FEATURE: Goalkeeper Yann Genty is playing in his European Cup season at the age of 34, but is making up for lost time by reaching the EHF Cup Finals
Chambéry's shot-blocking master Genty
At the age of 34, Yann Genty is a latecomer to European handball. In fact, he had never played any official international game in his career before the EHF Cup second round in September 2015.
After playing for mid-level French clubs such as Billère, Aurillac and Istres Provence Handball, he joined Chambéry Savoire Handball from Cesson-Rennes Métropole HB in the summer of 2014 with only one goal in mind: to play in a European cup competition.
Mission accomplished, but the goalkeeper takes nothing for granted: "I enjoy it even more. For instance, I met with an old teammate of mine last weekend, when he was playing a fourth division game. I asked him to take a look at the journey I took and the both of us had a laugh," he recalls.
"To play the EHF Cup is not something everybody can say he has done, but to play the Finals... I realise how lucky I am and how much work I've had to put in to get there."
Master of stopping shots
Even though he did not have any taste of European handball before this season, Yann Genty has been quick in showing his trademark: his shotstopping. After having four of his shots not just saves, but caught by the Chambéry's keeper, Kim Andersson appeared clearly impressed, saying that he had more shots stopped in a single game than in his whole career.
But if you ask Genty, he insists he does not do it to show off : "I do that only to help my wingers get easy fastbreak opportunities. It helps putting the pressure on the attackers' shoulders, but there's no intention to be mean."
In France, he was elected best goalkeeper of the league last season and was nicknamed "Pastis-man" and people could fear that he would only be known because of that speciality. But Yann Genty does not take any offense, saying that he just "doesn't care. I find it interesting if I can get in the mind of the shooter in front of me."
Lots of experience in Chambéry's camp
His skills certainly helped Chambéry to get their ticket to the EHF Cup Finals, but it was a really tough call. The French side conceaded their first defeat in the first leg of the quarter-finals against Saint-Raphaël Var Handball (25:30), and only made up for it in the last minutes of the return game (29:22).
"The first quarter-final wasn't even a day off for us," recalls Genty. "We just completely forgot there was a return game and tried to play over our limits. Luckily, we managed to qualify for the Finals."
Does he think that having players like Edin Basic or Cédric Paty in the roster, who have played in the VELUX EHF Champions League many times, helps you keep a cool head in the right moments?
"Certainly so, many of the guys in the team have known worse, both in terms of atmosphere and game scenarios."
Genty hopes for HBC Nantes fan support
They have not helped Yann Genty though, to get used to different styles of handball. "Playing against teams you've never played against before is a bit special," the goalkeeper explains. "When you play against the French teams, you know the guys, which tricks they use, while against Ystads or Helvetia Anaitasuna, I knew nothing.
"But as a player, I can now understand why it helps you getting better. You have to think about the way you play, you have to adapt and maybe try some new things." These new things have allowed Chambéry to go all through to the EHF Cup Semi-final, which will be played on Saturday at 17:30 CET against Frisch Auf Göppingen.
"I don't think we feel any more pressure than in the previous games. Maybe the one we felt it the most was when we played against Füchse Berlin, titleholders and favourites. We clealy said to ourselves that we had to deliver," Genty recalls, before telling us what he expects of the game against the other German team:
"They are typically German, with strong back court shooters. They have experience as well, some have been international players, some have won European titles, but we believe in ourselves."
Chambéry also hope for some unexpected support from the stands: "We're playing after HBC Nantes, and I'm sure their fans will cheer for us. Our fans and theirs will hopefully bring us to victory."
The semi-final between Chambery Savoie Handball and Frisch Auf Göppingen as well as the three other matches of the EHF Cup Finals can be watched live on ehfTV.com.
TEXT: Kevin Domas / es
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