Mikkel Hansen: All the way to CologneArticle
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The World Handball Player of the Year talks about his objectives and “Project AGK”.

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Mikkel Hansen: All the way to Cologne

Last week Mikkel Hansen was announced as IHF World Handball Player of the Year 2011 - just weeks after becoming EHF EURO champions with Denmark. ehfCL.com met the Danish superstar - who has played for AG Kobenhavn since 2010 - after the VELUX EHF Champions League match AGK v THW Kiel, and talked with the 24-year-old left-back about his experience in Kobenhavn and his objectives.

Hansen returned to his home country after wearing an FC Barcelona shirt for two seasons, including in the final at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2010 in Cologne. He first hit the big time at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, later becoming silver medallist at the World Championship 2011 in Sweden where he was the top scorer, and then Danish champion and Danish cup winner with AGK and All-Star-Team member at the EHF EURO 2012.

In the VELUX EHF Champions League, in which AGK are participating for the first time, Hansen’s upcoming opponent in the Last 16 is Swedish side Sävehof IK. Unfortunately the famous AGK goalkeeping duo is separated for the rest of the season, with Norwegian Steinar Ege out with a ruptured Achilles, picked up in the last league match against Silkeborg.


But despite this Mikkel Hansen is optimistic that AGK can go all the way to Cologne, where the new VELUX EHF Champions League champions will be crowned on 27 May.

ehfCL.com: After two years in Barcelona – how did it feel to return to your home country and especially to the newly built "project AG Kobenhavn" in 2010?

Mikkel Hansen: It was a very exciting welcome and I was glad to be at home again. For me as a Danish player it is great to be part of a Danish club which is one of the main contenders for winning the VELUX EHF Champions League.

ehfCL.com: How far has "project AGK" developed up to now?

Mikkel Hansen: Everything looks really good currently. It is important to have experienced players when you want to gain international success and to withstand the pressure in away matches in the VELUX EHF Champions League. I believe we have the right mix of players in our squad – and we train really hard to reach our objectives. We have a very professional ambition in our club.

ehfCL.com: How do you see your role in the AGK team?

Mikkel Hansen: I am still learning – and I have the best teachers you can get in the world of handball. Joachim Boldsen and Lars Jörgensen teach me in defence, and I learnt a lot from Olafur Stefansson in attack, and still am. So I feel very privileged to be part of this team. The club had a great vision and now we have the great players and characters in our team that you need to be successful. I hope we have an exciting year ahead.

ehfCL.com: A part of the project AGK is the entertainment factor – different to most of the clubs in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Like football goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel bringing the ball to the throw-off, your club anthem is sung live and famous DJs make music in the break...

Mikkel Hansen: Our fans get a big experience. They get a show around the game and they get much more for their money, not just 60 minutes of handball. It is an entertainment package for the whole family, as the kids are involved, too. It is fantastic for us players to be on the court with such a great atmosphere created by our fans.

ehfCL.com: And you are in the spotlight of this show...

Mikkel Hansen: It is a great feeling coming on the court and all the people shout your name. And our fans can cheer like they are insane. It is crazy!

ehfCL.com: And if you reach the final destination Cologne, your support will be huge, too. How realistic do you rate the chance of reaching the VELUX EHF FINAL4 this season?

Mikkel Hansen: We want to go all the way to Cologne, so we must work harder every day than our opponents do. Look at THW Kiel: Their squad is so well rehearsed after ten years together - everybody knows what to do. Our team is quite young and hasn't played together as long – and our new key player Olafur Stefansson was out for weeks after a knee surgery. We can improve and we have to improve – we have to learn to react in the right way as a team, but still we have a lot of time to improve.

ehfCL.com: 2012 started perfectly for you: EHF EURO Gold, the direct qualification for the Olympics, the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League in the first year of participation. What is your dream for 2012?

Mikkel Hansen: Everything has been fantastic up to now, but hopefully there are still some titles to come after the EURO Gold, which we won with a bit of luck. But no matter what the competition, no matter if I play for Denmark or AGK: You always have to give 100 per cent, anything less and you will be defeated. If you consider this, 2012 can be a year full of titles. It is a matter of mental and physical fitness – and this is the reason why we train so hard.

Photo: Iványi Aurél

TEXT: Björn Pazen