The pinnacle event of the European club handball season takes place this weekend in Cologne, Germany, where the top four teams from across the continent will play for the VELUX EHF Champions League title. The VELUX EHF FINAL4 includes the semi-finals on Saturday June 1 and the medal matches on Sunday June 2, as well as an extensive programme of events on Friday May 31.
At what is the 10th anniversary of the EHF FINAL4, Spanish side Barça Lassa, Polish team PGE Vive Kielce, Macedonian squad HC Vardar and Hungarian club Telekom Veszprém HC will fight for the coveted title. Veszprém are the only team of the four semi-finalists who have not raised the trophy before, though they have reached the title match three times.
Barça on the other hand, are the record title holders, with eight trophies won in the Champions League and one in the previous format of the competition, the Champions’ Cup. If they claim the trophy on Sunday in LANXESS arena – one of the host venues for the recent 2019 IHF Men’s World Championship won by Denmark – it will be Barça’s 10th trophy in the top European championship.
Both Vardar and Kielce have celebrated winning the title once, and both were the first clubs from their nations to do so. Led by two-time World Handball Player of the Year now coach Talant Dujshebaev, who remains the only person to win the Champions League as both a player and a coach, Kielce claimed the trophy in 2016 after a thrilling comeback and subsequent penalty shoot-out. Vardar followed one year later, winning the title on their debut at the event in 2017.
The semi-finals will see Veszprém open against Kielce at 15:15 local time in Cologne, before Barça meet Vardar at 18:00. The bronze-medal match will be played on Sunday at 15:15, and the final will take place at 18:00. The matches are broadcast by 42 TV partners into 110 territories, and a live stream is also offered, with geo-blocking restrictions, on ehfTV.com.
The VELUX EHF FINAL4 swings into action on Friday May 31, with a number of fringe events for fans, media and members of the handball community. On Friday, the event will officially start at LANXESS arena with the opening party, which will feature live music performances; the unveiling of a monument to the event, the ‘Ball of Fame’; and a meet-and-greet with the four semi-finalist teams.
While fans enjoy the spectacle of the party, the European Handball Talks will be held at Flora Cologne. Now in its third edition, the business event will focus on ‘Building the Brand in the Digital Age’ and ‘Professionalisation of Handball’, with a programme consisting of panel discussions and presentations. The European Handball Talks will also feature a reading of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 inspired children’s book, ‘The Handball Detectives: Alarm at the Arena’, by author Julie Larsson.
More information on the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2019, including where to watch, can be found on ehfFINAL4.com.