On July 8-9 2017, 15 national teams from all over Europe will compete in Oslo, Norway for the title of European Champion. The second article in our European Games 2017 series is on Team Austria.
by Fraser Posford
Osman “Ozzy” Akkaya*
Lena Mandahus (Captain)
*Denotes players who will also be seeking
Interview with head coach Georg Aigner
Quidditch Post: How are you preparing your team for European Games (EG)?
Aigner: The Austrian national team started to form in February 2017 and we, the coaching staff, had 31 applications. Since February, the team has been meeting twice a month to train together.
In June we had friendly matches with Germany and we saw if the hard work players put in paid off.
QP: What are you hoping to achieve at the tournament?
Aigner: To play well and to win the first match on Day Two – but this is going to be hard because we have good teams in our group. To be in the Top 10 would be good, to be in the Top Eight would be great.
QP: Which teams do you particularly want to play against?
Aigner: I want to play against Norway, because to play against the home team is always an honour. Ireland would be also nice because Stefan Scheuer helped to develop the sport there and he was a Team Austria player. Who we will see on Team Catalonia; this is going to be interesting because Team Austria needs a rematch for IQA World Cup 2016.
QP: What challenges have you had to face in the build-up to this tournament?
Aigner: A challenge was definitely that not all players who signed up for the national team were always on time for the trainings, and sometimes players did not come at all without letting me know first. Because of this, it was sometimes difficult to hold trainings, because not all players were there. Last year’s national team training also had this problem and I was hoping that this would be better this year, but unfortunately this was not the case.
QP: What are the strengths of your team? Are there any key players we should watch out for?
Aigner: The strength of Team Austria is that we are a well-rounded team. We have many different types of players who can play different roles on the pitch. I think we have a solid lineup.
A player you should look out for is Daniel Mitterauer. He is a solid keeper. Another player you should be aware of is Markus Tünte, who, in my opinion, is currently the best beater in Austria.
QP: How did you, as a Danube Direwolves player, feel coaching a team that consists mainly of Vienna Vanguards players? Was this easier or more difficult that you expected?
Aigner: Yes it was more difficult than I anticipated. The first few months were quite uneventful, and I was able to work well as a head coach in consultation with my co-coaches. On the pitch I tried to be strict and to form a team. While last year it was already clear who made it into the team after two trainings, this year the players had to wait for seven trainings until the final roster was decided. Up until this point, we usually had more than 15 players at our trainings. However, since [the roster was announced], attendance dropped.
In early May, I was made aware through a public Facebook post in our national team group that not everyone likes my way of holding trainings as well as my appearance on and off the pitch. This criticism came from players on both Austrian teams, and I took the appropriate steps and adjusted my trainings. Through this, I had to learn that not everyone likes my trainings, and that I need to be more considerate of my players’ needs.
Back to the question of if it was difficult for me, as a Danube Direwolves player, to coach a lot of the Vienna Vanguards: coaching was not always easy. But not because I am a Danube Direwolves player, but because I had a different approach to coaching than players on the Austrian national team. In the end it’s not Vanguards or Direwolves or Augsburg Owls, but Team Austria on pitch, which, in the last few months, grew together as a team.
Austria’s first competitive outing at the IQA World Cup 2016 was by no means spectacular (they finished in 14th place) but it was certainly a respectable performance, considering there are only two official teams in the country. A 80*-70 win over Spain and a narrow 130*-70 loss to Catalonia in Frankfurt last year suggest that Austria can put up a fight in Group B; however, they will be going into their EG group as underdogs with an outside chance of qualifying for the quarterfinals.
Acclimatising to the methods of new national coach Georg Aigner (a member of the Danube Direwolves) has certainly been a learning curve for a team comprised mostly of Vienna Vanguards players (15). However, regular training sessions and familiarity between the players should allow Austria to be a better prepared unit than their rivals, making up for what they lack in roster depth.
Keeper Dominik Hiesl and chaser Andrea Wöger were in fine form for the Vanguards at European Quidditch Cup (EQC) who, along with Augsburg Owls’ Matthias Renner, are players to watch in the quaffle game. Star beater Markus Tünte is the team’s most aggressive and mobile player in the black headband and his form will be crucial. Captain Lena Mandahus has steadily grown to be a reliable partner alongside Tünte, while Josephine Röser has made an impressive switch from chasing to beating in the absence of the injured Karina Auer.
With a quaffle point average of 42.86** per match at World Cup, lower than any of their Group B rivals and both of their competitive victories coming from 20 points down, it appears seeker play will be key to Austria’s progress in Oslo. The established Vanguards rotation of Christoph Gassner and Osman “Ozzy” Akkaya is a threatening one for most snitches due to their alternating styles complementing each other so well. Austria won’t be expected to blow many teams away but if they can keep the game tight, forcing their opponents into mistakes, Gassner and Akkaya give them a very good chance of sneaking a victory from the jaws of defeat.
**= this statistic was calculated by the author and excludes the match between Austria and South Korea which South Korea forfeited. It is rounded up to the second decimal place.
Editor’s Note: The article previously erroneously indicated that the roster was organized by position.