“Germany is the Mecca of Handball”
January 9, 2019
By Kevin Domas
INTERVIEW – Things have changed since 2014. At the time, Luka Karabatic played his first major tournament for France and in Herning he collected his first international title, at the EHF EURO. Back then, quite a few of the pundits thought that he owed his career to his brother and that he wasn’t good enough on his own to make the team. If those critics were not wrong in the first place, they certainly had to reverse their opinion many times over since then. Today, Luka Karabatic is employed by Paris Saint-Germain, one, if not the most powerful club in men’s handball and there he plays a key role. Five years after the success in Denmark, the 30-year old lineplayer aims to return to Herning and grab another title. For now, a distant goal.
“Just because Nikola is not here (at World Cup 2019 ed.) doesn’t mean we’re outsiders. We have to defend the title that we won at home two years ago and we know that it’s going to be a close call. We also have the qualification for the Tokyo Olympics in mind, but deep inside, we want more than that,” says the bearded line player.
As he mentioned, this World championship will be special for France and for Luka Karabatic. It will be the first time since 2003, “Les Experts” will enter a major tournament without Nikola Karabatic.
Last October, suffering from a long-term foot injury, Nikola Karabatic decided to undergo surgery and – at least officially – he hasn’t resumed running, yet. Will his absence turn into the worst blow for France at the very wrong time?
“We can make up for it as all our players play in some of the best clubs in Europe. Nikola is a true leader and someone who gets along well with just about everybody. We’ll miss him, but each one of us will have to take bit more responsibility so we can achieve great things,” says Luka.
But, what does this mean – “achieving great things”? A semi-final spot? A trip to the final? Possibly winning the title?
“Our strength lies in our history. Right now, we have several young players who are ready to carry the torch that was lit by former generations. All of them are very talented, including the likes of Ludovic Fabregas and Dika Mem, for instance. We have a lot of confidence in our abilities. Collectively, we may not have as much experience, especially without Nikola, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a chance to win something.”
It’s not only the team as a whole that will experience the differences, Luka Karabatic himself will have to make his very own off-court adjustments, such as finding a new roommate.
“I’m used to sharing the room with my brother but, now Nédim Rémili will be my new mate. Which is great, we get along well,” he smiles, before turning to more serious matters.
“This is the first time Nikola will not participate in an important competition, before he only missed some friendly matches or a Golden League tournament. Niko has been such an important player and leader for France for so many years now, I’ll have to find new ways of playing – we all have to. If we can adjust, we’ll be all right.”
For all players who take part in a handball competition in Germany, it will be a special occasion.
“Handball is coming home,” as one slogan points out. Even though all of them are used to playing in sold-out arenas, for the French players, it’s still something special to travel to Germany and play a World championship.
“Germany is the Mecca of handball. I’m even more excited about this championship as it takes place there. In Germany, there’s huge interest in handball, not only by the media. And the fans know what they’re talking about. I feel very lucky and privileged to partcipate in this World championship,” says Luka Karabatic.