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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: THW Kiel's Filip Jicha will play his fourth VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne and could lift the trophy as captain for the first time

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

Leading comes from within

Filip Jicha twice became VELUX EHF Champions League winner with THW Kiel – both times (2010, 2012) in Cologne. So it is hardly surprising that the Czech international has special emotions prior to his fourth participation in Cologne.

However, 2014 will be a debut of sorts for Jicha, as it is the first VELUX EHF FINAL4 as the team captain of the three-time champions, meaning that he will be the one to raise the trophy should Kiel triumph.

The 2010 World Handball Player of the Year and two-time Champions League top scorer shares his thoughts on this scenario and what he expects to be the keys for success in Cologne.

ehfCL.com: The crucial question some days prior to your departure to Cologne: Is your ankle ok, or will this injury disturb your preparation?

Filip Jicha: I think it will be healed completely by the time we get to Cologne. I could help my team already in the last league matches and as I had been more often to the physiotherapist than to training sessions, there’s no danger of missing the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

ehfCL.com: Although you are part of the event for the fourth time, you will break new ground as captain of the team. Is it something special to lead THW Kiel?

Filip Jicha: To be in Cologne is always something special, regardless of whether you are a player, coach, spectator or a team captain. It is the most important weekend in the world of handball, perfectly and highly professional organised, with the right mix of entertainment and sport. And therefore my anticipation on this event is not bigger or smaller compared to those years when I had not been the THW team captain. To be honest: I don’t care about being captain, but just to be in Cologne again.

ehfCL.com: What are your key memories when you look back on the three participations?

Filip Jicha: There were colossal moments when we won the trophies in 2010 and 2012 and bitter hours when we lost both matches in 2013. But even those two defeats within 24 hours have stuck with our team and given us experience. It was the motivation to be better and to return to Cologne.

ehfCL.com: Even if being THW captain is not as important to you as being in Cologne, have you already imagined how it could be to receive the Champions League trophy by EHF President Jean Brihault?

Filip Jicha: This is so far away from where we are now, I honestly did not think about it. But to imagine a moment like this would be a dream come true. But we need two wins to see this dream come true. I would be quite relaxed when I would receive the trophy, we would have reached our goal by then. But first up is Veszprem, then we will see.

ehfCL.com: After a transition in the THW squad, some younger players like Wael Jallouz will be part of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for the first time. It is your task to prepare them for this event?

Filip Jicha: As a team captain it is my job to guide and lead the team – on and off the court. To be a kind of leader and to take responsibility is no problem for me, I don’t have to be forced, and it comes from within.

ehfCL.com: How will the newly formed team react in Cologne?

Filip Jicha: We can prove that we have become united, as team spirit is all that counts. Everyone must know that he must give all and the previous weeks have shown what we can reach as a team. We are challenged as a team and there’s no difference when you are the team captain.

ehfCL.com: Last season Kiel took two narrow wins over Veszprem in the quarter-finals. Is that a good omen for the 2014 semi-final?

Filip Jicha: I expect a level match. On a good day we can beat every opponent in Europe, one weak day we can lose against all teams. I hope that, backed by our fans, we will play with emotion and focus only on us, not on Veszprem.

ehfCL.com: Is it a disadvantage that your former team mate Momir Ilic might blow the secrets of the THW tactics?

Filip Jicha: I shared the hotel room with Momo during all of our away matches, so to meet him in this match is something special. We still have a perfect relationship, which will ‘take a rest’ during those 60 minutes in Cologne. He’s had a fantastic season in Veszprem – but maybe he has a bad day against us. On Sunday he then can play brilliant again!

ehfCL.com: In 2013, Kiel lost to Hamburg and Kielce in Cologne. Is this result still bother you?

Filip Jicha: The world had been shattered for me after the semi-final defeat against Hamburg. We all knew that this was the last opportunity for this team to win a title. We were totally sad and down after this defeat, so I was not surprised by the defeat against Kielce. We went to Cologne to win this trophy – and finally all cumulated in the most sad Sunday morning breakfast I have experience in my life. But: Life went on afterwards. One year later, the anticipation on this event is even bigger. We are back!

ehfCL.com: In one sentence, what are the keys to another THW success?

Filip Jicha: To go through our match plan, to play with emotion and passion, to show this famous THW winning gene, of which nobody knows if it really exists, and to enjoy the whole event with our fans.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor