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The Brightest Stars in Handball History: Joachim Deckarm

Joachim Deckarm handball

GamingZion presents Joachim Deckarm, a player whose career left deep traits in the development and the popularity of handball.

Many of the handball stars we present in the GamingZion series of articles dedicated to some of the greatest in the handball history, have more or less “happy career endings”.


• Deckarm was considered to be the greatest player of his time
• A tragic accident ends the carrier of the star
• After a long rehab period Deckarm starts his “second life”

Photos in the media, “good-bye” matches, lots of attention, interviews and other elements form part of this process. In this article, however, we point out to a handball star that didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the full glory of the golden medals that shined on his neck. It is a story about one of the most talented German handball players in history, Joachim “Jo” Deckarm.

Joachim Deckarm’s early beginnings and the development into handball’s finest

Born on 19th January 1954 in the westernmost German city of Saarbrucken, he started his early career in the local handball teams from his home town. However, the talent he possessed was not left unnoticed by the scouts, so he quickly moved a bit northern, signing a contract with the biggest German club of the time, Vfl Gummersbach. His amazing shot from behind the nine meter line and the unique technique to penetrate the zone soon became a trademark of the young left back. With only 19 years of age, as gambling news report, he became one of the superstars of the VFL Gummersbach. He complemented the squad which was already composed by well-established world class handball players such as Heiner Brandt, later coach of the German national team, Jochen Feldhoff and Klaus Kater.

Joachim Deckarm Gummerbach

He was undisputed king of his era on the handball courts

His performances in the team of Vfl Gummerbach were impressive and widely discussed in all the sports chronicles in West Germany. He led the team towards an incredible achievement in the Handball Bundesliga which for many years was invincible. They became champions of the Handball Bundesliga in four consecutive seasons: in 1972-73, 1973-74, 1974-75 1975-76, proving their domination in the domestic championship as the best team in the handball history in Germany (except the THW Kiel, many years after).

Deckarm’s contribution to all the successes of Vfl Gummersbach was unquestionable. But his name gained reputation on a European level not through the wonderful performances in the Bundesliga but through his brilliant games on the European courts which helped the team to become a power house in the European handball of the time. In 1974 and 1978, according to online sportsbooks in Germany, they succeeded to climb the top of Europe’s finest in handball, becoming European champions. Sports journalists all over Europe were reporting about the style of play by the young Deckarm, considering him to be a miracle in the handball world. There is no newspaper of the time that did not add the epithet “best handball player in the world” when writing about him. The greatest celebration of his name perhaps came with the end of the World Handball Championship in 1978. Then he led the West German national handball team to the first golden medal on the big competitions in their handball history, scoring 28 goal on 6 matches.

Joachim Deckarm: A handball player that is stronger than death

And just when it seemed that the glory of one of greatest athletes of the 70es does not have a limit, a terrific tragedy happened. On 30 March 1979, on a match in the Eurocup against the team of Tatabanya, Joachim Deckarm suffered a tragic accident. During a fast break on his own, he clashed with the defender of Tatabanya smashing his head on the floor which was in that time basically concrete. The greatest handball player of the time lost consciousness immediately. After more than 4 months, he woke up paralyzed as a result of injuries of the nervous system. A difficult period of depression and rehabilitations started for the best handball player of the time. As he states in his autobiography, after long years of therapies, he finally succeeds to accept his “second life.”

This video of his injury is disturbing. SERIOUSLY. Especially knowing the consequences.

In 2010 Joachim Deckarm was part of the survey conducted by the International Handball Federation (IHF) concerning the best handball players of all time. Together with Ivano Balic, Talant Dujshebaev, and Nikola Karabatic he was nominated for this most prestigious life time award in the handball world. On 31 of May, according to online gambling sites in Germany, he also got his place in the Hall of Fame of the German Sport. Last year on 19 of January, the famous Jo, celebrated his 60th birthday. A retrospective exhibition with his photographs from the days of glory was opened in his home town. A deeply emotional speech by Heiner Brandt, his colleague from the representation and Vfl Gummersbach was also addressed, that was communicated on all the major handball portals in the world. He now lives back in his home town Saarbrucken.

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