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08.04.2019, 09:44
Schmid: “I really want to play a big tournament again”
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INTERVIEW: The team captain of Switzerland talks about the chances of earning his first EHF EURO ticket and the significance of handball in his home country
 

Schmid: “I really want to play a big tournament again”

Never in the history of the EHF EURO have Switzerland reached a final tournament via qualification. The only time the Swiss men were part of an EHF EURO was in 2006, when they took part as the host nation.

Now, progression to EHF EURO 2020, the first edition with 24 participants, is a genuine possibility for captain Andy Schmid and his teammates.

After their sensational 29:24 victory against Serbia in November, now they have a huge chance to confirm their spot with matches to spare.

Facing Belgium in a double-header on 10 and 14 April, if Switzerland win both duels and Serbia lose both derbies against Croatia, Switzerland would already be through, thanks to Serbia’s draw against Belgium.

This great chance and his patriotism are the reasons for Andy Schmid (35) to return to the national team.

With 170 international matches and 797 goals on his account, the playmaker of German side Rhein-Neckar Löwen is by far the most experienced player in the Swiss squad.

In this interview with ehf-euro.com, Schmid talks about the significance of handball in his home country, the reasons for the team’s rise in form and a historic victory in the most recent test match prior to the EHF EURO qualifiers against Belgium.

ehf-euro.com: Switzerland took a sensational 29:27 test match victory in Dusseldorf against Germany. Was that the boost you needed for your tasks against Belgium?

Andy Schmid: We played well, but we did not face the best German team. But still, it was historic as we had not won against Germany in the last 17 years. They wanted to win, we wanted to win - so it was a nice feeling. Now we have confidence for the qualifiers against Belgium.

ehf-euro.com: What significance does playing for the Swiss national team have for you?

Andy Schmid: I love playing for the national team, I am Swiss in my heart. But I am not a youngster anymore and therefore I have to balance things, because my main job is at Rhein-Neckar Löwen, my home is the Bundesliga. Does it make sense to be part of every test match? Do I have to play in qualification matches, if we cannot qualify anymore? If I can take a break for two or three weeks in winter, it helps a lot, both for the body and mind.

ehf-euro.com: But currently the decision to play is made a bit easier, after beating Serbia and eying a EHF EURO 2020 place?

Andy Schmid: We have our fate in our hands for the first time in many years. If we win both games against Belgium, we have an outstanding opportunity. Therefore, our focus is entirely on these two games, but we must not cramp. Above all, we experienced players need to take pressure from the young guns. I played EHF EURO 2006 on home court and I really want to play in a big tournament again.

ehf-euro.com: So you feel those pins and needles again?

Andy Schmid: There is a tingle every year when I see my Löwen teammates playing a big tournament such as a world or European Championship. It is bitter if you are just a spectator. Of course, I keep my fingers crossed for Germany, especially this winter when I saw this enthusiasm in the halls and the huge interest in the World Championship. But I am not getting any younger and I have not played a big tournament since 2006, so my motivation is huge.

ehf-euro.com: What is decisive for a further upswing in Swiss handball?

Andy Schmid: Very simple: It is just about the step abroad. The more players who find a club abroad, the stronger the national team gets. In Switzerland, you do not just have to focus on the sport, you have too much variety. Abroad, buddies and the cinema are not in focus, only handball. Personally, I really did not develop that much until I moved abroad.

ehf-euro.com: What is the position of handball in Switzerland compared to other sports?

Andy Schmid: Tennis, alpine skiing, ice hockey and winter sports in general are clearly ahead in the public interest, compared to handball. But I think in team sports we are in third position, for example, ahead of basketball and volleyball.

ehf-euro.com: Would a participation in the EHF EURO 2020 cause a boost in terms of popularity?

Andy Schmid: That would be a huge success for our sport, then we would be back on the big stage and broadcast live on Swiss television. We could inspire many people to play handball. There has been a certain development in recent years, now 4 or 5,000 fans come to our home matches. We play in big arenas, not in any kind of school sports halls anymore. This step was enormously important for handball in Switzerland. The crucial point was our 2018 European Championship qualifier against Germany, when 10,000 fans were in the arena in Zurich, this was a milestone for our association. And most recently against Norway and Serbia we were in halls with a capacity of 7,000, attended by more than 4,500 spectators.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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