A moment with ... Jesper NoddesboArticle
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INTERVIEW: Tom Ó Brannagáin speaks to an icon of Danish handball and FC Barcelona.

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

A moment with ... Jesper Noddesbo

I met Jesper Noddesbo on a rainy morning in Paris late October 2013 just prior to the CL game with PSG. It was pre EHF EURO 2014, pre getting to know his family in Denmark and pre another poor showing in a major final. It’s what makes this interview interesting. It shows a heart and soul, an optimism to put right what had gone wrong before in a national team and it also shows a modesty that was shown in greater detail having been dropped and reinstated to the national team during the EURO.

I had not meant to hold onto this interview for so long, but when I listened to it again, I decided it was the right time to air it. Of course, the fact he was named player of this round in the VELUX EHF Champions League was an added bonus.

“In an elevator people say hello”

He left Denmark at a young age to follow the dream in Barcelona. He admits you train to get to this stage. For a Danish boy, used to a more ‘distant’ culture he was initially surprised at the warmth and intimate style of the Catalans. The sexiest man in Danish Handball (voted many times over) now sees Spain as his home and when he is in Denmark, then that is his home also. “I have two homes,” he says. The culture within the team is no different to Denmark, but outside the team is where it’s most in evidence.

“I was a kindergarten assistant”

Imagine the little kids seeing that giant walking in every morning, yet he loved it. “Kids are so truthful” and he loved combining the two jobs of teacher and handballer. He says that times are changing and that more and more players in Denmark can concentrate on just the job of being a pro-athlete.

He doesn’t see himself going back to that career after his handball career, but sees himself going into physiotherapy. “Strong hands?” I ask. “Let’s not go there”, he replies, laughing.

“It’s the accomplishments of the NT, both men and women”

He is such a gracious person. The tradition of handball and the success of so many Danish players abroad are down to great coaches and the successes of both sets of players. How often do you hear a male athlete compare the two? But that is what is special about Jesper. He is a giver, a team man and his own ego comes second to national and club success.

“I haven’t been picked”

As I said at the beginning this interview was done before the EURO. And he is excited. He is hoping to be picked. And we all know what happened. Chosen, he was dropped in favour of a returning Eggert, and yet was reinstated before the final games again. He never complained. I had forgotten that he mentioned that Herning was his home town and he was so proud that the event would be held there. And yet he would have gone had he played or no.

Coincidentally enough, I met his family while in Denmark. They spoke about his being a player that is all about the team. If you get a chance watch it here.

A handball playing family he was brought up in the tradition. And true to type he refers also to Mikkel Hansen who also had that tradition.

Listening to this interview again, I realised what his parents had been talking about. He is selfless and a man you want on your team because he is, not only a great player, but also like the glue that keeps things together.

“Hopefully, it’s something that only happens once”

He was of course referring to the WC final against Spain. As we now know, it did happen again. But he knows his job. It is up to the coach to implement the tactics, make the changes and fit the team like a jigsaw. A new coach is coming and Jesper hopes that he will still be part of the plan.

From long hair, to red cards, the demise of AG Copenhagen to life at Barcelona, and reading “The Caveman’s Diet”, Jesper, in his quiet way, takes us through the journey of being a handball player, a father, a Dane in Spain and a team man. Handball has been good to him and in my opinion, he to handball.

Listen to the full interview with Jesper here.

TEXT: Tom O Brannagain, ehfTV commentator