Two years ago I wrote a series of articles on why European Handball should form a super league. In the third part of that series I made my case that the playoff system of determining a champion is far superior to simply having a regular season only.
One of the issues supposedly with a playoff is the boring prospect of two clubs playing each other over and over with only the residents of those two cities caring about the outcome. Well, now thanks to a strange quirk of scheduling this issue is being put to the test with Flensburg and Hamburg over the next few weeks.
How strange a quirk? Well, the two clubs, of course have to play each other in the HBL regular season (2 matches), but they also got paired up in Group Play in the Champions League (2 more matches), the German club cup (1 more match) and finally they got drawn against each other in the quarterfinals of the Champions League (2 more matches); for a total of 7 matches. Yes, a seven match series! Even more unusual is the fact they will be playing each other 4 times in 3 weeks; and they will all be meaningful matches.
OK, I’ve never been to either of those two cities and I may never visit them in my lifetime, but that is not a prerequisite to being drawn into this rivalry. Yesterday, I finished watching the April 9 regular season match and the first half of the Cup semifinal. Talk about great handball in exciting atmospheres. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than this. Yes, these matches are even better than Olympic or World Championship matches as far as I’m concerned. This is because these teams have more time practicing together and time to prepare for the matches.
And you can watch all of these matches for yourself thanks to LAOLA1.TV and ehfTV. Some have already been played and some will be played soon. I’ll post the links when they are available. And, of course, you can always go to the EHF or HBL websites for more information, but you might want to bookmark this page if you want to avoid score outcomes.
April 9, 2013 Flensburg vs. Hamburg (Regular Season Match): Video Link
April 13, 2013 Hamburg vs. Flensburg (Semi-Final of German Cup): Video Link
April 21, 2013 Flensburg vs. Hamburg (1st Leg, Champions League, Quarterfinal)
April 28, 2013 Hamburg vs. Flensburg (2nd Leg, Champions League, Quarterfinal)
Here are some other video links to the German Cup Final Four
Kiel vs. Melsungen (Semifinal 2 of German Cup): Video Link
Hamburg-Flensburg winner vs Kiel-Melsungen winner: Video Link (Note: don’t look to closely at the picture and quickly start the video to avoid finding out who wins before you watch it.)
My only wish is that the powers that be in European Handball will see the light and decide that they shouldn’t wait for quirks of scheduling, but make it happen every year. Imagine if Kiel was playing a best of 7 vs. Barcelona or Kielce vs. Rhein-Neckar or Paris-SG vs. Veszprem. Oh, would that be so awesome to watch.