SBy 8:03 p.m. on Monday evening at the latest, it could be stated that the generous hygiene concept of the European Handball Federation (EHF) for the European Championships in Hungary and Slovakia had failed. The November 2021 paper called for a bubble-free tournament. Unlike the World Cup in Egypt, players should be able to move around fairly freely. PCR tests every 48 hours as a key security tool should help break chains of infection. But the EHF apparently made this calculation without the Omicron virus variant – and possibly without sufficiently considering the possibilities of infection in competition and training.
It has not been proven that Omikron is involved, nor that infections have taken place in the company – but it seems obvious. There is no other explanation for the fact that seven German handball professionals now have positive test results: After Julius Kühn on Sunday and Hendrik Wagner on Monday afternoon, the DHB reported on Monday evening that Andreas Wolff, Luca Witzke, Timo Kastening, Kai Häfner and Lukas Mertens were also affected . This was the result of the PCR tests taken on Monday morning. A tangible corona outbreak, which caused horror at the DHB in the evening.
None of them can be used in the final group game against Poland in Bratislava this Tuesday (6 p.m., live on ZDF). National coach Alfred Gislason is truly not to be envied. The pandemic is again thwarting his plans. There is no end to the imponderables, and a certain amount of adaptability is demanded of him. The quintet must now quarantine for five days and could play again on January 21 if they can show two negative PCR tests within 24 hours. The second main round game is on the program for the DHB selection on Friday. The professionals concerned went into isolation in their single rooms in the “Lindner” team hotel.
Some people had already feared that it could become a “Corona EM” after a number of test matches were canceled due to positive corona cases at the beginning of January. The EHF countered that its hygiene concept was a “living document” and was constantly being adapted – which was true in detail, but was still not enough. Some hotels in Hungary were open to tourists who mingled with the handball professionals while eating without masks. That has since been turned off.
Several players will follow
At the start of the tournament last Thursday, there were several internal team outbreaks in Serbia (seven), Poland (six), North Macedonia (four) and Croatia (four). Almost every nation at this two-country European Championship has at least one well-known corona failure to complain about. With different consequences. The Poles made up for the lack of prominent forces and convinced in Group D with clear victories against Belarus and Austria.
Now the Germans are badly shaken – despite considerable precautionary measures such as single room occupancy on their own floor. As the DHB announced in the evening, there was an exchange with players and clubs and the EHF in order to also nominate players who are outside of the 35-strong squad that the DHB submitted to the EHF for this continental handball fair.
Alfred Gislason had been eagerly looking for injuries and corona cases and had enlarged the group of possible candidates compared to previous tournaments. Late on Monday evening, the DHB announced that goalkeeper Johannes Bitter, left winger Rune Dahmke, pivot Sebastian Firnhaber and backcourt players Paul Drux and Fabian Wiede would follow. They should arrive in Bratislava on Tuesday.
Bitter, Dahmke and Firnhaber belong to the squad of 35 named at the beginning of December. Thanks to an exemption from the EHF, the Berliners Drux and Wiede, who are not part of this group, are also allowed to move up. All five must have submitted a negative PCR test by kick-off. Strangely enough, the team that could play on Tuesday is suddenly much more experienced – apart from Firnhaber, the nominees are established, long-standing national players.
A year ago at the World Cup in North Africa, there was not a single positive test among the Germans. At that time nobody was vaccinated. Three teams that had brought infections with the Covid 19 virus into the tournament were fished out by the world association IHF; Cape Verde, the United States and the Czech Republic. After that, there were no significant incidents. A year and many doses of vaccine later, you can’t say that about handball.