After fifth place at the em: handballers set their sights on the olympics

After fifth place at the em: handballers set their sights on the olympics

During a trip to stockholm’s nightlife, germany’s handball players climbed to fifth place in the european championships – then, on sunday morning, they finally went home with a clear order from the association’s top management.

"Our goal remains an olympic medal in tokyo. The team has proven that it has what it takes," said DHB president andreas michelmann at the end of a european championship with highs and lows.

The rewarding conclusion with the 29:27 against favorite scare portugal love national coach christian prokop and his proteges with a good feeling on the way home. "The team has made a great development," praised prokop. "Certainly with a brutal jolt against croatia, but after that we won all the games."

One year after finishing fourth at the world cup at home, however, the DHB team had to realize once again that although they are close to the world’s best, they are not among them. For the fourth time in a row, the targeted medal was missed at a tournament. "We are still missing something for the very rough throw", stated DHB vice president bob hanning. The goal is now to succeed at the olympics.

But even the road to tokyo will be difficult, because in the qualifiers in mid-april in berlin, germany will have to deal with record european champions sweden and fourth-placed slovenia in addition to an african representative. DHB sports director axel kromer is nevertheless confident that he will be able to claim one of the first two places: "we are up against two top-class teams, but we have the trump card of the home advantage."

There is a lot to do in the remaining two and a half months. "There are individual deficits, we will address them internally. There must be improvements so that we are better prepared in stress situations," said prokop. "This applies above all to the backcourt, where we have the greatest potential for improvement."Only philipp weber lived up to higher expectations and was one of the few winners in the team, along with goalkeeper-oldie johannes bitter and right wing timo kastening.

Prokop therefore announced a timely meeting with the backcourt players and their club coaches before he leaves for his skiing vacation. There, the 41-year-old will reflect on the final round in peace and quiet. The national coach has one certainty. "The inner workings of the team are outstanding," prokop stressed. "From the main round on, i knew that morale was right. Everyone has paid in everything to make the team successful."

This unity was missing at the top of the federation. It remains a mystery why vice president hanning fueled the coach debate that flared up after the croatia game with an ambiguous statement instead of nipping it in the bud with a clear statement. Hanning felt misunderstood, but admitted ruefully in his column for "t-online": "I am responsible for every word I say."

This left a bad taste not only with many experts but also with the national coach. "The side conversations kept me too busy for 50 hours. That simply has no place in the internal circle at a european championship, because I’m there to help the players and to set an example with a positive aura," criticized prokop.

It’s no wonder that after the massive public criticism of hanning, there was also a crackle in the DHB leadership – at least behind the scenes. Michelmann was therefore anxious not to pour any more oil on the fire. "Whatever unrest came, came from auben. We handled that well internally," said the president. "Especially under extreme pressure, the coach, team and staff stuck together – unlike at the 2018 european championships. There was always a clear commitment to each other."

But the 60-year-old knows only too well that failure to qualify for the olympics can quickly mean the end of the road. This was an enormous setback for handball, which has risen to number two in ball sports behind king football. "We have a rough response as a sport – both on television and in social media," michelmann noted. You have to live up to this responsibility both on and off the court.