24.05.2012: Five leagues in five years
Is now the time for Europe?
Team photograph of AG Kobenhavn
On the international stage, AG Kobenhavn has tried in vain to attain success; however, it is the current season that sees the team in a European competition for the first time.
It was during a get-together in March 2005 that Jesper Nielsen and his relatives decided to finance and build a world-class team. They decided for the clubs of Albertslund and Glostrup, where Jesper Nielsen as well as his sister previously played. Within five years, it took five promotions to arrive in the first division of the Danish league – without losing a single game. The series continued – owing to the new obligations that come with this first-rate level – through the first year in the league in 2010/2011. Meanwhile, the club became known as AG (Albertslund/Glostrup) Kobenhavn and in its first season undefeated won the Danish championship and cup in addition to breaking spectator records, at the final match of the season against Bjerringbro/Silkeborg, with 36,000 fans in the Parken Football Stadium.
Due to Nielsen’s affluence and its Nordic ‘world selection’ led by the current world handball player of the year, Mikkel Hansen, the debutants forced their way into the VELUX EHF Champions League. With an effective marketing strategy and a fringe programme said to be similar to that of the NBA, AG Kobenhavn quickly became the most well known sports brand in Denmark breaking one TV record after the other. In the meantime, Nielsen rescinded his position at Rhein-Neckar Löwen (2011 FINAL4 participants) to concentrate on his native club. In a now defunct schedule, qualification for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 was planned for 2013.
The current season
The current season resembles the past five years: on Danish soil, the team remained undefeated. Following the second cup victory after 2011, the normal rounds of the Danish league ended; on 2 June the second championship is expected to be celebrated. The chance of another Danish team taking the title is highly unlikely.
The Road to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne
Up to the final seconds of the last match in the Group Phase, AG Kobenhavn still has a chance to be first in the group – but in the end it came down to a draw in the sold-out Brøndby arena against THW Kiel and eventually came second behind the Germans. In their first season in the VELUX EHF Champions League, the Danes emphasised their strengths internationally: against the top team from Montpellier they secured two victories, Reale Ademar Leon were defeated at home, against THW Kiel there was a scarce defeat and a draw.
In the desired all Scandinavian Last 16 pairing against Swedish champions IK Sävehof, AG Kobenhavn secured two easy victories and at the quarter-final against FC Barcelona Intersport, its dream was realised. Once again, in front of 21,293 spectators in the Parken Football Stadium, a new record was set in the European Cup. Due to the exceptional defence with goalkeeper Kasper Hvidt as well as eight goals from Mikkel Hansen, the defending champions through a 29:23 defeat, were sent home. Also in Barcelona, AG Kobenhavn played with an ice-cold precision and despite losing the match 33:36, its ticket to Cologne was secured.
As a player, the Swede Magnus Andersson boasts two World Championship and four European Championship titles in addition to winning the Olympic silver medal three times. As a coach, he began his career at Drott Halmstad. After that, he took over FC Kobenhavn where he stayed until 2010. Following a one year stint as the coach of the Austrian national team, Andersson took over as the coach of AG Kobenhavn in 2011.
Led by Mikkel Hansen, the Danish club team reads like the who’s who of north European top class handball: in Olafur Stefansson, a four times EHF Champions League winner, and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson, Arnor Atlasson and Snorri Gudjonsson, the team has the four best Icelandic players in Copenhagen. In addition there is the Swede, Niklas Ekberg and the Norwegian world class goalkeeper, Steinar Ege (injured) and the choice of the best Danish players such as Kasper Hvidt, offence specialist Joachim ‘Tractor’ Boldsen, who is also out through injury, and the rising star of Mads Mensah Larsen who is being tipped as ‘the next Mikkel Hansen’.