Be Prepared for Goosebump Moments!
Jörn Verleger, President of the International Fistball Federation, is looking forward to this year’s World Championships, to be held from 22 to 29 July in Mannheim, Germany. In the IWGA interview, Jörn Verleger explains why he expects that the event will be a door-opener for his sport and a milestone on the Road to Chendgu (PRC), host of The World Games 2025.
The first question: It's been a year since The World Games in Birmingham. Do you still think about the Games from time to time? And which memories are strongest?
Jörn Verleger: Over and over again! I think of the Games, and the great atmosphere at the Fistball matches and at all the other events. For the first time the women also took part, and I remember the exciting final between Germany and the Swiss girls in particular. It was a heated battle with the better end for Germany. This match also attracted a lot of media attention. In France, for example, the match has been viewed well over 2,000,000 times in the archives of "L'equipe", the most important French sports channel. This media activity has led to the situation where we are on the verge of founding a French Fistball association.
The Fistball tournament got particularly good ratings during TV broadcasts of TWG 2022 in Germany. Will that have a positive effect on the World Championships?
Fistball has achieved a greater status in Germany through the TV broadcast of The World Games. Due to the proven large viewing figures, we were able to achieve a TV contract with the public broadcasters in Germany for the first time. All games of the German team can be seen in a free livestream on sportschau.de, among others. A Final match with German participation would also be shown live on SWR television. In addition, daily coverage is planned in the morning and midday magazines of ARD and ZDF. The contract with the sports rights and marketing agency SportA is a milestone for the sport of Fistball in Germany.
‘After The World Games’ is ‘before the World Championships’ - What is special about the 2023 World Championships?
Jörn Verleger: The participating nations come from all five continents. The five nations Brazil, Chile, Austria, Switzerland and Germany have participated in all previous World Championships. For India, it will be the first ever Men´s World Championship participation.
The semi-final and placement matches will take place in the 12,000-seat SAP Arena. Natural grass will be laid in the arena for the first time for the event. This arena is mega-impressive! Spectators and players will experience goosebump moments, for sure.
How do you make Fistball come alive in the media?
Jörn Verleger: Fistball captivates with its dynamics, power, action, precision and great fair play. Fistballs are hit over the line at speeds of up to 120 km/h - and defused by the opposing defence with sometimes spectacular flying moves.
We focus very much on this on our own social media, and use all channels from social media to information stands at sporting events to videos with national players and celebrity ambassadors, such as the well-known Mannheim comedian Bülent Ceylan, Paralympic champion Nico Kappel or world Handball player Henning Fritz, who is an ambassador for the World Championships.
Of course it is important for us to know - to what extent is the World Championships a milestone on the #RoadtoChengdu?
Jörn Verleger: Germany has a long tradition and great experience in hosting Fistball events. Faustball Deutschland, the national association for Fistball in Germany, has completely repositioned itself around the World Championships. This World Championships is not only something very special, not only a milestone; it can become a door-opener for the sport of Fistball.
We are expecting over 2,700 schoolchildren on Monday. They will not only watch the match Germany vs. Namibia, but also actively try out different sports. As Fistball players, we naturally want to find the World Champions or The World Games winners of tomorrow.
The World Championships is also a milestone because the first tickets for Chengdu will be awarded.
Will there already be hints of the Games in 2025 at the World Championships?
Jörn Verleger: Because it is a qualifier, we will promote The World Games 2025 already in Mannheim. The welcome dinner on the eve of the opening match is, under the hashtag #RoadtoChengdu, hosted in a Chinese restaurant. Our World Cup mascot, a giraffe, would have loved to welcome the mascot from Chengdu, a panda, to the event. But that probably won't work out.
In addition, there will be a report about Chengdu at the IFA 2023 Congress on Thursday 27th July. The focus will be on the great decision of the IWGA to increase the number of women's teams from six in Birmingham to eight in Chengdu.
In the past, Fistball has been one of the first sports to qualify for the TWG. How does that look for the Chengdu Games?
You can qualify for Chengdu as a continental champion (European champion, South American champion, etc.) or by a placing at these World Championships. These events decide who will compete in the men's event in Chengdu alongside the host team from the Peoples Republic of China.
So we will already know in a few weeks which teams will participate. The Women's World Championships will take place in 2024, and the final ranking will apply here as well.
Is there a question you forgot to ask but would like to answer?
Jörn Verleger: The question should be: Are there still tickets for Mannheim? There are still some tickets for this superlative Fistball event - also for the Final days. Tickets at https://mannheim.fistballmwc.com/en/fans-2/tickets/
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The World Games 2022 was held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and 100 countries took part in the Games. The 12th edition of The World Games will be held in Chengdu, CHN in 2025.