When Atlètic Terrassa meet Uhlenhorst Mülheim in the EHL Men’s FINAL4 on Saturday, it will reignite one of the most enduring rivalries in European club hockey of the 1980s and 90s for a new generation.
Many surnames will link the two eras with many descendants from the two clubs’ golden era, keen to write a new page in their respective histories.
For Atlètic, the German club were their ‘bête noir’ on the European stage. Dominant in Spain, they won an incredible nine league titles in a row and, in 1985 in Frankenthal, the Terrassa-based club lifted their first European title for the first time.
They looked set for a period of continental dominance but suddenly they came up against an impassable wall several times, the Mülheim club emerging to overshadow them with an outrageous nine Euro titles in succession between 1988 and 1996.
The names of Carsten Fischer, Sven Meinhardt, Andreas Becker or Jan-Peter Tewes became a nightmare for Atlétic and many other teams. Of that era, surnames like Windfeder, Hellwig and Brinkmann will be reprised in their 2021 vintage while the names Malgosa, Escudé, Freixa and Cortès traverse the Catalan generations.
They met in four consecutive finals: 1989 in Mülheim, 1990 in Frankfurt, 1991 in Wassenaar and 1992 in Amsterdam. In all of them, the Germans emerged victorious.
In 1995, playing at home, Atlético had a good chance to take some revenge but in the decisive group match ended in a draw and Uhlenhorst went to the final on goal difference.
Finally, in 1998, again at the Can Salas, it was the Spanish side’s time, edging through 2-1 in the group before defeating AH&BC Amsterdam to reach the promised land once more.
TV3 commentator Lluis Cervelló spoke to some of those famous Catalan names about then and now!
Nani Escudé: “To remember the Uhlenhosrt of our time is to think of the ‘black beast’. We lost finals, but they won nine in a row and no other team has done that. Now, there are great teams and for sure as a German team, they will put us in trouble. But we are a great team and I am convinced that playing at our level we will have options and move on to the final.”
Joan Tarrés (Nani’s nephew): “My uncle Nani has told me many stories about those years when Uhlenhorst was a team that battled so much to win. For us, in addition to being an opportunity to reach an EHL final, it is also to put a thorn in the side of the German team who haunted Atlètic for so many years”
Xavi Escudé: “When I found out who we were playing against, I was very happy because it reminded me of the great moments of a great stage, although I must admit that Uhlenhorst was our ‘black beast’.
“Had we not found ourselves against that team, we would have many more European cups. For this edition, I am very excited that Marc can relive a game that many of Atlètic have in their memories and I know that my son, along with the rest of the team, will surely know how to take advantage of the additional motivation that this means. We hope to enjoy a great victory that will give us great family satisfaction and for our club!”
Marc Escudé (son of Xavi): “It is an honor for me to be able to play a game of this very high level and with a rival that I have heard so much about for years. It gives me great motivation and more, knowing that we were beaten so many times. We now have the long-awaited opportunity to take revenge after 30 years. So, there is no doubt that we will leave our skin in the field and do our best to bring the cup to the cathedral [Atlètic’s home]!!”
Jaume Escudé: “So near and yet so far! The privilege of having played all the finals against Uhlenhorst, and the pity of losing them. The most sincere admiration for the German team, mythical and unrepeatable, and the same admiration for our team, also mythical and unrepeatable, but acknowledging that they knew how to compete better than us.
“Atlètic-Uhlenhorst marked an era and they are a page with golden (and silver) letters, unforgettable in the history of European hockey.”
Nil Escudé (son of Jaume): “My father always told me about this team but it sounded like a battle … until I saw a video of Xavi Escudé dribbling in the middle of a German team and leaving Fischer sitting on the ground. There, I saw that the level was already brutal when I was not even born yet.
“Times and hockey have changed but both teams are still benchmarks in our countries.
“This year we have the unique and exciting opportunity to play a European semi-final, which will make us all 200%. And why not, stand in the desired end, and this time we will be the ones to emerge victorious from the historic duel.”
Quim Malgosa: “When I think of Uhlenhorst, the first thing that comes to mind is a mixture of frustration and motivation to work all year to overcome them and not succeed. Getting up year after year to outdo yourself and also, why not, a sense of admiration for a super team in quality but also with motivation.
“Although we stayed at the gates many times, they certainly helped us to be better players as well. And it ended by finally winning against them and winning the second European Cup, in 1998.”
Quim Malgosa (son of Quim): “I have heard so many stories told … I know they provide another incentive for the club and for those who suffered and enjoyed it.
“For me, it is another challenge. We have been working for a long time to play in a FINAL4 again; I was lucky enough to play the Final 4 in Barcelona in 2016. Now we’re back, with the ambition of trying, why not, to play a final in Amstelveen.”
Santi Cortès: “April 13, 1998. Semi-finals against Uhlenhorst, we were at Can Salas, perfect organisation and an extraordinary atmosphere, we couldn’t go wrong with our fans!
“’It was time’ to beat the Germans and play the final the next day against Amsterdam. The club deserved that second European Cup and those players left their mark on the champions.
“How great! Now history repeats itself with a new match against Uhlenhorst!”
Sam Cortès (Santi’s son): “With the EHL, we have an exciting challenge. We compete against three of the most powerful teams in Europe and we face it with all the desire and enthusiasm in the world.
“We face Uhlenhorst in the semi-finals, a historically difficult rival, but we are ready to play a good game and be able to aspire to the title.”
Joan Malgosa: “After many years, being able to see an Atlético-Uhlenhorst match in the European Cup again, and knowing that one of my children will be on the pitch, makes me very excited. Too bad we won’t be able to be in the stands. The memories are unforgetable and I will am proud, after all, that we competed and were the second team in Europe for a good time. We have to admit that for nine years they were better.”
Jan Malgosa (son of Joan): “I’ve heard a lot of stories of defeats against Uhlenhorst. Of my grandfather, my aunts and my father, who lived them on the field in the first person as a player and then as a coach. The club’s record at European level could have been more extensive had it not been for Carsten Fischer and company, which is why I am proud to have the opportunity to play in these semi-finals. father and his teammates when he is in the field.”