DThe strength, said Hendrik Pekeler, will be enough. However, his body spoke a different language. Pekeler looked exhausted and weary when, after 26:22 against the Czech Republic, he stood in the catacombs of the Wiener Stadthalle like someone who just wanted to go home. And if you had seen him move on the floor in the final minutes, “very sparingly but intelligently”, as national coach Christian Prokop put it charmingly, then you could empathize with this wish.
Pekeler helped again to secure the victory in the main round, but he has arrived in the red area at this European handball championship, in which he had already gone with Achilles tendon problems. “Unfortunately, it has gotten worse from game to game,” he said on Wednesday evening. “I think that the high number of games in a short succession didn’t do me any good. I just have to see that I can get it under control. “
Pekeler made no secret of the fact that he would rather take a break than take the trip to Stockholm, where the Germans landed early Thursday afternoon. “There are just four days that go flute,” he said, for a “game of no importance”, the duel with Portugal this Saturday (4:00 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the European Handball Championship, at One and sportschau.de) Fifth place. But Pekeler is needed. In the German defense, where Patrick Wiencek is likely to fail due to knee problems, and as one of Prokop’s leaders.
“He wants his leading players to lead the way,” said Pekeler, “I tried that as best I can.” The 28-year-old THW Kiel runner embodies the dilemma that the Germans had at the last stage like no other accompanies this European Championship: between the longing to take a breath on the one hand and the declared goal of the national coach to use this game also with regard to the Olympic qualification in April, which could again be against Portugal.
Others in the team are responsible for the big gestures, colleague Wiencek, for example, who roars the energy after winning balls, but will not be used against Portugal due to knee problems, or goalkeeper Andreas Wolff and Johannes Bitter, the captain is Uwe Gensheimer, but Pekeler is the one who holds the shop together. A leader without loud tones, but whose words have weight and who, if necessary, sometimes becomes clear. Just like in the Prokop debate, when he nominated one of the coaches’ harshest critics, former world handball player Daniel Stephan. “You don’t hear anything from him for eleven months a year. And then at an EM he is the first to come out of his hole and think he has to open his mouth, ”said Pekeler of the ARD. “He was a really good handball player. But since then, he has done nothing to help the sport grow or advance in Germany. Therefore, what he says can no longer be taken for full. “
Pekeler has long been one of those who most clearly denounce the strains to which the players are exposed, the breathless chase from match to match. The fact that the EM was going from Vienna to Stockholm again, additional travel day or not, made him shake his head. Against the Czech Republic, he should actually get a little more calm, after 15 or 20 minutes, it was agreed with the national coach, it should be over.
But when Johannes Golla had to go out with a disqualification towards the end, there was no other trained inside block player – Pekeler had to go back. And so he will fling his stressed body against Portugal, if not entirely at will. “It’s also about not letting the team down,” said Pekeler, who was one of the Prokop skeptics after the messed up European Championship in 2018, but now praised the team spirit and the coach again, “and that’s it not just said so “.
So no break, even if it were “good and sensible”. “Except when the trainer says you’re going home.” A few minutes later, Prokop stood in front of the microphones and took stock of the situation. The national coach pushed aside the thought that it could be a challenge to swear his players back in the fight against Portugal: “The boys know what we are going to do in 2020 and how we can achieve it, namely by teasing everyone out of themselves. “Even if it hurts, like Pekeler? “You can rely on Peke,” said Prokop. And that, of course, he would also need it in Stockholm.