March Madness: Team Handball Style

Well, normally when I talk about March Madness it’s related to the USA’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. It’s always been my favourite sports time of year and there’s nothing quite like the magic of several games taking place at the same time with the inevitable buzzer beaters and upsets. Last Saturday, however, courtesy of the EHF, it was March Madness: Team Handball style.

First up was Kiel-Flensburg. Some prognosticators had predicted a dull game with the likelihood of Kiel beating Flensburg in Flensburg by 5 goals as highly unlikely. Those prognosticators were dead wrong, as the aggregate winner was in doubt until the very final seconds as Kiel almost pulled out a miracle. Due to a higher number of away goals, Kiel only required to win by 4 and with less than a minute to go they had closed the gap to 3. Some tough defense and a disoriented final attack/controversial non called foul sealed the deal for Flensburg and a trip to the semifinals. Flensburg fans, perhaps having feared a repeat of last year’s nightmare against Montpellier, can now breathe a sigh of relief.

The second match between Spanish rivals Barcelona and Portland San Antonio also was a see-saw affair with Portland-San Antonio and Ivan Balic holding on to win on aggregate. Living in France, I also had the opportunity to see my favourite team , Montpellier fall to Veszprem (Hungary). (Yes, I was watching 2 matches at the same time, just like a sports bar back home!) Montpellier kept it interesting until the final minutes, but the 2 goal aggregate lead simply wasn’t enough. Tunisian National Team player Wissem Hmam certainly has a gun of an arm, but he is perplexingly inconsistent. Montpellier clearly misses having Karabatic in the backcourt.

Side note: The good news about Montpellier losing is that it probably means the EHF will be able to show both semifinal matches live on the internet. Just a guess, but I would bet that Sports Plus would not allow games to be broadcast over the internet. When France played in the semifinals and finals at the European Championship Sports Plus offered to sell the broadcast rights to the over air French stations for 400,000 Euros. The over air stations balked at the price resulting in outrage from Handball fans that an Ireland-Wales rugby match was broadcast instead. Adding even more salt on the wounds was the first ever live over air broadcast of the American Football Super Bowl early the next morning. With 2 Spanish clubs, a German club, and a Hungarian Club internet broadcast is more likely. The first leg of the semifinals is 25-26 March and the second leg is 1-2 April, which is the same weekend as the final four NCAA tourney. Nothing like a double shot of March Madness!

You can read more about the matches at the EHF Champions League website: