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EHF European League

Blomberg-Lippe draw inspiration from neighbours for international adventure

EHF / Björn Pazen

The Lipperland region in Central Germany is historically famous as the location of the “Battle of the Teutoburger Forest”, when German tribes devastated the Romans in what is seen as one of the most important defeats in Roman history.

Today, this region is less combative and fearful for opponents, but more famous for handball. And the 2021/22 season can be a historic one, as two neighbour clubs TBV Lemgo-Lippe (men) and HSG Blomberg-Lippe (women) could both compete in the group phase of the European League.

Lemgo, defending German Cup champions, already qualified and set a sign of strength by beating HBC Nantes recently, while Blomberg-Lippe (currently seventh in German league) aim to book their ticket but have a high hurdle ahead against Hungarian top club Váci NKSE.

“I think we have a 50:50 chance against them. We are a stronghold at home, so we hope to stand the heat in Hungary in the first leg and then to have the fate in our hands in the return leg at home,” says Steffen Birkner, head coach of the club. In 2018, he took over the team from Andre Fuhr, who later on steered Borussia Dortmund to their first league championship and currently rocks the DELO EHF Champions League with Borussia.

For Birkner, playing at an international level is essential in terms of development, from all perspectives.

“Of course, we can raise attraction for the club, it is an honour for the club, but mainly the players learn so much. We have many young German players in our squad, and the more they play internationally, the better it is for Blomberg, the Bundesliga and of course the national team.”

Blomberg play their sixth EHF European Cup season, their biggest success was reaching the 2014/15 Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final.

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Unfortunately, Blomberg’s top player is ruled out for the rest of the season. German international Nele Franz, who was awarded by Bundesliga player of the 2020/21 season and was the top scorer in the German league.

She tore her ACL at the beginning of October - and therefore will also miss the World Championship in December. “We have to distribute the responsibility on various shoulders now, and so far, our team copes quite well with this situation,” says Birkner.

Among the players to jump in are Czech international Kamilla Kordovaska, rising talent Marie Michalczik, who won the W17 EHF EURO with Germany in 2017. Funny enough, her brother is already part of the European League group phase, playing for 2021 finalists Füchse Berlin. “Nele and Marie made big steps forward in the last season,” Birkner praises.

Finally heading abroad

For him, participation in any EHF club competition is a reward for the previous season and “a chance to duel with different clubs away from Germany.”

But ironically, their last two knockout matches on international turf were against Bundesliga opponents: Last season, Blomberg were eliminated by Thüringer HC in European League qualification, this season, they kicked out TuS Metzingen in the previous round.

“Now we are really happy to experience travelling abroad and we hope that our journey does not terminate at Vác already. We aim to represent German women’s handball on a big stage,” says Birkner.

But before travelling to Hungary, Blomberg have another highlight match on domestic ground, as the 2021 German Cup semi-finalists host German champions Dortmund in the Last 16 of the German Cup.

“Of course, it is a tough schedule as also Dortmund play in Champions League next weekend, but these are the matches we train for,” says Birkner.

Maybe it is a good omen that Blomberg will play all their matches in Lemgo this season, in the same arena as TBV - and where Lemgo clinched their berth for the men’s European league Group phase.

Blomberg’s arena is currently getting refurbished, later it will have a capacity of 1500, but it will take some time.

“It would be great for our region to have two clubs in this stage of the competition, though we will have some logistical matters, to find the playing dates for all those matches.”

The first international match in Lemgo’s arena was a good start, Blomberg beat their German rivals Metzingen 28:24.

“We want to hold all aces still in our hands for the return match, we have to dismiss everything around us, such as travel, for the first leg on Saturday.”

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