Applause accompanies uwe gensheimer as the captain leads the german handball players onto the parquet floor in the almost full sports hall at the berlin sportforum.
The nearly 2000 fans twitch their cell phone cameras, then each player of the DHB selection is loudly celebrated. "This is an incredibly great reception. We are feeling a huge handball euphoria," says DHB sports director axel kromer.
But the world cup has not even started yet. 48 hours before the opening match against korea, the public training session on tuesday evening gives a foretaste of the atmosphere that will carry the team of national coach christian prokop through the final round in germany and denmark. "That was really, really great," says gensheimer.
"The guys were looking forward to it. It's not every day that you train in front of an audience," says team manager oliver roggisch and thanks the fans: "it's sensational that you're here. Very strong."
After a day off, the 16 people selected by the national coach met in the early afternoon at the team hotel in berlin. "We feel good," reports gensheimer. And backcourt player paul drux adds: "the mood in the team is excellent. When you see that 2,000 people come here to watch the training and cheer us on, it creates a lot of anticipation."
It can also be seen in the national coach. "We've been working towards this for half a year. We're looking forward to thursday," says prokop with an eye on the world championship opening ceremony. "You can tell that things are starting to tingle," confirms roggisch. "We are ready to go."
Anything other than an opening victory is out of the question for the 2007 world champion: "we're playing against an opponent that we have to beat by a clear margin. We want to take the spectators with us from the first minute and build up self-confidence for the difficult tasks ahead."
During the one-hour training session, all players are very enthusiastic about their work. The spectators, who have paid two euros for a good cause, repeatedly applaud successful moves by gensheimer& co. "It's a good situation for the team, because we're starting to understand what's coming up," says DHB vice president bob hanning, commenting on the good mood in the stands. "So it's a bit of a trial run."
At the end, the DHB stars take time for the fans and sign autographs. "We open ourselves up and show that we are there. For children and young people in particular, it's a great opportunity to get up close to the national players and have their autographs signed," explains prokop, who, like his players, is surrounded by fans.
Everyone is hoping for a similar euphoria at the world cup. Sports director kromer leaves the hall with a good feeling: "we have a team that has known only one goal for weeks: to bring handball forward with successful games."