“I don’t want to become a one-hit-wonder”
August 29, 2023
By Sascha Staat
What will the 2023/24 handball season in the Liqui Moly Handball Bundesliga (HBL) have in store for its fans?
This past Wednesday the PIXUM Supercup match at the PSD Bank Dome in Duesseldorf between the HBL champions THW Kiel and the 2023 cup winners, Rhein Neckar Loewen, took center stage.
As usual the organization of the event was impeccable and the spectators in a well attended arena enjoyed a dogfight between the two teams, culminating in a penalty shootout to determine the winner.
In the end, THW Kiel prevailed and secured a record 13th Supercup title (the fourth in a row) for the German record champions. The match also provided a glimpse of how the 2020 EHF Champions League winners will cope with the loss of their two superstars, left-back Sander Sagosen and goalkeeper Niklas Landin.
Supporters of Kiel will take comfort in the fact that any future success to be broad based and responsibilities will be shared among more players. Among them, 21-years young “Wunderkind” from the Faroer islands, Elias Ellefsen a Skipagotu, who will have to fill the footsteps of Sander Sagosen (he joined Kolstad, in Norway) and Miha Zarabec (now Plock).
Despite the loss, Rhein Neckar Loewen left a strong impression as well and if young-star, Juri Knorr, would have converted his 7-meter penalty shot with ten seconds before the end of the match, the team of head coach, Sebastian Hinze, would have walked away with the first trophy of the season instead.
It did not happen and that’s why David Spaeth in goal of Rhein Neckar Loewen was facing THW’s, Niklas Ekberg in the dying moments of the game as he explained in the interview with Sascha Staat.
Congratulation. How satisfied are you with your and your team’s performance?
David Späth: I am more critical with my own performance. I think the team did rather well tonight. There are always details that make a difference and we have to keep in mind – Kiel is Kiel. Still, we played a superb match and we almost had them beaten. Yet, it is how it is. Now, we have to draw our conclusions and do better next time when we meet them.
Have you analyzed the final seconds and the shot from Niclas Ekberg already?
David Späth: I did not have much time as I did not know who will take the last shot. I just positioned myself to somehow stop the ball. But, Ekberg is an exceptional player on right wing and he scored. The ball hit both goal posts – it was a great shot. You have to accept it, but it’s upsetting nevertheless. I could have secured victory. Still, you can’t stop every ball coming your way.
What’s the take-away for you and the team?
David Späth: Right now, we are frustrated because we lost the match. Taking a longer term view, I think we are on the right path as we were able to hang with Kiel for quite some time – it’s a comforting sign. Now, we’ll work on the details and hopefully on Saturday we’ll already do better.
In the EHF European League you will face Vardar in Skopje, in a qualification match. What are your expectations?
David Späth: It won’t be an easy game as Vardar is a very good team. The atmosphere in the arena is one of a kind. I don’t know what to expect as I haven’t played there, yet. Still, I am looking forward to it. We won’t underestimate them as Vardar is a difficult opponent. Let’s see what happens.
You probably have been asked about having three goalkeepers in your team. How would you describe the relationship amongst the three of you?
David Späth: Indeed, I have been asked this question. That’s how it is in sport no matter what position you look at. We appreciate and support each other. Still, I think that everyone of us would like to play and also be in the starting lineup in any given match. Of course, we are competitors as well, but on a level where we respect each other. I think you could see it today as well, when both of them supported me. I am very grateful. Still, all of us are ambitious, everyone would like to play and it shows in practice sessions and our games.
You are junior-world champion, you won the 2023 DHB trophy and played an important role in the final match. In the Supercup final you also showed a very good performance and you must be aware of the hype around you. How do you cope with it and stay grounded?
David Späth: Of course, it can happen, but I do think that I find myself on the other end of the spectrum. I am critical with myself. You just mentioned the junior world championship – it was a tournament where I often wasn’t satisfied with my performance, but in the end it turned out well. I don’t think there is any reason to “take-off” so to speak. I haven’t accomplished anything yet. Yes – I have had a few good performances, but you see other goalkeepers in the league, who perform on a high level year-in and year-out. I don’t want to become a one-hit-wonder. I want to play on a high level for years to come and I know that I have to work a great deal for it. I will keep both feet on the ground and continue to work hard and I will try to not be too self-critical.
Following the aforementioned departure of Kiel’s two superstars – Sander Sagosen and Niklas Landin, all eyes will be on Elias Ellefsen a Skipagotu, who has joined the title hungry club in the north of Germany from Swedish Savehof. After the Supercup final, Sascha Staat caught up with Ellefsen and spoke with him about his first title and the biggest challenge in his first HBL season.
Congratulations to your first title in Germany in your first official game with Kiel. How did you feel during the first seconds on the court?
Elias Ellefsen a Skipagotu: I felt very good. It’s nice to play matches again that mean something as I find it a little bit boring to play the practice games during preseason. So, I was very excited to play a big match like this one, especially as I haven’t played in front of so many spectators before. It was very nice.
Did you talk to the more experienced players about it ahead of the game?
Ellefsen: Of course, we talk a lot, but we haven’t spoken about situations like this. As I said, it was a very nice experience and I’m just happy that we won.
Your move to Germany was announced already months ago. How did you prepare for the Handball Bundesliga?
Ellefsen: I’ve been told that it’s the toughest league in the world, but I haven’t thought too much about it. I am just excited to be here. It’s a dream come true to play for a big club like Kiel. It’s a childhood dream, so I am happy and just excited to start the season, finally.
Do you notice a difference when training with Champions League players every day?
Ellefsen: Yes – and it’s great. We have very good players on every position. Actually, we have two of them – something I wasn’t used to. It makes a real difference and hopefully I will take a few steps forward here and become a better player.
How much will it help you in Kiel that you already know how to be a team leader, as you assume this role in the national team already?
Ellefsen: Actually, that’s what I like. As I said, I like to play matches where you have to perform every single time. It’s great to play in the Bundesliga where you have to perform on the highest level all the time and where every match is very important. That’s nice, I think.
What will be your biggest challenge in your first season in Germany?
Ellefsen: Maybe the language. I don’t speak much German yet, so hopefully it will be better very soon. I will start taking some lessons soon and then it will get better. I will also try to talk to my teammates, that will help a lot as well. Hopefully I will speak German in about half a year.
Tweet of the Week …
— Merle Schaack (@merleschaack) August 27, 2023