A. Wolff: Oh no, he can't be faster than me!
07.08.2020, 09:22
Interview

On stranger tides: Andreas Wolff
"Oh no, he can't be faster than me!"

  • Magda Pluszewska
  • Text

  • Patryk Ptak
  • Photo

Patryk_Ptak

  • Tomasz Fąfara
  • Photo

Tomasz Fąfara

  • Grzegorz Trzpil
  • Photo

Grzegorz Trzpil

“That’s actually a great idea!” I admit honestly when he shares his suggestion on how to create more interest among the Champions League in the future. “Thank you,” he answers humble and asks immediately “Is this recorded?!”. Ah yeah, compliments are always very welcome by Andreas Wolff. You know this theory of boxes in man’s head with a huge “nothing box” in the middle? I’m pretty sure that instead of this Andi has got a big box with all compliments he has ever received from people and he keeps it in special cuddly area of his mind. And yes, I’m also sure he opens the box quite often.

Ahead of the beginning of the season 2020/21, the captain of Polish Champions shares a little bit of his thoughts. In first part of the long pre-season interview Andreas Wolff talks about preparations with refreshed team, difficult time of pandemics and changes in formulas of both domestic PGNiG Superliga and European Champions League contests.

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After long time of social distancing suddenly you are back to business with 25 people around. Wasn’t it a shock for you to exchange silent empty house for such a crowded place?

I can promise you that my house was never silent! – Andi answers with a tone of an old mate instructing a younger buddy in a way “Dude, what do you know about life?” – I was at TeamSpeak with my friends all the time as I started streaming, so I had some social contact. Of course, not the one we are used to like meeting each other everyday and doing sports, but at least we had some e-sport (more about it in second part of the interview coming soon - ed.). But I am really happy that the season is about to start again and we are back to handball business! I missed these everyday visits in the hall. Handball is my job, but first of all it’s my passion, my most loved hobby. And we all couldn’t have done it for months, so I am so excited we started again. Maybe apart from the running part – he grimaces and after a short break adds some Oscar Wilde’s like maxim – But you know, there is no light without shadow.

Yeah, talking with Andi is always like drifting on stranger tides. Once he profoundly answers your question, moment later adds some racy joke and then comes with a philosophic thought that you would never suspect him to have. Fun for advanced users. And these who can still stick to their course when the wind change direction.

How did the team survive the quarantine time especially when there appeared the information about financial problems?

It’s difficult when you lose some money at work, but all the players still wanted to play for the club. Actually, what could we do? Stop playing? As I said, handball is not just our job, it’s much more. Of course the guys were worried a little bit about the future, you still need to secure your family and that’s important. But we really don’t play just for money. We work for ourselves, for our teammates, for the club. Money is an issue, but not the most important thing in the world. You know, it’s not only about the fact if I get all my money or not. For me it’s far more important how the situation is handled by the club. I really like the way Bert is fighting for the club. When the problems appeared he could have just quit. Instead of this, he is fighting. And as long as he is, I will as well. But finances are not my job. I get paid for playing handball and this is what I focus on.

Following this path the captain took care more about the team spirit and what can keep athletes together better than sport? Andi almost forgot it, but when the restrictions got loosen a bit and it was possible to train in smaller groups again he inspired players that were still in Kielce to meet in the arena.

Ah, right – he laughs – I was in the gym with Doruk once and we met Talant. I asked him if it’s possible to train a little bit and he agreed, so I asked guys “who wants to play?” and this is how we organised a group of 6-7 players that started to train a bit. It was really nice!

It didn’t last too long as then majority of players took some vacations. But vacations or not, the training has to be done and Andreas was exercising a lot.

How do you judge your form on the background to your teammates?

I’m pretty strong at the gym and that’s nice – he admits – I could be better at running I guess, but actually it was very difficult to maintain form during the brake. Usually these programs are made for up to two months as the regular summer break lasts. This time it was more, so it left me in a little bit worse condition than last year regarding running. But I think I’m better in physical strength though.

Our motor preparation coach Krzysztof Paluch gave to all of you special training programs few weeks ahead of preparations, didn’t he?

Yes, he did, but actually when he sent it I already had my own program as I started much earlier. It was more or less the same in fact, my running was even harder.

Did you have any period without training at all?

When there was a time when it was forbidden to go out without a mask, even into forests, I did only the gym training. But no, I didn’t have days off, a week or two without training is not an option for me!

