In terms of sport, Gabriel Clemens has no task at all on this hot Premier League evening in Berlin.
But the fact that Germany's darts figurehead has not yet been called up for the million league of the world association PDC seems almost irrelevant before the ninth day of the game on Thursday (8 p.m. / Sport1 and DAZN). Because the first World Cup semi-finalist from Germany is in demand more than ever. The fans celebrate the 39-year-old Saarlander, who went from being an industrial mechanic to being a darts star. And when it comes to comparisons, those responsible reach for the very highest shelf.
"For me, Gaga is a bit comparable to Phil Taylor. He does it outstandingly. He doesn't try to be cooler or more modern than he is. It's great how he does it," said Werner von Moltke, boss of the PDC Europe German press agency. Clemens is not a speaker or entertainer, but authentic. When the massive man with the nickname "German Giant" duped the Welsh muscleman Gerwyn Price on the huge World Cup stage on New Year's Day, many thought: This is someone like us.
Search for a figurehead
The darts sport has been looking for a Boris Becker figure for years in order to get even stronger out of the former niche. Expert and commentator Elmar Paulke said about reaching the World Cup semifinals for the first time: "It turned out that such a success was necessary to take this next step in darts in Germany. The Germany factor had to come in, that's how in all other sports too."
When Clemens was in the World Cup semifinals, the tournament in London's Alexandra Palace became a big topic in the media. The Tagesschau reported extensively in its 8 p.m. edition, and a short time later the Saarlander was a studio guest in ZDF’s “Aktuelle Sportstudio”. But what is left for darts between the beginning of January and mid-December if no World Cup is played during the sport-poor period? 2023 at least a record. "We will achieve a record year in terms of viewership," said von Moltke. The World Cup is "the locomotive" for ticket sales - in this case it was Clemens with his furious run at the most important tournament in the world.
For a long time, the young and eloquent Max Hopp was considered a logical candidate for such a promotion. But the career of the former super talent has stalled massively, instead the former machinist Clemens played his way into the extended world elite. For the makers of Moltke it doesn't matter who makes this breakthrough from a German point of view. "15 years ago I thought I'd like to bake one. That's all nonsense, I had to learn. People love winners. Everything else doesn't matter at all."
Still too far away from the top 10
Von Moltke and Paulke agree that the Premier League 2023, in which stars like Price, Michael van Gerwen and world champion Michael Smith shine week after week, can still do without German starters. "It would have been too early for me, but it will come," predicted Paulke. The growing German market and the World Cup semifinals would have spoken for Clemens - but otherwise almost nothing, because as a ranked 20th. the "German Giant" is still far away from the top ten in the world.
Especially since Clemens hasn't come together much since the World Cup. At the Masters, at the UK Open and most recently at the European Tour tournament in Leverkusen, he lost in round one. "Unfortunately, it's not enough to play well at the moment and I'm losing games that I should actually be winning," said Clemens.
The fact that he remained grounded during and after the World Cup could benefit him in the difficult sporting phase. "He's not the stage pig as a guy. I think it's good that he doesn't disguise himself or disguise himself. That's the best way to deal with his situation," said Paulke. It is certain that the more than 10,000 spectators on Thursday evening in Berlin will celebrate and sing about him without their own effort.