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02.03.2015, 07:00
A new Jicha on the horizon?
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RISING STARS OF 2015: His physical size is already impressive as Michal Kasal towers well above two metres. Now many hope that also the 20-year-old’s skills will in the not so distant future match the abilities of one of the country’s greatest players
 

A new Jicha on the horizon?

What does Filip Jicha, the 2010 World Handball Player of the Year, and Michal Kasal have in common? Not a lot, if you ask the latter.

"We are both Czechs and we play at the same position," says Kasal.

However, there is hope in the Czech Republic handball sphere that 20-year-old Kasal, who just left VELUX EHF Champions League participants Celje to join FC Porto, will sooner or later reach the stage where Jicha is now.

Kasal already attracts the attention just because of his sheer size as he stands somewhere between 2,07 and 2,09 metres, depending on whether you ask himself or look at his handball profile.

"Of course, being that tall gives me certain advantage. I have powerful shots. I consider myself as a good shooter from the back court.

On the other hand, I have to work hard on my game without the ball and in defence - like most of young players have to do," he says.

Kasal, despite being just 20 years old, has been living abroad for almost four years now.

After two years he spent at Barcelona and half a year at Celje, he returned to Iberian Peninsula, accepting a new challenge at Porto.

"I loved Barcelona. Wonderful city, beautiful nature, I really enjoyed my life there.

"And regarding my career it was a small dream come true for me to be there. Barcelona is the best club in the world for me and everything is really professional."

"Celje was a good experience as well, although I had slightly different expectations. Every club gives you something you can build on."

Quick adaptation

Having spent almost a month in Porto, Kasal has already settled in his new life. His ambitions are clear. He wants to play as much as possible – something he had not experienced at his foreign European clubs to date.

"At the moment I’m enjoying my time in Porto. It reminds me in many aspects of Barcelona: the country, the people as well as the philosophy of the club."

"Of course there is difference between playing in the Champions League with Celje and in the EHF Cup with Porto.

"But for me the most important thing is to spend enough time on the court. At Celje I did not get much playing time in the Champions League.

"At Porto, after few days in the club, I have already played 30 minutes in my first EHF Cup game."

'Kasič' as people call him in Czech Republic learned the game at was brought up playing handball for HC Zubři in the country’s east.

“In 2012 he won the Czech national championship with the club and already in the same year, at the age of just 18, he transferred to Barcelona.

"I never regret leaving for Barcelona at such a young age. It’s been a good move, a handball lesson for me, those two years there."

It is impossible to know whether he will ever return to Barcelona, and even though did not get much court time, he definitely enjoyed meeting his idols, Siarhei Rutenka and Nikola Karabatić.

"When I was a kid, I admired players at my position. I was a bit nervous when I first met Siarhei and Nikola in Barcelona, but they helped me a lot. They are true professionals."

World Championship experience and EHF EURO hopes

Despite the fact that Czech Republic did not make it past the group phase at the World Championship (they eventually won the President’s Cup) and currently only have one point on their account in the EHF EURO Qualification, Kasal is confident that the team has what it takes to qualify for the final tournament in Poland.

"I feel better and better after every match I play for the national team. However, once I will start playing regularly, then it will feel even more special.

"Our big problem in recent years has been injuries. If we have all key players fit and aboard, I’m sure we will qualify."

The key player discussion in the Czech national team brings us back to the comparison between Kasal and Filip Jicha.

Sometimes this comparison is made because of their similar height and both players’ powerful back court shots.

But how does Kasal see himself in comparison to Jicha?

"One day I would really like to achieve what he has achieved. He is becoming a legend of the sport. But I cannot compare the two of us.

"We are both Czechs and play at the same position. Although I’m not sure how Filip played, when he was twenty. I think I was too young then to know," says Kasal.

"But it is definitely a nice feeling and honour to be mentioned alongside him."


The rising handball stars of 2015

Part 1: Niko Mindegia (ESP) / Pick Szeged: "I dream of playing at the next EHF EURO"

Part 2: Kentin Mahé (FRA) / HSV Hamburg: Walking proudly in his father's steps

Part 3: Sander Sagosen (NOR) / Aalborg Handball: "I want to be the best in the world"

Part 4: Nikola Bilyk (AUT) / Fivers WAT Margareten: "Dreaming of becoming handball's Michael Jordan"

Part 5: Michal Szyba (POL) / Gorenje Velenje: A 'watchmaker' on his way to the peak


TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / ts
 
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