"Money is an issue, but not the most important thing in the world. You know, it’s not only about the fact if I get all my money or not. For me it’s far more important how the situation is handled by the club. I really like the way Bert is fighting for the club. When the problems appeared he could have just quit. Instead of this, he is fighting. And as long as he is, I will as well."

What is it that you don’t like in the preparations the most?

I hate long distance running, like he is doing right now – we are sitting outside of the Hotel Binkowski where the team has got their grouping and some amateur runner is just passing by slowly behind the fence – I run at the same speed to be honest – he laughs – It is completely boring for me! I prefer 200 meters sprints, they are good for preparation. But now we run in the arena and it’s tough for me because instead of running 200 meters straight we turn around 10.000 times! It’s a different type of exhaustion!

Usually players don’t like preparations. How about you?

I love it, to be honest! – he admits enthusiastically while sharing his last week experiences – You know, after first days it was pretty exhausting at the gym and I though “Ufff.. I’m almost dying!”. But then I thought like “Wow, this is exactly the place where I want to be. There is nothing that I would rather do than training at the moment”. I love to exceed my limits, be with the guys, share the pain with them and play handball. For me it’s the greatest time of the year! In the end of the day you are exhausted but you feel you did your job well…

… and still don’t have a pressure as there are no matches yet.

Yes. There is a goal of course, but it’s so far away and you can just enjoy being professional and have fun!

But the preparations would have been pointless if they didn’t lead to something. The season in Polish league will start at first weekend of September. Two weeks later there will come a time for the Champions League. Big emotions and even bigger changes as in the PGNiG Superliga there will be no play-offs and the matches will take place at weekends. In the Champions League we are coming back to the formula of 16 teams divided into 2 groups and the news is that games will be played on Wednesday and Thursday. Seems like the EHF wants to compete with the UEFA, as football Champions League plays on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I don’t think that will be a problem – says Andi confidently – Football is so slow, you can watch it without following the whole game. Nowadays every household has got one TV and at least one laptop, smartphone, tablet or whatever, so people can watch two matches at the same time. And I think handball fans will watch handball anyway.

The captain of Polish Champions is even happy about some fresh air that is filling in the structures of Polish and European handball.

For me there is no difference if we play on Wednesday against Zabrze and Saturday against Szeged or if we play Flensburg on Wednesday and Puławy on Saturday. I think our spectators will be in the arena anyway and we will receive this great support we did last season. I’m not worried about the changes at all and honestly I welcome them because they give us a little bit more structure. I didn’t like it when I’m at home and I’m checking “Okay, is there any Champions League match today?”. You know I had to ask myself if there are matches even though I play in this competition – he laughs – It should be like “Okay, today is Wednesday, so there will be handball match”.

On the other hand the Champions League got kind of closed again. Two groups, sixteen teams and almost the same matches as previously. Isn’t it boring a bit?

Honestly, I feel the same. Champions League should be more special. In football it’s great as once you play against Juve, once against Barca, then Real, they face different teams all the time, travel around the world. When we play against same teams every year, at least twice, it gets a little bit less attractive. I would like to have more groups and more teams to mix them up a bit. Maybe we could do a system like in the European Championship that you have two group phases. First one with six teams, where for example three get promoted to the next round where they meet best teams from other group etc.

That’s actually a great idea!

Thank you – he answers humble and ask immediately laughing – Is this recorded?

Ah yeah, compliments are always very welcome by Andreas Wolff. You know this theory of boxes in men’s head with a huge “nothing box” in the middle? I’m pretty sure instead of this Andi has got a big box with all compliments he has ever received from people and he keeps it in special cuddly area of his mind. And yes, I’m also sure he opens the box quite often. I just ignore it with a smile and continue with questions.

What about changes in Polish league? For example there will be no play-offs this time.

I have never played play-offs, so I can’t judge it really (laugh)! In Bundesliga play-offs wouldn’t be a good solution, that would be too exhausting! I think the system with a match and re-match is the most fair, because every match counts. There are not only two days that decide about the league.

"I would like to have more groups and more teams in the Champions League to mix them up a bit. Maybe we could do a system like in the European Championship that you have two group phases. First one with six teams, where for example three get promoted to the next round where they meet best teams from other group etc."

Another change is the rule about having at least two Polish players on the field during the whole game.

First of all I think it’s a little bit weird, that they change the rules every year – Andi easily scores the middle of the target – Before there was a rule with the limit of 3 players out of the European Union. But okay, I think it’s a good idea for Polish national team. Some Polish talents, as we have in the team now like Czarek, Olej or Kaczka, will have a chance to play on early stages of their careers. It will let them progress very early. Thanks to the rule we have more players, we can rotate more and avoid injuries.

