More than 6,000 spectators on average and nine sold-out windows this season. In Nantes, the public’s enthusiasm for handball no longer needs to be proven. Last December, the HBC Nantes even managed to bring together nearly 30,000 people in three relocated event matches, for the occasion, at Hall XXL, hall of the city’s exhibition center. In Nantes, football has its ultras. Handball too.
Five years ago, a group of supporters of the Nantes hand club was born after a Coupe de France final at Bercy. The Ultr’H were born. An exception in the world of French handball. Flags, songs, tifos, links with other supporters… The Ultr’H are getting closer to the spirit of the ultras as it is known through football in France. “Basically, I was full FC Nantes! “says Emilie Gratas. “When I also subscribed to H matches, I missed the football atmosphere a little. Finding this group is perfect, ”explains the one who will still be present at the Stade de France on May 7 to support the Canaries in the final of the Coupe de France football.
“The public has taken on an enormous dimension”
The giant tifos deployed in the H Arena are an exception in French handball. A pride for the members of Ultr’H. “At the very beginning, we didn’t know how to do it at all! “recalls Emilie. “One thing led to another, we grew up a lot. But it’s true that the tifos are a bit of our trademark, ”adds Olivier Royer, another member of Ultr’H, which has around sixty members. “Now our goal is to create a real kop, to make it even hotter”, with a standing stand.
With the “best public in France”, the H Arena is a real fortress. This season, Nantes have lost only three home games. The latest: the one against PSG at Hall XXL, last December. “This public has a very positive influence on the behavior of the players. We will need it and it will respond, I am sure, ”says Grégory Cojean, assistant coach of HBC Nantes. In particular this Saturday evening against Aix (3rd), a decisive match for second place in the championship. “The public has taken on a huge dimension in Nantes”, adds Valero Rivera, Spanish left winger of H. “This atmosphere exists nowhere else”, indicates the one who played in Barcelona in the past. “Certainly one of the most beautiful rooms and atmospheres in Europe”, said this week Kader Rahim, player of Dunkirk, after the reception of Magdeburg in Nantes in the European Cup.
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This extra soul brought by the Nantes public and its Ultr’H is “a chance” according to the player. “We have evolved alongside the club. But it’s true that even the opposing players tell us that the atmosphere is exceptional here,” says Olivier Royer, who hopes to see the group grow further at the dawn of its five years of existence. “We have our role to play and we intend to pursue it. »
On the sporting side, the Ultr’H dream of a return to the Champions League next season, “by giving Aix a little spanking” on Saturday, at the H Arena, where the atmosphere promises to be boiling. Still.