Wiencek: The humble leader of the Zebra packArticle
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FEATURE: THW Kiel line player Patrick Wiencek is currently in the form of his life – and hopes for a wall of fans in white for the home quarter-final against Vardar on Sunday
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Wiencek: The humble leader of the Zebra pack

No matter if it is on a club level with THW Kiel or in the Germany national team, Patrick Wiencek is performing at his peak at both ends of the court. Against Szeged in the Last 16 matches, he was Kiel’s top scorer with a total of 13 strikes; in the test matches, Germany versus Serbia, he was the cornerstone of the German middle block, the defence boss.

Are we currently seeing the best-ever Wiencek? The 29-year-old smiles, first ignores the question and then says simply: “Others have to decide and rate, not me.”

Despite an imposing physical presence, Wiencek is not one for long speeches or big statements – he just wants to play handball. But in the end, he agrees: “Yes, it really looks good at the moment. Due to the injury of Rene Toft Hansen, I play more than usual, and I guess I could contribute quite well for Kiel in the last weeks.”

Wiencek rarely speaks about the ‘me’ or ‘I’ – it is always the ‘we’. It is the same when he talks about the restart of the national team after Germany’s unsatisfying ninth position at the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia:

“We can build upon those test match victories against Serbia. We have a great atmosphere in the team. We are all focused for the upcoming World Championship on the home court. We do not have any problems in the relationship with our coach Christian Prokop.”

National team was then, VELUX EHF Champions League is now

In the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals, Kiel face defending champions HC Vardar – first on home ground in Germany on Sunday, then on the following weekend in Jane Sandanski Arena in Skopje.

It is Wiencek’s dream and vision to reach his fifth individual participation at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 – which he missed last season for the first time since joining the ‘Zebras’ in 2012, right after Kiel’s most recent Champions League trophy. In total, Kiel have been part of the FINAL4 six times, winning the premiere event in 2010 and claiming the trophy again two years later.

After the group phase and Last 16, Wiencek is the second top scorer for THW in the Champions League, with 61 goals – one behind Serbian right back Marko Vujin. This means Wiencek has already broken his overall record of 36 Champions League goals, set in the previous season, clearly. He hopes to have the opportunity for two ‘bonus matches’ in Cologne, but is aware of what lies ahead:

“Vardar are one of the highest hurdles to cross in international handball. They have the best defence in the world, with the biggest variety of defensive tactics, and they have huge options in attack. If you are defending Champions League winners and just defended your title in the SEHA League in such a dominant way, you are the favourite, for sure.”

But those statements from Wiencek do not mean that he and his teammates are already waving a white flag. In contrast, they are looking forward to the first part of the duel on Sunday on home ground.

“Everybody could see what we are capable of, supported by our home crowd, in our Last 16 match against Szeged. On Sunday, we hope for the ‘white wall’ in the stands. Together, we will fight hard to make our dream of Cologne come true,” says Wiencek.

Wiencek smiled when he read the statements of former THW, now Vardar player, Joan Canellas: that it is always better to play in Kiel as the home team. “I completely understand Joan as to why he and his team have full respect for the away match in Kiel,” says Wiencek.

“Any match in Sparkassen Arena is a spectacle, and it is really hard for any away team to beat us here. But on the other hand, we know what atmosphere we can expect in Vardar’s cauldron, Jane Sandanski Arena.”

Photo: © EHF/Sascha Klahn

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg