Friday, May 24, 2013

I'm a Volunteer for the VELUX EHF Final4

Hey folks,

Oh, the excitement never stops! Next week, I’m taking off to Germany for five days, to Cologne to be exact, and I have been looking forward to this trip very much, so much that I cannot quite believe it’s finally happening. I’ll be a volunteer for the 2013 VELUX EHF Final4. I’m guessing most of you are now confused, maybe already googling this weird thing that gets me so excited over here that I can barely keep from dancing around for joy. Well, let me explain why… Once upon a time, there was a girl… okay, okay, the real story.

In my teenage years (gosh, that makes me feel old!) I was friends with a couple of people who were really into this sport called handball. For all of you American readers – it’s not the handball that you’ve probably played in gym class, wearing a glove and hitting a small rubber ball against a wall. Here in Europe, handball is a team sport, probably easiest described as a mix between soccer/football and basketball. Here's a clip to help you visualise what-the-heck I’m rambling on about. Anyway, these friends kind of got me into watching handball as well, although I’ve never played it (besides in gym class) because I’m not the most athletic person in this world and I’m kind of really afraid of balls flying at my face. Playing dodgeball, I was always that player who’d run away from the ball and hide behind the bigger, stronger kids. You get the point.

Watching the German national team and some league games, I really got into this one team – THW Kiel - and especially this one player (I’m not gonna tell you who it is, you’ll just tease me). Didn’t hurt that he was good looking and I was at the height of my puberty induced hormone frenzy ;-). Ever since then, I have been following this team, going to games whenever I could, watching the games on TV (and since I’ve been abroad twice, online) and so on. I even own two jerseys! Over the years, I’ve actually made some friends who follow the same team and one of them has actually become one of my closest friends. I don’t wanna get too emotional now, but she’s helped through a lot of drama (which is not serious, don’t worry, I live a pretty damn good life and I’m loving it) and we can talk for hours, every day. One night, this friend sent me a link containing a call to apply as a volunteer for the Final4 I mentioned above. For European club handball, this Final4 is the most important event of the season, as it consists of the two semi-finals and the final (plus the game of the two teams that lost their semi-finals). The winner is the Champions League champion, pretty much the biggest title there is.

After hours of discussion, we finally agreed to both apply to become a volunteer although we’ll both have to travel quite the distance (she’s from Munich) to get there but my darling sister lives in Cologne and she generously lets us crash at her place. After we sent in our applications, we did some research and found out that our chances to get a place in the volunteering squad was pretty low since most of the applicants had already been placed when we applied (although the deadline was not for another month or so) and they only didn’t send out rejections in case anyone refused their place. Then the “miracle” happened – we both received an email with the invitation to volunteer, even in the same area (entertainment).

The cherry on top was that “our” club actually qualified for the Final4, which was a pretty close call, let me tell you that. I’m glad my mom wasn’t home when I watched the first game, because I screamed pretty loud haha. My darling friend Lea, whom I visited at the moment, was nice enough to watch away game with me and I think she was very, very glad when it was over. By the way, this goal made the final decision in the first game, amazing, right?

Today, I finally received and email with all the volunteer guidelines and some more information on what we are actually supposed to be doing. It all sounds great, although “being unbiased at all times” might become a tough task for me ;-). As for our tasks, I only know that they involve handling the players at their autograph sessions, helping and supporting the opening act and organising the opening show, as well as the award ceremony. We have no idea what exactly that means but a couple of weeks ago, my friend dug up this video and we're thinking that we'll be those people who are dancing in the beginning. Also, another friend of mine will be at the event and she’ll stay with us for one night, I haven’t seen her in more than a year so I’m looking forward to our reunion very much as well.

The only bummer for me is that I really wanted to snap some pictures along the way. Not particularly of the players (I’ve done my fair share of that when I was younger, as you can see below) but of the whole event, just to document what we were doing that weekend. As we are not allowed to have our mobile phones with us (only during break in the break room), I’m pretty sure cameras (even the small pink ones like my special friend) are not allowed as well. I guess the advantage of this is that I’m not tempted to turn into that fangirl I used to be – although my favourite player is not even there but I have to admit that I tend to get a bit sentimental when players I really liked (I’m talking athletics here, folks, most of them are too old to be cute and married) are leaving the club and after this season, a bunch of my favourite ones will go. There’s always a big party at the end of each season in Kiel and I have never been, which will not change this year as I’m still in England so this weekend will actually be the last one to I see them. I’ll just be extra nice to them in case I’ll have to work with them, haha.

What a long post! Definitely too long to translate but I’m sure my friends from home will understand everything just fine. Thank you so much if you have read all of this… in the following, you’ll find some pictures of me being all fan(girl), enjoy! Oh, and before I forget - the matches will be on German TV on Eurosport and anybody who's outside of Germany can stream them online, here. Just make sure you cheer for THW Kiel, "the zebras", because I can't.

Lots of love from Canterbury,

PS: The top photo was taken three years ago when I was spending a weekend in Cologne. We ran across this poster for the first Final4 ever and I was so excited that I begged my friend to take a picure. If someone had told me I would actually be there and help with the event three years later...

In Iowa, August 2008.

First live match when I was 16.

My brother actually took this one. He's a journalist and took me to a game, where his co-worker interviewed this player. I was watching so I didn't even notice he snapped this picure. Priceless look on my face, haha.

At the age of 18, I was still all up for getting pictures with the players and my brother proved the be a loyal photographer although I'm not really photogenic.
Prepared to support the national team (I was 16).

Just turned 18, first time in Kiel for a goodbye match.
Ugly me, pretty guy, haha.

This is actually a recent picture! I was following a game online with this thing called live-ticker and it got pretty ugly for "my" team so I put on my jersey for moral support. Didn't help much though.

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