Wild Schwaben wheelchair rugby.

At 63, Waldemar Died (with ball) is the oldest wheelchair rugby player for Wilde Schwaben’s TSV Schmiden. Photo by Alessandro Marciliano

TSV Schmiden’s wheelchair rugby team Wild Schwaben are looking to successfully defend their title in the Southern Regional League finals on Saturday.

This Saturday will show whether Mehmet Küçük’s joint training last week with Wilden Schwaben, TSV Schmiden’s wheelchair rugby team, has yielded anything. Karlsruhe Griffins, Mehmet Küçük’s ancestral team and Wilden Schwaben will play the first game at 11 am in the final tournament of the best four teams of the South Regional League at the Schmidener Weg gymnasium. “I’ll tell my boys what the opposition can do,” says Mehmet Kucuk and laughs, as does Rudolf Dumler, his Schmiden opponent and organizer of the final day of the game.

Both players are well aware that form on the day will also be important on Saturday. Especially since not all of Wilden Schwaben’s regulars were present at the training evening, and apart from Mehmet Kuciuk, there were other invited players during the training session. “It’s not unusual. We and other teams are happy for every guest who trains. The more players we have, the more efficiently we will train,” says Rudolf Dumler.

Some players drive long distances for exercise

Some players accept long journeys for this. Like Mehmet Küçük, who lives in Achern, 140 kilometers away. For the trained scaffolder, who was paralyzed after an accident at work 18 years ago, wheelchair rugby has become a very important part of his life over the past eight years. Until then, he could not accept life in a wheelchair at all. “I still train regularly in Tübingen, Freiburg and Karlsruhe,” he says.

Teams play tactics

As always, training in Schmiden was a frenzy as the players raced into each other in their special wheelchairs (costing between €8,000 and €14,000) in a battle for the ball. “Wheelchair rugby is a bit like bumper car chess,” said Becky Lord, Rudolph Dumler’s friend and referee, on Saturday. Even if what’s happening on the pitch may seem a little wild to an outsider at first, the teams really follow tactics and all four players have their specific tasks. And so 40-year-old Rudolf Dumler, paralyzed from the fifth cervical vertebra after a swimming accident as a youngster, struggles as a defensive player to thwart opposing forwards. Farid Al Saleh, 38, a refugee from Syria who is also a paraplegic after a swimming accident 16 years ago, has simple goals. When a teammate throws the ball into free space, he rushes there in a wheelchair, skillfully picks up the ball and crosses the goal line. “I hope it will work out in the final tournament as well,” he says. After all, the wild Swabians are battling around their captain Waldemar Diede as the reigning champions.

The schedule

The final tournament of the four best teams of the South Regional League will take place on Saturday in the gym at Schmidener Weg 6. At 11:00 Wilden Schwaben will play Karlsruhe Griffins, at 12:15 Donauhaie Illerrieden will play Koblenz Speedos. The respective losers will play the third-place game at 2:30 p.m., with the winners in the final at 3:45 p.m. Entrance to the audience is free.

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