At 25, Johannes Golla is already the captain of the German national handball team. In an interview with ntv.de, the lineman talks about his leadership role, DHB team culture and tournament prospects in Poland and Sweden.
Happy New Year, Mr. Golla. Where did you experience the turn of the year? As a family or as a national team?
Johannes Golla: I was in my home country, near Wiesbaden, where we celebrated with my daughter’s grandparents. It’s hard to say goodbye, but on the other hand, you can’t wait to see your national team colleagues again. A very good unity has developed there.
It’s something special to be captain of the national team when you’re still a young player. How do you feel?
First and foremost as a huge honor. And like a huge responsibility. There are major challenges that I have to master, especially in the communication with the national coach and sports director Axel Kromer. But I live so here and now that I can categorize it all pretty well.
Has this role changed you personally?
Not changed, but advanced. There are situations that don’t happen to many people my age. You will face difficult situations. But if you master them, you will grow enormously.
How would you describe your relationship with national coach Alfred Gislason?
It is a relationship of trust that has developed over the years. At first I was a normal international, then he promoted me to captain, since then our communication has gone to another level. He tells me exactly what is important to him and what he expects from the team. On the other hand, I present to him my ideas on how we can go the furthest as a team. It’s a great collaboration, I always consider it an honor to be able to work with such a coach who has experienced and won everything in handball.
You are described by the national coach and your teammates as the ideal captain. Is this work tailor-made for you?
First of all, it makes me happy when I’m praised this way. It’s true that I like to get involved and take on responsibilities. It’s important for me to help the team as much as possible.
As the World Cup approached, Gislason complained that the Scandinavians and other nations put more heart and soul into their national teams than the Germans. Do you share this review?
Those who are there also play with a lot of passion for the national team. But not everyone is there. There are always individual reasons for this, which you have to assess individually. But basically you want the best to play. But everyone has to decide for themselves whether they want to be there or not.
As captain, can you play an active role in establishing something like a national team culture?
We certainly have to work to ensure that all players have fun coming to the national team and provide an environment in which everyone feels comfortable. This is also based on sporting success, because then the attraction of the national team is all the greater.
How is the atmosphere in the team?
Alright, we work hard and intensively on the things we want to master. We are fully focused on the World Cup because we want to achieve something there.
What can you promise German fans?
Leave everything we have on the pitch and bring more and more of what we have developed in training sessions and pre-season games as the tournament progresses. We don’t just want to inspire with emotion, but also with good handball. It is our goal to give viewers just that.
Are there any specific goals you want to achieve at the World Cup?
We don’t have that, we haven’t agreed on a placement. The most important thing is that we start the tournament well and that we ideally get out of the preliminary round without losing points in order to be able to take a good starting position for the second round. My personal goal is to reach the round of 16 again.
Your goalkeeper Andreas Wolff goes even further. He says after a seven-year hiatus, it’s time for a medal again. Are you coming with me?
Above all, I’m happy that the players go there to reach the maximum. I definitely agree with Andi that we should get something accountant again. But we must be careful not to overestimate ourselves and approach our tasks with the necessary respect. We are not on top of the world at the moment.
Germany has the largest national handball association in the world, the two preparatory international matches in Bremen and Hanover were sold out. Why doesn’t this handball nation act on equal footing with top teams like Denmark, France and Spain?
The Danes have an absolutely exceptional generation at the moment, and the French have been doing it for even longer. There are so many players constantly playing at the highest international level at their clubs. Our goal must be to get back to it. I can’t give a definite answer as to why German handball hasn’t been so strong in recent years.
As a team, what do you need to work on the most?
We have to get together, we have to work on the processes in defense and attack, work on our strengths and improve the agreements. Individually we are good, but everything has to fit together.
Corona was a huge topic at the European Championship last year. It will not be so chaotic this time, but the international federation IHF has presented very strict rules, which has been criticized. How do you see it?
It is a difficult subject. We had actually hoped that it would be a tournament like before the Corona period, that we wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. But now the regulations have been established as they are and we have to live with that. For us, this means in advance that we have to withdraw again and pay more attention to hygiene than we would like. We would have liked to be closer to the fans at the international matches in Bremen and Hannover, but unfortunately we had to compromise. It’s a shame, but we have to do things as we are told.
The World Cup in Qatar showed that public interest in football has diminished. Are you worried that handball players will meet the same fate if they don’t enjoy great success again soon?
… in Poland and Sweden starts this Wednesday with the opening match between Poland and record world champion France (9 p.m. / Eurosport). In Group E of the preliminary round, the German team meets Qatar (13.1., 6 p.m. / ARD), Serbia (15.1., 6 p.m. / ZDF) and Algeria (17.1., 6 p.m. / ARD).
Our goal is to inspire people – and successes are part of that. We want to show good handball that people say, it’s the team that represents us, we like to watch them. If we can do that, we will automatically draw attention to handball.
In Qatar, there have always been political messages: the Iranian players who didn’t sing their national anthem or the discussion about the One Love armband. As captain, do you think how strongly athletes should position themselves on such issues?
As a person, I think about it and I have an opinion about it. However, I hope we can focus on sport in our World Cup. Because we go there to play handball.
Felix Meininghaus spoke with Johannes Golla.
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