The difficult journey of Michelle Herfurth

Potsdam. The words after their first two games sounded pretty ordinary. “It was fun. It’s a shame we couldn’t win any of the games,” Michelle Herfurth said. The duels against Fürstenwalde and Eisenhüttenstadt, who were behind the 27-year-old, were not at all trivial. After all, these were National Basketball League games – for men. The path was rocky, which started in 2017.

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At that time, the rising player returned to her hometown of Cottbus after several years in the women’s Bundesliga and regional league, notably for the Red Dragons Königs Wusterhausen. She wanted to continue playing there, but like many places in Brandenburg, no women’s team was taking part in the game. Since then, Herfurth have been in charge of training a women’s team at BBC White Devils Cottbus, but they have not assembled a squad for the match.

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“Is that why you stopped playing league basketball? I didn’t want to put up with that. So in 2017 I started applying to compete in men’s football,” says Herfurth, who as he is customary in junior basketball, played on mixed teams with boys up to U18 level. But the Brandenburg Basketball Association (BBV) still rejected. The rules don’t really allow women to play with men and the risk of injury is too high – for men, or so the reasoning says.

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Learn more after the announcement

The 1.67m danger named Herfurth nevertheless remained stubborn, continued to write his application year after year and was awarded in the summer of 2022. “It was a big surprise when I found out that there had been a change in the way of thinking,” she says. This reflection within the association is closely linked to the name of Sebastian Bergmann. He was elected to the executive committee of the BBV this summer, is responsible for the organization of the game and obtained special authorization at the end of September.

“It’s about stabilizing women’s basketball in Brandenburg”

“I decided it alone at first because I didn’t see good reasons against it,” says Bergmann, who is also responsible for StarWings Glienicke, where there were also players who had no basketball opportunities. competitive and in Berlin dodged. “It’s about stabilizing women’s basketball in Brandenburg. I want to keep the basketball players in the country and in the sport,” he says. For the relatively small regional association, it is also an opportunity to play a pioneering role. It is worth it to pay in advance.

Because it is still about exemptions and individual decisions. Only next summer, on the next association day, will Bergmann be able to put the “right to play for women in men’s games” to a vote so that it can be included in the rules of the game. Until then, he wants to gain experience – both in terms of player and club reactions, as well as player feedback. Because in addition to Herfurth, Sophie Labs from SV Leonardo da Vinci Nauen wants to play another player in the men’s game from December. Next, the 20-year-old returns to Brandenburg after studying abroad in London and wants to start in the Southern District league.

At home for a long time in women’s basketball: Michelle Herfurth (on the ball) during the 2018/19 season against Baskets Berlin.

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Learn more after the announcement

She has already played with most of her teammates in the junior division. “We may not be able to jump as high as the men, but we make up for that with other skills,” the point guard said. She is also not afraid of the physique of men: “Anyone who knows me knows that I can assert myself.” Michelle Herfurth, who already played her first doubles match in mid-November, has a similar view. “It’s a team sport. I tend to defend smaller opponents and not push under the basket,” she said.

Although she still had a training deficit after two years without a competitive game, she was able to show from the three-point line that she could follow. “Not only in my team, but also among the opponents, everyone reacted positively towards me and was happy for me,” she said. Everything is a bit like in childhood, when we played together. And changing in the locker room is no problem either: “I usually have my own changing room. And if they don’t exist, we change our clothes one after the other,” says Herfurth, who is already looking forward to the next matches. “It’s not about all the women playing with the men. It’s about the women of Brandenburg being able to play basketball.”

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