FEATURE: The heavy defeat in Togliatti does not change the fact that Esbjerg have written history by qualifying for a European final for the first time ever.
History in the making in Esbjerg
Team Esbjerg brought no happy memories with them home from the first leg of the Women's EHF Cup final against Lada.
However, the 36:25 defeat in Togliatti Sunday afternoon does not change the fact that Esbjerg have written history by qualifying for a European final for the first time ever.
However, their latest title was won in 1979, and lately the women's handball team has contributed to making Denmark's fifth largest city known, not only inside the Danish borders, but also in Europe.
Team Esbjerg may not have won a Danish championship yet, but for the first time ever have the women from the far west of Denmark managed to qualify for a European final. The football team has never made it that far.
“This club has been good at making the right investments at the right time. We cut down on our budgets maybe a couple of years sooner than other clubs, and that has enabled us to also increase the expenses a bit earlier than many others.
“Furthermore, we have managed to make some successful signings along the way. For this season, we have implemented seven new players into our squad, and they have all been successful. A good example is our only 21-year-old Dutch international Estevana Polman who we spotted in SønderjyskE, where she played for three years,” head coach Lars Frederiksen explains towards eurohandball.com.
Both he and his assistant coach, former Finnish international Patrick Westerholm have a past career as players in KIF Kolding, a club known for a huge winning culture. The coaching team may have transferred some of that will to win to the players in Team Esbjerg.
“First of all, I think that the club and the players can take the credit for our success lately. A success which has not been limited to the EHF Cup only. In the national league we have also made history by reaching the semi-finals in the play-offs for the Danish championship for the first time ever.
“Of course, Patrick and I know each other well from having played together in Kolding, and this means that we supplement each other well. For instance, Patrick is usually in charge of our attacking play, while I take of the things that happen on the other half of the court,” Lars Frederiksen explains.
Even though it seems extremely difficult for Team Esbjerg to catch up with Lada's 11-goal lead, when the two teams meet again in Esbjerg Sunday, the coach sees a bright future for his team, when he is asked to look into the crystal bowl.
“I definitely expect us to become even stronger in the years to come. We have a lot of young players who will develop even further in the near future, and furthermore we are adding a few more highly qualified players to our squad next season.
“However, it may be difficult to take the last step to the absolute top of Danish handball. I still see Viborg and FC Midtjylland as being a bit ahead of us, and that is the way it should be. If we want to call our league the strongest league in the world, the two top teams have to be flagships, not only in Denmark, but also in Europe.
“We still have a lot to learn. We were reminded of that in Togliatti on Sunday, but the future looks positive,” Lars Frederiksen concludes.
Is it realistic for his team to catch up with the 11-goal deficit and win the EHF Cup? “I choose to think back to my time as coach in KIF Vejen, where we defeated no other team than Lada with exactly 11 goals at home,” is his answer.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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