Little skill on the goal wall, but a lot of charm and emotional stories: The British Prince Harry put all his effort into promoting his Invictus Games in Düsseldorf, sporting competitions for war-disabled soldiers, in the ZDF “Sportstudio”. With him on the show was Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius – he not only showed significantly more skill on the goal wall, he also received a job suggestion from the prince.

Prince against minister, England against Germany, young against old – the winner of this duel probably came as a surprise to some viewers. The 63-year-old Pistorius hit the bottom hole in the goal wall twice in the Mainz TV studio, and narrowly missed several times. Harry (38), on the other hand, didn’t score at all – and had already suspected that. The prince took a deep breath and asked the team of moderators what would happen if they had zero hits at the end. “Why do I have to start?” he asked at the beginning. And when he passed the ball to Pistorius after the first three misses, he commented on the quality of the ball: “It’s nothing.”

Harry jokes: Pistorius as the new national coach?

Alluding to a previously shown article criticizing national soccer coach Hansi Flick after the national team’s lost game, Harry finally said to Pistorius with a laugh: “Is that the new soccer coach for Germany now? You can do that on the side. The man for all occasions so to speak.” But the shame wasn’t enough: In the end, Harry, fifth in line to the throne of the proud football nation England, had to put a scarf from the Bundesliga club Mainz 05 around his neck – a gift from Mayor Nino Haase.

But the Duke of Sussex took it with humor. At least it gave him the opportunity to speak to a large TV audience about his heartfelt affair, the Invictus Games. “I’m just really proud when I see how happy these people are,” said Harry about the athletes. For him, it was important to see that the community – soldiers wounded in action, but also police officers and firefighters injured in the line of duty – inspired other affected people. Seeing how determined and resilient the participants are, who have often experienced the worst, can inspire a lot of people.

Deployment in Afghanistan

Harry himself served in Afghanistan as an officer in the British Army. When he returned home, he was on a plane with seriously wounded soldiers – a turning point for the prince. “When you’re faced with something like that, your life changes,” Harry said. If you grew up the way he did and wanted your own voice to be heard publicly, then it was clear that you had to use that. He initiated the Invictus Games in 2014, and since then the number of participating countries and athletes has continued to increase.

The 38-year-old prince said it was particularly important to him to encourage people to talk about psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder. “This could potentially save someone’s life.”

But there is also criticism of the competitions that opened in Düsseldorf on Saturday – they are a glorification of war. Absolutely incomprehensible for Minister Pistorius: “I don’t understand this criticism at all,” he said. He doesn’t understand “how one can come to speak of heroizing war or being a soldier.” The opposite is the case, the Defense Minister continued – because the Invictus Games will now show what horror war means. The participants could also be role models and show how you can fight your way back into life through sport.

Pistorius: Ukraine war changes view of Bundeswehr

When asked about the fact that in other countries, such as the USA, war veterans were celebrated as heroes, Pistorius said: “We have a different tradition. We have a huge break from Nazi Germany when it comes to our military tradition.” For decades, Germany dealt with the Bundeswehr differently than other nations dealt with their armed forces. “That has been changing for some time and it has changed again due to the war in Ukraine. There is a renewed awareness that armed forces are needed.”

The two prominent guests were accompanied by two participants from the Invictus Games: Angelo Anderson from the USA and Jens Niemeyer from Germany. Niemeyer, visibly moved, told how he suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder after a deployment to Afghanistan – and how he is now slowly feeling better again with the help of sport and the Invictus Games.