Dixie Peach: Champions of the World

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Champions of the World

You may think I'm speaking of tonight's Super Bowl and if I were in the U.S. I probably would be but I'm in Germany - in Magdeburg, specifically - so today the only world championship I care about is in handball. Not that kind of handball that has two people in a room batting around a Whammo Superball but this kind of handball.

Before moving to Germany I'd never heard of team handball but it doesn't take long living here before you get introduced to the sport, especially in this town. Magdeburg may have a soccer team in the third league but our handball team is in the first league and it's a pretty good team. It took watching a few games for me to get most of the rules down and by then I was hooked. It's fast like ice hockey but there's a lot of scoring to add to the excitement. And the goalies. You have to be a little insane to be a goalie in handball. People are throwing a rather hard ball into a goal and wouldn't mind hitting you in the face if that's what it took and you have to use just your body to block it. I'm thinking that having a lot to drink before the game would be helpful.

Germany hosted the handball World Cup this year and being as Germany is still revved up from hosting the soccer World Cup it wasn't a far leap to gain back the spirit that was found here over the summer. Since handball is already popular were I live the German flags were out early but by the time Germany reached the semi-finals I imagine they were spotted in a lot of places around the country.

Germany making it to the finals put this town in a spin, especially since they'd meet Poland in the finals. Magdeburg has players on the German and Polish national teams both and the head coach for Magdeburg is the coach for the Polish national team. It's an unusual feeling to suddenly be against players you normally cheer for when watching them play for their club team.

An outdoor viewing area was set up at the market square so fans could get together on a chilly, cloudy Sunday afternoon and cheer for their country's team. All afternoon I debated whether to go down to the viewing area and by the time 4pm rolled around I put on my shoes and jacket and walked down the street to the square. Who knows when Germany would host the handball world cup again I didn't want to pass up the only opportunity to see what would be going on there.

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By the time I arrived I could tell I was way too late to get up to where I'd be able to see the screen. People were standing so tightly together that I had no chance to get closer than to a spot where I could see only the left half of the screen. It didn't really matter though - there was no chance I could miss knowing when Germany scored because at each goal I could see this:

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After about fifteen minutes I wove my way back out of the crowd and headed back home. I'd seen what I wanted to see and what I wasn't seeing was the game. I made it back just before halftime, Germany leading. There was a frightful moment when the Germany's first goalie (a born and raised Magdeburger!) became injured and the second goalie (who's also the goalie for Magdeburg's club team) had to take over - and did a brilliant job. There were a few moments when it looked like Poland could catch up and take the lead but Germany held on to win.

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We're a poor old town with a lot of out of work people but today people here are on top of the world. I can still hear the revelers out on the street.


Blogger Marshamlow said...

I had never heard of this sport, it is so nice to have your whole community come together in this way.

1:21 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

Don't you just love a good community hoopla! Good post. I'm starting to love Magdeburg as you introduce it to us story by story.

2:32 PM  

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