“THW Kiel, my second family”Article
«Go back

THW Kiel star, Nikola Karabatic, tells us about the pressure, his plans, but he also tells us what it feels to be "hunted"...

“THW Kiel, my second family”

Often happens: half of a team guarding Karabatic Despite his young age, Nikola Karabatic won the CL title already for the second time with THW Kiel. The world class player, who is always ready for a chat about handball, shares his feelings about the past and the upcoming season.

Eurohandball.com: You are 23-years old, but you already won the Champions League twice (first with Montpellier, later with Kiel). What are you objectives after such a success?

Karabatic: The Champions League is the most important competition for clubs. So it’s nice to win this trophy twice at the age of 23. My dream is to win the Champions League as often as possible. But it becomes harder and harder to win, especially nowadays when four clubs from Spain and from Germany play in the CL. When I won the title with Montpellier it was not like this.

But if you win this title once or twice, you just get want it even stronger. You want to repeat it again and again. We have this cup in our trophy room in Kiel and I hope that the room will get more crowded. My objective is to take my friend, Andrej Tschepkin, over. He won the CL seven times.

Eurohandball.com: Flensburg’s Lars Christianssen said to Eurohandball.com that it’s better to be the hunter than the hunted. Kiel are the hunted now in three competitions. How big is the pressure on you and on the club?

The moment that eases pressureKarabatic: Everybody says that Kiel have an unbeatable team. But the good thing in sports is that everything can happen. Anyone can beat us. So we do not have enormous pressure on us, this pressure was on the club before THW won the CL title. Now, as we reached the most important objective, the pressure is gone. We can win the CL again, but in case we would not win, nobody would be angry with us. However, we will do everything to get on the podium again.

Eurohandball.com: You were the CL top scorer last season and it was yours task to do the draw for this year’s CL groups. Is it true that you expected to draw your former club Montpellier in your current group?

Karabatic: My biggest wish was to draw the match Kiel against Montpellier because Montpellier is a special club. I lived there for ten years and I still have friends and family there. I’m very happy to meet them. Before the draw, our manager Uwe Schwenker told me: ‘Please draw Montpellier and Hammarby’. Former Kiel player, Staffan Olsson, is the coach of Hammarby.

I said: ‘Yes, but if we play in Montpellier, I will sleep in my family’s house’. Uwe said: ‘Okay.’ And then I did it.

Eurohandball.com: What’s your opinion about the opponents in the first round: Montpellier, Hammarby and Constanta?

Karabatic: Montpellier is very strong; their players are very experienced. But also Hammarby has certain qualities. You have to show respect for every opponent, otherwise it can happen that you lose an “easy” match.

Eurohandball.com: Which is harder to play: Bundesliga or Champions league?

Karabatic got used to these moments with the French national team tooKarabatic: The difficulty is to play the two competitions at once. Every year you have more matches – not only with the clubs, but also with the national team.

This season we have ECh, WCh qualification matches, Olympic qualification games, and if we qualify, the Olympics in Beijing. This is too much. The responsibles have to think about the players. If all the stars are injured, the competitions will not be played on the same level. In addition, handball is even harder than basketball or football. I had two very hard years now, and I hope I will be able to play some more.

Eurohandball.com: Back to Champions League: you won the title with Montpellier when you were 19 and with Kiel at the age of 23. Which was more impressing for you?

The 19-year old Karabatic with Guigou in the neck - the first CL titleKarabatic: My emotions were completely different. Winning with Montpellier was a big surprise. After losing the first leg of the final in Portland everybody thought that we were out. This victory was the first big success of my career, so it was something very special.

The situation in Kiel was totally different. Although we had a lot of injured players in our team, we were the favourites against Flensburg. It was more difficult to win with an enormous pressure on us. I never felt such a pressure before in my whole life. But we could endure the pressure and we won. Standing on the podium was the best day of my life. It was a feeling you cannot describe.

Eurohandball.com: You won the CL, the German championship and the German Cup with your team. Individually, you were top scorer of the CL. What did this title mean for you?

Karabatic: I was informed just before the finals that I was leading the top scorer list. It did not bother me. I don’t care about goals, only about the success of the team. It was a great honour to become the top scorer, but in case I should choose, it’s 1,000 times more important to win the Champions League than to be the top scorer. But there was one good thing in it: I was the one to draw the groups at the Champions League Gala in Vienna.

Eurohandball.com: Your contract in Kiel ended last season, but despite lot of great offers you stayed in Kiel. Why did you sign until 2012?

Karabatic: The team is perfect, I never want to go away from here. THW Kiel has become my second family. I have not only colleagues, but friends here. I like Kiel, the team and the players very much, and this is the most important thing.

The man who knows everything about handball: Noka SerdarusicEurohandball.com: What role does your coach, Noka Serdarusic, play in your plans?

Karabatic: A very special one. When I came to Kiel, it was because of him. He is the best coach in the world, he knows everything about handball. I learn so much from him and he helps a lot in my development.

Eurohandball.com: Last season Kiel won every national and international title. How important is it for you and for the club to win a “triple” again?

Karabatic: We want to reach everything, we want to win every match – this is the philosophy of THW Kiel. At the end of the season we will count the trophies.

Eurohandball.com: Do you think that a team not Spanish or German could be able to win the Champions League?

Karabatic: Not this season. In two or three years, clubs such as Montpellier or Celje – they have great fan base and handball culture – will be able to win. But this season the winner will come either from Spain or Germany.

Omeyer and Karabatic are good advertisement for the French playersEurohandball.com: So your biggest opponents are the usual ones.

Karabatic: Yes, three of them from Germany, four from Spain.

Eurohandball.com: Do you have a favourite opponent?

Karabatic: There is not only one. I like to play against the best teams in the world: Flensburg, Barcelona or Ciudad Real... These matches have special atmosphere and they bring a special motivation for me.

Eurohandball.com: You were the first French to play in Kiel. By now Thierry Omeyer and Igor Anic also joined the club. Kiel becomes a French colony?

Karabatic: The German clubs are looking for French players like me, Omeyer, the Gille-brothers or Narcisse. They know what French players are able to do and that they give everything for their clubs. This development is good for all: German clubs, Bundesliga and also for the French national team.

TEXT: Björn Pazen