Lois Abbingh: "Nobody believed we could do this"Article
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: The Baia Mare centre back talks to ehfcl.com on her club's remarkable comeback, her recovery from a knee injury and the prospects of the Dutch national team

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Women's News

Lois Abbingh: "Nobody believed we could do this"

Back to full strength after a knee surgery last year, Dutch player Lois Abbingh has been instrumental in the remarkable comeback HCM Baia Mare staged in the Women’s EHF Champions League.

The Romanian team entered the competition’s main round with zero points but after four rounds have been played they have become a strong favourite to advance to the quarter-finals.

For this ‘Interview of the Week’, ehfcl.com spoke with the 22-year-old left back about her first year at Baia Mare after four seasons with VfL Oldenburg in Germany, her ambitions with the Dutch national team, and, of course, her eight-month recovery period after she had undergone surgery of the posterior cruciate ligament in her left knee to end persistent injury troubles.

The knee has fully healed, though Abbingh went through some scary moments early in last Sunday’s Women’s EHF Champions League match against IK Sävehof as she fell and, as a precautionary measure, decided not to play on.

ehfcl.com: How is your knee doing these days?

Lois Abbingh: I fell on my knee (on Sunday) and even though it wasn’t really bad, it was a bit scared. Even days later the knee feels bruised but that is normal and I just have to be confident that everything will be OK. I trust my knee a lot more than I have done for the last couple of years.

ehfcl.com: How tough was it mentally to join a new club last summer and not to be able to actually play for them until January?

Lois Abbingh: For me personally it was good I made the switch. I was still having a great time in Oldenburg but later I felt that moving to a new club had given me additional motivation during my recovery period.

I wanted to play as soon as possible, wanted to be part of a new team, wanted to show what I’m capable of. I felt like I had to take the opportunity because they really wanted me despite my injury. For me, the toughest moment came when I could start playing again. There are so many matches on a high level and, of course, you want to play each and every one of them. But after such a long time, your body isn’t used to it anymore. That takes some time.

ehfcl.com: Are you surprised by Baia Mare’s results in the Women’s EHF Champions League?

Lois Abbingh: We entered the main round with zero points, which obviously was a disappointment. I think nobody believed we could get to this position where we have every chance of reaching the quarter-finals. Next Sunday (when we play) at Györi ETO (19:00 hrs, live on ehfTV) is going to be very tough but we can complete the job next week at home (on 15 March against Viborg HK).

As a team we knew it was going to be difficult starting with zero points but we also knew we could play some good games against these opponents. We knew there was still a chance.

Self-belief is the most important. We are successful because we really live from match to match and we know every single match is important.

ehfcl.com: With Slovenia’s Tone Tiselj arriving as new head coach mid-season, the language within the team changed from Romanian to English An advantage?

Lois Abbingh: Meanwhile I understand Romanian pretty well but I do hardly speak it. Using English is certainly helpful. We have many different nationalities in our team and it’s definitely easier to communicate this way.

ehfcl.com: Baia Mare is also doing well as defending champions in the Liga Nationala, leading the table ahead of CSM Bucuresti. How do you see your own role in the team’s success?

Lois Abbingh: We have been doing very, very well since I am playing again. I won’t say that this is just because of me, but I am glad that I can help the team. I’ve always been a player who can score a few goals in each match and it’s good for any club to have such players.

ehfcl.com: You left the Netherlands at the age of 17, spent four seasons in Oldenburg before joining Baia Mare last summer. What’s your next step?

Lois Abbingh: I have always had a career plan. I knew, after four years in Oldenburg, I would be 21 and that would be perfect to make the step to the top. I’ve done that, and now I have no idea what’s next! I’ll be here for the next 2½ years but have no clue what’s happening then.

ehfcl.com: Was it frustrating for you to watch EHF EURO 2014 from the stands while the Dutch team made such a great impression?

Lois Abbingh: Of course, you always want to play but I knew months in advance that I wasn’t going to make it. It was great to see we were able to surprise the world. In the next few years, it will become really clear that this team has been playing together for a long time, that we are a really good team. Hopefully we can celebrate a real success soon.

ehfcl.com: The next mission for ‘Oranje’ is qualifying for the World Championships in Denmark. How do you see the Dutch chances against Czech Republic in June?

Lois Abbingh: On paper we definitely should beat Czech Republic. But it’s not a given. We’ll take these two matches just as seriously as we did against Russia two years ago.

ehfcl.com: The Dutch Handball Federation launched the ‘One Team, One Dream’ fundraising campaign last year but has dropped initial plans to bring the team together full-time for a year in the build-up to the Olympic Games in Rio. Is that disappointing?

Lois Abbingh: We all have the same ambition. It would be fantastic to be at the Olympics as a small nation. Of course it’s good when you’re able to train a lot together for a long time.

But on the other hand, most of the girls are playing at top teams in really strong competitions. It’s great if we have much time together with the national team but it may be even better when a lot of the girls are playing top-level matches in the Champions League each week. That can only make us stronger.

TEXT: Eric Willemsen / ts