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29 October 2003

Erik Dordal: Books in One Hand, a Ball in the Other

Erik is a student at the "Internationales Studienzentrum" (ISZ; International Studies Centre) of the University of Heidelberg. He also plays basketball in the Federal League: "For me, a day without basketball would be a waste." — The sponsor and supporter of the USC team, Manfred Lautenschläger, backs promotion of the upcoming generation.

On Heidelberg's marketplace.

On Heidelberg's marketplace. Photo : Schnurr

Erik Dordal, who is enrolled at the International Studies Centre of the University of Heidelberg, plays basketball with heart and soul. He discovered his passion for the sport at the age of 12. Though he also played American football, baseball and above all ice hockey, in the long run nothing fascinated him as much as basketball. "I attended class from half past eight in the morning till half past three in the afternoon. Then I went straight to the nearest basketball court," says the 23-year-old with a laugh. And after dinner he immediately went back out to meet his sports friends. "For me a day without basketball would simply have been a waste. I wanted to get better and better."

Erik Dordal.        Foto : vaf

Erik Dordal. Photo : vaf

His ambition paid off. Dordal's playing got better every day. Finally his enthusiasm took him right across the Atlantic, to Heidelberg, where he is now playing his second season with the well-established university sports club USC. Of the 650 members of the sports club almost 300 belong to the basketball department. By the 1970s the USC had won the German basketball championships nine times and the German Cup twice, which was a record at the time. Dordal has played for very good teams in the US but he is also appreciative of German prowess in this sport: "The level of the German league is not bad at all!"

Erik divides his time between his sporting activities and studying German at the International Studies Centre. Striking the right balance between his studies and the National League is not easy, as they both require his full commitment. Bouncing a basketball with the one hand and carrying books with the other - how does Dordal ever manage to get his hands free? His secret is a well-organised day. "Basically, I should get up well before half past seven," he says smiling, "but I put it off to the last minute." But then, no more breaks. His classes begin at 9 and finish at 12.30. Then he has some lunch, usually in the cafeteria, before spending his afternoons at the gym and practising his shooting. In the evening he goes off to train with the USC team, which lasts another hour and a half.

Die Studenten im aktuellen Basketball-Bundesliga-Team des USC

The students of the Basketball-Team of USC: left Erik Dordal. Photo : PROW

Most basketball matches are scheduled on the weekends, so even then he cannot find a lot of time for other activities. Despite his many commitments, Dordal managed to get married last July, and his new wife followed him to Heidelberg. If there's one thing the Dordals really miss, it's contact with their families and old friends. But Erik is still enthusiastic about his present situation: "It is very appealing for us to live more or less in two cultures at the same time. And it seems almost unreal to be able to travel to Italy, France and England spontaneously. People here are very nice to us. We have made friends at the USC, the University and the barracks where American military personnel are stationed."

Although Erik grew up in the United States, his parents are from Norway, which gives him Norwegian citizenship. When he finished high school, he played for the Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, where he also studied communications. To this day, his two big passions have remained photography and film-making. "Creativity in all its forms is very fascinating," says Dordal. "It may sound strange to an outsider but I think basketball and film-making are similar in many ways. It's true that both have rules, whether technical or in the court, but those rules are just an outer framework that needs to be filled with creativity. The various possibilities of playing a match, knowing exactly when to pass, when to dribble and finally when to shoot - that's what I really love about the game."

Dordal enjoys playing basketball, and there are also many people who enjoy watching him. This season the USC has won all of its five games in the Second Federal League. "Erik Dordal has been a major factor in their success," says Dr. Michael Schwarz, president of the USC. "At his field position, two guard, Dordal has shown what he is capable of and he has proved the accuracy of his shooting time and again. Together with Kevin Burleson, he has also demonstrated that he is in a position to take on responsibility."

Schwarz attaches great importance to the international orientation of the USC. Whether in track and field events, basketball or other departments, he believes that the success of the 104-year-old club hinges essentially on identifying and encouraging young talents. "We would like to play a prominent role at the international level, too," he says with regard to the track and field athletes, notably Eric Nkansah, the 100-metre USC semi-finalist at the world championships in Paris some weeks ago.

The generosity of various sponsors, chief among them Manfred Lautenschläger and his family, means that the USC would now be in a position to buy good players. "But we don't want to achieve success by hiring professional players from elsewhere. What we need most is for players like Dordal to pass on the necessary know-how to younger generations and assume the function as a role model," explains Schwarz. This year the aim is to be up among the first three teams in the Second League. And it should not be long before the investment in young players starts yielding results. "Basketball is a popular sport in Germany. We have up to 1,000 spectators every time. My vision is to revive the days of Heidelberg as a German basketball stronghold," says Schwarz.

Johannes Schnurr

Translated by Andrea Allweier, Marta Bagües, Sophie Boullu-Chataigner, Natalie Englert, Andrea Glück, Mónica González, Anna Hudert, Tanja Knopp, Maik Kutzner, Imen Mguedmini, Yevgeniya Movchun, Anne Rezlaw, Doris Römer, Lisa Schmidt (Institut für Übersetzen und Dolmetschen, University of Heidelberg)

(Photos of Erik Dordal are available on request.)

Please address any inquiries to
Erik Dordal
phone: 06221/757446

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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