High hurdles and high goals for Horvat and Kadetten
Alongside eventual finalists Fraikin BM. Granollers, Kadetten Schaffhausen were the big surprise in the 2022/23 season of the EHF European League Men. For the second consecutive time, the Swiss champions made it to the quarter-finals – and were almost the stumbling block for eventual winners Füchse Berlin.
After winning the first leg at home 37:33, they were close to their first ever EHF Finals until the very last minutes, but finally lost 24:30. In the end, one trophy went to the city famous for Kadetten and the Rhine Fall: Icelander Odinn Thor Rikhardsson was named best scorer of the competition with 110 goals.
After becoming Swiss champions for the 13th time, Kadetten are back in the European League. Though the squad changed only a little with four new arrivals and four players who left, a new era has started at Schaffhausen: coach Adalsteinn Eyjolfsson left for German second division team GWD Minden, and Kadetten found his successor in Germany, although he is a Croat: Hrvoje Horvat.
After five years of coaching former European League semi-finalists RK Nexe, and two years as the Croatian men’s team national coach, Horvat joined German Bundesliga team HSG Wetzlar. Some weeks before the end of the season, club and coach went separate ways, but the 45-year-old Horvat had already announced his move to Kadetten.
The former Croatian international in indoor and beach handball has had an easy start: firstly, he speaks German, and secondly had already played two seasons in Switzerland, for SG Stans from 2004 until 2006.
“It was easy to step in. I like the city, I speak their language, I knew some of the Kadetten players before. But since I left Switzerland, Swiss handball has clearly improved, the performance level of the league is getting better and better,” says Horvat. He and Kadetten had a successful start, winning the Swiss Super Cup against Cup winners and European League participants Kriens-Luzern.
“In the previous season, Kadetten really played well – I want to conserve those many good things I have seen, but of course, there are things I want to adapt, mainly in the defence,” says Horvat.
“Kadetten scored many, many goals last year, but on the other end of the court, we conceded too many goals. We can score like before, but have to defend better,” he adds. This is the major change from the Scandinavian style of Eyjolfsson compared to the rock-solid defensive wall Horvat wants to build.
The expectations are high at Schaffhausen.
“When you sign a contract at Kadetten, you know that you have to deliver, you have to win trophies,” says Horvat. “As the backbone of last season’s team is still here, we can aim for trophies in Switzerland and another successful international season.”
The big dream of Kadetten is to return to the Machineseeker EHF Champions League in future.
But the hurdles are quite high already in the European League group matches: Schaffhausen face former Champions League winners SG Flensburg-Handewitt, Norwegian runners-up Elverum Handball, and HC Lovcen-Cetinje from Montenegro.
“It will be really tough and challenging to proceed to the main round, which is our first goal. Just check the field of participants in this season: 10, maybe even 15 teams can proceed to the EHF Finals in this amazingly strong European League,” says Horvat.
His motto to remain part of the competition as long as possible is simple: “Work hard and be diligent in training, then you will be successful.”
Besides Rikhardsson, one big name is a core player at Kadetten: Spanish world and European champion Joan Cañellas, who arrived at Schaffhausen in 2021.
“Joan is a true leader on and off the court, a great player and character. He is the perfect guy for this team, thanks to his experience and knowledge of handball,” Horvat praises the seasoned left back.
Talking about Rikhardsson, Horvat focuses on the development of the Icelandic shooter in defence: “Like the rest of the team, Odinn Thor has room for improvement in defence, but still, he’ll be able to run and score like he did before. We need his easy goals and the speed of his counter attacks.”
The biggest change in the Kadetten squad is between the goal posts: German veteran Martin Ziemer ended his career, the new goalkeeper is Frenchman Julien Meyer, coming from Chartres.
Kadetten and their new coach Horvat face their first major challenge in the European League in round 1, when they travel to Flensburg; they then host Elverum in round 2 on 24 October. Those first matches will set the tone for the rest of the group phase, and give a good indication of whether the defensive wall has been built high enough.
photos © profiphoto.ch, Lara Gansser