FEATURE: HSV's Kentin Mahe speaks ahead of the all-important EHF Cup semi-final and after an turbulent year for the German side
Mahe wants to make 2015 an even better year
Just three months after winning the Men’s World Championship 2015 with France, Kentin Mahe has made it to the EHF Cup Finals with HSV Hamburg. It won't be the first time that the young French centre back takes part in a European final. He was part of the VFL Gummersbach squad that reached the EHF Cup Winners’ Cup final in 2012, but they lost it to SG Flensburg-Handewitt.
At 23 years old, he explains to us why such finals mean so much to him.
World champion in January, EHF Cup semi-finalist, and maybe more, does this sound like the perfect season to you?
Kentin Mahe: Not really, to be honest. I guess the beginning of 2015 can be regarded as satisfying, but to say that this is the season of my dreams is far from the truth, we have had too many disappointments in the Bundesliga for my liking. The upcoming semi-finals are there to save our season, which has been average so far. Making it to Berlin was one of the goals we gave ourselves at the beginning of the season; it making it this far is the bear minimum.
Looking back it is strange to think that you were nearly knocked out in the early stages of the competition against Kristianstad...
Kentin Mahe: We put ourselves in a very complicated situation at the time. I think we played the first game almost overlooking Kristianstad, maybe we thought it would be easy. The early stages of a competition are always strange, and we didn't think they would be as strong as they were. Luckily, we managed to overcome that problem.
Can you find any explanation for HSV’s lack of constant form?
Kentin Mahe: I don't really know, and I'm sure none of us have a clear answer. In the Bundesliga or in the EHF Cup, we're capable of the best and the worst. We lost in Kristianstad while we were not playing our best handball, but in the meantime we won against a team like Velenje for example. It could be that we lack concentration at times.
Do you think that teams you played against in the EHF Cup dug even deeper against you because of the VELUX EHF Champions League victory two seasons ago?
Kentin Mahe: No I don't see any connection. This squad is very different from the one that won in Cologne, a lot of players have left and a lot of new ones have arrived since then. We have different strengths, but we have made it to Berlin with this squad and we'll try to add another trophy to the club records. If we manage to do it, it will be our victory and not anyone else's.
Do you feel additional pressure on your shoulders since a win could be your last route to European handball for next season?
Kentin Mahe: No, I don't see it that way, and if I do it would be the other way around. If we win two games, we will play the EHF Cup next season, that's quite simple isn't it? A win in Berlin is the shortest, and somehow the simplest way to win such a ticket. It's all down to us and then we don't have to wait for a mistake from our opponents, like in the Bundesliga.
Last year people were not even sure if HSV Hamburg would exist this season. Now you're making it to the EHF Cup Finals. How does that feel?
Kentin Mahe: We are very happy to be at the other end of the spectrum this time. It might seem a little surprising to some that we are in the position to win a title after such problems, but I'm not going to complain. A year ago, we didn't even know if the club was going to exist, so idea of making it to Berlin was a little bit of a dream.
What do make of the other teams you will play against in Berlin?
Kentin Mahe: There are two that we have played against this season, Füchse Berlin and Gorenje Veleje. Berlin, we know we can beat because we've done it already this season. Velenje is your typical Slovenian team. They are real players; they can do a lot of things with the ball in their hands. They've got a stunning centre back in Stas Skube, and some other great individuals, like Benjamin Buric between the posts and Mario Sostaric on right wing.
What about Skjern, your opponent in the semi-final?
Kentin Mahe: We haven't played them yet, but from what I've seen they're your typical Danish team. Really good wingers, and you've got a couple of names in the backcourt. Kasper Sondergaard, Nikolaj Markussen, Henrik Mollgaard, these are names that everybody knows. They've beaten Melsungen in the quarter-finals, and they've beaten Berlin in the group phase, these results show us they could be a real danger to us.
How will the absence of Hans Lindberg affect the team?
Kentin Mahe: We will have the time to adapt, but of course losing Hans was a real low point in the season. Steffan Schröder has taken on his duties in the right wing, and he's doing it well. We all share the responsibilities a little bit more, like with 7m throws for example.
Speaking of responsibilities, how does it feel personally to go from sitting on the bench for long periods of time to playing full games?
Kentin Mahe: Of course it's great! It makes you develop quicker as a player; this is something I've been waiting for all last season. But there are some downsides to it as well. Since there is no other centre back in the team, I don't find myself pushed, I don't feel too much pressure, as there would be if there were someone waiting to take my position.
TEXT: Kevin Domas / bc
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