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Handball European Championship: Opening game in front of 53,000 spectators: This Handball European Championship is going to be big

The players of the German national handball team training in the huge Düsseldorf arena.

Photo: dpa/Federico Gambarini

The gas radiators are running, the underfloor heating is roaring, 100 fans are moving 900,000 cubic meters of air per hour: it’s all set for the opening game of the European Handball Championship, which opens on Wednesday with the Germany-Switzerland game in the Düsseldorf football arena.

It will be a world record setting. 53,000 spectators fit into the arena, whose 800-ton roof was completely closed – a minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celsius is promised. The dimensions are not only gigantic for the handball players’ one-off trip to the stadium: for the first time, 24 teams are playing in the European Championship tournament, which means that almost half of the member associations of the European Handball Federation are allowed on the floor. Almost 800,000 tickets were sold for a total of 65 games. The final will be played on January 28th in the Cologne Arena, which has a capacity of almost 20,000 people.

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The train drivers’ strike alone is likely to cause a headache for the organizers. After all, quite a few of the fans from abroad will have relied on Deutsche Bahn, which is one of the tournament’s sponsors and offers ticket holders discounted tickets for travel between the venues. For 30 euros you can commute between the preliminary round locations in Düsseldorf (opening only), Berlin, Munich and Mannheim before heading to Hamburg for the main round and final round. After all: the train connection for fan tickets has been canceled due to the strike.

The German handball players also planned their tours by train. But the German handball players’ thoughts are not about travel, but rather about the opponents in preliminary round group A: The opening match against Switzerland on Wednesday is actually the most important thing in terms of progressing to the main round, before North Macedonia faces on Sunday to defeat. A victory is planned against the outsiders from the Balkans. On Wednesday next week we will face record world champions France. The top two teams in each of the six groups move into the two main groups. World champion Denmark is considered the favorite, defending champion Sweden and runner-up world champion France and Spain are also expected to have a lot of potential.

The Germans are dreaming of their first medal after winning Olympic bronze in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. In that lucky year, a young selection had previously secured the European championship title in February – to everyone’s surprise. The team will also be in transition in 2024 – and in good spirits after the last two victories in the friendly matches against Portugal. “It’s really tingling,” is how backcourt player Julian Köster describes the mood. National coach Alfred Gislason, once coach of SC Magdeburg, does not want to commit to an exact goal. His superior becomes clearer. »The goal of the semi-finals is clear, we don’t need to talk around it. That must be our claim. Especially at a home European Championship,” says Andreas Michelmann, President of the German Handball Association.

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