Fans in Montpellier give champions warm welcome
When Montpellier HB won the EHF Champions League for the first time 15 years ago, they didn’t have to travel home as the second leg of that final was played on their home court.
But this time they flew back home from the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, less than 24 hours after lifting the trophy for the second time - though for all but two players (Michaël Guigou and Vid Kavticnik) and the coach (Patrice Canayer) it was an all-new experience.
Chanting and waving coloured balloons
At the airport, hundreds of people had gathered to welcome them back and to cheer for them. While some members of supporters club ‘Blue Fox’ were still on their way back from Germany, others waited at the airport doors, chanting and waiving coloured balloons.
When the doors opened, many fans had to fight tears of joy when captain Guigou was the first to come out and show the trophy, before the rest of the team followed.
“This title is also for all those people who support us day in, day out,” said Guigou, the only player left from the triumphant 2002/03 squad. “Some of them took their own car and travelled more than 20 hours to LANXESS arena, so it is really humbling. Most of them have been there for years so this Champions League trophy is also for them.”
Right back Valentin Porte was impressed by the fans’ enthusiasm: “It is unbelievable. It reminds me of the national team but to have it with guys I spend every day of my life with is amazing. I want to thank every one of our fans so much.”
After spending a few minutes chanting and posing for selfies, the Montpellier players spoke with media representatives in the airport hall before travelling home and spending the rest of the evening with their families.
"Truly the perfect weekend for us"
“This was truly the perfect weekend for us and a proof that Montpellier remain a team which count in Europe,” club president Rémy Levy said. “We want to thank everybody who made that possible, from the staff to the players to the fans, who have travelled all the way to Cologne. Without them, we are nothing.”
The warm reception by the fans might also help coach Canayer realize that his team did win the trophy: “We realize that we did something important but not that we have won the Champions League. But we are going to, little by little.”
Programme of festivities
While the Montpellier players had Monday night off, they will take part in an extensive programme this week to celebrate the triumph.
There will be a celebration on the place of the City Hall in Montpellier on Tuesday evening and the trophy will also be displayed at the Palais des sports René-Bougnol on Thursday, while festivities will move to Paris on Friday.