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EHF European League

Team spirit is Pfadi’s strength

EHF / Björn Pazen

Pfadi Winterthur ended their 17-year-long drought last season, finally winning the Swiss league again for the first time since 2004 and the 10th time in total. The triumph ended the streak of domestic rivals Kadetten Schaffhausen.

With a new coach on the bench, Pfadi now hope to spring a few surprises in the EHF European League Men 2021/22 group phase.

Main facts

  • Pfadi were the leading club in Switzerland in the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s, winning the league nine times between 1992 and 2004
  • in Europe, they reached the quarter-finals of the EHF Champions League twice (in 1997 and 1998) and played the Challenge Cup final in 2011
  • Pfadi had their European campaign ended by Danish opponents in each of the past three seasons: by Aalborg (2018), Bjerringbro (2019) and GOG (2020), respectively
  • Having led Pfadi for 14 seasons, coach Adrian Brüngger stepped down after last season; he has been replaced by his assistant, Goran Cvetkovic

Most important question: Do Pfadi have enough international experience to stand the heat?

Signing two Swedish line players – Markus Sjöbrink from Lugi HF and Otto Lagerquist from Malmö – and Georgian talent Giorgi Tskhovrebadze from Montpellier increases the variety in the squad, but losing the experienced Marvin Lier (to Kadetten) and Michal Svajlen (now assistant coach) might have weakened Pfadi. Other clubs have bigger names in their squads, but Winterthur rely on a tremendous team spirit.

Under the spotlight: Goran Cvetkovic & Michal Svajlen

The new coaching duo has to fill the shoes of Adrian Brüngger, who had been in charge of the team for 14 years. But Goran Cvetkovic and Michal Svajlen have a huge advantage as they know Pfadi inside out. Cvetkovic was player at Winterthur for almost 10 years and had coached the youth team since 2015 when the Serb became assistant of Brüngger for the successful 2020/21 season. Svajlen is a former Swiss international, who has played for Pfadi for 10 years and joins Cvetkovic on the bench as his assistant.

How they rate themselves

Pfadi manager Markus Jud and team captain Kevin Jud – father and son – remain humble when talking about the goals for the club’s first European League season. “It is our goal to win as many points as possible and to represent Swiss handball. Playing the group phase of the European League is a great opportunity. For the development of our club and of our players it’s a great and big challenge – we are looking forward to competing with our opponents,” the manager said.

“It is our ultimate goal to defend the national title in Switzerland, but we are really looking forward to the games in the EHF European League against international top teams as well. These are a great motivation for us,” the player added. “There are so many teams which are able to win the competition, such as Magdeburg, Nantes, Rhein-Neckar Löwen or GOG Gudme, so it would be inappropriate to name only one winner.”

Did you know?

It was a famous Serbian line player coming out of retirement who helped Pfadi finally win their first Swiss title in 17 years. The 40-year-old Rastko Stojkovic, EHF EURO 2012 silver medallist and long-term EHF Champions League player for HC Meshkov Brest, was asked by then assistant coach Cvetkovic in January 2021 to help out for the rest of the season. And Stojkovic did more than just helping out: With him, Pfadi won 18 of their 19 matches and Stojkovic scored the winning goal in the third match of the best-of-five final series against Kadetten Schaffhausen, giving Pfadi an insurmountable 3:0 lead in the series. Stojkovcic netted 22 times in total in those three finals matches.

What the numbers say

Sixth time lucky! Adrian Brüngger had earlier steered Pfadi to five Swiss league finals but lost all of them – four times against Kadetten. But at their sixth attempt, Pfadi finally crowned themselves champions again with a clear 3:0 win over Kadetten. A happy end for Brüngger, who ended his stint at Pfadi after 14 years in charge.

Arrivals and departures

Arrivals: Markus Sjöbrink (Lugi HF/SWE), Otto Lagerquist (HK Malmö/SWE), Giorgi Tskhovrebadze (Montpellier HB/FRA), Moustafa Hadj Sadok (Qatar Al-Wakrah SC/QAT), Lukas Osterwalder (TSV Fortitudo Gossau/SUI), Noam Leopold (Handball Stäfa/SUI)

Departures: Michal Svajlen (retired, now assistant coach), Rastko Stojkovic (retired), Marvin Lier (Kadetten Schaffhausen/SUI), Patrice Bührer (Kadetten Schaffhausen/SUI), Adir Cohen (Tremblay Handball/FRA)

Past achievements:

EHF Champions League:
Quarter-finals (2): 1996/97, 1997/98

Other:
EHF Cup: Quarter-final: 2002/03; Group Phase 2014/15, 2015/16
Challenge Cup: Final (1): 2000/01; Semi-finals 2007/08
City Cup: Semi-final (1): 1999/2000
Cup Winners’ Cup: Quarter-finals (1): 1993/94

Swiss league: 10 titles (1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2021)
Swiss cup: 5 (1998, 2003, 2010, 2015, 2018)

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