An incredible premiere and an end without a trophyArticle
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FINAL4 LOOKS BACK: A new series on the previous editions of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 starts in 2010, when THW Kiel snatched the title from Barcelona’s hands and will go on on each Sunday until the show-down on 30/31 May.

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An incredible premiere and an end without a trophy

“The best ever handball event in the world” was the title of German Handballwoche, the biggest European handball magazine, when the newly-created VELUX EHF FINAL4 tournament premiere had come to an end. 

The EHF had decided to implement the big final event for the Men’s EHF Champions League and chosen the LANXESS arena in Cologne, Germany as the venue.

Three years after the arena hosted the incredible final stages of the Men’s World Championship 2007 – including three sold-out match days with more than 20,000 spectators – the next handball feast was served in Cologne.

The way to the LANXESS arena was steep and winding. In the end it was two Spanish sides – BM Ciudad Real and FC Barcelona – and a team each from Germany (THW Kiel) and Russia (Chekhovskie Medvedi) that qualified for the FINAL4 debut. 

A successful debut

The FINAL4 broke all records before it began. All 20,000 tickets were sold in advance and the event format was completely new, featuring a mix of entertainment and top-quality handball. All stakeholders were eager to see how the premiere would be from the perspectives of fans, teams and media.

In the end, it was a total success – an event that paved the way for the long-term future of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. The contract has recently been signed to hold the event at LANXESS arena until 2020. 

It was also the start of a successful partnership, where for the first time VELUX became the name and title sponsor of the event. Since then VELUX have been title sponsors for the whole EHF Champions League competition as well as the FINAL4.

“The start was incredible, outstanding. We are more than satisfied with the first FINAL4,” said former EHF President Tor Lian after the medal ceremony.

The Norwegian handed over a new trophy – a masterpiece of art, created by two Austrian metal designers – to the winners: THW Kiel. Though every player dreamed of raising it in the end, some joked about it.

“The trophy looks great, but you cannot drink champagne out of it,” said THW Kiel left wing Dominik Klein when he first saw the trophy during the official team presentation the evening prior to the semi-finals. 

A career comes to an end

But the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in 2010 was not only the beginning of a new era. It was also the end of a long and highly-successful career that was supposed to end with another trophy: After 22 seasons at the same club, winning 71 titles, legendary Barcelona goalkeeper David Barrufet played his last matches ever in Cologne. He had won the EHF Champions League six times before and had another title in the forerunner competition Champions Cup.

“I wanted to become the first ever handball player to win this competition for the eighth time, and I really dreamed of making that history in Cologne,” Barrufet says five years later. 

In the 2010 semi-final his team had no problems defeating Chekhovskie Medvedi 34:27, while Kiel played a thriller to win brilliantly over Ciudad Real.

Thanks to the EHF Champions League 2009/10 top scorer, Filip Jicha, Kiel left the Spaniards behind to win 29:27 after a clear deficit – taking revenge for losing the two previous EHF Champions League finals in 2008 and 2009 against the same opponent.

The stage was set for the dream final, Barcelona vs Kiel, the re-match of the 2000 finals.


Barrufet and Barca were hot, despite at least 12,000 THW fans among the 20,000 spectators. Leading by six goals in the middle of the second half, Barcelona were reaching for their seventh EHF Champions League trophy.

But suddenly things changed: THW goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer shut up his shop and the advance melted goal by goal. With incredible support from the stands, Kiel pulled off a miracle, with 11 goals from Jicha contributing to their 36:34 win. 

“I was so disappointed. I was completely down on the floor,” Barrufet looks back, “Not for me personally, but for the rest of the players. In contrast to me, most of them had never won a trophy like that before and nobody knew when they would play their next Champions League final.”

Despite missing the trophy at the end of his long career, Barrufet remembers the first ever FINAL4 in Cologne as “an incredible event for handball. 20,000 fans created a brilliant atmosphere, the organisation was outstanding and I cannot imagine a place like the arena in Cologne where an event like this could be staged more successfully. The whole experience and being part of this event was simply amazing for me,” said the 2005 World Champion, adding: 

“This FINAL4 was something like a World Championship final, or a final of the Olympic Games or EHF EURO. Despite losing the final – the rest was great.”

The unpredictable FINAL4 in 2015

Even though his career is over Barrufet has returned to Cologne several times when Barcelona has been playing. On 30/31 May 2015 he will be a TV expert for Catalan TV3 and is already looking forward to the event: 

“This year I expect the VELUX EHF FINAL4 to be more equal than ever before. Of course, I cross my fingers for Barcelona, but any team can win this title. Just look back on 2013 and 2014, when two underdogs were on the winners’ podium.”

In 2010 it was anything than an underdog: Kiel took their second EHF Champions League title since 2007. Kiel’s win ended the Spanish curse – a German side had never before won any Champions League final against a Spanish team, and the 2010 win represented the first of four German wins out of the five FINAL4 editions so far.

Some hours after the official ceremony was over in 2010, Kiel’s left wing Klein unveiled the most important personal secret: 

“Despite my first impression, we managed to drink champagne out of the trophy.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg