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22.11.2017, 18:00
The eagle and the hawk
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BLOG: Tom looks ahead to the clash of two titans in form of fables - a very interesting look at Round 9 Match of the Week between Kielce & PSG
 

The eagle and the hawk

Far too often in sport we hype things. The player in a breakout season who we earmark for stardom. The once off game-winning performance that thrills us and has a players name in lights. I'm much more a marathon man. I like things done over a period of time before I decide that someone should be feted, that they be crowned with laurel leaves.

This weekend brings together two teams coached by legends of the game. And I don't use that word lightly. Too often the term legend is given to people undeserving of the accolade, but in the case of Talant and Noka, the word hardly does them justice.

A legend is normally the hero of some unverifiable oral tradition handed down from generation to generation, but in the history of these two men, the story is laid out in fact from player to coach. What they have achieved is beyond doubt incredible in any sporting arena and puts them in the Handball Hall of Fame for me.

What Noka achieved during his time at Kiel is nothing short of remarkable, turning a sleeping giant into a world powerhouse. Talant as a player and as a coach also created dynasties and dominated domestic leagues and Europe.

In both Poland and France where the great Ignacy Krasicki and Jean de la Fontaine writers of fables, or fabulists, are household names I think I can add the word fabled to the careers of these two men.

Krasicki, the Pole, wrote a fable called "Son and Father" which is quite apt for Kielce at the moment.

"The one had no rest; the other no freedom, forsooth:

The father lamented his age, the son lamented his youth".

There are times this season, where I'm sure, Talant would like to get the ball in his hand again to direct proceedings on the court. His youngest son did not join them and he looks very, very good with Celje. Alex hasn't quite hit the heights of his Champions League winning year with Vardar.

Krasicki's work is based on a world where the strong win and the weak lose in a sort of immutable order. You certainly get the feeling that this is Talant's world as well. His teams are strong and powerful and his mentality of winning is borne out on the court by the players he chooses. Maybe the road has run out for this team after their heroics two seasons ago and the raft of new signings is a sign that Talant knows he must start again.

For France, the fabulist de la Fontaine is probably better known. He is the forerunner to Krasicki much like Noka the coach is to Talant. He has got some very quotable lines.

Perhaps the best that could be attributed to PSG at this juncture in time is:

"La fortune vient en dormant" (Fortune comes while one sleeps).

Think of the sudden rise of Paris from a regular club to the powerhouse it is today. When Noka took over, it was a collection of stars unable to chart the way to the big time. He took a leaf out of the fable of de la Fontaine called "the Old man and his Sons" (apt again when you think of the close bond of Noka with the Karabatic boys).

In this story the old man asks his sons to break a bunch of sticks. They can't. But the father unbundles them and proceeds to break each one individually. The moral is that we are stronger together. This is the greatest achievement of Noka with this team. He knows as well that:

"There is no road of flowers leading to glory" (de la Fontaine).

Two losses at the FINAL4 has hardened this team to the point that they already look champions in waiting. He has to be sure he isn't the one who kills the goose that lays the golden egg.

Without wishing to dismay Kielce fans, who need a big scalp in the group stage I would like to draw your attention to a little detail from the match in Paris a few weeks ago. After 16 minutes Kielce were leading by three goals. Thirty minutes later there was an eleven goal turnaround in favour of Paris. They are consistently the best team in my opinion with only the aberration in Flensburg on a day, when Andersson was at his all-time best, the only blot on their copybook.

But the Hala Legionow has given us miracles before and the legions of the yellow will have to be at their vociferous best.

To conclude, I would like to try my hand at a little fable.

Quoth Noka:

I've seen it all,
The highs and lows in handball.
You've got 5 and I've got 1,
Hope to do it again before I'm done.

Quoth Talant:

You were the one we all emulated,
You're not that out-dated,
Look at the team you've assembled,
In ehfCL, all teams trembled.

It's never going to make it into any historical collection of fables, but if the stories are true that Noka will finish at Paris at the end of this season, then this could be another European trophy to add to the one he has. Talant will do everything in his power to stop the juggernaut, but for right now it's the equivalent of Krasicki's "The Eagle and the Hawk".

This weekend I fear, Noka is the eagle, Talant the hawk.


TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator
 
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