Blohm: “I believe in us, we are fighters”
Proud, demanding and opinionated. CS Minaur Baia Mare’s fans are usually flocking to the Lascar Pana Arena to cheer for their team, self-declaring themselves as the ‘Capital of Romanian handball.’
But qualifying for next week’s EHF Finals Women is the biggest European achievement in the team’s history, in a one-of-a-kind season that saw Baia Mare lose only one game on their way to the final tournament.
With players from seven countries and three continents making up the roster, everybody chimed in for the run-in, but few players have had a more decisive input than Linn Blohm.
A force to be reckoned with both in defence and in attack, the All-star line player of the World Championship 2019 really upped her game and helped her side to get to the last four of the EHF European League.
Not many Swedish players have signed with Romanian teams in the past, but influential backs Isabelle Gulldén and Linnea Torstensson led the way when they joined CSM Bucuresti and helped the club to one of the most unexpected trophy wins in EHF Champions League history, in 2015/16.
“Before signing for Baia Mare, I talked with Bella, because she also has a small boy, just like I do. I wanted to do something different, but I also wanted a good environment to raise my son,” Blohm said.
“She told me to accept the offer, because Romania has a lot to offer and it is a good place to raise your children. Therefore, it was easy for me to come here. I am very happy that I made a good choice.”
It was definitely a big change for the Swedish line player, who plied her trade in Sweden and Denmark before, coming to Baia Mare from København Håndbold.
Teaming up with Swedish goalkeeper Filippa Idehn, Blohm was an anchor in defence, while also scoring 24 goals throughout the European League season.
Her experience was crucial for the Romanian side, who won seven of their eight European games, including three on home court – where the EHF Finals will be staged as well.
It was a challenging season for all teams involved in European competitions, as players were confined to their homes for the most part of the season, with chemistry issues mounting.
However, this was not a problem for Baia Mare.
“I really believe in us, because we are fighters and we can play very good. Sure, the expectations are high, but there is a lot of experience in our roster, so we can handle both the pressure and the requirements,” Blohm said.
“I also like being here, Romania is a beautiful country, with superb landscapes, the mountains are everywhere. I love it here.”
Baia Mare duly delivered in the EHF European League, securing wins against Astrakhanochka, Storhamar, Thüringer HC and HC Dunarea Braila on their way to the EHF Finals.
Hosting the tournament on 8 and 9 May in Baia Mare is a huge coup, with players already familiar with the arena and the recorded sound of the fans on loudspeaker pumping players up.
A crucial game against Nantes Atlantique is separating Baia Mare from their first European final, after being touted as one of the favourites to win the trophy throughout the season.
“I do not know a lot about Nantes right now, I just now they have a Swedish player there, a former teammate of mine in the national team: Nathalie Hagman,” Blohm said.
“We will analyse them and focus on their strengths, but if they got here, they surely are a good team.”
How about getting to the final?
“Well, I would really like to play against Ikast/Herning Handbold, sure. I know them well, they are a very tough team, but there are no easy opponents here,” the 28-year-old line player said.
Sure, the expectations are high, but there is a lot of experience in our roster, so we can handle both the pressure and the requirements.
Blohm’s rise has been well-documented, as she really blossomed in the last years, being named the Swedish Player of the Year in 2020.
But few know that she started handball as a left back, transitioning to the line player position when she was 19.
“Actually, it is an advantage for me, because I can read the game better. I know what the defenders can do and how I can score some goals with my positioning,” Blohm said.
Yet hard work and overcoming a major challenge with a smile upon her face has been the main ingredient for Blohm’s rise to the top in the past years.
Born deaf in her left ear, the Swedish line player could have easily called it quits in the first years of her career. Instead, she decided to focus on handball and it all paid off, with a move to Hungarian powerhouse Györi Audi ETO KC on the cards this summer.
“I had to adapt, but I did not think of it as a problem. Let me tell you a funny story: when I was a junior, as the bench was on the left side, I pretended not to hear when the coach was asking me to come off for a substitution,” Blohm said, smiling. “It is my little secret, but now I can tell it.”