Record champions set hopes in late arrivals

MAL7445 V EHF / Björn Pazen

German side FRISCH AUF Göppingen have been drawn in an extremely competitive group in their international comeback season, with the prospect of facing defending EHF European League Men champions Benfica, former EHF Champions League winners Montpellier, last year’s quarter-finalists Schaffhausen, Presov, and Fejer Veszprém ahead of them. But thanks to some big names among their new arrivals the hopes are to go all the way – or at the very least to the knock-out stage.

Main facts:

  • the last international season for the four-time EHF Cup winners was 2017/18
  • team captain Tim Kneule is the only current FRISCH AUF player who was part of all four trophies
  • qualified for the European League as fifth ranked team of the German Bundesliga season 2021/22, for the first time
  • eliminated their domestic rivals TBV Lemgo in the final qualification round (28:24, 31:33)
  • coached by Hartmut Mayerhoffer since 2018; he succeeded Rolf Brack
  • two key players – left back Sebastian Heymann and line player Vid Poteko – got injured in the preparation, but Göppingen found top class replacements: Slovenian Blaz Blagotinsek from Veszprém and Portugal’s Gilberto Duarte from Montpellier
  • another new arrival, Croatian goalkeeper Marin Sego, who came from Montpellier, was the key factor in the second leg of the qualification against Lemgo
  • the squad is composed of players from six nations including each three Croats and Slovenians, two Danes and each one player from Portugal and Norway

Most important question: Are Göppingen candidates for the EHF finals?

The defending champions Benfica and two-time Champions League winners Montpellier are two extremely high hurdles for FRISCH AUF in the group phase. But by beating last year’s Last 16 participants Lemgo in the qualification, Göppingen underlined their ambitions.

If they manage to win this hammer group, everything is possible. If not, a duel with their domestic rivals and trophy contenders Flensburg could emerge in the Last 16. In Germany’s Bundesliga, Göppingen’s start was not as good as they had hoped for, but a team with seven new players needs some time to find their groove.

How they rate themselves

The most important aspect of their participation in the EHF European League is that FRISCH AUF Göppingen are back on the international stage.

“After some years without international club matches we are very happy to be back. This is our motivation, as well as facing big clubs and see new locations all around Europe,” says team captain Tim Kneule.

Despite some big names in the squad, club manager Gerd Hofele remains humble.

“As four-time EHF Cup winners we are looking forward to participating in the new format of the EHF European League for the first time. As we face top teams, we only look from stage to stage, therefore the Last 16 is our main objective currently. Playing the EHF European League provides our team with important motivation and experiences. Besides, it is also very important for our sponsors and partners,” he says.

For Kneule, the German teams are the biggest favourites to win the trophy alongside Benfica, but he adds: “The European League is full of good teams this season, and we have to look for a good form against them.”

Under the spotlight: Blaz Blagotinsek

203 centimetres and 117 kilogrammes of pure power – Blaz Blagontinsek is one of the best defenders in the world of handball. The line player played for Telekom Veszprém for six years, and was twice awarded best defender of the Champions League.

Originally, it was Blagotinsek’s plan to play his last season at Veszprém and then transfer to SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the summer of 2023. But when Göppingen’s new arrival Vid Poteko, a compatriot of Slovenian Blagotinsek, got injured and FRISCH AUF urgently needed a replacement, those plans changed.

The 2017 IHF Men’s World Championship bronze medallist will be the boss of Göppingen’s defence for one season only, and is hoping for his first international trophy at club level.

What the numbers say

FRISCH AUF Göppingen won the EHF Cup four times in six years to top the all-time ranking alongside SC Magdeburg. In 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017 Göppingen won the trophy, twice in the old format with two finals, and twice at EHF finals, including the 2017 edition, which they hosted.

Göppingen’s last international match prior to this season was at the EHF Finals 2018, when they lost the placement match against hosts Magdeburg after the semi-final defeat against eventual winners Füchse Berlin. Their international success has actually been much bigger than their domestic success, as their last domestic trophy was their ninth German indoor handball championship trophy in 1972.


Did you know?

What do the handball club FRISCH AUF Göppingen and the football club Manchester United have in common? They have the same main sponsor on the jersey: German company TeamViewer, a software expert for digital meetings. TeamViewer, a company based in Göppingen, is a Manchester United sponsor since 2021, and also sponsor the Mercedes Formula 1 team.

Arrivals and departures

Newcomers:  David Schmidt (Bergischer HC), Vid Poteko (RK Celje), Marin Sego (Montpellier HB), Jaka Malus (Sinfin), Nils Röller (TuS Dansenberg), Gilberto Duarte (Montpellier HB), Blaz Blagotinsek (Telekom Veszprém HC)

Left the club: Nemanja Zelenovic (VfL Gummersbach), Janus Smarason (Kolstad), Jacob Bagersted (Sönderjyske), Urh Kastelic (TBV Lemgo Lippe)

Past achievements

Winners (4): 2010/11, 2011/12, 2015/16, 2016/17
Runners-up (1): 2005/06
Finals (2): 2012/13, 2017/18
Quarter-finals (1): 2009/10

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