A tall shooter, a new keeper and high hopes
After a one-year absence from the VELUX EHF Champions League, Kadetten Schaffhausen are back in the top flight. After a thrilling final series, they won their eleventh trophy and underlined their ambitions with a 31:20 win in the Swiss Supercup against cup winner and last season’s Champions League participant Wacker Thun. The major aim is to make it to the Last 16, but despite some international experienced new arrivals, the road could be tough.
Three questions before the new season
- Can Schaffhausen make it to the Last 16 for the third time?
In 2011 and 2012, Kadetten made history, becoming the first and so far only team to represent Switzerland in the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League. This year the Last 16 is again the major international goal for the new season. But the hurdles to finish among the two best teams of Group D are high, with the group looking potentially harder than Group C. But team captain Dimitrij Küttel is optimistic: “We were drawn against very strong opponents. Against some of them we already played in the Champions League and were able to get an impression with mixed results. Our goal is to reach one of the first two spots, although this is a big challenge.” The problem in the previous season had always been the away performances - if Kadetten can manage to snatch some away points, the goal is realistic. BBC Arena is a fortress for all opponents.
- Does the squad have enough international experience?
Definitely. Since 1999, Kadetten only once missed being part of the European Cup competitions and this is their twelfth appearance in the EHF Champions League. Coach Petr Hrachovec can count on many national team players, led by Serb Zarko Sesum and Hungarian Gabor Csaszar. The two new Spanish arrivals Ignacio Biosca (Abanca Ademar Leon) and Angel Montoro (BM Ciudad Encantada) have played in international competitions too, and thanks to a widened squad, there are many options for Hrachovec, who is in his second stint at Schaffhausen since 2018.
- Can Schaffhausen profit from the new handball euphoria in Switzerland?
In 2006, Switzerland hosted the Men’s EHF EURO and since then failed to qualify for any major event - up to now. Thanks to the return of mastermind Andy Schmid, the Swiss side booked their ticket for 2020 EHF EURO in Norway, Sweden and Austria. The arenas were fully packed when head coach Marcus Suter’s team played. Having seven players in the squad, Kadetten play a core role in the national team - and the club hopes that the rising interest in handball will lift the number of fans, mainly for Champions League matches.
Under the spotlight
Kadetten Schaffhausen have a long tradition of top goalkeepers such as Nikola Marinovic, Nikola Portner (Montpellier) and Lithuanian Arunas Vaskevicius. Last season, Croat Ivan Stevanovic was the number one, but he left for Wisla Plock - and will face Kadetten in the group phase. Besides Austrian international Kristian Pilipovic, Ignacio Biosca carries Schaffhausen’s hopes. The former Barcelona and Leon goalkeeper was already the match winner in his first official match, the Swiss Supercup against Wacker Thun. Pilipovic and Biosca should to form a harmonised duo between the posts.
As usual, Schaffhausen are the main contenders in all Swiss competitions, and on international ground they hope to proceed to the play-offs and then the Last 16, as manager David Graubner points out. “Our goal is to qualify for the Last 16 in VELUX EHF Champions League. But we know that we play in a difficult group with top-class opponents,” he says. In general, he believes that only playing Champions League can lift the club’s level, adding: “For Kadetten Schaffhausen it is enormously important to play in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Only in this way are we attractive for spectators, but also for new players.”
If he were two centimetres taller new Kadetten signing Angel Montoro would be the tallest player of the 2019/20 VELUX EHF Champions League season. The left-handed Spaniard, world champion in 2013, is 2.13 metres tall and joined from Liberbank Cuenca. He is however shorter than HC Vardar’s Latvian giant Dainis Kristopans.
What the numbers say
Since 2005, Schaffhausen are the dominant club in the Swiss league, winning the trophy 11 times out of 14. Only Zurich (2008, 2009) and Thun (2013, 2018) interrupted Schaffhausen’s run.
Kadetten Schaffhausen (SUI)
Qualification for the 2019/20 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Swiss champions
Newcomers: Ignacio Biosca (Abanca Ademar Leon), Angel Montoro (BM Ciudad Encantada), Filip Maros (Pfadi Winterthur), Nicola Damann (TSV Fortitudo Gossau), Philip Novak (Kadetten youth team), Jonas Schopper (Kadetten youth team)
Left the club: Lucas Meister (GWD Minden), Ivan Stevanovic (Orlen Wisla Plock)
Coach: Petr Hrachovec (since July 2018)
Team captain: Dimitrij Küttel
VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2019/20 season): 12
Last 16 (2): 2010/11, 2011/12
Group Phase (6): 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
Qualification (1): 2009/10
Other EC records:
Cup Winners Cup:
11 titles (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019)
8 titles (1999; 2004; 2005; 2007; 2008; 2011; 2014; 2016)