Abalo, Juanin to relive old rivalryArticle
«Go back

FACE TO FACE: From a history of big matches in Spain to the VELUX EHF Champions League, Luc Abalo and Juanin Garcia are no strangers on the court.

Abalo, Juanin to relive old rivalry

During Luc Abalo’s seasons spent in the Spanish league, he faced left-winger Juanin Garcia on a regular basis – and the matches were always especially competitive.

The two will meet again in this weekend’s round of VELUX EHF Champions League group phase matches, when their teams take to the court in Paris on Sunday.

"It will be like going back to those tough battles, when FC Barcelona, Ciudad Real and Atletico Madrid were all competing for the Spanish titles," says the French right winger.

"We even faced each other in a Champions League Final in 2011, but sadly this didn't end the way we wanted it to."

During the match in question, Juanin and Abalo scored three goals each, and Barcelona went on to win the VELUX EHF Champions League title that season.

A ‘high voltage’ history in Spain

Garcia has the same kind of memories as Abalo: "We had to play many matches and finals against Ciudad Real and Atletico Madrid, and all of them were ‘high voltage’ games. There was no second chance in those matches and I always remember him as one of the key players every time we had to face each other."

Two seasons after Abalo moved from Madrid to Paris, Juanin transferred from Barcelona to his current club, Naturhouse La Rioja, after nine seasons spent in a ‘blaugrana’ jersey.

"Playing all these years in Barcelona was a huge honour for me," says Juanin, now 37 years old.

"It's different in Naturhouse. The goals are obviously lower in terms of results, but still, you've got to remain a top professionnal, no matter which club you play with."

Rivals trade compliments

Abalo has always thought of Juanin as a professional in every sense of the word.

"The guy is 37 and he's still as much of a fighter as he always has been," says Abalo, the younger one of the pair.

"I was watching La Rioja's game in Kiel the other day, and bang – he scored six goals out of six shots in the first twenty minutes of the match. To do that with such consistency over the years takes a lot of work and I have a lot of respect for that."

If Abalo is full of kind words for his opponent, the same can be said for Juanin.

"Abalo is one of the top three right wings in the world. His shooting variety and his fast dribbling, especially when it comes to fast breaks, make him one of the most complete players of PSG. I honestly think he could be a very good right back if he wanted to," said Garcia.

In fact, Abalo played as a right back when he was younger, and sometimes goes back to this position when needed.

"But I'm very happy on the wing," the French man adds.

Two impressive trophy collections

Between the two of them, Luc Abalo and Juanin Garcia create one of handball’s all-time biggest records. Two EHF Champions League, one French and seven Spanish titles – and that is only club handball.

"Well that's pretty good, isn't it?" laughs Abalo. "Juanin has lasted so much over the years; it shows how important and how effective he is. When you look at him now, and then at pictures at him when he arrived at FC Barcelona, it seems he hasn't aged. Still running fast, still as passionate and still as efficient – I'd really like to be like him as I get older."

Follow the PSG Handball vs Naturhouse La Rioja on Sunday 12 October at 17:00 hrs local time live on ehfTV

TEXT: Kevin Domas, Francisco Miranda / cg