INTERVIEW: Skjern veteran admits to special emotions before second leg against Melsungen
Klitgaard looking forward to reunion with old friends
Thomas Klitgaard doesn't hide that he is particularly looking forward to the second leg of the EHF Cup quarter-final between MT Melsungen and Skjern Handbold.
The 37-year-old line player from Skjern has great memories of his three years in Melsungen, from 2007 to 2010. To him, it will be a reunion with old friends, when the two teams meet in the Rothenbach-Halle in Kassel on Sunday 19 April at 16:30 hrs local time. His current team will then try to defend their five goal lead against his former club to proceed to the EHF Cup Finals in Berlin.
eurohandball.com: What will it be like to get back to Melsungen and play in the Rothenbach-Halle again?
Thomas Klitgaard: I am really looking forward to that. My family and I spent three great years there, and we loved the town as well as the surroundings. I enjoyed my entire time in the club and in the team.
Even though there are only two players left of those I played with – playmaker Nenad Vuckovic and line player Felix Danner – I still know a lot of people around the team and in the administration, and it will be great to see them all again.
eurohandball.com: When you won against Melsungen 25:20 at home last Saturday, it was already the second time this season you defeated a Bundesliga team rather clearly, as you defeated Füchse Berlin by four goals in the group phase. Is there any particular reason why you have such a good grip on Bundesliga teams?
Thomas Klitgaard: No particular reason, apart from the fact that we are good! I think a top team in the Danish league will always have a good chance against a team from the mid-table of the Bundesliga these days.
The way I see it, the Danish league has become much stronger over the past four or five years. While we might have said in the past that a Danish side would never stand a chance against a sub top team from the Bundesliga, things have changed in that respect.
The top of the Danish league has improved in particular, I think. This year, we see Team Tvis Holstebro with a great chance to qualify for the EHF Cup Finals, and we have the chance too. In the VELUX EHF Champions League, Kolding Kobenhavn have been doing well for years. There is a lot of evidence that the Danish league is a strong league.
eurohandball.com: Skjern have been particularly strong after the World Championship despite several injuries. You have won the Danish Cup, you have a good chance of reaching the semi-final of the championship, and you also have a good chance to qualify for the EHF Cup Finals. Why?
Thomas Klitgaard: That is a good question really. Before Christmas, things were really not going the way we wanted them to, but we moved closer together in the team, and in particular, we have become better at defending which has given us more chances on counter attacks.
Secondly, we have not given our opponents the ball as often as we did in autumn, and I think those factors in a combination are the reasons for our recent success.
eurohandball.com: Personally, you have the age of 37. How long do you expect to go on playing?
Thomas Klitgaard: My contract expires in one year, so I am going to play next season for sure. When you reach my age, you don't think too far ahead, so I suppose I will decide around Christmas, if I believe my body can take another year and if I want to extend my contract.
eurohandball.com: What would it mean to you and to the club to qualify for the EHF Cup Finals?
Thomas Klitgaaard: That would really mean a lot. Team Tvis Holstebro were there two years ago and have a great chance of going there again as they are just one goal down before the home match. So, if two Danish teams made it to the Finals, it would be a great triumph for Danish handball.
eurohandball.com: So how do you see your team´s chances of being that second Danish team in the Finals in case?
Thomas Klitgaard: I still see Melsungen as light favourites. Their home court in Kassel is a very difficult place to play for any away team, and five goals is really not a lot in handball. So, if I set our chances to 40% ahead of the first match, they may be 45% now - so, at least, they have not become smaller!
EHF Cup Finals Tickets
Handball fans across Europe can purchase their place at the 2015 EHF Cup Finals through the official website of the high-profile event www.berlinfinals.de.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / me
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