The image below of Moritz Fürste in Rio is, in my opinion, one of the most iconic of the tournament. It is a picture of utter despair after Germany’s semi-final defeat to Argentina at the Olympics. It was not meant to end like this. For one of the most recognisable, talented and popular players of modern hockey, the story was meant to have a happy ending. Whilst Fürste and his teammates recovered to capture a bronze medal, this wasn’t the fairy-tale finish many had envisaged.
This is not meant as a criticism or a dig at the talismanic No21; far from it. It is because of Fürste’s skill, popularity and his status as one of the all-time greats that him missing out on a third Olympic Gold medal was such a disappointment for many hockey fans.
The Germany star has long been one of my favourite players. He scooped the FIH World Player of the Year award in 2012, having led Germany to a second consecutive Olympic Gold in London. I wrote at the time that had he lived in a pre- or post-Jamie Dwyer era, Fürste would have several World Player of the Year awards rather than just the one. At the time, he saw the article and tweeted Jamie Dwyer to say he was happy to have played in the Dwyer era, telling the Australian, “you always wanna to mess with the best.” That is fairly typical of the man.
— Mo Fürste (@MoritzFuerste) December 13, 2012
The German has won the lot. Two Olympic golds, two European Championships, The World Cup, and of course, the Euro Hockey League three times, where he has also collected the MVP twice.
When inducted into the European Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame in 2017, Fürste told the EHF’s Stephen Findlater:
“I would never compare titles or prizes because they all have their own history but the EHL is something I won with the people I grew up with, the group of my best friends, most of whom I see every day even when they stop playing. In 2008, it was amazing to reach something like that with my club where we have yet to win the German championship; it was very emotional and a very important step in my career!”
Fürste is Hamburg through and through. He has spent all bar one season of his career at UHC, taking a season to play in Spain for Club de Campo in 2010-11 before returning to the place he calls home to run out the rest of his career.
On a personal note, he has been involved in two of the greatest games I have ever seen.
The first was Germany’s 4-2 win over Australia in the London 2012 semi-final. The Kookaburras had been in blistering form in the group, scoring goals for fun and many had tipped them for gold. Germany, however produced one of the finest team displays of all time to take their place in the final. It is a game he describes as “probably the best I ever played in my career” and having watched that match in awe it is hard to argue.
The second was his pivotal role in Germany’s incredible comeback against New Zealand at the Rio Olympics. Valentin Altenburg’s side trailed 2-1 going into the dying moments, Fürste with the goal for the Germans. With time running out, as ever the legendary No21 stepped up to the plate, despatching a penalty corner to make it 2-2 with a minute to play. It looked like we would go to a shootout but Germany had other ideas and Florian Fuchs netted with seconds left to win it. Incredible.
— The Top of the D. (@TheTopoftheD) August 15, 2017
He has always given the impression he plays just for fun. When things get a little tense during the EHL or international matches, Fürste is often picked up by the umpire microphones making jokes to his team mates, the umpires and the opposition. His success is incredible, but his passion for the sport and his gentlemanly approach is what surely makes him one of the most popular players there is.
Now the legendary German has moved on it seems strange to think he will not compete in Tokyo in 2020, a sentiment he echoes:
“The one thing that makes me sad is that I will not be part of when the German team moves into the German house in the Olympic village in Tokyo. Even now, with three years to go, that is the greatest thing to experience once again. The Olympics are so special, so many memories that are not easy to describe. It was always the most important thing to keep me going and pulled me to training at 8am in the morning and 8pm at night.”
One thing’s for sure, Tokyo will be an incredible tournament, but for me at least, it won’t be the same without the smiling Germany No21.