Heiner Brand turns 70: the cult trainer with the walrus mustache

Heiner Brand turns 70
The cult trainer with the walrus mustache

Heiner Brand was the first handball player to become world champion as a player and coach. With his successes in the club and with the DHB selection, he achieved legendary status. But there were also downsides in the life of Brand, who will be 70 this Tuesday.

Handball legend Heiner Brand quickly gave up the idea of ​​a big party for his 70th birthday – but not because of the corona pandemic. “I celebrated my 50th with around 250 guests. Afterwards you ask yourself: Who did you actually talk to? In such a large context, unfortunately, it’s a bit superficial,” said Brand in an interview with the German Press Agency. And so the jubilee celebrates this Tuesday “only in the immediate family circle with my wife, my children and the grandchildren. That’s where you get the most of it,” said Brand.

On the occasion of his day of honor, he looks back on his life so far “with great satisfaction”. “My marriage has existed for 47 years, and everything is going well with the children. And in terms of sport, I’ve achieved more than I ever dared to dream of. I’ve turned my hobby into a job. It’s wonderful that it has developed like this,” summed up Brand, the cult trainer with the legendary walrus mustache.

“All victories were nice. But…”

With his heart club VfL Gummersbach, for which he played for 27 years, he became German champion six times, winner of the DHB Cup four times and winner of the European Cup five times. But that is outshined by the World Cup triumphs with the DHB selection. “All the victories were nice. But the two World Cup titles are certainly the ones that are most memorable. 1978 as a player – that was a big surprise. And to win the World Cup in your own country in an unbelievable atmosphere in 2007 was extraordinary,” said Brand. Other highlights as national coach were the European Championship title in 2004, Olympic silver in the same year and second place at the 2003 World Cup and 2002 European Championship.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier praised Brand as a role model in sport and in society. “Few people have shaped German handball as much as you have. With your leadership style and your game philosophy, you have made the German national handball team an outstanding ambassador for our country all over the world,” wrote Steinmeier in a message to the jubilee. “I am particularly pleased that you are passing on much of your happiness and success to people who are not doing so well.”

“Milestones for German handball”

For DHB President Andreas Michelmann, Brand is “one of the greatest personalities we’ve ever had – not just in handball, but in all of German sport”. The World Cup triumphs in which Brand was involved were “milestones for German handball”. “Heiner Brand has been a role model for our handball players for generations,” said the head of the German Handball Federation.

No wonder Brand is still in demand. The former line runner has been working as an expert for the pay-TV broadcaster Sky for years, and he also gives lectures at companies on team building, leadership and motivation. There are also appearances as ambassadors for non-profit organizations such as the German Children’s Hospice Association. In his free time he reads a lot – especially crime novels – and is active in sports, “whether I ride my bike, play golf or go to fitness training. So it’s never boring.”

He helps his friend Joachim Deckarm

And then there is his former team-mate and long-time friend Joachim Deckarm, who he cares for intensely. “I visit him at least once a week. The hour we then spend together is good for him. We play the dice, talk, have fun,” reported Brand. Deckarm’s accident on March 30, 1979 in the European Cup game of VfL Gummersbach at the Hungarian club Tatabanya, after which the then 25-year-old was in a coma for 131 days and from then on was in a wheelchair, Brand describes as the worst experience he has ever had. “It made me look at life from a different perspective from a young age. That sport isn’t everything. How unimportant sporting success is because other things are much more important. That life changes from one second to the can change others,” he reported.

There were also downsides in sport. “The boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games hurt the most because we would have gone there with high hopes of winning a medal,” said Brand in retrospect. But the happy feelings about the anniversary prevail. “I feel good, also mentally. Of course I have a few ailments, but they were there a week after my farewell game. It’s not something that bothers me,” he said. Nevertheless, Brand wants to take things a little easier in the future: “Overall, I have more distance to handball and no longer have to have a say in everything. At the age of 70, you don’t always have to be in the front row.”

source site-33