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24.05.2016, 15:40
Houlet feels like the "precursor" to the VELUX EHF FINAL4
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INTERVIEW: French handball star turned commentator speaks about his experiences of playing in Cologne before the VELUX EHF FINAL4 came to be

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Men's CL
»Final Four
»
 

Houlet feels like the "precursor" to the VELUX EHF FINAL4

François-Xavier Houlet will return this weekend to Cologne's own LANXESS arena, a venue he knows well having played in it many times when he wore the jersey of Vfl Gummersbach.

After playing a couple of league games in the famous venue at the beginning of the 2000s, the EHF organised the Champions Trophy in 2006, an event held over two days featuring the winners of the EHF Champions League, Cup Winners' Cup and EHF Cup as well as the organizing club, providing a line-up of Vfl Gummersbach, Medvedi Tchekhov, BM Ciudad Real and TBV Lemgo.

“I think that the VELUX EHF FINAL4 owes Gummersbach a great debt,” jokes François-Xavier Houlet.

“We organized this tournament in the then Köln Arena, and everybody saw the potential there was to set up one massive handball event.

“Although the format did not end up being a popular success, ten years later I feel like I played the precursor of the FINAL4.”

Back to the present day and Houlet will be sitting in his commentator's seat alongside Thomas Villechaize for beIN sPORTS, while Mary Patrux will be joined by special guests for analysis in the French broadcaster’s studio.

“Of course, I'd have liked to play something like this, but Cologne really is a must-go for anyone in handball, be it players or fans.

“It's amazing how, in seven years, everybody now talks about going to Cologne. This event polarises everything around handball all season, one of the first things you look for at the beginning of the season is the date of the FINAL4.”

Having followed Paris-Saint-Germain all season long, François-Xavier Houlet believes that they can win the competition. In fact, he even struggles to find a reason why they could not.

“I think that, even though the team has never been there, the players have got enough experience, they have eleven victories among themselves, so you don't need to teach them how to win,” he says, before adding two more reasons.

“They have some of the best players in the world on many positions. Players such as Mikkel Hansen, Nikola Karabatic and Thierry Omeyer, while Daniel Narcisse is one of the best eighth man on the continent.

“All these guys are born to win; they're still hungry even though they won many trophies in the past. You've got to be hungry to win in Cologne.”

When it comes to players to watch out for this weekend, the beIN Sports commentator picks two PSG players and one from MVM Veszprem.

“I'd look out for Thierry Omeyer, he's been injured lately and it'll be interesting to see how he recovers. In this kind of event, he can be the key.

“Also Nikola Karabatic, can he be as strong and dominant as he was last year? He was really good with FC Barcelona, but that hasn't always been the case.

“And finally, I'll have a close look at how Laszlo Nagy is doing. He's had a tough season, with many injuries, but he's still the kind of players that can change the face of his team, for better or for worse.”


TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor
 
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