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22.10.2017, 21:30
Thank you, Filip Jicha!
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FEATURE: Earlier this week, Filip Jicha announced his retirement from handball. In response, former team mates joined with eurohandball.com and ehfcl.com to say 'Thank you, Filip'
 

Thank you, Filip Jicha!

It was another emotional moment in the life of Filip Jicha. After winning so many trophies, titles and awards, the Czech player has said farewell to handball.

In this video, the 2010 IHF World Handball Player of the Year and double Champions League winner (2010, 2012) guides his fans through his career, which started in Prague and took the now 35 years old left back to Switzerland, Qatar, Germany and finally Spain.

 

After 17 years of physically intense professional handball, Jicha is quitting, saying his body cannot stand it any more.

eurohandball.com has talked to companions and teammates of Jicha not only about handball, but also about his personality and character. All agree Jicha was one of the greats, but also that he will remain a part of the handball family.

Extraordinary

“I met Filip for the first time, when he was 18. Right after his first ever training session at Dukla Prague everybody could see this guy is extraordinary. This guy is full of energy,” says Daniel Kubes.

Kubes was Jicha's teammate in Prague, then at Kiel and for nearly 13 years in the Czech national team.

“I think there is no Czech player in the world who has played more matches at Filip's side,” the 39-year-old defence specialist says. Today, Kubes is coach of the German second division club Emsdetten and the Czech national team.

“Filip took over my position in the team, so I should have been angry with him, but we became friends for a lifetime,” Kubes remembers. “Filip always knew exactly what he wanted, he always planned the next and the next-but-one steps in this life. When he had planned something in his mind, he stood for 100% of it. And he is a pure perfectionist.”

Thanks to Jicha, Kubes arrived at Kiel in 2010 and played for two more seasons with his friend. He describes it as “a sensational time, when Filip was on his absolute high”.

Unfortunately for Jicha, handball is not the biggest sport in Czech Republic, as Kubes says.

“The recognition at home was not as it should have been for the all-time best ever Czech handball player. Filip deserves much more than he has received.”

Kubes is sure that Jicha will continue in handball, adding: “Filip will be a coach - but as he is this perfectionist, he will not work in Czech handball, but at the top level.”

Slow beginnings

The start of Jicha’s career was not straightforward. From Prague, he made it to Saudi Arabia, to Qatar, to Switzerland, and back to Qatar. Then he settled at Swiss side St. Gallen, before his biggest dream came true: playing in the German Bundesliga.

The first club he joined was TBV Lemgo in 2005. Half of the team became world champions in 2007, famous as “TBV Germany”. Some months before, Jicha took his first international trophy, leading Lemgo to the winners’ podium of the EHF Cup in 2006.

“Filip was 23 and added fresh blood to our ‘old boys team’. Truly it was him, who steered us to the EHF Cup trophy,” says Christian Schwarzer, one of those 2007 world champions and the first ever German to win the EHF Champions League (in 2000 with FC Barcelona).

“Filip had a huge quality and improved step by step. Even in his early years, he took a lot of responsibility in our team. Off the court this powerful guy was calm and humble - the 100% opposite of the way he played,” Schwarzer praises his former teammate, with whom he shares the same hobby.

“Filip was a far better handball player than now he is a golf player. He has the time to improve his handicap. I am looking forward to facing him on the golf course,” he says.

“In 2007 I joined the biggest club of the world,” Jicha says in his farewell video about the start of an eight-year stint at THW Kiel, where he won a total of 21 trophies plus the World Handball Player award.

The will to win

One year prior to Jicha’s arrival at Kiel, Dominik Klein joined the Zebras.

“There is no one in the world of sports with more rituals before a match than Filip,” says Klein, who since 2016 plays for HBC Nantes.

“It started with how to stick tape to the shoes, the way the towel needed to be put on the bench in the locker room, how to wear a sweatband - and the golden and holy rule never, never ever to step over the middle line during the warm-up on the court. Filip was really crazy with all those rituals,” Klein reveals.

Klein and Jicha became best friends at Kiel.

“I never saw a player with such a will to fight and to win, who shouldered so much pain to reach his goals. I have to say 'chapeau' when looking back on his extraordinary career, on his constant hunger for success on how he imprinted the best club of the world, where he had a leading part for such a long time,” Klein praises Jicha.

The 2007 world champion and three times Champions League winner is sure “Filip will be connected to handball. He has learned from the best coaches in the world, so I expect Filip to have a great coaching career in the future.”

Two years ago, Jicha’s time at Kiel came to an end - he made the last transfer of his career, joining FC Barcelona.

“Filip Jicha is one of the greatest players of all time,” says Barcelona team captain Victor Tomas, “but unfortunately he was ruled out by injuries so often since he was here. Playing in the Bundesliga ruined his body.”

Already at Kiel, Jicha was hit by long-term injuries including knee surgeries and permanent problems with the pubic bone.

“But even when Filip was only in the dressing room or on the bench, you could feel this inspiration and motivation, his positive atmosphere. He always brought good vibes to the team,” Tomas says, adding: “I am sure that Filip will be connected to handball, he is handball, he lives handball. And I am sure that many people will contact him to offer him several jobs now.”

But first of all, the world of handball bows to Jicha: Ahoj Filip! Všechno dobre!


TEXT: Björn Pazen/jh
 
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