“We cannot say we are the best and that we will win any medals in Malmo, because it does not go along with the German modesty. We prefer to surprise and leave everyone astonished.”
Germany men’s goalball head coach Johannes Gunther is cautiously optimistic about his young team’s chances at the 2018 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball World Championships in Malmo, Sweden, from 3-8 June.
Gunther, who took on the role in 2010, believes psychology will play an important role when his team line-up for their debut against Canada.
“Sometimes the mind plays a more important part than the physical preparation. It is difficult to play in front of your home crowd [Germany are expecting fans to travel to support their team],” he said.
“There is also a big difference between a preparation tournament in Malmo and the World Championships in the same place – psychologically speaking.
“If you have young players like in my team, I know that they are more nervous in the quarter-finals at the World Championships than in the finals at a preparation tournament. If you know that every mistake in the defence may end up in a goal and make a difference for your team, it is huge.”
Germany has been drawn in a tough-looking Group B together with defending champions Brazil, Rio 2016 silver medallists USA, Canada, Iran, Egypt, Czech Republic and Japan.
Gunther, who studied and worked as a physical education teacher for young people with visual impairment, was a coach for the men’s senior and youth teams in the town of Marburg until early 2010.
He took over the national team when they had just dropped to group B at the European Championships in 2009. He knew that there was a long journey ahead of them but still decided to face the challenge.
One of the first players to start with Gunther was Michael Feistle, who the coach considers to be the best scorer and defence player. However, without the support of the rest of the team, Gunther believes they would not have made the progress they have.
“If we win, we win together and if we lose, we lose together too, then the individuals don’t matter,” he said.
It was Gunther’s choice to coach a very young team, even knowing they would lose many games at the beginning. The silver medal at last year’s European Championships in Pajulahti, Finland, came as a complete surprise for him and the team. But Gunther prefers to remain cautious.
“We cannot say we are the best and that we will win any medals in Malmo, because it does not go along with the German modesty. We prefer to surprise and leave everyone astonished,” he added.