point where tougher measures will have to be made before the start of the 2012/13 season.
Normally one will see such fan behavior in American sports, as millions of viewers have seen some events that have led to questions about the role of fans and athletes. The best example can be found in the event on 19 November, 2004 at a basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, where a brawl among the players gave a fan an incentive to throw an object at Ron Artest, who raced into the stands to beat him up. Other fans and players jumped in and a minute later, the court was loaded with people throwing punches and kicking each other. The game was called off with less than a minute left. Artest and at least 10 other players other received suspensions of up to a year; the fan instigating the attack was banned from attending any professional basketball games at the place where the brawl took place- Detroit-for life.
In Germany, many people take pride in the country’s sports, whether it is handball or basketball. While watching a game in each sport in the last two years- a basketball game in Bayreuth (Bavaria) and a handball game in Flensburg, the mood of the fans was spectacular, as there was cheering and jeering, people meeting new people, and there were no firecrackers thrown in the sporting complexes, let alone fans running onto the court to hinder a game. Even the cheerleaders and the DJs managed to involve the fans and provide them with a spectacular show, to make the trip to the game worthwhile. An example of such sportsmanship between the fans and the players, were found in a game between SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Gummersbach on 27 April, 2011, a game which Flensburg won in a seesaw match 29-25.
Yet the fan problem in German soccer has become so dire that the DFB, German soccer leagues, the federal government, police and its labor unions, and other parties are coming together this summer to discuss ways to crack down on fan violence. Already conclusive is the fact that fines and sanctions against teams, whose fans instigated the violence, have had very little effect on curbing the violence. Banning fans from attending any soccer games, as has been stressed by German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich after the disastrous game between Duesseldorf and Berlin may not be the most effective as fans can find creative ways of entering the soccer stadium masquerading as someone else and causing trouble there as well. The police and its union have strongly recommended that each of the 54 top flight teams and the DFB provide security fees and take points off the standings for teams instigating the violence. Yet many teams may not afford high fees for security, and for some who are cutting costs in order to compete, security is one of those aspects that has been on the chopping block.
The most viable solution to the increase in fan violence is to combine all the variants and add a five-year ban from competing on the national and international level, leaving them stuck in the Regionalliga (the fourth league) to set an example for other teams to clean up their act and be square with their fans, while at the same time, demand that each team entering the top three leagues to have strict security measures in place for every game and tournament. This includes taking finger prints and facial scans from each fan entering a sports stadium and having a database for them so that they can be tracked, scanning them for all forms of firecrackers and any materials that could potentially cause a fire, and even involving the German military at places where violence is the norm at the soccer games. In the case of the 2012 season so far, that would mean cities like Frankfurt and the surrounding areas, Cologne, Berlin, Dresden and Karlsruhe, where reports of violence have been recorded the most, would have military presence. A record of the violence during the 2011/12 soccer season can be found here. The last part is a common practice in regions prone to violence, like the Middle East and Africa, yet it seems like the trend has arrived here, which makes more law enforcement through the police and army a necessary and not a luxury. Should teams not afford strict security measures, they would not be allowed to compete in the top three leagues.
In the event that violence breaks out during or even after the soccer game, a “Three Strikes and You’re Out” rule should be enforced on all teams, keeping track of the record of violence committed by fans of the teams as well as scrutinizing the teams that are unable to control them. First strike means fines in the six digits and three points taken off, second strike means doubling of fines and six points taken off and the third strike means automatic relegation one league lower. If the event happens the fourth time, a five-year ban should be imposed. This rule is based on a law in the US dealing with drunk driving that was passed in the 1990s, which exists in most of the states- first strike meaning heavy fines, second strike meaning revoking the driving license and the third strike meaning jail time, in some cases, permanently. Yet its origins come from America’s favorite past time sport, baseball. A ban from attending any soccer game for those committing the violence should be enforced, but the responsibility of keeping order at a soccer game lies solely with the two teams competing with each other. Therefore, one should consider the punishment for each insubordination a punishment for all involved. While these measures are probably the harshest and it may contrabate the Constitutional Laws, resulting in the involvement of the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe on many occasions, but given the sophistication of the violence committed at German Soccer games, if even the German government is stepping up pressure for action, then the situation is at the point where inaction is no longer an option.
If there is a silver lining to all the violence, especially at the end of the season, it is fortunate that there have been no deaths or severe injuries reported. But it takes a tragedy to change that. It may not be the one similar to the infamous soccer stadium fire at Bradford City (in the UK) 0n 11 May, 1985, but one death will change the way we think about the game of soccer in Germany. We have already seen that in other places, as one can see with the violence at a soccer game at Port Said in Egypt on 1 February of this year, where over 70 people were killed. Unfortunately, Germany has taken one step closer to the danger zone and should the violence persist by the time the whistle blows to start the next season, we could see our first casualty recorded, regardless of which league game it is. When that happens, it will change the face of German soccer forever to a point where if there is a soccer game, the only way we will see it is on TV…….. as a virtual computer game!
Flensburg Files Fast Fact
Thestadium fire at Bradford City was (supposedly) caused by someone dropping a cigarette into the wooden bleachers full of rubbish, causing a fire that engulfed the stadium in less than five minutes. 56 people died in the fire and over 260 were injured. The fortunate part was the fact that no barriers to the soccer field were in place, like it is in today’s soccer stadiums in general, which allowed most of the fans to escape through the soccer field. It was a tragic end to the team’s promotion to the second tier of the British Premier League. The stadium was rebuilt in several phases (finishing in 2001), including replacing the wooden bleachers with steel and concrete. Since the fire, a ban of wooden bleachers have been enforced both in Britain as well as the rest of Europe.
Flensburg Files’ Fragen Forum:
After reading this article and watching the clips, here are a couple questions for you to mull over and discuss with other readers:
1. How would you approach the problem of fan violence in soccer stadium? Which measures are the most effective in your opinion: fines and other sanctions against teams, finger print scanning and keeping a database of the fans, point reduction in the football standings, banning teams with fan trouble from competing in certain leagues, or a combination of some of the measures? If none of the suggestions work, what would you suggest?
2. Do you think handball and basketball will surpass soccer in Germany in terms of popularity? Or will soccer remain a household name, like America has its household name sports of American football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey?
3. Do you think fan violence is a universal problem in sports or is it focused on selective sports?
Please submit your answers in the Comment section, which is here after this article. Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you readers!