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German goalball coach modest, hopes young team will reach for the stars

Date: April 21, 2018


By Andreja Kumer

German head coach Johannes Günther is cautiously optimistic about his young team’s chances for the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships in Malmö, Sweden.

Günther, who took on the role in 2010, believes psychology will play an important role when his team line-up from 3 June:

“Sometimes the mind plays a more important part than the physical preparation. It is difficult to play before your home crowd [Germany are expecting fans to travel to support their team].There is also a big difference between a preparation tournament in Malmö and the World Championships in the same place – in psychology. If you have young players like my team, I know that they are more nervous at the quarter final at the World Championships than at the finals at a preparation tournament. If you know that every mistake in the defence can score a goal and make a difference for your team, it is huge.”

Günther was a coach for youth and men’s team in Marburg until early 2010. He had studied and worked as a physical education teacher for young people with visual impairments. He found goalball during his studies but it was only when the former coach left that he took over the national side. They had just dropped to group B the year before at the European Championships.

He knew that there was a long journey ahead of them and took on the challenge.
One of the first players to start with Günther was Michael Feistle, the jersey No.1 from Marburg.

Günther still claims that he is the best scorer and defence player in the centre. However without the support of the rest of the team, the coach 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 Günther’s choice to coach a very young team. Even in 2016 when Oliver Hörauf and Thomas Steiger joined the team they knew they would lose a lot of games to start with.

So the results of the 2017 IBSA Goalball European Championship in Pajulahti, Finland, where they won a silver medal, came as a complete surprise to him and the team.

Speaking of their group B opponents, Günther believes it is a tough draw. They have not played Iran since 2010 so it is difficult to predict what the outcome will be.

But Germany have managed to play at international tournaments in Malmö and in Vilnius, Lithuania, so far this year to keep the team playing together at a higher level. They will also train for one weekend a month in the build-up Malmö 2018, fitting it in around their jobs and other commitments.

“We cannot say we are the best and that we will win any medals in Malmö, because it does not go along with the German modesty. We prefer to surprise and leave everyone astonished,” Günther concluded.

As for his personal life Günther says that there are more important things than spending most of his free time for goalball, such as his family. After next year he will have to seriously think about his future as head coach. Even though there are many moments and people he cherishes from all over the world, it is perhaps time for a new chapter.

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