It’s a turbulent year for Johannes Voigtmann. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine also turned the basketball player’s life upside down. And that shortly before the home EM.

Finally basketball again! Finally back on the floor with teammates! For Johannes Voigtmann, the two upcoming World Cup qualifiers in Estonia on Thursday and three days later in Bremen against Poland are two very special ones.

Not because the German national team is looking for a good starting position for the second group phase on the way to the World Cup next year. Also not because the encounters are already a first small step in preparation for the European Championships this summer with a preliminary round in Cologne and the final round in Berlin. Voigtmann hasn’t played basketball since the end of February simply because of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

When Vladimir Putin gave the order for the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Voigtmann was still under contract with the top Russian club CSKA Moscow. The 29-year-old center was with his team in Munich, where the Euroleague game at FC Bayern scheduled for the evening was canceled at short notice. Nobody could think about basketball because of the terrible pictures from Ukraine – nor about staying in Russia.

Inappropriate symbolism

“In the current situation, I can’t agree with myself to hold competitions for a Russian team, where in the end it’s about winners and losers,” Voigtmann said in an interview with “Kicker” at the beginning of March. “Even if it’s just about basketball, it contains symbolism that I think is currently inappropriate.”

So after his return from Munich to Moscow and after talks with the CSKA officials, Voigtmann grabbed his shepherd dog, emptied the apartment and set off with the dog on the passenger seat in the car for around 2500 kilometers to Germany, where his family was already waiting for him.

«The Russian President is responsible for a brutal war of aggression, because of which innocent people are dying in Ukraine, millions of people have to flee their homes, and children in particular are losing their homes or even their lives. I just couldn’t stay in Russia and carry on as if nothing had happened,” said Voigtmann.

Officially still under contract in Moscow

Back in Germany, the first thing to do was mentally process the abrupt end in Moscow. After that, Voigtmann was faced with the question, also with a view to the home European Championship: switch to another club at short notice to gain match practice, or give the body some time to recover after many years without major breaks? Voigtmann opted for the latter option, also because the talks with CSKA about terminating the contract were not so easy. He is still officially under contract in Moscow until the summer of 2023.

But first of all, the focus this summer is on the national team. Two weeks ago, Voigtmann was part of a small group that started training in Frankfurt am Main. National coach Gordon Herbert has gathered his entire team around him since last Friday and is happy that Voigtmann is there. “Jo is a very important part,” said Herbert. “Now we have to see how quickly he finds his rhythm again.”

Together with NBA professional Dennis Schröder, Voigtmann is to lead the team this summer. Last year, when Schröder was absent, Voigtmann was one of the leaders. The Thuringian also made his standing in the team clear with clear statements about the cause of Joshiko Saibou, who did not clearly distance himself from conspiracy theories during the Corona period.

“I’ve been here for eight or nine years and have developed into a role,” Voigtmann told the dpa. “It’s not the case with us that one is the boss. We have many who play at the highest level and therefore have the right to say something. And I think I’m one of them.”