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16.09.2015, 14:44
Kristianstad looking forward to writing history
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FEATURE: VELUX EHF Champions League debutants IFK Kristianstad are opening the group phase this season on home ground in Scandinavian derby.
 

Kristianstad looking forward to writing history

The 24 May this year was a historic day in Kristianstad. For the first time in the 62 years did the local handball heroes from IFK Kristianstad win the Swedish championship, as they defeated defending champions Alingsas HK 28:25 in the final in the Gothenburg Scandinavium.

This triumph meant that the team from Southern Sweden also qualified directly for the VELUX EHF Champions League for the first time ever.

Here, they have been drawn to Group B with FC Barcelona Lassa, KS Vive Tauron Kielce, HC Vardar, KIF Kolding Kobenhavn, MOL-Pick Szeged, Rhein-Neckar Löwen and Montpellier HB as their adversaries.

In fact, Kristianstad will have the honour of opening the group phase this season, as they take on Kolding Kobenhavn in the Kristianstad Arena Wednesday 16 September (watch live on ehfTV.com).

“Of course, it means a lot to us to be playing in the Champions League for the first time – and not only that; we have even been placed in one of the top groups. However, this is not only an honour, but also an extremely big challenge,” finds head coach Ola Lindgren who has a quite important job besides being coach in Kristianstad.

Together with Staffan Olsson, his former teammate in the Swedish national team in the days, when the team was nicknamed The Bengan Boys, he is also in charge of the Swedish national team.

Numerous changes

Compared to the team who won the Swedish championship nearly four months ago, it will be a rather different Kristianstad team who enter the Champions League group phase.

Key players such as left back and Swedish international Marcus Olsson as well as Norwegian goalkeeper Magnus Dahl have both left for Danish Champions League participants Skjern Handbold, while back court player Jonathan Steenbäcken has left for Gemrany and TBV Lemgo.

Even though new players have joined to replace those who have left, Ola Lindgren admits that part of the challenge is to get the newcomers integrated in time.

“We will probably always see our best players wanting to try their luck and test their skills in foreign leagues, so there is always likely to be changes in our team.

Currently, we have five new players we need to get integrated into our team, and this obviously takes time,” explains the 51-year-old coach, who is pleased by the huge support from the local handball fans, who are known as some of the most enthusiastic in Sweden. Furthermore, the attendances are always large in the Kristianstad Arena

“Our first match in the Swedish league Friday (against HK Drott Halmstad) was sold out days in advance, and I expect the same to be the case for our Champions League match against Kolding,” says Lindgren who sees the Scandinavian derby as a match between youth and experience.

“There is no doubt that Kolding are representing the experience. They have been in the Champions League so many times before, and practically all their players play or have played in national teams and have also got a lot of experience from club handball at the highest international level, while we are a young and inexperienced team.

“Therefore, it is obvious that we are starting out with an enormous challenge already in our first match,” said Ola Lindgren about the meeting with the Danish champions who are in the EHF Champions League for the 13th time in history.

Hoping for some points at home

The 51-year-old coach, who was a great line player and a solid defender in his playing days, knows a challenge when he sees one – and he realises that the huge challenges to his young team do not stop with the opening match against KIF Kolding Kobenhavn.

“All our opponents in that group, except for Montpellier, were in the Last 16 of the Champions League last season, so each and every match will obviously be an enormous challenge for us, and finishing among the six teams who qualify for the Last 16 will be extremely difficult.

“However, I hope we can take some points here and there, especially at home where we are usually strong,” says Ola Lindgren.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
 
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