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19.02.2014, 10:58
Cissé jumping into the spotlight
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FEATURE: The 22-year-old French right back was one of the revelations at the Women's World Championship 2013 and now made it into the EHF's 'rising stars' series
 

Cissé jumping into the spotlight

When France reached the quarter-final of the World Championship 2013, this success was mainly due to a well-rehearsed mix of experienced players, such as Allison Pineau and Amandine Leynaud, and young talents like Grace Zaadi and Koumba Cissé.

The latter, 22-year-old Cissé, is currently regarded as one of the most most talented French players on the right back position.

"I started playing handball when I was at secondary school – just because my sisters were playing this sport,” Cissé remembers – with nine siblings overall there were plenty of examples to look up to, and it proved all worthwhile.

When she was 15, she played her first games in the third French division with Cergy-Pontoise. At that time, her coach, Roch Bedos, was sure about Cissé's qualities: "This player will play in the first league very soon,” he said during her first season. And time did not prove him wrong.

In 2007 she won her first gold medal with France at the Women’s 17 EHF EURO with a 30:20 win against Spain. In 2009 she moved into the Fleury Loiret handball training centre before signing with Metz Handball at the beginning of the 2010/11 season.

"I learnt a lot in Metz," she remembers. "I matured and I played with very good players. Even if I left the club after one season for personal reasons, my year spent there helped me a lot in my progression."

With Metz she won the French domestic championship and the French league's cup, but she decided to come back to Fleury Loiret in 2011 – a decision that also had her deciding on playing right back, whereas before she was also to be found on the right wing.

Plenty to learn

Over the past two years Fleury signed a lot of top-class players such as Beatriz Fernandez or Ionela Stanca. On the right back Cissé plays with Marta Mangue, the Spanish national team's captain.

"I'm very lucky to play with such good players," Cissé admits. "All these girls are really friendly, they help me a lot and they always give me good advice. In a nutshell, they cheer me on to make progress."

"It's a chance for Koumba to train with top players every day," Frédéric Bougeant, her head coach at Fleury, says. "I think one of the things she has to work on is the tactical aspect of the game, but she also has to work on her speed and her energy. She still has room to grow."

"Basically, I have to work in attack but also in defence," the 22-year-old also admits. "I also need to be more settled because I can play very good one day and go to a very bad performance the day after."

France’s women’s national team coach, Alain Portes, nominated Koumba Cissé for the first time in the lead-up to the EHF EURO 2014 qualification matches against Slovakia and Finland in October 2013.

"You should have seen my face when I received my notification," she says. "I was very surprised."

She did not take to the court for these two games, but shortly after – helped by Camille Ayglon's pregnancy and Marie-Paule Gnabouyou's injury – she jumped into the spotlight and became one of the World Championship's revelations when she scored 14 goals in France’s campaign.

"This experience was amazing," Cissé explains. "I learnt every day from being part of this top-level team. The only disappointment I have is that I think that we were able to go further in this competition."

However, her club coach, Frédéric Bougeant, gives out a warning.

"The worst has yet to come for her,” he says. "Nobody knew her before this competition but she played a very good tournament.

"As a consequence, trainers and players now know how Koumba plays and what are her qualities and flaws are.

"But she knows that she has to keep working. We will see how she deals with Ayglon and Gnabouyou's returns, but I can't see any reason why she would not have the chance to play with the national team again in the future."

Either way there is not much reason to worry for Koumba Cissé likes.

She kept studying ever since she entered professional sports.

"I just got an international trade degree this summer," she says. "After my handball career, I would like to work in the import-export sector."

But before that, she really hopes to achieve one of her dreams: "I wish one day I will play at the Olympics."

Photos: Sportissimo / Stephane Pillaud


This is the fourth part of a new series powered by eurohandball.com and ehf-euro.com. In the weeks to come we will throw the spotlight on the many young female handball talents all around Europe that are likely to make an impact on the international stage in the months and years to come.

Part 1: Sweden's Maria Adler: "My time will come"

Part 2: Austria's Sonja Frey: A pair of coaching brothers paved her way to handball

Part 3: Shenia Minevskaja: Handball in her genes


TEXT: Clement Domas / ts
 
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