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18.05.2018, 14:11
One match that can change everything
«Go back »Print Version


INTERVIEW: Switzerland are one win away from qualifying for their first ever EHF EURO, an achievement that could have an impact on the future of women's handball in the country, says veteran team player Karin Weigelt
 

One match that can change everything

It is an historic chance for Swiss women’s handball: one more victory and the national team have qualified for an EHF EURO event for the first time.

If the team led by Danish-born coach Martin Albertsen win their next EHF EURO 2018 qualifier against Croatia on home court in Sursee on 30 May, they have clinched a berth for the finals tournament in France.

The most experienced player in the Swiss squad with 125 international matches, Karin Weigelt (32), talks to ehf-euro.com about this opportunity, and how Swiss handball can benefit from this success they all dream of.

In contrast to most of her national teammates, Weigelt has been playing abroad for more than 10 years, currently for German Bundesliga side Frisch Auf Göppingen.

After Switzerland lost in the first two rounds of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification against defending champions Norway and in Croatia, Albertsen took over. He led the team to victories in both encounters with Ukraine, making Switzerland the second-ranked team in Group 1.

Switzerland are on four points, two clear of both Croatia and Ukraine. So a victory over Croatia would lock up second place for Switzerland. Norway have already qualified from this group.

ehf-euro.com: How often do you already think about 30 May, the day you will face Croatia?

Karin Weigelt: Quite often, of course. Suddenly you start calculating and then you become aware: Hey, this is our big chance, a dream can come true. Within 60 minutes we can clinch the berth for our first EHF EURO event, simply amazing. And everybody can see the growing interest in our team. More than 1,000 tickets have already been sold for this match, and we all hope to have a new spectators’ record, which currently is 1,600 from our qualification opener against Norway.

ehf-euro.com: After failing many times in the past, what makes Switzerland stronger than before?

Karin Weigelt: It is all about the collective, the team spirit. When Martin Albertsen arrived last October after our previous coach, Jesper Holmris, went to coach the Chinese women’s team, he changed our defence system. And it worked very well as we only conceded 36 goals in total in the two matches against Ukraine. Maybe the 22:21 away win was a bit lucky, but definitely we deserved those four points. Martin Albertsen had a huge impact on the way we play and on our confidence. Jesper was a good coach, but Martin has changed many things.

ehf-euro.com: How do your team prepare for this crucial match? Have you got some ‘homework’ from your coaches? And how do you stay in touch with the rest of the team to focus on the match?

Karin Weigelt: Of course we have a Whatsapp group within our team, and we all talk about our D-Day. Last weekend I faced my national teammate Seline Ineichen in the Bundesliga, and of course after the match we talked a lot about the upcoming match against the Croats. Indeed we all received some instructions like individual training plans from our coaches, mainly those players whose club season is already over. All players from Swiss clubs will start preparing on 24 May in Bietigheim, Germany, where Martin is coach on club level. Then we all travel together on 28 May to Sursee to have our final preparations.

ehf-euro.com: When you look back to the start of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification, did you expect to have the chance to book the ticket to France?

Karin Weigelt: You always hope or dream, but after the draw we were nearly shocked as this group is really heavy with three teams that are regular participants in EHF EURO events, including defending and record champions Norway. More or less we expected the defeats against Norway and in Croatia. But after we beat Ukraine twice, the gate to the EHF EURO was open and we realised: Hey, we really have a chance now!

ehf-euro.com: What would qualification for the EHF EURO 2018 mean for Swiss handball in general?

Karin Weigelt: Definitely it would be the biggest ever success for a Swiss women’s team. Already now, the interest is growing among fans and media. We are fighting hard to get into the spotlight, to raise the interest in women’s handball and handball in general. And I hope that a qualification would change the minds of Swiss players. In the Swiss league, nearly all of them have a job or they study – and therefore quit playing handball quite early as they have to focus on their jobs. Maybe qualifying for the EHF EURO could help them to go abroad and play at semi-professional or professional clubs, to focus on handball and to play longer, what then would raise the level and the quality of the national team. There is much to follow up if we beat Croatia and book the EHF EURO ticket.

ehf-euro.com: Has Switzerland’s most famous male player, Andy Schmid, already contacted your team?

Karin Weigelt: So far he has constantly liked our social media posts – and we all know that when it comes to handball, he is 100 percent Swiss. I am sure he will cross his fingers for us as he already knows what it means to be part of an EHF EURO event with the Swiss team.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew
 
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