The crowd of handball enthusiasts were naturally highly curious about the team's two new recruits: Arjan Haenen and Gabor Langhans. There were treated to a warm round of applause and a few joking remarks from Michael Roth. The right wing from the Netherlands was for example presented as a "ripe old" 29 years of age — and a "poor footballer... but sly fox" on the handball court. In truth, his recruitment to Melsungen was seen as the "next stage of development" for the left-handed Dutch national player, who made the jump to the Bundesliga level in Lemgo. Backcourt player Langhans from Nettelstedt said that he feels right at home in his new environment. His compliment that "Melsungen is a lovely village" was well intended, but moderator Bernd Kaiser quickly corrected him: the "village" earned the title of city all the way back in Medieval times. Whatever his historical lapses, the 27 year old is much more knowledgeable about throwing goals. He's expected to provide some relief for Michael Müller in the right backcourt and, in the words of the MT Coach, "apply some pressure".
Johan Sjöstrand was on hand in the Schlossgarten, although walking on crutches following a knee operation. It looked worse than it really is, as the coach is counting on having his number one keeper back patrolling the woodwork in three weeks or less. Marino Maric is expected to start practising again sooner following a broken foot.
The Season's Objectives
With an outstanding fourth place finish last season, the Melsungen squad have set the bar high — and are well aware of the challenge ahead. "Everything ran almost perfect for us", says captain Michael Müller. Now he sees the need for "steady hands", because: "Maintaining that ranking is an enormous task". It's joined by the secondary goal of qualifying for the Europa Cup as well.
And that's where the club is hoping to turn some heads this coming season. One step at a time, Michael Roth admonishes. First survive the third round of qualification for the EHF Cup, then qualify for the quarter-finals from the group phase and finally — unlike their first attempt two years ago — claim a spot in the Final Four. "That has to be our goal", confirms pivot player Felix Danner.
The rising euphoria for the MT knows no end. Quite the opposite: season tickets are selling better than ever. 1700 have already been sold — 300 more than during the entire 2015/16 preseason. Nor is there necessarily a hard cap at 2000, as some have surmised. "A fantastic trend", says Supervisory Board Chairwoman Barbara Braun-Lüdicke. And a sustainable one as well, "... since we're merely reaping the seed we sowed in recent years through dedication and determination". In fact, the ice has long since been broken in Kassel and environs, and the fans have shown strong passion for the MT as evidenced by average attendances rising to 3,856. Based on the reception in the Schlossgarten, it's entirely possible that the ceiling hasn't been reached yet either.