To celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the EHF Champions League, the EHF awarded and honoured eight great handball icons as the 'Ultimate Selection of 20 Years of the EHF Champions League' on 1 June 2013 on the fringes of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.
The star-studded selection was led by two of the most decorated players in the competition’s history - the seven-time winner Andrei Xepkin and Tomas Svensson, who has won six titles. Both had their major successes with FC Barcelona Intersport, tomorrow’s finalist at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
Spaniard Xepkin was awarded as 'best Line Player', Swede Svensson as 'Best Goalkeeper'. Additionally Mirza Dzomba (Croatia) was awarded as 'Best Right Wing' and Didier Dinart as 'Best Defence Player'.
The four other legends who made up the team could not take part in the ceremony. Olafur Stefansson, who won the Champions League four times with SC Magdeburg and Ciudad Real, is currently playing the 'Emir’s Cup' with his Qatari club and took home the 'Best Right Back' award. Stefan Kretzschmar (Germany, 'Best Left Wing') had to miss the award ceremony due to illness, while the 'Best Left Back' Filip Jicha (Czech Republic) could not attend the gala, as he will be on the court on Sunday with THW Kiel in the duel for the third rank at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 against KS Vive Targi Kielce. Jackson Richardson ('Best Centre Back') could also not attend the gala.
In total, the eight legendary players have won 26 EHF Champions League titles as well as a total of 41 medals from major international tournaments including the Olympic Games, EHF European Championships and World Championships.
All felt special emotions to be among those selected stars of the 20 years of EHF Champions League and to be on stage in Cologne.
“It’s an honour to be part of this team with all the players that were my idols”, said Croat Mirza Dzomba, who was the only player, who had lost five EHF Champions League finals with three different clubs before raising the trophy for the one and only time in 2006 with Ciudad Real from Spain.
Andrei Xepkin, who won the trophy six times with FC Barcelona and later on once with THW Kiel, was proud. “I’m happy to be part of this ultimate selection team. My heart is with Barcelona in the final, of course.”
Frenchman Didier Dinart, four-times Champions League winner, three-times world champion and twice Olympic and European champion, even was “surprised that I am among this team. It is a big honour to be in this team and to be part of this spectacular event in Cologne.”
Svensson relived the moment when he received the phone call that he is among this Ultimate Selection: “I cried for nearly one hour when I heard the news. There were so many brilliant goalkeepers who could have been chosen but it was me, which means one of the most important titles in my whole career."
The ceremony for the Ultimate Selection was followed by the awards for the most successful clubs in the history of EHF Champions League. Seven-times record winner FC Barcelona were represented by the most successful coach in handball history, Valero Rivera, who had led Barca to five straight trophies from 1996 to 2000, and who led Spain to the world championship title in 2013.
Additionally THW Kiel and Atletico Madrid (former name Ciudad real) were awarded for each three EHF Champions League titles.
At the end of the night the man behind the scenes was awarded with a special prize - Markus Glaser, who has been in charge for all European Cup competitions including the EHF Champions League for more than 20 years in the EHF Office.
'Ultimate Selection - 20 Years of the EHF Champions League':
Best Goalkeeper - Tomas Svensson
Best Left Wing - Stefan Kretzschmar
Best Left Back - Filip Jicha
Best Line Player - Andrei Xepkin
Best Centre Back - Jackson Richardson
Best Right Back - Olafur Stefansson
Best Right Wing - Mirza Dzomba
Best Defence Player - Didier Dinart