Edyta Kowalczyk: Eight years ago you raised the cup for the world championship as the captain of the Poles, and now you are preparing for the World Cup as the coach of the German national team. You wouldn’t expect such a change of roles, would you?
Michał Winiarski (coach of the German national team): That’s why I never look far ahead. Life writes such different scenarios that I would not expect that, as a multiple participant in the world championship as a representative of Poland, I will return to them after many years as the coach of the foreign team. I am happy with what is here and now. We have an extremely difficult group with France, Slovenia and Cameroon, in which we are not the favorite, but we really want to reach the matches in Poland after the stage in Ljubljana.
When Nikola Grbić was to take over the Polish staff, many people connected you with his staff. Partly because of your acquaintance, but also because you are at the top of the list of Polish coaches who could be associated with the Polish national team in the future. Were you close to joining Grbit’s headquarters?
No, and we haven’t talked about it. It was more media blown. I really wanted to work on my own and I am glad that I can lead the German team as the first coach. I do not hide that it is also an amazing challenge and favors gaining huge experience.
What was the backstage of receiving the proposal from the German federation? Were you expecting such an offer?
It certainly came as a surprise, because at the end of the league season we were planning holidays with the family, and within three days we had to change everything. A few days after the call from the German federation, I met the sports director, and after another two or three days, we agreed on all the terms of cooperation and I became their team selector. Of course, everything after consultation with the family, but also the president of the club with Zawiercie Kryspin Baran, so that he would be calm that during the preparations for the league season everything will be taken care of by my assistants.
You now work two jobs – as the coach of the German national team, and from the new league season you will lead Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie. What is the day of the Winiarski coach combining duties in two teams?
I am lucky that in the club my assistant will be Roberto Rotari, who has worked with me for the last three seasons in Trefl Gdańsk, as well as during this year’s League of Nations with the German team. He will not be at the world championships, because he is already in Zawiercie, where together with Oskar Kaczmarczyk they are training during preparations. Roberto knows my work and preparation cycle very well, so he will be my “extension” in the club during my absence. I myself spent two days in Zawiercie in the previous weeks. We had strength training and ball classes then. Besides, it was an opportunity to talk to the president, staff and players. This is the only option before the World Cup, but after the World Cup, there will be some time until the start of the league season to work calmly. With the German team, we first spent 12 days in the center in Kienbaum after the Nations League, and then partly in Rotterdam and again in the country, where we also played friendly matches with the Dutch.
The League of Nations and your beginning of work with the German national team were not the easiest ones due to the absence of nearly ten important players. How did you handle this situation?
We came to the point where I did not choose the best players for the game, but simply those who stayed and are healthy. In fact, only now we can work as a full group. Earlier, Ruben Schott was off after the league season for three months, Georg Grozer quit his squad appearances this year. We couldn’t take advantage of the two attackers – Simon Hirsch and Daniel Malescha. Our primary mid laner Anton Brehme won’t play in the World Cup because he’s after knee surgery. On the other hand, Lukas Kampa, who played in the League of Nations, ruled out problems with his back, and Moritz Karlitzk had similar ailments. Tobias Krick had knee problems and could make a certain number of jumps, so he was only scheduled for the last Nations League tournament, but due to staff shortages we had to include him in the squad earlier. Lukas Maase, who played in the club as an attacker, we also had to move to the center.
After the first tournament in Ottawa, Moritz Reichert dropped out of the squad because he slightly torn a stomach muscle. Finally, during the struggle in Osaka, two competitors – Maase and Linus Weber received positive results of tests for the coronavirus. In this respect, we also had some complications, because during the second tournament in the Philippines, 21 cases of infection were detected in the Chinese team. Their match with France was canceled, but not our one the day after. We had no problem facing them, but we asked the FIVB to re-test the Chinese, because in the future we were going to travel to Japan, where the COVID-19 restrictions were quite restrictive. We couldn’t risk infection. We even wanted to postpone this game to another day, but the federation did not agree to any of our proposals, so we gave up the game. Ultimately, we missed two victories to qualify for the final tournament.
You mentioned Georg Grozer earlier. He announced that if the German national team did not qualify for last year’s Olympics in Tokyo, he would end his career as a team. Ultimately, he decided to continue it, but this season we will not see him on the pitch. He did it after talking to you as the selector?
Georg made his own decision, but I really liked his approach when we spoke. He made it clear that his dream was to go to the Olympics in Paris. He knows that he is not the youngest and at the age of almost 38 he needs some time to regenerate, which I fully accept. I hope that in a year we will be able to create something cool together.
Today you have been working for three months as a selector of the Germans. What have you gained from this time in terms of experience?
I have found that the work with the national team is in some ways similar to that done in a club, but what you have ten months for there must be condensed into three. In addition, you have to deal with the exhaustion of players during the league season or with injuries, so you should adjust your work to their abilities to bring them into shape before the most important event. In addition, the effects, especially when it comes to working with young players, come in a more long-term perspective – two or three seasons, not a few months.
Do you think that your current job in Germany is a way to lead the Polish national team in the future?
I have already learned that what is most important in the work of a trainer is the here and now. That’s why I’m not looking ahead. One year of work can be successful, followed by a lot of offers, and after a weaker period of those offers, there will be much less. Now I am focusing on self-employment in the national team and in the club, which is a great ennoblement and a challenge for me.
From backyard pitches to the Ministry of Sport and Tourism. Kamil Bortniczuk admits that the minister’s portfolio is the fulfillment of his youthful dreams. – When someone asked me years ago who I would like to be in sport, I said: I would like to be a minister – he recalls in an interview with Łukasz Kadziewicz.