15.12.2022  LIQUI MOLY HBL

Mattias Andersson before the hit in Flensburg: "Northern derbies are the greatest games ever"

Mattias Andersson was between the posts for more than 50 times when the two northern clubs locked horns in the emotional "Classico" of German handball. And the Swede knows both sides, from 2001 to 2008, Andersson was goalkeeper at THW Kiel, from 2011 to 2018 he played for SG Flensburg-Handewitt, before returning to the Zebras - as their goalkeeper coach.

The 107th Schleswig-Holstein state derby is on the schedule on Sunday (14:00 CET, live on SKY and HBL.TV). Flensburg, the host, is fifth in the table and is already six points below the new leader from Kiel. In the derby statistics there are 64 THW victories, five draws and 37 successes for the SG. Kiel won the last - once again dramatic - clash in the LIQUI MOLY-HBL in May 2022 with 28:27 - a decisive milestone for the Zebras on the way to the runner-up position, while the SG did not book their Champions League ticket for the first time in ten years due to the defeat, but have their debit in the European League now.

The fact that Andersson (44) was on the court in around half of all derbies was due to the special constellation of the past few years: "Because we dueled so often in the Champions League, there were seasons with up to six derbies," says the Swede , who became German champion six times with Kiel and once (2018) with Flensburg. While the SG brilliantly solved their international task before the derby with a 42:30 victory against FTC Budapest on Tuesday, THW still has the important Champions League in Aalborg, Denmark, on Thursday evening. “Only then will we put our full focus on the derby," says Andersson: "The preparation for the game in Flensburg will be no different than for other games. Also on Sunday there are only two points at stake - but anyone who has experienced this duel before knows: these derbies are the greatest games ever. Everyone knows what it's about, because there's always a lot at stake when Kiel and Flensburg play against each other. And despite everything, you have to enjoy games like this as a player.”

Kiel and Flensburg even faced each other twice in Champions League finals, Andersson was involved twice and ended up on the podium twice: 2007 with THW, 2014 with SG. "Of course, those were very special derby moments," says the Swede, who, however, chooses two different games as his personal derby highlights: "My first derby win in Flensburg on the last match day of the 2001/02 season, my first one in Germany. We won 26:24 and became German champions in the duel with Nordhorn in Flensburg - my first major title with THW.” And game two marked the end of his career: “The warm welcome I received from the Kiel fans at my last game was unbelievable. And then, with the 29:25 win at Kiel in 2018, I also became German champion with Flensburg for the first and only time.”

Andersson remembers many emotional duels of the two teams, but also says: "It's a little quieter today. This is certainly also due to the fact that the players all know each other very well, that, for example, many Scandinavians play on both sides who play together in their national teams, and that there have also been so many derbies in recent years. But in general, every northern duel is something special, because of the rivalry, because of the fans, because of the emotions - and: "Everyone always knows about the importance, no matter what the table constellation is."

That THW enters the next derby as the table leader and the SG in fifth is just a snapshot for Andersson: "The season lasts more than half a year, so much can still happen, there are still so many games to come." Nor would there ever be a favorite in the northern classic: "Derbies are like cup matches, they follow their own rules.”

Anderson is one of the few players, who played for both sides - he came to Flensburg from Kiel via Großwallstadt. Only Steffen Weinhold from the current squad took the direct path. He beat THW in the Champions League final in 2014 in his last big game for SG and then moved to Kiel. On Sunday - and for many months to come - Weinhold will be ruled-out due to a cruciate ligament injury sustained at the end of November.

At Flensburg squad there are hardly any players with whom Andersson still played. He is therefore particularly looking forward to meeting the new SG managing director Holger Glandorf: "We both came to Flensburg together and then played together for many years."

And what is the prediction of the goalkeeper coach, who stepped as a goalkeeper eight times in the 2020/21 season? Very simple answer: "I never predict, not even those derbies.”

Photo: Klahn