The prosperous pair: Filip and Kubes lead Czech Republic at the EHF EURO

FEATURE: Jan Filip and Daniel Kubes are the only coaching duo at the EHF EURO 2018. The Czech Republic coaches have known each other for 23 years and are dividing their duties as they aim for the main round

Czech Republic's Jan Filip and Daniel Kubes are the only coaching pair at the EHF EURO 2018. Photo: Sasa Pahic Szabo

Losing a star like Filip Jicha could have converted Czech Republic into an indifferent side, and it seemed the departure of the 2010 World Handball Player of the Year was a huge blow when the team opened their EHF EURO 2018 campaign with a 17-goal loss. But the Czech side bounced back admirably against Denmark, causing arguably the biggest upset of the competition when they overcame the Olympic champions 28:27.

Czech Republic have an unusual arrangement on the bench, as the only team with a coaching pair, rather than a head coach with several assistants at his side.

Jan Filip and Daniel Kubes are not only some of the best Czech players in history, but have known each other for 23 years, are best friends and have been working together as head coaches for their national team since April 2014.

“I was playing in Dukla Prague and a 17-year-old Daniel was an up-and-coming talent. We then played in Nordhorn, in the Bundesliga,” says Filip.

The circumstances are rather unusual, but their chemistry has seen the Czech team proceed to the final tournament of the EHF EURO for the second time in the last four years.

“We have known each other for a very long time, since our playing days, and are getting on with each other quite well. It helps that we have the same opinion about handball,” says 44-year-old Filip, a handball legend in Czech Republic.

The coaching pair were approached by the Czech Handball Federation four years ago, and thought at first that the situation could not work.

“I do not remember that moment at all. But it was not our idea, correct?” says Kubes, with Filip immediately agreeing: “No, it was not our idea.”

“Teams and handball have to go on”

Rather than focusing on different aspects of the game, both Filip and Kubes lead the team’s training sessions, but their roles are different during the matches.

“Daniel is focusing on defence and is tweaking the little things that have to be modified, while I am focusing on attacks. But we are consulting about most things together, as it should be,” says Filip.

Disagreements are inevitable, but the two coaches shrug them off: “We do have tensions, like in any other team, but there are never tensions about handball or how we approach handball,” says Kubes.

A painful 17-goal loss against Spain was a tough result for Kubes and Filip, but the result has been since forgotten, after an unexpected win against Denmark that changed the entire dynamic of the group.

“It was a beautiful feeling to win against the Olympic champion. It is good for us as coaches, for our development, to play on such a level,” added Kubes.

To be sure of progressing to the next round, Czech Republic must not lose against Hungary on Wednesday.

“If we want to have a chance to proceed to the next round, our players have to do more than maximum. They have to be at 120, 130 per cent, as we are playing in one of the most difficult groups at the EHF EURO.

“I hope our players will pick up where they left off for the game against Hungary,” concludes Kubes.

In the face of adversity, both Filip and Kubes are ready for the challenge. “Teams and handball itself have to go on,” is their motto for approaching the EHF EURO 2018.

written by Adrian Costeiu / cg