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BLOG: ehfTV commentator Tom O Brannagain predicts the "dance of death" for the upcoming big derby of two German local rivals.

Blur vs oasis. Guns 'n' Roses vs Nirvana. Mozart vs Salieri

In the panteon of great rivalries there is none that compares to “The Rolling Stones” vs “The Beatles”. It was grunge rock and roll versus pop. It was the boy you had to hide from your mam versus the boy next door. The reasons for liking one above the other had no basis in any kind of reality, but the fires were stoked and your decision firmly placed you on one side or the other. It leaves a memory that will always have you reaching for one CD above the other for no apparent reason.

Sport also leaves an indelible print on someones life. From the time you enter the arena, or see a team for the first time on tv or are forced to wear a certain top by your parent, you are a follower of that team. There is no apparent reason for it, there is no logic behind the decision, it is just a feeling of belonging, a sense of being a component part of all achievements and losses. Of course, support for your home team is the normal basis, but not the only one.

Flensburg vs Kiel

Separated by 90 km across the county of Schleswig-Holstein is one such rivalry. Yet they draw fans from all across the globe. The German handball fan might appreciate the rivalry more, as they have seen it on the Bundesliga stage, but for those of us immersed in the Champions League, it is a vivid reminder of why sport is so prevalent in our lives. A 2007 final was the first major coming together of these north European heavyweights and the memories of that loss for Flensburg were finally erased in last years epic final.

There are those who support the evergreen champions and those who always go for the underdog, yet Flensburg can no longer be considered the latter. For so long in the shadow of a more illustrious neighbour, they have now risen to the ranks of the great and so, we have, earlier than we might have wished, a clash of cultures.

It's the big city against the smaller town. It's the perceived rich against the poorer neighbour. It's the superstars against the minnows. And it's all in the perception. Flensburg won the FINAL4 against all the odds. Kiel, like a juggernaut, just keep rolling along. Which side of the equation you fall, is all down to how you view the overall package.

It is a “Danse Macabre” (Totentanz). It is the dance of death. Sure no one is being led to the grave by the skeleton, but after two games, one of these teams will no longer be in the competition. If I may really milk the metaphor, Flensburg is down to the bare bones and is suffering accordingly. Their recent forays onto the Champions League court have not yielded the best of results and one might feel that Kiel will never have a better chance to play them.

“Quod sumus hoc eritis” is one of the classic lines from the “Danse Macabre”. “What you are we will become”. It was perhaps the fire in the belly that drove Flensburg on last season, to finally be rated alongside Kiel as a major powerhouse of European handball. That being achieved, the shoe is now on the other foot. It is now Kiel that wishes to dethrone Flensburg and so the quotation is more suitable to them.

There is no disguising the religious undertones in the “Danse” and to some handball is a religion. They will invoke all the saints and angels to bring success to their team in a game where there are no favourites, regardless of the personel on show. In fact Ljubo may be taking a trip to the healing waters of Nordenau to try to get his lengthy injury list on the mend. If their recent cup and league game is anything to go by, maybe he already has.

As this is a game for the ages the blog needs to reflect the gargantuan task facing both teams, so stay tuned for the conclusion.

Read the Part 2 of the blog here

TEXT: Tom O Brannagain, ehfTV commentator