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14.04.2015, 16:45
A home match with the away team for Guardiola
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FEATURE: When Spain take the court in Mannheim for their next Men’s EHF EURO 2016 qualification match, the Rhein-Neckar Löwen defensive specialist will be their only player feeling at home
 

A home match with the away team for Guardiola

A loud chorus of “Olé“ can be heard every time Gedeon Guardiola scores for Rhein-Neckar Löwen at home.

“My friends from home always laugh out loud when they visit my matches in Mannheim, because ‘Olé’ is such a cliché for Spaniards, but the fans like it and I like it too,” says the 30-years-old line player and defensive specialist.

A strange feeling

On 29 April, Gedeon Guardiola again will play in the SAP Arena in Mannheim not with his club as the home team, but with the Spanish national team as the away team. The 2013 World Champions take on Germany in the Men’s EHF EURO 2016 qualification, before the return leg of this top double-header in Group 7 is staged in Leon on 3 May.

Germany and Spain have the maximum four points each on their account after each beating Finland and Austria in the first rounds of qualification matches.

“I am sure that Spain and Germany will make it to Poland, so it will be decisive matches for the final ranking,” says Guardiola, who will face his club team mates Uwe Gensheimer, Patrick Groetzki and Stefan Kneer as well as assistant coach Oliver Roggisch (team manager of the Germans) in the duels.

“It is a strange feeling for me to face them,” says Guardiola, who won the last duel against his teammates in the quarter-final of the 2013 World Championship on home court. “But it is even stranger for me to face them in Mannheim, my arena, where we usually play together.”

In summer 2012, Gedeon and his twin brother Isaias arrived at Rhein-Neckar Löwen, before the twins went separate ways last summer. Isaias now plays for Danish side Aalborg while Gedeon has become the boss of the Löwen defence in Oliver Roggisch’s stead.

On the international stage, 2013 was the year for Guardiola, as he first became World Champion with Spain and then EHF Cup winner with Löwen. In 2014, he added the EHF EURO bronze medal in Denmark to his cabinet.

After finishing the 2015 World Championship in Qatar on the unlucky fourth position after losing the semi-final to France and the bronze medal match after extra-time to Poland, Guardiola is sure that the EHF EURO 2016 will become the next highlight of his career.

Highest quality expected

However, qualification still must be dealt with and Guardiola will have something of a home match against Germany in Mannheim: “Every Spanish player knows the SAP Arena, either from the World Championship 2007, when we played the main round matches, or from Champions League games.

“Everybody is looking forward to the great atmosphere, even when you are the away team. For me it is simply brilliant to play with Spain here, as I will meet a vast number of well-known faces. And I expect a duel of the highest quality.”

In contrast to his club teammate and German team captain Uwe Gensheimer, who said that “Spain are the clear favourites, as they are perfectly rehearsed and belong to the top of the world”, Guardiola does not expect an easy ride.

“We have highest respect for the Germans and on home ground they are the favourites. They played an outstanding tournament in Qatar and will be highly motivated against us, so the fans will see an exciting match in Mannheim.”

All that is left to see is whether or not the German fans will chant “Olé“ if Guardiola scores for the away team.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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