Niombla: “EHF FINAL4 is a different dimension”Article
«Go back

FEATURE: The French back-court player returns to the finals tournament of the Women’s EHF Champions League in Budapest for the third year in a row, but for first time with Metz
»2018-19 Women's News

Niombla: “EHF FINAL4 is a different dimension”

Not many handball players can say that they have visited the László Papp Budapest Sportaréna three seasons in a row. But Metz Handball’s Gnonsiane Niombla has.

In fact, she is the only Metz player who has taken part in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 before, finishing third with CSM Bucuresti in each of the past two seasons. And even though she knows what will await her and her teammates on 11/12 May, the French centre back still feels as excited as ever.

“You could go there 20 times and the excitement remains the same. I have never won the Champions League but I think that if we win it this time, I could stop playing handball. I can’t say that I’ve been there twice and that now it’s going to be my third, it’s just OK, it’s déjà-vu. No way,” Niombla says.

“It's crazy to qualify for the EHF FINAL4 with this team”

Joning the club in the summer of 2018, Niombla didn’t expect Metz to be as successful as they have been this season.

“It’s crazy to qualify for the EHF FINAL4 with this team, with so many impressive young players who play handball in a fantastic manner together,” she says.

The 28-year-old Niombla has played many important games in her career. Apart from taking part in the EHF FINAL4 events, she has won the EHF EURO 2018 and the World Championship 2017 and grabbed a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics Games with France.

How does another trip to Budapest compare to such achievements?

“It’s very different from the things I’ve won with France. This is another dimension,” she says. “We only gather a couple of times a year with France whereas, with your club, you’re at it all season. You are training mornings and evenings, this is far more important. This is like a reward for the work we’ve done all season.”

While she is a centre back, Gnons’ - as she is usually called by teammates - has been mostly playing on the right-back position this season. It took her some time to adjust and even put her EHF EURO participation in doubt, but she has been trying to make the most of it.

“In Metz we are really a team. If you look at the games against Bucharest in the quarter-finals, at no point did you see any of us take the ball and trying to score her goal,” she says. “The team is the biggest strength here. We play very good handball and everybody has in mind that the own person is not the most important entity.”

With such a strong squad, what can Metz achieve?

Even though Niombla is the only Metz player to have featured at an EHF FINAL4 before, she will not need to give much advice to her teammates. Many of them, including Grace Zaadi and Manon Houette, have already reached a lot in their careers as well.

With such a strong squad, what can Metz expect at the DELO WOMEN'S EHF FINAL4? They have been drawn against Rostov-Don in the second semi-final, while defending champions Györi Audi ETO KC and Vipers Kristiansand contest the first semi-final on 11 May.

“This is a competition where everything can turn around very quickly. With the players we’ve got in the team, I doubt we’ll go to the EHF FINAL4 just to play a semi-final and visit Budapest,” Niombla says. “The formula means that you can play two hours of very good handball and lift the trophy.”

TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew