|10.08.2009, 10:50||◄ last page|
The giant photo of the Swedish star will remain in the THW arena forever.
Two fireworks lit a small podium. Stefan Lövgren and his wife Ann-Sophie were standing on it with their two kids, Linus and Thea. This was the moment for the leaving captain of THW Kiel to say thanks for his companion. “As we came to Germany with my wife in 1998, it was an adventure for us. We spent here 11 beautiful year,“ the 38-year old Swedish player said on a soft tone. Standing ovation came from the stands. Even a teardrop rolled down on the chin of Lövgren. “This is a moment you cannot prepare for.”
The great playmaker, the World and four-time European champion, seven-time German title holder and Champions League winner received a splendid farewell from the international handball community and from 10,000 fans in the Sparkassen Arena, which closed a spectacular career. The remarkable sportsman was given a number of awards including a special acknowledgement from THW manager Sabine Holdorf-Schust. After 468 games in total for the “Zebras”, his club nominated him honorary team captain.
Meanwhile Magnus Wislander was standing in the ’Oberrang’ section of the arena. His image and that of Hein Dahlinger already had a place under the ceiling of the hall. The Swedish Player of the Century, who was member of TWH between 1990 and 2002, unveiled a picture: Stefan Lövgren joined this elite circle of stars.
The Handball Bundesliga pointed out the life-long achievements of Lövgren: “In these 11 years he was not only a great individual on court, but he also had a high social competence,” HBL President Reiner Witte said.
This was the last time Stefan Lövgren could be seen in action on the handball court. He played fort he “THW Old Stars” that was defeated by the World selection of former top players by 18:23. In the second game the “new THW” met the current World selection. The hosts suffererd a surprising 32:35 defeat. However, it did not really disturb anyone. 75 seconds from the end Stefan Lövgren approached the THW defence that opened respectfully. The eternal THW captain scored his last goal. Then he hugged all the players and the fans were shouting his name: “Stefan, Stefan“. He remained almost speechless: “This is simply the most fantastic handball hall in the World.”
The evening came to an end with a song performed by the THW team. In the last two weeks they learnt an ABBA melody. “Please stay”, they sang for Lövgren. “The return to Sweden will be an adventure. Should it not work out well, we will come back to Germany,” Stefan Lövgren said full of emotion. Alfred Gislason already made a bet: Lövgren will come back to the Bundesliga within six years – a comeback or as a coach.
Other stars on Lövgren
Alexander Tuchkin: “I was happy for this invitation. He was a great player and a great guy. The fact that 10,000 people came for his farewell game just underlines his significance in handball.”
Nikola Karabatic: “There’s no better than Stefan Lövgren in handball. It’s lucky that he decided to play handball and not football or any other sport.”
Tomas Svensson: “It is always difficult to say who the best player of all times was. Stefan Lövgren belongs to a small circle of such players and he was the best captain for sure.”
Magnus Wislander: “In the first week after such a farewell game you don’t know what to think. Later you look back at it with pride.”
Holger Fleischer (referee): “For us it was a privilege to be part of the farewell game of such a great personality. Stefan Lövgren never abused his position: I never heard him speak out against referees.”
Lars Christiansen: “He was a great guy, great player. We will miss him all.”
Ljubomir Vranjes: “We already had some fun together in the early 90’s in Gothenburg. He is a great fun to go out for a beer together with.”
Staffan Olsson: “Stefan Lövgren is a very honest and positive man. He is able to get on well with practically anyone. I got to know him well when he was my neighbour in Melsdorf – and this was a very good experience.”
TEXT: Jan Kirschner