Didier Dinart, from general of defence to generational inspiration

Kevin Domas / ew

Didier Dinart, from general of defence to generational inspiration

Nearly 43 years ago, Didier Dinart was born in Guadeloupe. Four decades later, the former player of Montpellier, Ciudad Real, Atletico and PSG, has become known as ‘the general of defence,’ like Ivano Balic puts it.

Since 2016, Dinart has been head coach of the French national team, which will take on world champions Denmark in a Golden League match in Aarhus on Thursday at 20:15 CEST.

A figurehead of French handball who has had a Europe-wide impact on the game, Dinart recently appeared in an extensive feature on the Olympic Channel.

Satisfaction in an area where others were reluctant to play

Dinart started as left back when he arrived on mainland France, before trying his luck as a line player and finally moving on to a defender-only role, finding satisfaction in an area of the game where some others were reluctant to play.

“I became proud of doing well what the others didn’t want to do,” Dinart says. “Defence had always been seen as the dirty work. But I got my satisfaction in being the best at it.”

His masterpiece with the national team, he says, was the Olympic title in 2008, the first for France. In the semi-final against Croatia, “one of the toughest games I’ve ever played,” his talent shone and helped France to a 25:23 win, before they beat Iceland 28:23 for the gold medal.

“People were scared to face us”

A legend was born, one that was feared by many opponents.

“I think that, at a point, people were somehow scared to face us, because they knew they would have a hard time,” Dinart says. “This defensive strength was not all about me, but also my teammates. We were a team, more than anything else.”

With their Dinart-led defence, France won a string of major titles, including another Olympic gold medal in 2012, three World Championships (2001, 2009, 2011) and two EHF EURO titles (2006 and 2010).

Dinart ended his playing career in 2013. While he has taken over at the helm of the national team, defence has remained his main focus in the game. Cédric Sorhaindo has picked up where Dinart left, and the coach says that protecting your own goal is “where you see how strong a team is.”

“This is the area of the game in which, more than any other else, you help each other,” he says. “You give a part of yourself to help the guy next to you. And I want to see that among my players.”

With the Men’s EHF EURO 2020 less than three months away, France are building on their team spirit. Always starting among the title favourites, France have not lifted the trophy since 2014.

“We are still a very young team and since 2017 we’ve lost many of our players with a lot of experience. You don’t replace Thierry Omeyer or Daniel Narcisse with a click of your fingers.”

Role model for young kids

Dinart’s role, however, goes beyond being a defensive mentor for his players. His aim is also to be a role model for the young kids living on the island where he was born.

Dinart travels back every summer and brings along some handball superstars. The national team coach gives advice and equipment, and is very aware that the next general of defence might be among them.

“I love to help these guys. Sport and handball helped me out in my life, and I want to give them the opportunity to, maybe, have the chance to follow my path,” Dinart says. “Handball has given me the best feelings that an athlete can feel.”

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