CSKA’s Heindahl expects no gifts from her Odense friends
Before the 2020/21 season, Kathrine Heindahl had spent her entire career in her home country Denmark, including two spells at Odense Håndbold - in 2010-11 and 2017-20.
But last summer the 28-year-old line player took a challenge and joined CSKA in Moscow, which now surprisingly top group B in the DELO EHF Champions League with nine points after five games.
To further extend their successful run, CSKA need to perform well in the two upcoming matches against Heindahl’s former team, Odense.
On Sunday, the two sides meet in Moscow for the Match of the Week (live on EHFTV at 14:00 CET). And a week later, they are scheduled to face each other again in Odense.
In this interview of the week, Heindahl talks to eurohandball.com about:
Kathrine Heindahl: I am really excited. I spent a few good years at Odense and have many friends at the team. I am looking forward to seeing them in Moscow. Besides, I am a little nervous as I want to show my best qualities. So, there are many emotions.
eurohandball.com: Did you want CSKA and Odense to be drawn into the same group?
Kathrine Heindahl: Yes, because I wanted to play a game in Odense. I hoped that my family and friends would come and see it. But now, with Covid-19, things have changed and, unfortunately, they will not be able to attend the match next week. That makes me a bit sad.
eurohandball.com: CSKA are on a four-game winning run and are top-placed in group B. Does it make your team favourites against Odense?
Kathrine Heindahl: I think it does, our goal is to get four points in two matches. However, Odense are a strong team, and we need to show our best qualities in order to win both games. I think we are capable of doing it. We want to be a top team in the Champions League, to be among the three best sides in the group, so we need to win, especially in Moscow. Yet we have really great respect for Odense.
Splitting points with Györ in the first game and winning at Brest were two really good performances so early in competition. Now we need to show that we can cope with the favourites’ role.
Kathrine Heindahl: We don’t have much experience, but there is a bunch of good players, and we are actually a great team. I knew that we would be able to do well, but splitting points with Györ in the first game and winning at Brest were two really good performances so early in competition. Now we need to show that we can cope with the favourites’ role.
eurohandball.com: Why is your team doing better in the DELO EHF Champions League than in the Russian league?
Kathrine Heindahl: We have really underperformed in the domestic competition. Losing at Astrakhanochka was very disappointing, even if it was after a long trip from Brest. And on Tuesday, we also lost against Rostov. I think we should have claimed two points as Rostov were not in their best shape, either. But we made too many individual mistakes and the result was very frustrating. We need to do better against top Russian teams because it will give us confidence, also for the Champions League matches.
eurohandball.com: Do you see a lot of similarities between your former club Odense and CSKA?
Kathrine Heindahl: Both are new in the Champions League: For Odense, it is the second season in the tournament, while CSKA are making their debut. Both teams have many quality players and prefer fast handball, so hopefully both upcoming matches will be fun.
eurohandball.com: You had two spells at Odense. What are your memories about each of them?
Kathrine Heindahl: Ten years ago, I signed my first senior contract at Odense. Being a professional was new to me, and the team was bottom of the Danish league. In 2017, many things had changed. It was already a big project and we finished in the top three of the league each year. So, it was a different setup, bigger expectations and more pressure. I had two really different spells at the club, yet both had an effect on who I am today. My family lives on the island of Funen, so I was happy to return to Odense in 2017 after spending six years in Jutland.
Kathrine Heindahl: I enjoy new challenges and need to challenge myself to keep a high motivation. Since I was a little girl, even before becoming a professional, I had been dreaming of moving abroad for some period. I always wanted an adventure and now felt that it was the right time. As a person, I felt strong and ready for it. CSKA contacted me, and since Jan Leslie was there, I didn’t hesitate for a long time before signing a contract.
eurohandball.com: Did Leslie play a key role in your decision?
Kathrine Heindahl: He was a really big factor. As a young player, I worked with him at Randers and I liked his way of coaching, his tactics and strategy. I always knew that I would really like to work with him again if I got a chance. So, Jan was a huge part of my decision. Before I arrived in Moscow, I didn’t know much about Russia, beside their national team. I knew that many questions would arise, and to make things easier, it is important to have such people around like Jan or Sabina Jacobsen, who was also my teammate at Randers years ago.
Since I was a little girl, I had been dreaming of moving abroad for some period. I always wanted an adventure and now felt that it was the right time. As a person, I felt strong and ready for it.
eurohandball.com: How did you adjust to the new team and living in Moscow?
Kathrine Heindahl: Much easier than I expected. I joined the team late because of Covid-19 restrictions and the club has helped me a lot. All the girls are so nice, and of course Jan and Sabina are always helpful. I was open-minded enough to come here and play for CSKA, and I am sure it will help me to grow as a person. I’m happy about the team.
eurohandball.com: How far can CSKA go in the DELO EHF Champions League this season?
Kathrine Heindahl: We have an exciting team, but many players are young, and in the Champions League you have to perform at a high level for a long time. If we manage to keep our level, build up the team and avoid injuries, we will certainly fight for a place in the EHF FINAL4.