World record in handball: 53,586 spectators for Germany vs. Switzerland! EHF

As they did at the recent Women's World Championship in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Germany on Wednesday showed their love for handball.

The German Handball Association (DHS) and the EHF wanted to create something special for the first day of the Men's European Championship and decided to go for a unique experience: to play the two opening matches of the tournament in the Merkur-Spiel-Arena, where Fortuna Düsseldorf used to play in the 2. Bundesliga, a venue with a capacity of almost 55,000.

It was a risky target, but also an astonishing one, just as it was last December when the final two days of the Women's World Championship attracted some 12,500 spectators to the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning, Denmark. But this time the challenge was greater.

All the preparations were in place after many days of intense work, while the temperature outside the stadium was around -4ºC, with a feeling of almost -10ºC. The Merkur-Speil Arena has a modern roofing system similar to that of the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid or the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Tennis Open in New York.

The crowd erupted when the world record was announced on the big screen. EHF
The crowd erupted when the world record was announced on the big screen. EHF

The German fans showed their love for handball in the first match of the day as reigning Olympic champions France beat North Macedonia 39-29 in front of more than 30,000 fans, with three-time Olympic champion Nikola Karabatic still in the 'bleu' team. 

But the best was yet to come. Half an hour before kick-off, every seat was taken, bringing the total attendance to 53,586. Almost all of them were enjoying Germany's 27-14 win over Switzerland, with goalkeeper Andreas Wolff (Kielce, Poland) the star of the show with 13 saves and an incredible 59% success rate.

In the process, the previous attendance record of 44,189, set at a German Handball Day in Frankfurt on 6 September 2014, was broken. In addition to the world record attendance in Düsseldorf, the Men's EHF EURO 2024 is enjoying global recognition with the tournament being broadcast in more than 100 territories.

Michael Wiederer, President of the European Handball Federation, said: "This is a dream opening day. Starting with a world record provides all the ingredients for what we hope will be the biggest Men's EHF EURO ever. It is the aim of the European Handball Federation to improve the EHF EURO product every year, and such highlights can help future organisers."

Andreas Woff put on a show, saving 13 shots. EHF
Andreas Woff put on a show, saving 13 shots. EHF

Andreas Michelmann, President of the German Handball Federation, commented: "10 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. This day also furthern underlines that Germany has a knack for hosting major sporting events."

Finally, Stephan Keller, Mayor of Düsseldorf, echoed these sentiments: "Düsseldorf is once again positioning itself as a sports city that is predestined to host events with international appeal. The state capital of Düsseldorf is proud to host this memorable world record day. I wish us all an outstanding tournament!"