Omeyer: "At PSG I'm right where I belong"Article
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: At the age of 38, Thierry Omeyer does not think that his handball retirement is anywhere close. To the PSG goalkeeper revealed what continues to motivate him, which changing room he chooses when he returns to Kiel and why the French national team continues to be successful

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Men's News

Omeyer: "At PSG I’m right where I belong"

At almost 38 Thierry Omeyer is the most decorated goalkeeper in handball history – but this has not stilled his hunger for more.

After having won the EHF Champions League in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2012 – not to speak about Olympic gold and first places at World and European Championships – he transferred from Montpellier to Paris side PSG this summer with one clear goal in mind: winning more titles.

The first European matches he played showed that he has not lost any of skills, proving for example in the first round match against Metalurg that he is still among the very best between the posts. met him to talk about his goals with PSG and what it takes to live such an exceptionally long career. Thierry, you probably heard a lot of things about PSG last season. Two months after your arrival, how does it feel to be part of the team?
Thierry Omeyer: Since I arrived, everything has been great and there is an excellent atmosphere in the team. I can't really talk about last season, because I wasn't there, but it's really obvious that everybody in the team wanted to turn the page.

As soon as we started the preparation, everybody seemed really focused and willing to have a great season. This won't come easy, and training is a key element and when we're at it, everybody's really pulling in the right direction. Do you feel that last season's disappointments somehow provide an additional motivation?
Thierry Omeyer: Every season is different, and you've to learn from your mistakes to move on. Every player is motivated by nature, but of course when you've had a complicated season before, you want to better yourself and to put all of this behind you. I think that this is an additional factor to the fact that at PSG everybody is a competitor and wants to win all the time. You said you went to PSG to win more trophies. Do you think that the conditions are right to do so?
Thierry Omeyer: Definitely, even though the PSG is still a young club being only in its third season. But in the club, everybody wants the project to go forward as quickly and possible. Everything is in place, so that we players can concentrate only on the sport side of things. The roster has an impressive quality and quantity. That's something that's mandatory these days, if you want to win all trophies.

In today's handball, either in the EHF Champions League or in the French league, there are a lot of big games. In order to have regular results, a club needs a lot of players. And concerning the structures, everything's done so we can focus on playing handball. During the preparation, we've had excellent conditions in terms of training grounds and hotels. And the same is happening during the season, everything's as professional as it can be to put the players in the best conditions. You've played for the THW Kiel in Germany before. Where do you think PSG can still improve to reach the THW’s level?
Thierry Omeyer: THW Kiel is an established club which has tens of years of experience, so it's hard to compare, especially since I've been playing for PSG for only two months. What I can be sure of, is that in Kiel there is a true handball culture which doesn't exist in France yet.

We make progress every year to come closer though, we've got to use these clubs as an example to match. Of course, in terms of structures it's quite different. You have 10,000 people at every game in Kiel and you can't say the same about France. But in Paris, we have fans who come regularly and we've got to increase their number by playing well, having good results. People that come to see us play are pleased with what they've got and what they see, I believe. Your goal when you signed with PSG was to win more trophies, as we said earlier. Wouldn't it have been easier for you to just stay in Kiel, where you knew you would have had this opportunity?
Thierry Omeyer: Of course it could have been, but there was a choice to be made at some point. I've had seven fantastic years in Kiel. I've won everything I could have hoped for, including three EHF Champions League titles.

I wanted to come back and win this trophy with a French team again. That's a massive and exciting challenge and that's what motivated me. But this decision came also down to my family and because of  many other factors. These seven years were top, but I felt like I wanted to start again. I feel very happy at PSG. It really feels like I'm right where I belong. You won 21 titles with Kiel and many more with Montpellier and the national team. What is it that still motivates you?
Thierry Omeyer: It is simply the pleasure of doing something I love. Handball is all my life, I've barely known anything else since I was a little boy. I don't have many seasons left, and I want to make the most of the remaining ones.

Mentally, I feel very well, physically too. I'm as motivated as I've ever been to come to training sessions and I feel as much pleasure as before in making my body ache during the preparation. These are things that I still want to live and that I still feel capable of living, too. I've always been someone who looks ahead instead of behind, and I think there are still a lot of great things waiting for me. And now that I've got this challenge of winning the Champions League with the PSG, it gives a little bit of extra motivation. Speaking of the VELUX EHF Champions League, a new season has started. How did it feel to play on Europe’s courts again?
Thierry Omeyer: I was very happy to play the Champions League again, which is the best club competition you can find. To live games like these, playing in front of 8,000 fans, is something that every player dreams of. I missed it last season, these are the big games that I live for. Every game in the Champions League is hard to win, you've got to deserve every goal you score, every save you make, and that's really exciting.

We know the road is still long to Cologne and that anything can happen to us. The biggest challenge will be to remain focused all along the way, and to hope that we're lucky at some point as well. In November you will play against THW Kiel, your former club. How does this feel?
Thierry Omeyer: I know, for sure, that it will be a special moment. We played against Kiel with PSG this summer during the preparation and it felt strange already. I know everybody there, and to arrive as an opponent was quite something. It was emotional, but not in a nostalgic way.

But these games against Kiel in the Champions League will be even more special, because it will be the clash between the two clubs which are meant to finish first and second in the group, and we know how important it is to finish first. In a way, going there this summer helped a bit to take the pressure away. I'll soon be used to use the away dressing room at the Sparkassen-Arena! Let's talk about the national team. Some players have announced their international retirement recently, like Knudsen in Denmark or Glandorf in Germany. How do you explain that nobody retires in France?
Thierry Omeyer: That's true, and it can be explained by the pleasure we feel when we meet each other every time. We're very happy to see each other for international occasions, to talk about our experiences with our teams. For example: During competitions we spend a lot of time talking after meals, it's not like everybody goes to his room to live his own life.

For many players in the team, it's been more than ten years that they have worn the national jersey; some of them have even been there for fifteen years. The pleasure can't explain everything of course, but it helps a lot.

This team wouldn't have achieved if everything had only been based on the players' talent. You can be the best bunch of players on the planet, if you're not happy to play with your teammates, it just won't work. So, as you can see, the pleasure means that we're not in a rush to retire. Your contract with PSG ends in 2016, and you've talked a lot about the Olympic Games in Rio being the last competition you might play with the national team. Is this still your opinion?
Thierry Omeyer: Well, we'll see. For now, everything's set until 2016, but things could move until then. But I don't rule out carrying on playing afterwards, it will depend on how I feel, both physically and mentally. I want to live in the present and don’t look too far ahead. For now, I still want to live great emotions on handball courts.

If you look closer, a lot of goalkeepers of my generation are still playing at high level : Mattias Andersson, Kasper Hvidt, Venio Losert, Danijel Saric... It shows that I'm not the only one in this situation. And when you know that someone like Andreï Lavrov played until he was 42, it makes you realise that the important thing is the performance and not necessarily your age. Do you think that your will to carry on playing handball at high level at your age can be seen as a fear of retiring?
Thierry Omeyer: No, I don't think so. Honestly, I think I will find something to do when I've retired, and I think it will be connected to handball. Coaching goalkeepers is something I'd be attracted to, maybe training, I don't know...To retire too early would be a mistake because you might regret it afterwards.

As long as you feel that you can carry on, my opinion is that you can't stop. When you're a high level handball player, you live things which you won't be able to live once you've stopped. With goals like the Olympic Games in 2016, or the FINAL4 with PSG – these are things to look forward to in the next few seasons. So l want to enjoy them while I can. 

Photos: Laurent Théophile / Stephane Pillaud

TEXT: Kevin Domas / ts