I sometimes ask myself: who is that guy with a painted face, standing in the audience and holding the scarf of his favorite team? Is he an amateur handball player or a sedentary person, a father or a rebel, a kiddo or a smarty? Besides geography, what sets him apart from a fan screaming at his home tv screen?
A couple of years ago, before having subscribed to any forum, I had no idea there were any people out there that could name each Romanian squad, from 1999 until now, let alone some that could recall specific matches of our team over the past decade. I lived all of those, and memorized them in detail, without ever sharing them with anyone besides some of my close ones. I never painted my face or bought a player’s T-shirt , but I did cry in 1999 because of France, in 2000 because of Ukraine and Hungary, in 2001 because of Angola… Boy, we went through a lot since then, didn’t we?
However, players need to have what they call a good atmosphere in order to perform. In that respect, I feel I haven’t done any good to my favorite team. Some images will always stay with me, as the 2008 display by Macedonian handball fans, on the occasion of their last participation in a major competition (sigh!).
Two years afterwards, audiences travelled to Denmark. Back in Romania, we had reports from some members of the sport365 forum saying the atmosphere was surprisingly entertaining and grand. Unlike the previous illustration that had to do with national identity, I believe the “Danish wave” was more of a reaction to the absolute handball show. In other words, the spectacle offered by the players generated a response of similar quality.
Moving into the third dimension that is The Champions League, we discover a more powerful audience. Last winter, a game was delayed in Moraca because of the white confetti thrown from the stands by ALL the spectators. The image was mesmerizing, a winter fairy tale which only lasted seconds. Actually, the players might not have seen it as they were yelling out their encouragements meanwhile. This is less a statement of love for a team, than it is for a place, a sports hall, theirs.
Finally, Valcea’s Traian Hall has always been a place of particular expression. Personal messages addressed to players and coaches are usually intense. Here you have one saying “Elisei, your devotion engenders our respect”. The incomparable Valentina Ardean Elisei was celebrated many times there, but this is probably the most honest and simple declaration ever written on white canvas, in a handball hall.