Handball in his blood
19-year-old Mehdi Ben Romdhane is the rising star of Swiss handball and took part in the world championships at the start of the year. He’s also completing his apprenticeship as a logistics technician at Swiss Post, successfully combining both strands of his life.
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It’s 5 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 January 2021, when Mehdi’s phone starts vibrating on his bedside table. It’s a message from Michael Suter, the coach of the Swiss handball team. “Get ready to pack your suitcases, lads! We’re flying out to Egypt tomorrow.” After a brief phone call with his line manager at the logistics center in Schaffhausen, Mehdi still turns up at work.
His manager’s phone starts ringing almost as soon as he arrives. On the other end of the line, Michael Suter explains that the youngster has to go to the national team’s meeting point straight away to get ready to leave for the world championships. After spending the entire day in quarantine, the team takes off from Zurich airport the following day and wins its first match of the competition without even having stopped off at their hotel. They were two incredible days for an exceptional apprentice.
A necessary and beneficial exile
Looking back, Mehdi describes this as the best experience of his short sporting career, despite the stress involved. The youngster, from Yverdon-les-Bains in the canton of Vaud, is clearly extremely adaptable. Four years ago, he left his family home to move in with his twin brother on the other side of Switzerland and to develop his abilities with one of the country’s leading handball clubs: the Kadetten Schaffhausen. This change of culture and environment was essential to help him progress in his chosen sport. “After arriving here I took intensive German courses to make it easier for me to integrate. It’s all worked out really well.” For two years, Mehdi has been working as an apprentice at Swiss Post’s logistics center in Schaffhausen, while practising his favourite sport every day.
A chip off the old block
Despite the distance between them, Mehdi talks to his family every day and has a very close relationship with his father, who was also an elite-level handball player and is a mentor to him. “I call him every night to talk about handball, but not just that. He’s a big part of my life and a source of inspiration, who helps me fulfil my potential,” he says. His passion for handball is in his DNA, even though it took him a while to discover it. When he was young, he tried his hand at various sports, such as judo, basketball and football, but never really made his mark or felt completely comfortable.
Mehdi is very close to his father and sees him as a role model.
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It’s a complete contrast to his job at Swiss Post. “Everything’s designed to help me develop in my sport, while allowing me to get top-quality training. That’s precisely why I chose Swiss Post.” His level of employment is set at 90% – reduced in agreement with his line managers – enabling him to take part in all the training sessions. His schedule is also tailored by his line manager, who receives the programme from the Schaffhausen-based club each month. Collaboration between the handball club and the company has run smoothly, making Mehdi’s everyday life easier. “Communication is vital and that’s working really well,” says the talented 19-year-old.
Determination and ambition
Mehdi suffered ligament damage to his right foot immediately after the world championships, but looks at this first setback in his young career philosophically and with great maturity. “I’m a glass-half-full sort of person. My injury meant I was able to spend more time with my family and just relaxing. I’ve also worked hard with the physios to come back even stronger.” Having recently returned to training, Mehdi now wants to get back to the top of Swiss handball. What are his goals? To establish himself in the national championship before eventually pursuing his career abroad, and to represent Switzerland at international tournaments, of course. But first and foremost, to successfully complete his apprenticeship. We wish him all the very best!
Mehdi will finish his apprenticeship as a logistics technician at the Schaffhausen logistics center this coming summer.