The Sand, the Felt, and the Road to Stardom

The Sand, the Felt, and the Road to Stardom

German beach handball and poker players’ ticket to glory

andrea_ronning_norThe glory of minor-league athletes is often overshadowed by the full media frenzied success of major players from football, basketball, and ice hockey. In a country like Germany, where its citizens religiously follow their sports heroes, two games are constantly trying to penetrate the general consciousness of a conventional society: beach handball and poker.

Beach handball is like the outgoing little brother of one of Germany’s most popular sports, handball. In the early 90s, Italian handball executives, Gianni Buttarelli and Franco Schiano, conceptualized and reinvented this new format of handball – similar to beach volleyball. Early beach handball tournaments were held in the beautiful sands of Ponza Island, Italy. Soon after, the European, South American, and African handball circuit caught the waves of excitement and began participating in various exhibition matches. After the turn of the century, beach handball was slowly gaining momentum internationally; men and women’s national teams from all over Europe began competing in the Continental Championship, before reaching the coveted World Championship. The German national handball team is considered as one of the competitive teams in Europe, as they have won the world championships thrice – in 1938, 1978, and 2007. And with continuous support and enough exposure – similar to the country’s prestigious handball league, German beach handball has a bright future of developing new talents that can compete with the world’s best.

Support and exposure are huge factors to any sport and/or player in order to achieve glory. And just like how German poker players went from being humble dreamers to top calibre card sharks, they wouldn’t be where they are today without a little boost from their sponsors. As a way of exposing him to the brighter stages of all the major poker tournaments around the world, provided a helping hand to talented stud, Marvin Rettenmaier. While proudly carrying the PartyPoker banner on his sleeve, Rettenmaier wrecked havoc on the tough felt tables of Europe, before eventually reaching the pinnacle of his poker success by winning the season 10 of the World Poker Tour World Championship. A German poker star was born, after the Leonberg native bested the likes of past WPT titlists, Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi and Nick Schulman. In a way, the victory sparked a significant interest amongst Germans fans to take up poker, as Rettenmaier left a small opening on the poker hall’s majestic door for would-be players to bravely enter and compete against the finest minds in the sport. Marvin Rettenmaier, along with Germany’s poker contingent, constantly proves to the world, especially to their compatriots, that they deserve a ticket towards the glory road.

With the potential of naturally gifted German athletes, and their country’s one-of-a-kind passion for sports, it won’t take long for beach handball and poker players to reach the pinnacle of stardom. And though their stars are still worlds apart from the likes of football and basketball players, the distinction of being sports heroes is well within arm’s reach

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Bjørn Kenneth Muggerud, CEO of Goldfish Media, chief editor for, handballreferee & handballcoach since 1990.

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