Romero: "FINAL4 is the best experience in club handball"Article
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INTERVIEW: Iker Romero shares his experiences of his 10 years in the EHF Champions League ahead of attending the VELUX EHF FINAL4 as one of the competition's four legends

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Romero: "FINAL4 is the best experience in club handball"

Iker Romero has gone down as one of the greats in Spanish handball and in EHF Champions League history.

Not just known for his skills on the court but for his particular view of handball and life and always with a smile on his face.

One year after his retirement he is working for the Spanish Handball Federation (RFEBM) as an ambassador and is studying to be a handball manager next season, which he will announce in due course.
“I'm living good. There is another world after playing handball, neither better nor worse, it is different, but at least as good as the other.

“All you have to do is change your mind and know that you're not a professional player, and that I did just after finishing my career.”

"I started working with the Spanish Federation in a very comfortable situation, but we missed out on the Olympics with the men's team and it is a difficult time for everyone. It is a time to make changes. We'll see what the future holds.”

The Basque handball star returns to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 as a handball legend only one year after his retirement as a professional player and an EHF Cup triumph.

"It is incredible that the EHF has invited me to the FINAL4 as a handball legend. It's amazing.

“It will be the time I’ll see it as a fan with the crowd. I hope to enjoy it and experience different emotions than as a player.

“The FINAL4 is a brilliant format for handball, teams and the competition. For the sale of this sport it is a spectacular idea, just need to see the sold-out arena in Cologne this weekend.”

No favourite in Cologne

Romero does not have a special favourite to win the title at LANXESS arena.

“I played many FINAL4s in the Champions League and in Spain and Germany. There can always be favourites, but it is very difficult to be favourite because there are only two matches played in 24 hours and the four teams are very good.

“It is going to be an exciting and beautiful event and I have no real favourite although I have friends that are going to play and I wish them all the luck.

“I do not like to say who will be the MVP because I have many friends who are going to play. I hope that one of my friends will be the MVP”

Incredible experiences

Romero played in both the current and old format of the EHF Champions League and has fond memories of both.

“My best experience in the Champions League was winning the cup at the Palau Blaugrana with a bandaged head and scoring the last goal. It’s a moment I'll remember all my life.

“And of course the three events in Cologne, the one I won and the others I lost, they are also important moments, but the Champions League in Barcelona is unique. If you dream about a final it was the final against Ciudad Real in 2005. It is what everyone would like to win. 2005 was our year because we won everything, the Champions League and the world championship.”

As for the VELUX EHF FINAL4, the 35-year-old can think of no better event in the sport.

“All the memories I have of the FINAL4 are positive, both in victory and in defeat. In a competition like there are no bitter defeats. The experiences I had were incredible, almost unrepeatable, because this is the biggest handball event that can ever exist. I had never experienced such a thing like this in handball.

“Winning the Champions League is the most experience you can get in club handball. It is very special because it is a moment that so few can enjoy. There are many important players who have never experienced this situation. It is one of the best feelings that an elite athlete can have.”

The future bright but unclear

Iker Romero is keeping himself very busy since retirement and has plans to stay involved in the sport.

"Now I'm doing my coaching license and studying a masters in sports management. I am also helping the Spanish federation as a coordinator and that is what I dedicate myself to professionally.

"Nobody asked me if I could be one of the replacements for Manolo Cadenas to coach the Spanish team.

“I cannot think of replacing a good friend of mine, because he is still the national team coach and I hope he will remain so.

"I don't want to begin my coaching career as the Spanish team coach; this is not what I want now. Right now I want to finish my studies and start a project in Spain or abroad. I am not certain what I will do, but I for sure will be a coach or manager," concludes Romero.

TEXT: Adria Barrio / cor