Nowitzki cheered by thousands upon return home

German basketball star Dirk Nowitzki received a hero's welcome upon his return home to Würzburg, Bavaria on Tuesday. Dirk got the cheers, but one super-fan earned a seat of honour for helping to galvanize thousands to attend the lavish event.

Nowitzki cheered by thousands upon return home
Photo: DPA

“It’s all unbelievable,” the newly-minted NBA champion said Tuesday before 3,000 fans at Würzburg’s sold out s.Oliver Arena. “Everything happening here is absolutely overwhelming.”

The day would only get better for the 33-year-old.

After a press conference, he attended a ceremony at the Würzburg town hall to sign his name in the city’s “Golden Book“, likely marking the first time that an NBA player has autographed a volume also signed by Winston Churchill.

Nowitzki was then shuttled to the Würzburg Residence palace, where he took in a lavish reception held in his honour.

In an unusual twist, the fanfare of Nowitzki’s reception was enhanced through the efforts of an ordinary fan.

After watching Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks win the NBA finals, Markus Michler, a 28-year-old self-professed “sports freak“ from Würzburg, used social media to pay tribute to his favourite NBA player.

Michler started a Facebook group titled “Established for the reception of Dirk Nowitzki on the balcony of the Würzburg Residence“, which had the unexpected result of mobilising thousands to greet the star on his homecoming.

“We all watched the last game together in Würzburg and I got a sense of this incredible energy,“ Michler said.

“Then I thought that such a superstar can’t simply be greeted at the town hall and eventually be voted Würzburg’s athlete of the year,“ Michler added.

“This needed to be something special.“

Within a few hours after its formation, Michler’s group had over 9,500 members on Facebook. Then Silke Nowitzki, Dirk’s sister who organised his homecoming, got word of the group and decided to turn its mission into reality.

Several thousand adoring fans showed up to cheer Nowitzki, but Michler got perhaps the biggest prize of all: a seat at the reception as a guest of honour.

“This is like a dream,“ he said afterwards.

In lieu of winning an NBA ring, not a bad dream to make come true.

DPA/The Local/adn

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German football club ends partnership with Russia’s Gazprom

German football club Schalke 04 announced Monday it had prematurely ended its partnership with Russian gas giant Gazprom following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

German football club ends partnership with Russia's Gazprom

The deal between the second-tier German club and Gazprom had been due to run until 2025 with Schalke receiving around €9 million ($10 million) per year in sponsorship.

Had the Gelsenkirchen-based club won promotion back to the Bundesliga at the end of this season, the sponsorship figure would have risen to €15 million annually.

Schalke had already removed the Gazprom logo from their shirts for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Karlsruhe.

In a statement, Schalke said their finances were “unaffected by this decision”.

“The club’s management is confident that it will be able to present a new partner in the near future.”

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Gazprom representative Matthias Warnig resigned from the club’s supervisory board last Thursday.

Hans-Joachim Watzke, interim president of the German Football Association (DFB), had already hinted there could be financial aid for Schalke if they split from Gazprom.

“If this requires the solidarity of other clubs in Germany to get them out of this situation, then we have to discuss how we can manage that,” Watzke told ZDF.

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