The Schenklengsfelder Großsporthalle was filled to the rafters on Wednesday — with spectators, emotions and the finest quality handball, all as part of a charity match for former Eitra player Bernd Fichtner. The event saw Bundesliga side MT Melsungen square off against a selection of east Hesse all-stars. Coach Michael Roth's Melsungen team won handily 48-23 (24-10), but the real success on this evening had nothing to do with athletics.
Bernd Fichtner fought back against the tears and was visibly touched when called out onto the court by Moderator Hans Hantke. The hall stood as one and applauded the former right wing from TV Eitra — what a moment. Everyone present was touched and cheered on the hard-stricken ex-handballer. And when Fichtner's former teammates came into the hall, the 51-year-old, who later conducted the throw-off, gave in to the tears.
"I was happy to have been so sweaty because then you can't see the tears", said Fichtner to ON Sport, visibly affected by the events of the previous|hours. "Thank you just doesn't express what I'm feeling", Fichtner said about match's organisers, namely the HSG Landeck/Hauneck and TV Eitra. "It was absolutely mad and a total mix emotions", Fichtner said after an evening of emotional highlights. His evening.
The 51 year old suffers from multiple sclerosis, and was rightfully proud of the very special guests conveyed to him during the half-time intermission: Dagmar Koch, wife of his now-deceased former manager at the TVE Heinz Koch, presented Fichtner with a sword with signatures from all his former teammates. "We gave one to Heinz Koch on his 60th birthday", Fichtner explains, "So for Dagmar to give one to me now is quite an honour.. It'll receive its own special place".
The match between Bundesliga side MT Melsungen, which has qualified for the EHF Cup, and an all-star side from east Hesse featuring players from Hersfeld, Rotenburg, Landeck/Hauneck and dem Hünfelder SV, ran as one might expect, but was truly a secondary part of the evening. "Tonight was about fun, and it was really cool", said Christian Kräztig, who manned the net for the east Hesse team. He turned heads with some sharp saves, including against Tim Schneider. "You never forget something like this, and maybe I'll be in some of the photos from the match", Krätzig laughed.
The most notable player from the regional squad, Felix Kircher, was thrilled to match up with Bundesliga talent. "It might well be a once-in-a-lifetime event and was unbelievably fun", said the speedy backcourt man who managed to outfake the pros once or twice. "We had some problems in the start getting into rhythm, but then we did right well for ourselves, I think", Kircher continued. After all, his quickly assembled squad had only one solitary training session prior to the match, on Tuesday, and even then a number of players were missing.
MT Melsungen, who was mission European champ Johannes Sellin, played a lively and entertaining match. That included a few acrobatic shots and several twisting shots that had the audience of 700 cheering. "I think we did a good job of winning over the crowd", said MT coach Michael Roth, himself once an Eitra player. "About a year ago we had the idea of organising a match for Bernd", Roth said, noting the camaraderie of his former team — an esprit de corps that was well evident at the Schenklengsfelder Großsporthalle on Wednesday night. The organisers are hoping that their final gift to Bernd Fichtner will be a big one. Dr Jürgen Gerlach alone contributed 4,000 euro.
As the match began winding down, all of the players rushed the court in what looked like a mix of rugby, handball and football — a fine finish to a successful event with the personable, grounded Bundesliga team. "It was an unforgettable evening today for a really special guy. We hope that we helped make things a bit brighter for our Bernd Fichtner", said Reiner Birkel, one of the organisers, after the match. And Bernd Fichtner, the protagonist of the evening, once again had to fight back the tears. (Tobias Herrling)
East Hesse All-Stars: Sascha Kepert, Christian Krätzig - Simon Golkowski, Matthias Lotz, Florian Heidler, Matthias Fischer, Kevin Houston (2), Andreas Krause (2), Christian Hanske (4), Marc von Hanger, Felix Kircher (2), Michael Stock (3), Luca Teichmann (1), Fabian Sauer (2), Alexander Sauer, Philipp Koch, Markus Einhorn, Michael Klein (2), Christoph Steinhauer (1), Michael Krause (1), Felix Rehberg (1), Julien Sandrock, Benjamin Appel (1), Alexander Unglaube.
MT Melsungen: Svetislav Verkic, Maurice Paske - Johannes Golla (5), Patrick Fahlgren (1), Felix Danner (2), Philipp Müller (1), Jefrey Boonhouwer (6), Momir Rnic (3), Timm Schneider (5), Michael Allendorf (6), Nenad Vuckovic (2), Michael Müller (5), Arjan Haener (10), Jan Grolla (2).
Referee: Mario Bärtl/Peter Janisch; Attendance: 700.
Tremendous thanks to all supporters!
The evening served as a symbol for the power of community and charity in this region. Our thanks go out to the employees at the Landratsamt Hersfeld-Rotenburg under Landrat Dr Michael Koch as well as to the municipal governments of Hauneck and Schenklengsfeld and the patrons of this charity event, Mayor Harald Preßmann and Mayor Stefan Gensler, for their immediate and extensive cooperation.
Our thanks also go out to the many volunteers, in the public eye and backstage, who helped make this event a success in so many different ways. Also to the representatives of the print, radio and TV media. We also wish to express our gratitude to the sponsors and supporters, whose generous material, financial and organisational aid were fundamental to making the event possible. The efforts of Dr Hans-Jürgen Gerlach merit special praise here.
We also want to single out the initiator of this benefit event, coach Michael Roth of MT Melsungen, and his entire team, as well as the Thüringer HC club and all the other all-stars from east Hesse and their trainers and clubs for agreeing to participate.
Special thanks also go out to all of Bernd's former teammates who travelled to join us last night. Zeljko Zovko, who came from Zagreb, might well have covered the longest stretch. We also need to say thank you to hall announcer Hans Hantke and bicycle acrobat Wolfgang Wenzel for their willingness to support our former player Bernd Fichtner at this benefit match. Last but not least — to all the visitors, thank you for coming!
To our dear Bernd we wish only the best, especially when it comes to health. Our thoughts and wishes will travel with you, always! – The "Wir für Bernd" organisational team. (Photos and Text: organiser and Hans-Hubertus Braune/Carina Jirsch from Osthessen-News).