02.03.2023  LIQUI MOLY HBL

Weber's return in the top game: "I have many friends in Magdeburg, it will be special for me"

When the derby between the reigning German champions and the current league leaders takes place on Sunday, the focus will be on a player that nobody would have expected in the LIQUY MOLY HBL three weeks ago: Robert Weber. Shortly before the end of the day, a few hours before the end of the transfer deadline on 15 February, the 37-year-old was signed by Füchsen Berlin after Hans Lindberg broke his hand.

On 18 February, three days after his hectic departure from Piraeus in Greece, where the Austrian played in the 2nd division, Weber appeared on the court for the first time in the Füchse jersey and contributed five strikes to the 29:25 home win against HSG Wetzlar - and was enthusiastic about the reception of the fans: "It was overwhelming. It's fantastic to be back in the Bundesliga. And here in Berlin, to finish the first game with a win. It's a bit of a relief now, because I've been very, very nervous for the last two days."

Weber hadn't expected to receive such a warm welcome by the Berlin audience: "It's true that I wasn't the most popular player here in Berlin. But I'm trying to reverse that now," the left-hander alludes to his sporting past, which was with SC Magdeburg for ten years, and both clubs don't have a kind of  fan friendship. Weber's duels with former Füchse goalkeeper Silvio Heinevetter in particular were historic - in March 2018 Weber scored 14 times in 14 attempts in the DHB Cup quarter-finals, after Heinevetter had saved an all-important final penalty in the league game (final score 23:23) a few weeks earlier.

From 2009 to 2019, Weber threw a sensational 1,944 goals for Magdeburg only in the Bundesliga, in the 2014/15 season he became the HBL top scorer with an outstanding 271 goals, after having been runners-up twice before. A year later he won the German Cup with SCM, in 2019 he joined HSG Nordhorn-Lingen before the Austrian moved to Olympiacos Piraeus in the summer of 2022.

On Sunday (throw-off at 14:00 CET, live on Sky), Weber returns to his long-time ex-club in Magdeburg with Berlin. But how will the SCM fans welcome him? “When I was announced as a newcomer of Berlin, there was also some posts from Magdeburg. A lot of people congratulated me on playing in the Bundesliga again. So they're looking forward to the duel on Sunday, just like me. I have so many friends in Magdeburg, the hall is great. That will be something very special for me," says Weber, looking forward to returning to the GETEC Arena.

And someone who made him sign for Magdeburg was now also the driving force behind his short-term transfer to the capital: Stefan Kretzschmar. In his honor, Weber also wears Kretzsche's old number 73. "He kicked-off my career and now he's giving me a second life. Now we've come full circle.” Kretzschmar had arranged the transfer and even picked up Weber from the airport. "So I was able to congratulate him on his 50th birthday at midnight," says Weber He was actually with his family in his native town Bregenz when he got the call and said yes. He quickly went to his apartment in Athens, where he had just 40 minutes to put the essentials in his pockets and then hurry back to the airport and fly to Berlin. After initially staying in a Berlin hotel for a few days, the Austrian has now moved into two furnished rooms near “Füchse Town” in Hohenschönhausen. His family - his wife and nine-year-old son - continue to live in Vorarlberg. “The family now feels much closer than before when they were in Greece. They are just incredible handball fans. I think and hope that they come to home games from time to time."

So far, Robert Weber has won all matches with Füchse Berlin - two victories in the Bundesliga, which kept them at the top of the table, and two victories in the European League, where the Foxes were the only team to collect the optimum of 20 points in ten group games. On the other hand, after the East-derby-defeat against Leipzig, SCM has its back to the wall.

Picture: Voigt