Originally, fistballer Daniel Schwarz wanted to work as a volunteer at the World Championships and had signed up as a supervisor for the Czech team during the title bouts in Mannheim. A few e-mails and a test training course later, the 31-year-old is suddenly a national player himself and will be playing at the World Championships from July 22 to 29.
It seems a little strange. An athlete writes an e-mail to the national coach of his country and offers himself as a national player. Daniel Schwarz smiles as he reviews the story, but in summary it happened exactly the same way. Last spring, he contacted Jan Mazal, told him about his athletic resume and politely asked if the coach could possibly use any more players. He added that although he plays fistball in Germany with TV Käfertal, he is also a Czech citizen. Because not many people know that. How could they? Fistball players are not as well known and not as well networked as in soccer, for example. There are no huge player databases. “It’s not like I can draw much attention to myself in the German league. And anyone who reads my name doesn’t necessarily realize that I’m Czech,” says Schwarz, who has dual citizenship.
In this respect, processes of this kind are not unusual in a “small sport. Just imagine if that had happened in soccer and Schwarz had asked Hansi Flick about a squad spot. “Something like that would be impossible, guaranteed,” replies the 31-year-old with a smile, who calls this late call-up to the national team “one of the biggest highlights in my resume.” “I’m insanely excited and full of anticipation.”
This means that the original plan to be a volunteer at the World Championships in Mannheim will come to nothing. Schwarz’s home club TV Käfertal, which is involved in organizing the title bouts, had launched a call for volunteers early on. “When I heard about it, I spontaneously thought: cool, I want to be there as a supervisor for the Czechs,” Schwarz recalls. “However, one of my teammates asked me, ‘Why don’t you rather play for the Czech Republic?’ That’s right, I thought, and then I tried to get in touch with him.
The coach’s reaction? “Totally positive.” An invitation to a tournament on the German-Czech border followed last September. “The coach was happy that I signed up. The tournament went great for me, and I was called up to the national team afterwards.” There are no communication problems. “I speak the language – although not perfectly,” counters the 31-year-old, who was born in Germany and moved with his parents from Freinsheim to Tiefenthal when he was two. At the age of seven, he had his first touches with fistball. “There was nothing else either. In Tiefenthal, it felt like there was only one sport,” Schwarz jokes. “When you have few options as a kid, you just play what almost everyone plays. You want to spend time with your friends, after all.”
Schwarz was German youth champion twice – most recently with the U18s, and also won the German gymnastics festival in Frankfurt. At 25, he left for Mannheim. Schwarz’s girlfriend started studying in Mannheim, and he himself looked for a new job as a technician. “I had a lucky hand with our apartment, which is only about a kilometer away from the TVK as the crow flies.” So a move to Käfertal was an obvious choice. Schwarz still knew some of the players from his youth; among others, his former teammate Fabian Braun from Tiefenthal also plays for the club.
In the meantime, TV Käfertal has registered four men’s teams. Daniel Schwarz plays with the 2nd team in the Baden Verbandsliga, where he currently occupies third place. More is not possible in view of his busy schedule and his job. To adapt to the higher level of training, Schwarz therefore also goes to the gym and trains twice a week with the first team. There, he strictly meets a competitor at the World Cup in German international Nick Trinemeier. “There is no competition, however,” assures the man from Mannheim. “Quite the opposite. I am very grateful for this training opportunity. It’s more like we help each other.”
As a trained defender, however, Schwarz is taking on a new position in the Czech team, playing right forward in the attack. “I’m glad to have two top attackers in the team, Nick and Marcel Stoklasa, from whom I can learn a lot. Nick gives me the freedom in training to practice shots with the team. He is the first to help and give tips. That is not a matter of course. But there we are first and foremost club colleagues.”
The Czech national team has qualified for the men’s World Cup for the fourth year in a row. After two participations in 1995 (Namibia) and 1999 (Switzerland), a new team formed in the mid-2000s under then coach and federation president Jan Mazal from Zdechovice and established itself in Europe. At the World Cup return in 2011 (Austria) and 2015 (Argentina), the Czech selection finished in eleventh place on both occasions, and then at the last World Cup in 2019, the Czech Republic achieved a respectable ninth place in Switzerland.
Schwarz is hoping for a similar result in his World Cup debut. First, he wants to finish the group stage with Japan, Australia and New Zealand as the winner, “if it goes really well, I hope for a place among the top eight.” Preparation began at the start of the year with two tournaments in Berlin. At the beginning of July, a training camp is to be held directly in Mannheim, possibly together with the Polish national team, which, however, has not qualified.
In the opening game on July 22, the Czech Republic will face Japan at 10 am. Daniel Schwarz can hardly wait for it to finally start. “For me, it feels like a home World Cup,” says the 31-year-old, who has taken time off for the tournament week. “I live in Mannheim, play fistball here and get great support from my club. There will be a lot of friends and my family there.” Regardless of how it turns out for the Czech Republic in the end, “It will be an unforgettable experience.”