There are a few certainties in German handball, and one of them is that THW Kiel almost always wins. Or at least almost never loses. If the club, which is the German record champion with 23 titles, loses, the second rule applies: then you win again. In this respect, two Kiel defeats within four days are at least unexpected. Such a derby defeat against SG Flensburg-Handewitt at the last second (27:28) can of course happen, especially away from home. These are always very special games.
But the crisp home defeat against MT Melsungen (30:35) fit very badly into Kiel’s self-image. This was “a situation that we didn’t want,” said THW trainer Filip Jicha. Left winger Rune Dahmke also explained that they could confidently start the season “from scratch”.
The league is now only in its fifth matchday, some teams have played more games than others, but it is becoming apparent that it will be an entertaining season. On the one hand, because the top teams, who have all strengthened their personnel, unexpectedly collect minus points: champions Kiel already have four after the Melsungen game, Flensburg three; After the celebrated derby success, it was just enough for a draw against Lemgo on Monday evening (31:31). The Rhein-Neckar Löwen have only played two games, but have not won any of them. Of the nominal top five in the league, only the Füchse Berlin have so far remained free of losses.
Melsungen and Hannover surprise with victories against top teams
Instead, there are two teams that show that the gap between Kiel, Flensburg, Magdeburg, Berlin, Mannheim and the clubs behind them is not as big as thought. On the one hand, TSV Hannover-Burgdorf, a typical medium-sized club in the league that got off to a very good start with former national coach Christian Prokop; Among other things, the “Recken” blasted the highly rated Rhein-Neckar Löwen out of the hall (35:29), Hanover is third for the time being. And of course league leader Melsungen.
For years, MT had a reputation for bringing in German national players with a lot of money and then consistently under-fulfilling expectations. Melsungen “felt like he burned 60 million euros and then didn’t even play in Europe,” said Füchse managing director Bob Hanning. But a lot has changed.
Coach Roberto Parrondo, who already won the Champions League with Vardar Skopje, has cleaned up the squad together with sports director Michael Allendorf; Among other things, national player Kai Häfner was sold to Stuttgart and a wonderfully unlikely duo was brought in. The giant Latvian Dainis Kristopan (2.15 meters, new from Paris) was paired with Spanish playmaker Erik Balenciaga (1.69 meters, new from Toulouse), who is really small by handball standards. A giant and a dwarf, if you will, but they are extremely good for the team’s game.
With 8:0 points at the start of the season, no one in Melsungen is freaking out. The four victories “still have zero significance,” said captain Timo Kastening. But the club already knows that it is currently in the process of correcting its battered image in the industry.
Kiel needs a new goalkeeper again
The image of THW Kiel is still that the club can become German champions if everything goes well. But the season will be harder than expected. The hope that two influential players such as goalkeeper Niklas Landin and middle man Sander Sagosen can be replaced almost quietly has been eliminated. And the next emergency between the posts has already arisen: Kiel thought they were very well positioned in goal in the first season after Landin with the Frenchman Vincent Gérard, before the Spanish world-class man Gonzalo Perez de Vargas comes to Kiel in the summer of 2025. But now Gérard has injured his adductors and is out. “We are no longer talking for weeks, but for months” until Gérard returns, said managing director Viktor Szilagyi.
Kiel acted and signed Gérard’s compatriot Samir Bellahcene from Dunkerque HGL on Tuesday. He’s a real colossus, weighing almost 120 kilograms, and he’s supposed to form the new team with Tomas Mrkva. “A dream club for me,” said Bellahcene.
In the next two and a half weeks, Kiel will only be active in the Champions League, which may be a good thing to think about other things outside of the Bundesliga. But the pressure will return quickly, with the really difficult away game at SC Magdeburg at the end of September. If the THW goes home with their third league defeat in a row, the certainties in German handball would finally be a thing of the past.