A Moment With ... Gudjon Valur SigurdssonArticle
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A MOMENT WITH: From his early days a skinny kid, through his days at some of the most high profile clubs to dreams end in Barcelona, Gudjon gives us his thoughts on playing, good and bad coaches and a philosophy that should be heard by every budding professional

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Men's News

A Moment With ... Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson

There's something about interviewing Icelanders that I get a real kick out of. Growing up on a rock in the middle of the Arctic circle can't be easy, but there is a distant cousinship that I feel having grown up on a rock myself. They are affable, sincere and funny, traits that I see in the Irish themselves. So when Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson agreed to be interviewed I was delighted.

“It's been a difficult fourteen years for my mother”

No one can pronounce his name, (a kind of Gvudjon, I think), unless they have had copious amounts of alcohol. He has been called “Guggy, and most recently “Gudi” in Barcelona. The Valur is a bird and also the second name he has given to the youngest addition to his family. “It's the revenge of everything I had done to my mother,” he mused, as he talks about the effervescent two-year-old. A father of three, he admits the family found it a difficult decision to uproot the eldest kids for a move to Spain.

“Dream city, dream club, for a professional athlete”

He could have moved to Spain early in his career, but a call from current Austrian coach, Patrekur Johannesson, meant that he moved to Germany. But in the deep recesses of his mind was always the idea to play in Spain. So when the call came to go to Barcelona, he jumped at the chance.

“I didn't leave because I was unhappy”

He is keen to point out that his time at Kiel was great and that he was very happy there. Gislason accepted his decision with grace and told him he should accept the new challenge. He is delighted how things ended there (a last-day goal difference win to claim the Bundesliga) and says at 35, he wanted to try something new. It's like a throwback to his first days in Germany. Normally the new guy is a young athlete, but at his age, he finds himself again wondering how to buy groceries and doing the things that are normal everyday events.

“I wouldn't have it any other way”

He is loath to answer any questions about why he is so highly prized among the big teams of the day. A career that has seen him play for RNL, Kobenhavn, Kiel (all in the VELUX EHF FINAL4) now sees him at one of the biggest clubs in the world. You can just sense from him that he enjoys his game. He wants to give the best he can at all times. He doesn't want to be rested. He wants to play every minute of every game. It's in his DNA. He has incredible pride in his career and has no thoughts of retiring. In fact, he doesn't even want to think about it at all.

“We are on the edge”

He thinks deeply about the game and I can see a career down the line in some kind of player representative role. He balances the idea of having signed contracts, (that players understand their role before a season), with the idea that there is too much handball. He is proud of his time with the national team, but also recognises the need for players to sometimes say: “I need a break this time”. Three major events EURO, Olympics and World Championship will all take place within a year of each other from 2016. But the conflict of the team player remains. He realises Iceland needs to look in the mirror at the moment to figure out where they are going as a nation in handball. By contrast, he himself doesn't believe in “Bundesliga burnout”. He casually says: “If you have a problem, do something else.”

“We are not difficult to coach”

It's difficult at times to get a direct answer from him, yet couched within the moments of self-deprecation are moments of real honesty. The black sheep of the family won't say why the big teams want him and yet points out his frailties in defence. He laughs when I say I love the three named players scoring a goal on the fast break. “You have something to say when I go too slowly,” he quips. He takes chances to run a counter when the opposition shoots and he freely admits he would break his hand if he tried some of the shots that wingers can execute. He says age and passport mean nothing. “You are either good enough or not”.

Everything about him screams modesty and not in a false way. He hopes the club is happy with his performance. He recognises team performance above any individual accolade. 

“It has to be”

Four trips to Cologne has yielded no gold yet. He laughs and asks “Do you think the club knows it?” But he also realises that it is a goal he wants desperately to achieve. Knowing that he might have to overcome Kiel to get his hands on that medal, he calmly states that it is always special to meet former teams, but that he will do everything he can to win.

Having watched, from afar, the performances of Gudjon on the court, I can see just why the big teams want this man in their ranks. An engine that allows him to run and run, a never-say-die attitude and no little skill, he is the quintessential athlete.

Add to that a warm-natured individual, that actually loves what he does and you have the perfect addition to your team.

From his early days a skinny kid, through his days at some of the most high profile clubs to dreams end in Barcelona, Gudjon gives us his thoughts on playing, good and bad coaches and a philosophy that should have every budding professional reaching for their headphones to give this a really good listen.

Photo credit: Qatar 2015 Handball

TEXT: Tom O'Brannagain / cor