United family, divided loyalties

FEATURE: The son of the Latvian coach Armands Uscins plays for the German U18 national team and will cheer for both sides today, when “his teams” duel in Trondheim

Father and son Armands and Renars Uscins - Latvia coach and young German player. Photo © Stanko Gruden / kolektiff

When Germany open the final match day of group C against Latvia today, a German U18 national team player on the grandstand in Trondheim will find his loyalties split.

"I will sometimes cheer for Germany, sometimes for Latvia," says Renars Uscins. The 17-year-old plays for the youth team of former EHF Champions League winners SC Magdeburg, but his father Armands is the Latvian head coach.

The Uscins family are in Trondheim for the EHF EURO 2020. On Saturday, Renars cheered on Latvia against the Netherlands, and then supported Germany in their match against Spain.

“My mother said that I should be neutral on Monday, when Latvia and Germany face each other. And of course I will be,” Renars says.

The Uscins family moved to Germany in 2005. Armands Uscins was a Latvian international and joined German club Dessau-Roßlauer before later starting to coach local clubs. In 2017 the former line player was appointed as head coach for Latvia.

Renars, a right back, has been playing handball since he was six.

“But there was never any pressure to become a handball player. My brother also played handball and is now an athlete. I am the only handball player out of us four kids,” he adds.

At the age of 13, the left-hander switched to SC Magdeburg, where he is at the sports school. He was discovered early for the German youth national teams. He won silver with the German U17 team at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Baku last year and played his first international matches for the U18 team in December last year.

The German U18 team is coached by Erik Wudtke – Christian Prokop’s assistant for the senior team at the EHF EURO 2020.

"We always joked that I should give him the Latvian tactics," says the right back.

His father Armands is extremely proud that his son has made it into the national team.

"He is very motivated, but he should also do an apprenticeship alongside handball, because an injury can quickly put an end to sport," says the Latvian coach.

"He always gives me a lot of important tips," says Renars, who hopes to be part of the U18 European Championship in Celje, Slovenia, in the summer. But his big dream is to become an international player in the men’s team - and then maybe face his ancestors' country.

"That would be cool, but my mother said that she would not come into the hall, it would be too exhausting for her," says Renars.

And his father adds: “If it comes to this, I will hopefully still be a Latvian coach. I would be looking forward to a duel like this.”

First of all, his current team clashes with Germany in Trondheim. Latvia, who have just two professionals in their team, lost the first two games against Spain and the Netherlands, but could still progress if they achieve a sizeable win against Germany and the Dutch lose to Spain.

"We are of course the big outsider, but it starts at 0:0," concludes Uscins.

written by Björn Pazen / jh