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26.05.2017, 11:00
Mem: From the French third division to the FINAL4
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FEATURE: 19-year old Dika Mem is looking forward to his first ever VELUX EHF FINAL4, after an incredible first season playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League with FC Barcelona Lassa.
 

Mem: From the French third division to the FINAL4

It is reasonable to say that the last six months have been crazy for French right back Dika Mem. Not yet twenty years old, he recently played in the Men’s IHF World Championship 2017, which France won at home. Now, he’s about to play in his first VELUX EHF FINAL4.

Not bad for a player that young, but even more impressive if you consider that two years ago, he was still playing in the French third division, trying to help his club to get promoted.

“It might sound shocking to some, I can understand that. Two years ago, when I was playing in Saint-Gratien, my dream was to play in a European Cup and maybe to take part in the FINAL4,” he laughs, confessing that the thought that he has turned his dream into a reality is “pretty mind-blowing.”

Successful first season with Barcelona

Mem’s first season with FC Barcelona Lassa has turned out to be a massive success. When he landed in Barcelona, he was only 18, with one French first division season under his belt. But now, he has even exceeded his own expectations that he had when he signed his contract.

“I didn’t expect to be playing as much, especially in the key European games. Xavi Pascual had told me that this would be a learning season for me, but he trusts me a lot, and so do my teammates,” he explains.

 “And that’s maybe the thing I’m the most proud of, the fact that so many experienced players trust me. Nobody put any pressure on my shoulders when I arrived, everybody gave me the time I needed.”

Adapting to the new environment

For a 19-year old man, finding yourself in a foreign country, without speaking the language, can be difficult. However, Dika Mem found support in fellow countrymen Cédric Sorhaindo and Timothey N’Guessan: they helped him to grow, and to adapt to the unfamiliar environment.

“Cédric has been a massive help to me. He’s played here for seven years, he knows everybody, from the coach, to the arena keeper, and he made it easier for me outside the court. Also, on the court, his experience is very precious, not only to me, but to everybody,” Mem explains.

Dika Mem seems to face new obstacles with the same relaxed attitude he’s always had. Indeed, maybe calmness is needed for making your first Barcelona season a success.

“I’m someone who thinks a lot about everything, all the time. But just because I think doesn’t mean I feel under pressure. I try to remain calm, and take things as they come,” he says.

Realising his dream of playing in the FINAL4

The next thing to come, for Dika Mem and Barcelona, is a big deal. After missing out last season, the record champions are coming back to Cologne. They came first in Group A (dubbed the “group of death”), which featured Paris Saint-Germain Handball and Telekom Veszprém, two of the other FINAL4 participants.

It hasn’t been easy, and maybe people didn’t expect us to be doing so good so soon. We had some new players, young players who had never played at such a high level, but we all found our place pretty quickly,” notes the left-hander, whose best game this season was in Paris last November, when he scored five goals against some of his French national teammates.

He’ll meet see French national teammates again on the court at the LANXESS Arena, although they’ll be playing in the other semi-final. But before that, the game against HC Vardar on the Saturday will, for sure, be a special one for Dika Mem.

“I was in the stands last season, thinking about how much I’d like to take part,” he remembers.

“For sure, when I’ll enter the court to play against Vardar, I’ll think about how long the road’s been the last two seasons. Playing in Cologne is an accomplishment for a professional handball player.”


TEXT: Kevin Domas/kc
 
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