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World record set as 53,000 fans attend EHF Euro 2024 opener

Featured image credit: EHF

Featured image credit: EHF

More than 53,000 fans attended the European Handball Championship match between host nation Germany and Switzerland yesterday (Wednesday), setting a new world record attendance for the sport.

The match took place at the Merkur Spiel-Arena, home of football club Fortuna Düsseldorf. The official crowd of 53,586 surpassed the previous world record of 44,189, which was set in September 2014 when HSV Hamburg and Rhein-Neckar Löwen met at Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank Park.

Germany won yesterday’s match 27-14. Fans were treated to a double-header to kick off the tournament, with Merkur-Spiel Arena also hosting France’s 39-29 victory over North Macedonia prior to the Germany-Switzerland game.

EHF Euro 2024 is the first edition of the tournament to be played with 24 teams in one single country. Following the opening day in Düsseldorf, the tournament continues with preliminary round matches at Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena, Mannheim’s SAP Arena, and Munich’s Olympiahalle.

Lanxess Arena in Cologne is scheduled to host the final on January 28, with organisers anticipating that more than one million fans will attend games over the course of the tournament. For the first time, all arenas will have a capacity of at least 12,000.

After being awarded hosting rights for this year’s event, the German Handball Federation launched a tender process for the venues, which included the option of hosting the opening match at a football stadium. Merkur Spiel-Arena, which will also stage matches during this summer’s UEFA Euro 2024 tournament in Germany, was the only venue to apply.

The playing field was positioned in the middle of where the football pitch would be to enable as many fans to attend the opening game as possible. The football pitch was removed last month prior to Fortuna Düsseldorf’s final match before its winter break, and the stadium’s roof was closed while the handball surface was fitted and temporary stands were built.

Michael Wiederer, president of the European Handball Federation, said: “This is a dream start for the Men’s EHF Euro 2024. Starting with a world record provides all the ingredients for what will hopefully become the biggest Men’s EHF Euro to date. It is the European Handball Federation’s goal to improve the EHF Euro product year by year, and such highlights can help future organisers as they serve as a template to show what is possible in handball.”

Andreas Michelmann, president of the German Handball Federation, added: “10th of January 2024 is a day for the history books of handball. It was a huge challenge to build such a great stage for our sport in a football stadium. We would like to thank everyone who helped us turn the idea of such a world record opening match day into reality. We also understand this as a message: Look at Düsseldorf, experience how fantastic handball is and how special this European Championship will be. This day also further underlines that Germany has a knack for major sporting events.”