FEATURE: A little Swedish club eyes a big thing in the Challenge Cup final.
Sky is the limit in Höör
H 65 from the small Swedish town Höör are in the Women's EHF Challenge Cup final for the first time ever. But the dream is to play in the Women's EHF Champions League.
Let us face it. Not many people outside Sweden would probably ever have heard of the town Höör, had it not been for their female handball team who reached the semi-final of the Challenge Cup last year and who have made it one step further this season and qualified for the final. H 65 had put Höör on the European handball map.
With a population of only 7500 it is almost amazing that the small town in the county Skåne in the Southern part of Sweden has managed to produce a handball team who can get this far in Europe for the second year in succession, and even after only three years in the Swedish top flight.
“We are a realitely young club with a great cohesiveness. A couple of local companies are supporting us a lot, and furthermore, four or five really dedicated people apart from myself have been working really hard to make this happen. Furthermore, the whole town is supporting the project, and the women´s handball team is really the pride of the town. Whether you are in ICA ( the local super market), in the pizzeria or in the street, the handball team is the talk of the town,” H 65's head coach Niklas Harris explains.
He sees the small community as a great advantage.
“We are all very close and good at standing behind the team. At more or less all training sessions, some people from the board or the management are present. This means that the communication paths are short, and that conflicts are never allowed to grow big enough to become real problems,” says Niklas Harris.
“All these factors mean that we have been able to create a team who plays at a very high level already. We have a great mix of experienced players who are around 25 years old and some young talents around 20. Those players form a team who is willing to play with high risk, and this has surprised some of our opponents, not least in the Challenge Cup. Another reason for our success is the fact that we have not been hit by any injuries, even though we have had some long tiring journeys, for instance to the Eastern Turkey and to the east of the Czech Republic,” says the coach who feels convinced that the club will succeed in staying at a high level in future, even though it is not possible to keep all key players in the club.
For instance, the Danish playmaker Mia Rej, who has been one of the dominating figures in the team this season, will return to Denmark to play for København Håndbold next season.
“Mia Rej is the only player who is leaving us after this season, though, and in stead we seem to be getting two other promising back court players. Apart from that we are keeping the rest of our players, so actually we are ready to go for the gold next season,” Niklas Harris tells eurohandball.com.
The gold, meaning the Swedish championship, would also mean the Women´s EHF Champions League for Höör, but the coach is sure that his team will also be up for that challenge.
“I am sure we will be strong enough for the Champions League within a year or so, and the physical pressure will not be much heavier than what we are used to. If we count all the matches in the Swedish league, the Swedish play-off and the Challenge Cup, we are playing 40 matches this season. It would not be much more if we were to play in the Champions League,” he says.
Before Höör can go on dreaming of the Champions League, though, the finals in the Challenge Cup are waiting.
Several times during their Challenge Cup campaign, Niklas Harris has stated that he was happy to avoid the French teams in the tournament.
This will come to an end these two coming weekends, though, as Issy Paris Hand are waiting in the finals.
“I think we have a good chance to defeat them over two matches and win the Challenge Cup. Last year we sent Nimes out of the tournament, and they were number three in France, just like Paris were this year, so I see them as being on pretty much the same level.
“Furthermore, I actually see it as an advantage to us that we are going to start at home. Usually, most teams want to start away, but by playing the first match at home, we can fill our hall and get the chance to put ourselves in a really good position before the return match in France. I also see in advantage in the fact that we probably play a bit faster than them, so I think our chances are good”, Niklas Harris concludes.
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