Cañellas brothers: "We are both not favourites"Article
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NEWS FEATURE: While Marc fights for the EHF Cup trophy with Granollers, Joan is part of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 with Kiel.
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Cañellas brothers: "We are both not favourites"

The Karabatic brothers will fight together for the VELUX EHF Champions League trophy with Paris Saint-Germain Handball in Cologne, in the final of 2011, the Entrerrios brothers duelled each other, one playing for BM Ciudad Real, the other one for FC Barcelona. But the constellation that two brothers fight for two different European Cup trophies in the same season happened very rarely before.

This year, Marc (20) and Joan Cañellas (29) have the chance to win two different titles, but both agree that "in both final tournaments, we are definitely not the favourites with our teams."

This weekend, Marc Cañellas is on court at the EHF Cup Finals in Nantes, where he and his club Fraikin BM. Granollers will face the hosts in the semi-final. Two weeks later, Joan will be part of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, where he and THW Kiel will duel for the third straight time with MVM Veszprém to reach the final.

On the same day, 30 April 2016, both brothers clinched their respective berth for the final tournaments. The first to celebrate was Joan. "150 people from my home city Santa Maria de Palautordera, friends and family, had come to Palau Blaugrana to cheer and cross their fingers for me," Joan Cañellas says, adding: "They are all Catalans, but on that night they were in favour of me and not of Barcelona."

Cañellas and THW won the first leg 29:24, but were close to elimination in the final stage of the second leg. Then, the former Barcelona player Joan Cañellas sealed the deal with a triple strike.

Despite the 30:33 defeat, Kiel booked their ticket to Cologne. "I was completely over-motivated in that match. It was my first return to Barcelona, since I left from Madrid to Germany in 2013. And all friends had come, so I wanted to show them a perfect match. But the first 50 minutes were bad. So I was really happy that I managed to be one key for the ticket to Cologne."

"We had talked that day and wished all the best to each other," Marc Cañellas says. His time had come 30 minutes after the final whistle in Palau Blaugrana. "I had seen the result and Joan’s qualification for the FINAL4 was a boost for me."

Granollers won the first leg of the EHF Cup Quarter-finals 30:24 against Danish side Bjerringbro-Silkeborg – but trailed by seven goals several times in the return match. Finally and thanks to the away goal rule, the 32:26 defeat was enough for Granollers' biggest success since winning the old format of the EHF Cup in 1996.

"In no stage of the competition – neither the group phase, nor the quarter-finals were we the favourites. We have reached already much more than we had expected. But now we can go to Nantes with nothing to lose, the pressure is on the hosts," explains Marc.

"As I have played for Granollers in my early days and as Marc is playing for them now, I always follow the results of the club – and I never expected that they would make it to the EHF Cup Finals with their young team and without any stars. They are the true underdogs in Nantes, but I will cross my fingers for them," says Joan.

And he goes on: "It was expected of us before the season that we would make it to the FINAL4, but when our injury crisis started, our chances went down and down. But despite eliminating Barcelona in the quarter-finals, we are anything but the favourites in Cologne, all three remaining teams have stronger squads than Kiel have."

The VELUX EHF FINAL4 will be the last two international matches for Cañellas in the Kiel jersey, as he will transfer to HC Vardar the next season: "You never know how far you come with your next club, so I gave all I had to make it to the FINAL4. I will be on court in Cologne for the fifth time now, I made it twice to the finals, but never became Champions League winner. Maybe we are lucky to take the trophy this year.

"The last years of the FINAL4 have shown that not always the big favourites win the tournament. Usually when you arrive with Kiel, you are the favourite, this year is different, maybe this our chance."

Marc will definitely support Joan, the 2013 World Champion and 2016 EHF EURO silver medallist: "I would have loved to be in Cologne to see the event, but I will have to watch it on TV, as we have a Spanish league match that weekend. I guess that if one of us will win a trophy this season, then it is rather Joan than me."

Handball is an integral part of the Cañellas family already in the third generation: "My grandfather played handball, my father did and our third brother also does. So we are a family that is crazy about handball," says Marc. "And unfortunately for Spanish handball, but fortunately for our family, we have more time together this summer."

As Joan and Spain missed the qualification for the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, the Cañelllas family will talk a lot about the two tournaments in May – and maybe one of the brothers will end the season with a European trophy.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / es