It will be two thrilling days on the Ernst-Reuter-Sportfeld at the Berliner HC. In the pretty hockey stadium on Wilskistraße in Zehlendorf, it gets really crowded in the grandstands on the rather cozy and cozy facility in everyday life, the German Hockey Association (DHB) is hoping for up to 3000 spectators, after all the sporting program has it all is indisputably the hockey highlight of the year in Berlin. As part of the Pro League, the German women and men will meet Argentina twice.
The national players will start on Saturday at 1.30 p.m. The German women are certainly in an underdog role, leaders Argentina have won all ten games in the current Pro-League season. A record that striker Charlotte Stapenhorst, however, does not frighten, she says at least. The 26-year-old from Berlin, who is currently playing for BHC competitor Zehlendorfer Wespen, says: “The Argentinians play very physically, they can also gamble well and they have their skills, they play very spirited. But we can improve in such a situation.”
National coach Valentin Altenburg wants to use all of his players, which means that a completely different team will be on the field in the second game on Sunday (11.30 a.m.). Germany are fifth in the global league and have 16 points, 14 fewer than Argentina. “What the Argentines have done so far and above all the way they played with their quality – that demands respect,” says Altenburg.
In the last nine years, the Germans have won just six games in 22 games against Argentina, who won Olympic silver in Tokyo last year and along the way beat the German team 3-0 in the quarter-finals. But maybe the healthy Zehlendorfer air will give the German players staying power, which is also part of the home advantage.
The two games for the German men (Saturday at 4.30 p.m. and Sunday at 2.30 p.m.) are likely to be much closer and possibly more exciting. Argentina is currently second in the tableau, Germany is third. After twelve games each, only four points separate the two teams. Argentina are also just three points behind leaders India.
The games against the South Americans “have to be placed in a very high category,” says men’s national coach André Henning. “The Argentinians just became U-21 world champions against our boys, that’s a big challenge for us.” In the quarter-finals in Tokyo, the German men were able to close the drawer in the 3-1 win against Argentina in the quarter-finals, in the end it was enough for the Germans, however, only fourth place.
Because of the trips across five continents (at least for men, four for women), the Pro League, which was introduced in 2019, was seen as a rather critical matter, especially at the beginning, not least because there are now nine teams each for women and men but a number of environmentally unfriendly travel kilometers accumulate, not to mention the costs – even if the league also serves to qualify for the Olympic Games and World Championships. The national player Martin Zwicker, who is very experienced at the age of 35, thinks “the Pro League is really cool. It’s about something.”
For Zwicker, who plays at Berliner HC, it’s two home games, albeit slightly different home games, because the stadium will be fuller at the weekend than it is in everyday Bundesliga life. The man with 269 international matches in his CV says: “It’s been a little while since I played with the national team in Berlin. So this is something incredibly special for me.”