"We have some thrilling moments ahead of us"Article
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: The only German players at the VELUX EHF FINAL4, Nantes’ Dominik Klein and PSG’s Uwe Gensheimer, will face each other in the semi-final on Saturday
»2017-18 Men's News

"We have some thrilling moments ahead of us"

While all three German clubs in the VELUX EHF Champions League 2017/18 have been eliminated, two German players are still part of the competition.

And they have a lot in common: they are both left wings, they both moved to France in 2016, and they both play for a French team.

There is, however, one big difference: only one of them will make it to the final of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 on Sunday as their respective clubs, Paris Saint-Germain Handball and HBC Nantes, will meet in the semi-final on Saturday at 15:15 hrs (live on ehfTV.com).

Speaking to ehfCL.com exclusively, Uwe Gensheimer (PSG) and Dominik Klein (Nantes) give their in-depth thought on the event.

While Klein has lifted the trophy twice in Cologne (with Kiel in 2010 and 2012, after also winning the title under the previous competition format in 2007), Gensheimer still aims for his first.

Klein will say farewell to international handball on Sunday after being a professional for 15 years, and Gensheimer targets two trophies as he is the favourite to become Champions League top scorer for the third time after 2011 and 2017.

ehfCL.com: Dominik, no other player has a longer history at this event. This year will mark the end of your career. What are your emotions prior to the VELUX EHF FINAL4?

Dominik Klein: In the night after we qualified for the FINAL4 thanks to our quarter-final draw at Skjern, I could not sleep. So I started watching many old pictures from matches in LANXESS arena, where I did not only become Champions League winner twice in 2010 and 2012 but also world champion in 2007. Those were highly emotional moments. Last year, I watched the FINAL4 for the first time from the stands and was impressed by the event in a different way as I could see all the shows. No matter what will happen this year, being in Cologne again feels like I have won the title already.

ehfCL.com: Uwe, you are part of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for the third time - how huge is your anticipation?

Uwe Gensheimer: Simply huge, this is the biggest event in club handball, and to be part of it is always something very special.

ehfCL.com: Do you agree that PSG are the favourites this time?

Uwe Gensheimer: I don’t think so as all four teams have similar chances to win the trophy. By looking at the last editions of the event, everybody can see what can happen in those two days. There is no rematch in which you can make up a defeat from a first leg. Everything is possible in Cologne. The team which play on a constant high level over two matches will win the title in the end. Little things will decide, like in 2017, when we were not on our highest level in the final against Vardar.

ehfCL.com: Which role will the neutral, mainly German, fans play?

Uwe Gensheimer: Last year, Vardar had by far the loudest support from their fans, so it will be interesting if the neutral fans support us or maybe Nantes, as Dominik Klein plays for them. I don’t know yet, but it will be an interesting point.

Dominik Klein: Maybe we have the small advantage that fans cheer more often for an underdog than for a favourite. And maybe we can hope for some support from the Macedonian fans as Kiril Lazarov is their legend. What I definitely know is that we can count on our purple-dressed fans, which support us in a brilliant way and are pleasant ambassadors for our club. They are priceless for us thanks to their passion and enthusiasm. In general, those neutral fans coming to the FINAL4 are handball experts, they want to get entertained by great matches and players.

ehfCL.com: Is the preparation for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 different to other matches?

Uwe Gensheimer: We face Nantes. Both sides know each other well, there will be no secrets or surprises on both sides. So the match preparation is similar. But of course you have to be aware of all other things in Cologne: the whole rundown, the media interest, the situation that all four teams are in the same hotel and you meet common faces everywhere. Simply everything is different from an ordinary Champions League match. So you have to focus only on what happens on the court.

Dominik Klein: We won our league match in Chambéry on Tuesday to secure the third position in the French league. That is what we needed to free our minds for the FINAL4. We stayed in the very calm environment of the Alps to start our preparation. But like Uwe said, there are no secrets in this match. We all have to focus and try to have the best possible state of fitness. This is what counts.

ehfCL.com: No German team but three French sides have made it to Cologne this year. A change of the guard in European club handball?

Uwe Gensheimer: It is definitely no coincidence as the French league has clearly improved over the last years. The quality over the whole league is still better in the Bundesliga but the historic fact that three teams from the same country are at the FINAL4 is a clear signal. I still believe that the French league is underestimated in Germany. The problem for German clubs is the tight schedule of the Bundesliga and the priority on the national league during the Champions League Group Phase. Therefore, German teams have a disadvantage to make it to Cologne compared to their international opponents.

ehfCL.com: No German teams but two German players - and you even face each other in the first semi-final. What does it mean to you?

Uwe Gensheimer: It is an interesting element, and of course a nice story for the media. We will not see each other much on the court as we are both left wings. But we are always in touch and we meet at matches, like at the EHF EURO, when he was working as an expert for German TV. We have not played much together in the national team - first it was him, then it was me. But of course we know each other well from our duels with Kiel and Löwen in the Bundesliga. I have the highest respect for his achievements and of course the FINAL4 will be something special, a true highlight at the end of his international career.

Dominik Klein: Indeed the preconditions are different for us. For me and Nantes it has already been a dream come true to get to Cologne, for Uwe and PSG it has been expected. Uwe is currently the best left wing in global handball. So we will have some thrilling moments ahead of us.

ehfCL.com: Have you invited friends and family to Cologne for your last international matches?

Dominik Klein: Of course, many of them will come. It is such a big thing to have the chance to say farewell from the international stage in Germany. And it is great to share this experience and emotions with your beloved ones as without them my career would not have been possible like it was. I will simply enjoy the whole weekend, regardless the results. It will be great to see so many mates again in the team hotel or the arena. You cannot imagine how great it feels to say goodbye in the biggest arena in Europe, in an arena I have so many memories, attended by 20,000 fans.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew