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Alfred Gislason before his debut as national coach

RStay calm, keep a sense of humor, approach the upcoming tasks pragmatically: Alfred Gislason says he can get through these confusing days and weeks well. On Saturday in the “Sportstudio” of the ZDF he anticipated the discussions about the next opponent and remarked dryly: “I hope the Bosnians will come too.”

An opponent belongs to handball. Nothing changed about that. No matter how big your own squad is – Gislason nominated very generously to compensate for any failures and to save energy. This Thursday (4.15 p.m. on ZDF) in Düsseldorf, of course, without fans: Germany against Bosnia, first eligibility game for the 2022 European Championship in Hungary and Slovakia. And: Premiere of national coach Alfred Gislason on the bench.

The selection actors of the German Handball Federation (DHB) have been gathered since Monday. Practice one day attack, one day defense. A little video study of the opponent. Then the game on Thursday, practice a bit of defensive and offensive again, before going straight to the second qualifying game to Tallinn in Estonia on Sunday by charter flight. There is no more time. Gislason cannot rush anything either. The stress on the top players is already immense: “I have to shut everything down a bit without endangering the goals,” says Gislason, “if I train twice a day, the players are dead.”

Drums for handball

There will be no lack of followers: Younger national players like Timo Kastening emphasized the natural authority of Gislason after the first days of the course. That could be the main difference to his predecessor Christian Prokop. Gislason patiently accepted the discussions about the poor Bosnians with their only eleven professionals who were able to play, both internally and externally. Who could use a hectic in these times, who complains that “important opponents” might break away?


National coach since February, the planned half year without handball since its end at THW Kiel in June 2019 has now become almost one and a half. Gislason had started the first course in March in Magdeburg beaming with joy until opponents Netherlands canceled and there were then corona cases in their own team. He filled the free time: On his rural property in Wendgräben near Magdeburg, “everything is really finished,” says Gislason with a laugh.

He also used the compulsory break to drum for handball. In interviews, he warned of a wave of bankruptcies in the Bundesliga and reminded how good and healthy this league was before Corona. He knows financial worries, which used to be part of everyday life in the league, from his time as a coach in Hameln (until 1999) and Gummersbach (until 2008). He expressed how unfortunate it is that no more spectators are allowed into the halls – but that was not a complaint. Alfred Gislason is a suitable and independent representative of the DHB in the big questions of this sport, because he has decades of experience and like the “Elder Statesman” appears, not like the club coach, who has his own interests in mind.

Pragmatism as an anchor

He’s not going to reinvent the wheel in the national team. Strong goalkeepers, good defense with a Kiel core, plus speed play and improvisation at the front – every national coach’s hands were tied when it came to studying new systems; this is due to the few days of the course. Gislason hardly has time to prepare the players for the World Cup in Egypt in January 2021 – that’s actually what it’s about. This week’s games are just a relaxed gallop. Gislason is convinced that the World Cup will be played: “I have been to a few phone meetings. There should be a bubble like in the NBA so that players and officials are completely sealed off. I assume that they will pull it off. “

In doing so, he focuses on what he can influence: nominate a stable squad, ignore external circumstances, employ the team well, coach appropriately. Ideally, reach the semifinals. His pragmatism works like an anchor. Some regular players are absent due to viruses or injured. It is already paying off that Gislason has appointed 35 players to his squad. As a Kiel coach, he often complained when he was missing professionals. As national coach, he abandoned this attitude: “What should I do? I cannot change the situation. I’m happy that things are finally getting started. ”Somebody with broad shoulders is walking ahead in a difficult situation – you can’t ask for much more in these times.

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