I had a huge pleasure observing the team last season at training sessions. It seemed to me that the atmosphere was great and you built a really nice squad. But now, after watching you during first few trainings I think that the atmosphere is even better!

It was a great atmosphere last year indeed, but it was different than this season. We had players like Julen, Kaczka – the old Kaczka (laugh), Siwy and they knew it was gonna be their last year in the club or even handball careers. This is something that always impacts your thinking. Young guys give 100% because they want to prove themselves worthy for the Champions League club. The old players know their job, they know what they need to do. It’s really refreshing for an older player to see some new talents coming to the team. You see the guy who is ten years younger running next to you and you think “Oh, no, I don’t want him to be faster than me!”. So I speed up! 

Andi straightens himself a little bit on the chair.

Okay, they are all faster – he says with resignation but quickly looks for some bright sides – I am stronger though so it’s still fine – he admits now sitting proudly like the guy on the horse from the Old Spice commercial and trying to control his face muscles in order not to laugh. I like it that we focus on the future, maybe we will play in this squad for next four years. You know, the guys we had are great, they are great players, great persons, but it’s just a different mindset when you know you will not play with someone next season.

What are the team’s goals for the season?

Exactly like previous year we want to win every game and every competition. We have all the quality required to win both Polish league and Champions League. Talant is pretty ambitious this year, we want to follow his ideals. It will be tough, but for sure we are one of the top teams and what is important, our key players have already played together for a year now. We know each other a little bit better and this will help us.

"It’s really refreshing for an older player to see some new talents coming to the team. You see the guy who is ten years younger running next to you and you think “Oh, no, I don’t want him to be faster than me!”. So I speed up!"

What is your biggest motivation in the Champions League?

I have never been in the Final4 tournament. We were on a good way last season and now I really want to have this experience!

Which match are you looking forward the most? And why Flensburg?

Andreas laughs cordially.

Yeah, of course Flensburg, because it’s out first match that will decide the way we will go. We can make a great game and feel the wind in our wings for the future, build our confidence up. If we lose however, we might lose a little bit of confidence. We would like to prove to our opponents that we are not a team who can be beaten easily so that everyone respects us, that should be our goal. In addition, for me as former Kiel player this will be special to meet Flensburg fans, I am pretty sure they haven’t forgotten me – there is a special blink in Andi’s eyes which says that the topic definitely needs to be explored.

Tell me more!

I always had a special relation with the Flensburg fans. It’s pretty interesting how they will welcome me. My welcoming in Kiel last season was pretty warm and that was pretty exciting, but I think the one in Flensburg will be totally different. I hope for it a little bit, because I really like that special energy coming from the stands.

If this interview had been taken in TV, the editor would just put here first verses of Chamillionaire song “Ridin’” as there is nothing that would complete this scene better.

They are provoking all the times. During my first visit in Flensburg they were yelling at me and my teammates during the warmup so from the very beginning I had a thought in my mind “Okay, these are really interesting fans” – he laughs – You know, Flensburg is one of the strongest team in Bundesliga and maybe in the world, but their fans, let’s say are unusual.

It’s a little bit like Kielce and Płock terms, isn’t it?

Yes, exactly. The fans insult the players and this is the inferior side that insults superior one more. I think Kielce fans don’t go that far as Płock. I heard it when I was in Płock that Lijo and Kaczka had even their own chants. The fans were screaming “Come to me!” and I think that was a little bit too far. It’s the same in Flensburg. Kiel fans also don’t like Flensburg, but they don’t insult the fans and the players. Flensburg fans however have no boundaries!

Where is the boundary then?

I think that if you insult someone as the player, club’s member, this is fine, it’s a part of the rivalry. But if you go personal, then you cross the boundary.

And what about Polish league? Excited to play against Płock this season?

They are the biggest rival here! We had really tough match in Płock last season and a completely different one in Kielce. To be honest, I don’t think they showed 100% last time. My personal impression was that they didn’t come to Kielce to win, just to play a good match and see what happens. And nothing good happened for them so they gave up after 15 minutes. Maybe they were more focused on play-offs. I hope this season it will be a tough battle till the end.

 

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In the second part of the interview Andreas Wolff will tell about his second biggest passion, which is PlayStation. The captain of Polish Champions recently rediscovered the rivalry in cyberspace stepping into the world of professional e-sport. Part two of the interview at www.kielcehandball.pl coming soon.