“If you win in Cologne, you are on top of the world“Article
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Interview with THW Kiel playmaker Aron Palmarsson, who is striving for his third EHF Champions League title at the age of 23

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

“If you win in Cologne, you are on top of the world“

He was just 18 when he joined THW Kiel, at 21 he had already won the EHF Champions League twice, at 23 he comes to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for the fourth time: Aron Palmarsson has undergone a huge development at THW Kiel and now the Icelandic can write history – as the youngest triple EHF Champions League-winner of all time.

You play at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for the fourth time. What are your fondest memories of this event?

Aron Palmarsson: This is the biggest event in handball; this long weekend is just awesome. The four best teams compete, you have two matches in just 24 hours and therefore you have to be absolutely focused. There is no home team. European or World Championships take longer; the VELUX EHF FINAL4 is more compact and hence more exciting.

You topped the podium already twice…

Aron Palmarsson: These were unbelievable moments, and it’s still an unbelievable feeling to qualify for Cologne. This is something you can never expect at the start of the season. If you only have one bad day at the Last 16 or the quarter-finals, you’re out. That’s why the excitement in the lead-up – and especially the feeling if you win the event – is the true icing on the cake. Maybe it can be compared to Olympic gold, but I haven’t won this yet. If you win at Cologne, you’re on top of the world.

You can become the youngest triple EHF Champions League-winner of all times. Is this extra motivation for you?

Aron Palmarsson: I didn’t know that. When we won the Champions League in 2010, I was 19. It was unbelievable to be part of this team, and I have since continued my professional development. In the end I can only say that I’ve been very lucky that Alfred Gislason brought me to Kiel at such a young age.

Is the relationship to your coach like one of father and son?

Aron Palmarsson: No, it’s not going that far. He’s my boss, and that’s what it’s supposed to be like. Of course, Alfred Gislason has a huge impact on me and my development. We have a very good relationship and we talk a lot about our matches and opponents in the lead-up – and many a time we share the same opinion.

But you are “Alfred’s extended arm” on the court and the “head of THW Kiel”?

Aron Palmarsson: I prefer “extended arm”. Calling me the “head of the team” exaggerates as we have too many fantastic players who can lead the team. Of course, being the playmaker I carry a lot of responsibility. I have to call how we play, read the game, make decisions. But we are such a well-rehearsed squad that many players can assume this role.

Have you assumed even more responsibility following THW Kiel’s transition at the beginning of the season?

Aron Palmarsson: Four top players left the club; that for sure is a transition. Furthermore we were hit by many injuries and nevertheless we made it all the way to Cologne. That’s sensational. We have reached our first goal, now we want to win at Cologne.

You will face Veszprem in the semi-final. Do you consider this a lucky draw or a tough task?

Aron Palmarsson: There is no lucky draw anymore in the semi-final of the Champions League – you can only get drawn against tough teams. Barcelona were the overwhelming favourites at the start of the season and then they almost stumbled against Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the quarter-finals. This shows that from a certain point onwards, everyone can beat everyone. Veszprem are a super team with two world class players on each position. They play a fantastic season. Hence our semi-final against Veszprem is a true 50:50-match – we can’t afford to lose focus for even a second.

Your former teammate Momir Ilic plays for Veszprem. Is it an advantage that you know how Ilic plays, or a disadvantage because Ilic knows THW Kiel so well?

Aron Palmarsson: He knows our game play which might be an advantage for Veszprem. However, when you take to the court, that’s not something you think about. You only want to win, no matter who plays for the other team.

On the other hand, could it be an advantage that there will be many more THW Kiel fans at the LANXESS arena compared to Veszprem supporters?

Aron Palmarsson: It’s simply fantastic to watch how many of our fans follow us to Cologne each year. But I don’t think that Veszprem will be impressed by that. Last season they almost beat us at home and they won at Paris this season. I don’t think that Veszprem is any weaker when they play away.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor