Thousands of German fans have welcomed the national handball team home, a day after they won the European championship in Poland. This sort of reception had previously been reserved for the national football team.
An estimated 9,000 people packed the Max Schmeling arena in Berlin on Monday to celebrate the European championship with members of theteam who beat Spain 24-17
in Sunday's final.
The players and coaches, who became known as the "bad boys" during the tournament in Poland were all called individually to the stage, walking out to the tune of "Bad Boys," a 1990's hit for the reggae band Inner Circle. Each was introduced to the cheering crowd, before being asked to say a few words to the fans in the arena and those watching live on ARD public television.
The first to take the stage was the team's Islandic head coach, Dagur Sigurdsson, who has been given a lot of credit for the success of the young team, which was forced to do without several of its key players due to injury.
"This is my home!" Sigurdsson, a former coach of Berlin's top flight club team told the fans.
Steffen Fäth, who is to join Berlin's team for next season, used an oversized beer glass to make a "cheers" gesture to crowd.
The players, coaches and fans then were treated to a package of highlights over Germany's win over Spain, broadcast on the arena's video cube. The fans cheered every save by goalkeeper Andreas Wolff and the final whistle with the same enthusiasm as they had at the public-viewing event in the arena 24 hours earlier.
For his part, Wolff, one of the most popular "heroes of Krakow" as they have been dubbed, promised that the team was not satisfied with just winning the European championship.
"In this great team, we have the potential to win anything that comes our way," the goalkeeper exclaimed. "We will win the world championship and the Olympics!"
"The whole euphoria carried the team," Bob Hanning, the vice president of the German Handball Association said, referring to a wave of support the team enjoyed back home, particularly aftersurprising everybody by making it to the semifinals.
"We are proud that half of the population watched the final. Maybe we can increase that to 75 percent for the Olympics," Hanning added, referring to the fact that winning the European title also sealed Germany's qualification for the Summer Games in Rio.
An estimated 13 million Germans watched Sunday's final on television.
pfd/sb (dpa, SID)