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11.11.2015, 18:20
An 'old boys reunion' at the highest level
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: PSG assistant coach Staffan Olsson speaks about his “homecoming” to Kiel, high expectations and being responsible for two teams
 

An 'old boys reunion' at the highest level

A number of players and officials will experience a special sort of homecoming on Thursday night, when THW Kiel host Paris Saint-Germain Handball in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Three players (Nikola Karabatic, Daniel Narcisse and Thierry Omeyer) have played for Kiel before and PSG coach Noka Serdarusic lead Kiel for 15 years until 2008.

Serdarusic’s search for a well-known face as his assistant ended when Staffan Olsson decided to come aboard.

The 51-year-old Swede is a THW legend alongside fellow countrymen  Magnus Wislander and Stefan Lövgren. After facing his former colleagues already in the 2008/09 season with Hammarby IF, his first club as a coach, Olsson is looking forward to be back in Kiel, where he played from 1996 until 2003. In 2000, he was a Champions League finalist, a highlight among his nine domestic and international titles with the club.

But Olsson’s success with the Swedish national team is even more impressive: Four-time EHF EURO champion, two-time world champion and three-time Olympic silver medallist as a player. Since 2008, Olsson is coach of the “Tre Kronors”, together with former teammate Ola Lindgren - and both continued their unlucky series of losing Olympic finals at London 2012. As Lindgren is also coach of Kristianstad, Olsson may face him in the VELUX EHF Champions League as well.

In this exclusive interview with ehfCL.com, Staffan Olsson talks about coming back to Kiel, dreaming of Cologne and coaching two teams.

ehfCL.com: Will old memories come flooding back when you enter the Sparkassen-areana on Thursday?

Staffan Olsson: I have had the seven most impressive and successful years of my handball career at Kiel, so this match will definitely be something very special. THW will always be in my heart, this club will always have a special meaning for me. But: For those 60 minutes on Thursday, I am PSG, this is my job now.

ehfCL.com: Will it be something like an old boys reunion as so many from PSG have left their footprints in Kiel before?

Staffan Olsson: Old boys reunion sounds good, yes, that’s what it is. But we did not have the time to talk about it with our former THW players, as all of them, including me, had been away with the national team last week.

ehfCL.com: How did PSG appoint you as the assistant coach?

Staffan Olsson: Noka contacted me, we talked and then I agreed. This was very easy.

ehfCL.com: How do both of you share the work in the training sessions or on the bench?

Staffan Olsson: We nearly share all tasks, and if we have different opinions on a certain matter, Noka is the boss. But to be honest: I am not working such a long time for PSG now and last week I was away with the national team, so we have to see how the long-term work will be shared.

ehfCL.com: After beating Veszprem in the previous VELUX EHF Champions League match, are PSG the favourite on Thursday?

Staffan Olsson: I think the match will be fully open. From my own experience as THW player I remember that we did not lose very often at home. So to face Kiel in their own arena is really difficult. Two strong teams are both aiming for the victory, and we know that 100% must fit to be victorious.

ehfCL.com: Which team do you consider as favourites to top Group A, PSG, Veszprem or Kiel?

Staffan Olsson: The new playing system brings on top matches every week, close games, in which little things decide if you win or lose. And it is not only those three teams, but also Plock, Zagreb and Flensburg, who are really strong. And in this season with 14 group matches and the upcoming EHF EURO the burden on the players is high - so you have to see, which players are fit, which are out for a long-term. So at the moment you cannot say, which team will win the group.

ehfCL.com: PSG can count on an exceptionally deep and high-quality squad, might that be the key?

Staffan Olsson: Indeed, but if you set your goals high like we do, you need a big squad with several top players on each position. Everybody has his role, and all players cope with this situation in a very professional way.

ehfCL.com: Is reaching Cologne the main goal this season?

Staffan Olsson: We dream of the FINAL4, but a huge number of teams have the same dream and the same goal. It will be anything but easy.

ehfCL.com: What was the attraction for you to join Noka Serdarusic on the PSG bench?

Staffan Olsson: PSG Handball is a long-term project, which is just in the initial period. I really like this strategy and to be part of the way the project develops. The team and the club have a huge potential for development and we really have a long way ahead, but I am sure we can be successful.

ehfCL.com: Was it hard for you to switch on PSG after one week with the Swedish national team including the test matches at home and in Poland last weekend?

Staffan Olsson: It was the first time for me that I needed to switch, so I do not have that much experience. I will go to Sweden one or two times before Christmas and usually every week I find some hours to fulfil my tasks for Sweden, like analysing our matches now.

ehfCL.com: In 2002, when you scored the decisive goal in the final against Germany, Sweden took their last EHF EURO medal. Are you ready to end this drought in Poland?

Staffan Olsson: This is hard to say at the moment, right after the bad news that Jim Gottfridsson will miss the EHF EURO. We have a young team and I am sure we can score some good results in Poland, but you cannot speak about a medal. If we get on a roll, anything is possible.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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