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07.05.2018, 10:10
Johansson: "CSM vs Györ is a game for the romantics"
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: After helping CSM qualify for their third straight Women's EHF FINAL4, coach Per Johansson will relish the "highlight of my career" if the Romanian side beat Györ in the semi-final and go on to win the title
 

Johansson: "CSM vs Györ is a game for the romantics"

There are coaches who obsess over tactics to help lift their team’s profile. And there are coaches who can galvanise a roster and power them to trophies.

If you were to place Per Johansson in one category, he would surely fall within the ‘leadership-first’ bracket. The Swedish coach has been called for the second time in as many years by CSM Bucharest to help to Romanian side win their second Women’s EHF Champions League trophy.

Johansson led CSM to third place last season. This time, the team have a mountain to climb as they looked disjointed and with serious issues to fix shortly before the Women’s EHF FINAL 4 in Budapest this weekend.

CSM take on title holders Györ in the first semi-final on Saturday at 15:15 hrs (live on ehfTV.com), while Rostov-Don face Vardar in the second semi-final at 18:00 hrs (live on ehfTV.com).

But if there is one person who can lift CSM’s spirits, it is Johansson. The 48-year old Swedish coach is relying on teambuilding exercises and working with the players’ psyche in order to win. Will it be enough in Budapest? Johansson gives his opinion while talking to ehfCL.com.

ehfCL.com: Why did you come back to CSM and what prompted you to make this decision?

Per Johansson: It was a bit harder this time, but actually when you are in my position, you always want the chance to win something big and I get that chance once again. Also, I could bring my family down here and live a normal life. Therefore, I could have my hopes fulfilled both in my personal and my professional life and that looked like a chance I could not pass. It is an adventure, also, and Bucharest is a very nice town, you have everything here, so this is excellent for me.

ehfCL.com: You are also the women’s national team coach in Montenegro. It seems you do like to work in this part of the Europe.

Per Johansson: I really got used to it and my personality and my leadership skills bode well with working the East European teams. In some moments, it could prove easier, sometimes it is harder, but I really love my Montenegrin girls. I also love it here, but in CSM it is a little bit different, because you have players from many countries, so I try just to enjoy my work here and maximise the team’s potential.

ehfCL.com: What is the difference between last year’s CSM and this season’s team?

Per Johansson: I think the expectations are always big here, the pressure is high, but the stakes look to be far bigger this time around. The team is stacked with very good players, some of the best from the whole world. Now, we must work to be better as a team. As a team, in the core, I think we had a better side last year, while this season we have better individual players, but we need to be more focused and come together as a team. There should be no doubt, however, that the potential is higher now.

ehfCL.com: CSM had stellar transfers last summer, also bringing Cristina Neagu. Is she the X-factor the team needed?

Per Johansson: Cristina Neagu, Amanda Kurtovic, Marit Frafjord… all these players are very good players, but right now it looks like we are a big puzzle that we need to solve. I think it is a big challenge with so many players from different countries and with a team with so much talent, but we work every day to try to solve this big puzzle.

ehfCL.com: Are you satisfied that you are playing against Györ in the semi-final?

Per Johansson: Well, it is tough to answer this question. Let’s take it on a team-to-team basis: Vardar beat us last season in the semi-final, so these are not good memories. I do not know if they would have been an easier opponent. Rostov are also a very good team, with a very consistent season, while Györ have a huge history behind them and are playing in Hungary, in front of their home fans. I am grateful for having a great team which can cope with this challenge. I think this is a handball classic. It is a game for the romantics, for those who fell in love first with the sheer beauty of handball.

ehfCL.com: Is there a favourite in this game?

Per Johansson: I think we could never be clear favourites against Györ from the beginning because we are playing in Hungary. But we are also a very good team and the feeling is that this is really a fifty-fifty game, because these are two big powerhouses and anything can happen. It is an important game for everyone involved. It is featuring a Romanian and a Hungarian team, fans from both sides will be wearing their hearts on the sleeve and I do not think it can be bigger in women’s handball.

ehfCL.com: CSM lost heavily last time in the semi-final against Vardar. What did you learn from that game and what needs to change?

Per Johansson: When you reflect about what happened last year, I think we should all be proud about what we achieved in Budapest. We did not have that extra capacity to change things and this year we worked hard to achieve this, which I think we showed against Metz, in the first leg of the quarter-finals. These were the ‘wow’ moments, in which we realise that any team in the world would have trouble winning against us. I think the most important thing is to be focused from the beginning. We will talk about the game against Vardar last year. Not about Vardar, per se, but the way we should approach the game against Györ now. We learn from history, but we live in the moment.

ehfCL.com: Your contract is over at the end of the month. Would you be interested to follow up and stay at CSM on a full-time basis?

Per Johansson: It is a difficult question right now, because I am very, very focused on the task at hand, on what we have to do this week. I have told the club, which asked me if I want to continue, that we need to wait until after the FINAL4 and then have this discussion again.

ehfCL.com: Let’s say you won the trophy, how would you celebrate?

Per Johansson: You have pictures in your head when you win the final with a 10-goal margin, but you also have pictures in your head when you lose. You get all these mixed feelings, but I think it is important to create a projection where you see yourself winning. It would be one of the greatest moments of my career, I have won the silver medal with Sweden at the Women’s EHF EURO 2010, but I think winning the Women’s EHF Champions League would be the highlight of my career.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew
 
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