From Hamburg to Rwanda – Playing handball for a good cause
In August, FC. St. Pauli first men’s handball team set out on a very special journey: the team travelled to the African state of Rwanda for two weeks to organize local workshops involving training sessions, teaching, friendly games and various visits. We interviewed the team captain, Arne Dohren, to find out how this project came about.
Hello Arne! Tell us a little about the background and the reasons for the team flying to Rwanda.
A few years ago, I took part in the handball project, PLAY HANDBALL ZA, in South Africa together with my team colleague and friend, Benjamin Legér, which involved various workshops and training sessions.
We sensed that our sport can be far more than just a hobby and intensive sport involving two teams. Handball can inspire people and can bring people together. We returned home with the idea of taking part in such a project with the whole team. And after four years, that’s what we’ve decided to do.
We want to combine fun with ‘doing something good’, and to set an example. Handball is handball – whether in Kigali or in St. Pauli – isn’t it? And so we had the simple and quite straightforward idea of flying from St. Pauli to the heart of the African continent, Rwanda, 6,466 km away.
The motto is “We’ll never play alone“. What is the objective of the trip, and what exactly have you planned for when you get there?
The aim is exchange – both cultural and human exchange. And also to set a small but specific example against borders and boundaries – for openness, tolerance and understanding among nations. We make no claim to be promoting handball in Rwanda. We have heard some suggest we are providing “development aid“. That is definitely not the case! That is something we cannot do, and is not our intention.
If we can support enthusiasm at our partner club, Gorillas Handball Club, and can improve conditions a little by means of a few new handballs, jerseys and sport shoes, then we’ll be happy. We want to find out how handball is played in Rwanda and to get into contact with the locals. Ideally, this initial trip will be the start of a long cooperation. Of course, we don’t know exactly what to expect – but we are very much looking forward to it.
And the project week has been very well planned. During our stay in Kigali we will be playing at least two friendly games. We’ll also be finding out whether the training sessions of Gorillas Handball Club are similar to St. Pauli’s approach, we’ll be visiting some schools, supporting training for the youth team, exchanging ideas about the latest goalkeeping techniques, organizing a workshop with young Rwandan handball trainers, and much more.
That sounds like a lot of organization. How did preparations go?
That doesn’t just sound like a lot of organization, it really is. We planned and organized everything ourselves. From the flights, accommodation and local events through to donations and our own jerseys and crowdfunding activities. And, of course, partners like MEYLE are an enormous help. For example, a MEYLE client is ensuring our mobility in Rwanda by providing vehicles and handling local coordination. We wouldn’t be able to complete this project without such support. But sometimes I ask myself, what my job really is – teacher or project manager at FCSP Handball. Everything has been very well planned, and we’re really looking forward to the trip.