They were singing, they were chanting, they tried everything to push their team ahead – but finally even the great support from approximately 600 fans did not prevent Austria from their opening defeat against Belarus. After the first EHF EURO 2018 clash, there was a lot for fans to talk about, and they had a long night discussing the 26:27 result at their meeting point in Porec.
Knowing that so many spectators would come to support the team, the Austrian Handball Federation (ÖHB) installed an ‘Austrian House’ right in the middle of the famous harbour area in the Adriatic top spot, Porec. ‘Epoca’ is the name of the bar where all the Austrians fans gather.
“The first days were already a great success,” said Bernd Rabenseifner, new ÖHB Secretary General, one of the organisers of the project: “Our fans love this place already.”
The Federation and their partners organise fan contests, prize games, and meet and greets with former Austrian handball stars such as Conny Wilczynski, Bernd Friede and Patrick Fölser. Prior to their team’s matches, the fans gather at Epoca for a march to Zatika Sports Centre.
On Saturday night, Epoca was packed, as Austria national team coach Patrekur Johannesson was there to talk with the fans and answer their questions. Despite the huge hurdles of France and Norway ahead, the Icelandic-born coach and the fans showed optimism – and when Johannesson left, the fans said farewell with a big round of applause.
“The idea of having a fan pub like this is great,” said Gerda Heizmann, a supporter from Vienna: “We can warm up for the matches and meet many friends here,” added the 39-year-old former handball player.
On Sunday afternoon, the Austrian Federation informed their fans about the upcoming highlight, the EHF EURO 2020, which will be co-hosted by Austria, Norway and Sweden. As two pubs near Epoca have become the home for Norwegian fans, a fan contest is planned between the sides.
Epoca is already famous for its all-night parties, where DJ FlowT performs. Even the DJ has a handball background, as Markus Floth (his real name) is one of the moderators for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.
Epoca will be the Austrian House until Tuesday – and by then, the Austrian fans will know if their trip to Croatia continues in the capital, Zagreb, or if it is time to return home. “We are proud to have so many fans here, and I am sure this Austrian House is a great promotion for our team and for handball in general,” concluded Rabenseifner.