Mahe brings Veszprém experience to national team
Defending champions France have started well into the Men’s World Championship 2019. They won their first three matches in Group A in Berlin before taking on co-hosts Germany later Tuesday (15 January).
Kentin Mahe is one of the 108 VELUX EHF Champions League players starring at the worlds in Germany and Denmark in January. Being chosen the No. 1 on the centre-back position in the French national team, Mahe has got a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders but he doesn’t seem to be bothered too much. Maybe because he is used to it.
At 27, he has worn the jerseys of VfL Gummersbach, HSV Hamburg and SG Flensburg-Handewitt during his eight-year stint in Germany. And last summer he joined Hungarian side Telekom Veszprém HC.
“I think there is some kind of logic in my progression,” Mahe says. “I always try to move on to better clubs. It has been a while now since I started playing in the Champions League.”
A very important matter
In his years with German clubs, playing in Europe’s biggest club competition was a very important matter. Since moving to the shores of the Balaton lake, it has become even more important.
“We have got some pressure regarding the Champions League here in Veszprém,” he says. “Everybody talks about it, the fans, the players, the staff. The pressure was already high at my former clubs, but here it is very special.”
The start of Veszprém in this VELUX EHF Champions League season wasn’t the one that everybody had expected. They won only one of their first three games in the competition.
But then David Davis took over as coach, and things have been getting better. Veszprém are now fourth in Group A, with six wins from 10 games.
“The most important thing is that we managed to keep focused. We knew the wins would come in the end, that was just a matter of time. Our aim is still to win this competition,” the centre back says.
A special place
Germany has always been special place for Mahe. He was raised in Germany by French parents, his girlfriend is German, and their daughter was born there. Still, he decided to leave the country in the off-season.
“I wanted to challenge myself even more,” he says. “In Veszprém, I am playing with the best players on every position and it helps me giving 100% every morning at training.”
It was his former coach at Flensburg, Ljubomir Vranjes, who convinced him to sign with Veszprém. However, the Swedish coach himself was forced to leave the club in October as he was replaced by Davis.
Mahé had played under Vranjes for three seasons, and the two shared a special bond.
“It has been quite a roller-coaster since September, I have been through a lot of things,” Mahe says. “I knew the former system but now it is a different one. I had never played with a Spanish coach, but I quite like it. I played a lot towards the end of 2018, which is a good thing, obviously.”
The change of coach might even turn into an advantage for Mahe, at least in the national team. Under Didier Dinart, France have got a Spanish flavour to their game.
“Seeing something else can only be a good thing and since a lot of the players in France play in Barcelona, that can only make our collective play coherent,” says Mahe, dismissing any suggestion that his game has been hugely influenced by German handball.
“I only had a German coach for two seasons. I have played under Serbian, Swedish and French coaches,” he says. “I think I can define myself as a French handball player more than anything else.”
TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew