Mem aims to crown confirmation season with quarter-final berthArticle
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FEATURE: 20-year-old Dika Mem has taken significant responsibility for both FC Barcelona and France this season, and hopes to top it off by proceeding as far along the road to Cologne as possible

Mem aims to crown confirmation season with quarter-final berth

Young French right back Dika Mem was one of last season's best surprises. Just two years after he graced the French third division court, the 19-year-old joined FC Barcelona and made it to his first VELUX EHF Champions League FINAL4.

Now, Mem must fulfil all the hopes the Spanish side – coaches and players alike – have placed on him. Following Jure Dolenec’s injury, Mem has had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. But that doesn’t seem to weigh him down:

“Maybe I wasn't expecting to be playing at that level last season, but the coach put a lot of trust in me. It feels like the confirmation season to me, and I feel like I’ve been doing pretty well so far,” says Mem, who has not only been key in Barcelona, but was also a core player when the France national team claimed bronze at the EHF EURO 2018 in January.

“I tend not to wonder if I’m key, or not key, or whatever. I just take things as they come. For sure, I feel a little bit tired sometimes, but when you play big games like in the Champions League you forget about it,” he says. “I try to bring as much as I can to the team, because it deserves to carry on in the competition.”

To qualify for the quarter-finals, Barcelona will have to overcome the three-goal deficit they conceded away in Montpellier on Sunday. Mem contributed three goals as Barcelona were defeated 25:28 – a result that was clearly frustrating:

“Of course there was frustration, because we were all aiming for a better result. Even though we managed to keep our chances alive, that's not what we went to Montpellier for – we went there to win, and I think we could have done a little bit better. But there’s no use crying about it now.”

Focused on a four-goal win

The young Frenchie also hopes that Barcelona’s home arena Palau Blaugrana, which enjoys an explosive atmosphere on important Champions League occasions, will help his team come the return leg on Saturday.

“We saw in Montpellier that their fans were a real asset for them. Hopefully our fans can do the same for us. Palau Blaugrana is a historic place for handball, one that has always helped the club over the years. I really do believe we can turn things around one more time,” says Mem.

If Barcelona do turn the tables, it will take the club one step closer to fulfilling their objective: to reach Cologne once again.

In June last year, Mem said that playing the FINAL4 was a childhood dream for him – and he wants to be there again in May.

“Once you’ve played the FINAL4, you want to be part of it every year. But we're not foolish, we know that we’ll have to first play better on Saturday if we want to go there,” says Mem, who does not want to think further ahead than the return game, during which his team will have to perform better than they have lately to have any chance.

“We almost lost a couple of games and we might have struggled sometimes in the Champions League, but I'm sure about one thing: everybody is only thinking about winning by four on Saturday,” concludes Mem.

TEXT: Kevin Domas / cg