Simonet brothers battle for Last 16 ticket
One of the last times Sebastian and Diego Simonet met on the handball court was a sad one. Sebastian, the eldest of three brothers who are professional handball players, was then part of the Ivry squad with Pablo, the youngest. Diego and his Montpellier team beat them, and Ivry were sent to France’s second league.
This weekend, there will be no matter of a second division relegation to think of – only the first leg of a face-off between Abanca Ademar Leon, featuring Sebastian Simonet, and Montpellier HB, where his younger brother Diego plays.
“This game would have been special for us anyway, playing such a game in the Champions League, but it's going to be incredible playing against Diego. For me of course, but for the other Argentinians in Leon, who have played with him for a long team in the national team,” says Sebastian.
The relationship between the two brothers has always been very strong. They arrived in France at the same time, shared countless appearances with the Argentina national team and, for Diego, Sebastian has always been kind of a role model.
“When I was younger I used to look up to him, analyse the way he was playing, and I still do. I try to watch every Leon game I can on the internet. In fact, I know them so well, I'll be doing the video analysis for this weekend,” laughs Diego. “Now, Sebastian has become a life example too. He has settled, has got kids, he's an example for everyone.”
“It reminds me of the dreams I had 10 years ago”
Since moving to Leon two summers ago, Sebastian has newfound determination on the court: “I'm very happy in Leon. I found ambition again, which I might have lost along the way in my career. I always played the bottom third of the league, now I'm playing the Champions League and competing for titles. It reminds me of the dreams I had 10 years ago.”
The Champions League title might not be the ambition for Leon, but the Spaniards will put on their best show against Montpellier. Though Leon may not be favourites ahead of the two-leg play-off, Diego Simonet will have warned his teammates that the trip to Spain will not be a walk in the park.
“At home, their fans help them play better. It's really hard getting a result in Leon. They might think they're outsiders in this confrontation, but I wouldn't be as certain as they are,” says Diego, whose team reached the quarter-finals of the competition last season.
“For us, these are bonus games – bonus, of course, because after four games played in the competition this season, everybody thought we were eliminated, but here we are. It’s also a bonus for the fans, for the staff and for all the players. It's a reward for our commitment all season long,” says Sebastian.
They will also be very special games for Argentinian handball, with four players from the South American nation on court in the clash. As a consequence, it was a talking point for the Simonets during the end of the year celebrations in Argentina.
“We saw each other in our home country and everybody was already talking about it. We sent a couple of text messages lately, but nothing too crazy yet,” says Sebastian, while one thing makes Diego very happy: “This game will be broadcast live in Argentina. It will be very important for handball over there. Playing the Champions League, facing your brother, is already special, but for the game to be broadcast at home, that something that's going to be part of the family history,” the Montpellier centre back concludes.
TEXT: Kevin Domas / cg