Handball legend amazed by CL FinalArticle
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Former top player Stefan Birtalan gives the better odds for Kiel. He talks about the Kiel vs Ciudad game and about modern handball to Eurohandball.com.

Handball legend amazed by CL Final

The greatest Romanian player ever, a true handball classic, Stefan Birtalan follows the EHF Champions League Final with keen interest. The World Champion and three-time Olympic medallist lifted the European Champions' Cup trophy in 1977 with Steaua Bucharest. Birtalan was also World Player of the Year in 1974, '76 and '77. Eurohandball.com asks him about the Final.

The enthusiasm of Birtalan for handball has not changedEurohandball.com: What was your opinion about the first game?

Stefan Birtalan: It was a great encounter. I was surprised that Kiel won by five at the end. This is a really positive result for them and it will be very difficult for Ciudad Real now.

Eurohandball.com: Did you enjoy the game?

Stefan Birtalan: I expected beautiful handball and I received it. I believe that Ciudad Real will need a really perfect performance to win the title as this advantage is reassuring. At the same time, two or three minutes of blackout from Kiel may be enough to equalise on aggregate. Just as it was enough for Kiel to win by five at the end of the first leg.

Eurohandball.com: Who are the key players in the Final?

Stefan Birtalan: The young Czech player of Kiel, Jicha, is fantastic. The real question on Sunday will be whether Ciudad Real can stop Jicha and Karabatic. And I’m also sure that the two goalkeepers will give their best. No matter how, my bet is that Kiel will take the title at the end. However, it’s only a bet.

Stopping Karabatic will be of key importanceEurohandball.com: Handball has changed a lot since you played. What’s your view about modern handball?

Stefan Birtalan: We often discuss it with my former team mates. The game is incredibly dynamic today. All players have at least two or three variations for shots and there is also tough defending. All these are very positive development.

The quick throw-off rule has changed the game fundamentally. The player who scores with a dive shot today is already in trouble because the other team are already on the attack… It also means that there are many technical mistakes that did not happen in our times. This is the cost of the high speed maybe.

We are really getting close to basketball when we take a look at the number of goals – 39-34 in a CL Final – but anyway this is superb handball. The halls are always full and it has become a highly spectacular game.

Eurohandball.com: Who are the players today you would have appreciated in your World Champion Romanian team?

Stefan Birtalan: The players of today are on a higher level… Players such as the Danish left winger Christiansen or many back players are truly fantastic. Karabatic has already won everything he can and the young generation, such as the Croatian talent Duvnjak, is also great.

Regarding the competitions of today, it makes me very happy that the Hungarians are among the top six nations in the world. I really hope that Romania will also join the elite sooner or later. However, there is still a long way to go.

The goalkeepers may be important in SpainEurohandball.com: How popular are you and your team mates in Romania so many years after winning titles for the fans?

Stefan Birtalan: When we won the World Championship in 1974, there was such a crowd at the airport that we could not get to hug our families. We can experience the affection of the people still today and they have never forgotten our achievements.

The players who will win the Champions League on Sunday can also expect the same. They will be surrounded by a lot of affection for decades more. This makes sports beautiful. The players work hard to bring joy to all those who watch them in the arena or on TV.

On Sunday Kiel players caused a lot of joy to the people. Only sports produce such an effect. So I’m looking forward to watching the second leg at home together with my family.

TEXT: Eurohandball.com