We will need sign language in SkopjeArticle
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BLOG: Löwen captain, Uwe Gensheimer, on the duel with Vardar, a meeting with an old friend at Lake Balaton and his cheerful new coach.

We will need sign language in Skopje

Hi from Mannheim!

I hope everybody has enjoyed the start of the new VELUX EHF Champions League season; we – Rhein Neckar Löwen – did. After our dramatic elimination in Barcelona last season we are happy to be back and to have the chance to compete with the best.

But the draw was a real hammer for all us. Facing Veszprem and Vardar – two hot candidates for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 – means we have high hurdles to cross, and we play two straight matches in the fortresses of those powerhouses.

Preparing for a big audience

We could have won in Veszprem last Saturday, but some little things and of course the atmosphere in the arena decided this match. Now we will face another frenetic audience in Skopje.

In contrast to HSV Hamburg, who trained with extreme volume from loudspeakers last season to prepare for the loudness on the court, we have no special measures. The only thing we are practising is using more non-verbal communication or sign language, as we expect not to understand every word of our teammates when we play in Jane Sandanski Arena.

I really like those games with a big, frenetic audience. It shapes you as a team if you stand the pressure of fighting against 5,000 in the stands and seven on the court. It can give you a real push. So I value our trip to Skopje, which begins Saturday morning.

Familiar faces amongst opponents and new coaches

Last week in Veszprem I faced Christian Zeitz, whose home is close to Mannheim, where I come from. On a club level we never were teammates – he departed for Kiel when I joined the Löwen senior team, but when I was a regional representative he was on army service and he coached me. Last week we talked a lot and he told me it is really hard to learn the Hungarian language.  

In Skopje I will meet another well-known face, our former Löwen teammate, Sergei Gorbok.

As you all know a lot of things have changed at Löwen; for us the biggest change is the coaches. I like the way Nikolaj Jacobsen is working with the team – he is always cheerful and funny during the training sessions and full of passion when he is on the bench.

I think we have been working well since the start – our attack needs more precision, but our defence looks quite good already. This is thanks in part to our former teammate and new assistant coach, Oliver Roggisch. It is interesting to see him in his new role, criticising things he used to do too, but both Olli and Niko are doing a great job, as they are very close to the team.

Up next for Löwen

And so we hope to have another successful VELUX EHF Champions League season, though it is mentally hard to focus on a new match and a new opponent every three days (when you include our league games).

We will host our two main contenders for the top position – Veszprem and Vardar – on home ground in the second part of the group phase. We aim to finish first or second to have an easier start in the knock-out stage.

But first, we are looking forward to the duel in a fully-packed arena in Skopje.

All the best from Mannheim,

Uwe Gensheimer

Watch Löwen and Vardar live as the ehfCL.com Match of the Week on ehfTV.com.

TEXT: Uwe Gensheimer, left wing of Rhein-Neckar Löwen