The Locker Room Show: Dissinger the telepath and Mahe’s boy bandArticle
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FEATURE: What did players from the four VELUX EHF FINAL4 teams discuss in this year's Locker Room Show?

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The Locker Room Show: Dissinger the telepath and Mahe’s boy band

Following its introduction at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2018, the Locker Room Show was held the evening before the semi-finals were played at LANXESS arena, with HC Vardar back Christian Dissinger, Telekom Veszprém HC playmaker Kentin Mahe, Barça Lassa goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas and PGE Vive Kielce line player Julen Aguinagalde as the special guests.

The representatives of the four semi-finalists joined ehfTV.com commentator Tom O’Brannagain and face of the VELUX EHF Champions League Hannah Jackson for two 30-minute segments, streamed live from the locker room where Kielce will prepare for their matches over the weekend.

The Locker Room Show provides a chance for a light-hearted chat before the players are presented in front of thousands of fans at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 Opening Party. The teams’ respective seasons, current form and qualification for the EHF FINAL4 were discussed, along with other topics that were more amusing than relevant to the decisive games – such as Dissinger’s apparent ability to transport thoughts telepathically and Mahe’s new boy band ‘Kentin and Kent.’

DJ Roland Mikler?

The ‘Kentin and Kent’ christening from O’Brannagain came as a result of a video posted on Veszprém’s official Instagram channel earlier in the week, which Mahe explained was brought about by the team’s great mood after clinching the Hungarian championship title. The video shows Mahe and Kent Robin Tonnesen singing to the Backstreet Boys’ hit ‘I want it that way,’ complete with seemingly prepared choreography.

“He is the coordinator for this,” said Mahe of Tonnesen, prompting O’Brannagain to ask more about Veszprém’s music preferences. “Our DJ is Roland Mikler. He’s not the best one I have to say.”

The four players featured on the show together with their semi-final rival, with Mahe therefore appearing together with Aguinagalde.

It was Kielce and Veszprém who met in the 2015/16 Final, with the Polish team taking their maiden title after a spectacular comeback and memorable penalty shoot-out. That match was of course a subject of discussion.

“We try to write a new story. What happened is the past,” said Mahe. “We aren’t talking about it, but the fans are probably really into it. That can also be a good thing.”

Aguinagalde was the one to score the trophy-winning goal in that game, and O’Brannagain said he did not believe the player who does not often appear on the penalty line would make the shot. “I didn’t either!” said Aguinagalde.

Aguinagalde: Our fans are always with us

Kielce’s presence at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2019 was far from a certainty earlier in the season. But they performed when it counted, pulling off the biggest shock of the season when they defeated Group B winners Paris Saint-Germain HB, who had previously lost just one match in the season, by 10 goals in the first-leg quarter-final.

When Kielce drove to the airport in Warsaw en route to Paris for the return leg, their fans lit up the highway with firecrackers, a noisy convoy of cars, and a large banner displayed across a bridge featuring a message encouraging the players to finish the job they started on their own court and make history.

“Our fans are incredible fans,” said Aguinagalde. “They are always with us.”

The first segment concluded with O’Brannagain asking about the connection between the coaches, as Veszprém’s David Davis, Kielce’s Talant Dujshebaev and Vardar’s Roberto Parrondo all won the Champions League together with Ciudad Real in 2009. 

“I think he has inspired himself a lot with his former coaches,” said Mahe of Davis, adding that he talks on the subject a lot. “He is extra motivated to beat them.”

The secret behind Perez de Vargas’ pre-game handshakes

Dissinger and Perez de Vargas were next. As they had before, Jackson and O’Brannagain praised the players for their “dapper” outfits for the occasion. A particular item of focus was Perez de Vargas’ trainers, which were quite colourful – but O’Brannagain was more interested in the shoes Perez de Vargas dons at a certain point in the season. In October, the goalkeeper wears pink shoes in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and he plans to do the same again in 2019/20.

Barça’s great form throughout the season was raised by O’Brannagain, who joked that Perez de Vargas clearly dislikes passing the ball to right wings Aleix Gomez (66 goals this season) and captain Victor Tomas (44 goals) for fast breaks.

“I think you’re wrong. I only don’t pass to Victor,” replied Perez de Vargas. “It’s a personal thing with him. The more he asks for the ball the more I don’t want to give it.”

Perez de Vargas was also asked about his pre-game ritual, which sees him waiting outside the change room and performing individualised handshakes with each of his teammates as they emerge. The handshakes are more significant than just being a fun way to prepare for a match: “If you remember it, it means you’re focused.”

Dissinger: There can be miracles at the EHF FINAL4

As all four semi-finalists came from Group A, won by Barça, they have already faced each other twice this season. The Spanish powerhouse won both games versus Vardar, leading Jackson to ask Dissinger what can be different at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

“It’s the FINAL4 and we know there can be miracles,” said the German international. “You were talking about the Hollywood story for Veszprém. I think ours is even bigger.”

A dubious guessing game followed, where O’Brannagain showed cards with the name of a film or TV show to Dissinger, for him to engage in a staring contest with Perez de Vargas in order to telepathically communicate the answer to the Spanish EHF EURO 2018 champion. O’Brannagain insisted the intelligence that Dissinger loves to play ‘charades’ and is talented at communicating in this manner came from his teammate Igor Karacic.

For the record, Perez de Vargas did state the correct answer both times – but whether that was a result of Dissinger’s special abilities or some pre-show information will remain a secret kept in the locker room.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan/jh
 
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