Ekdahl du Rietz enjoys surprise comeback at EHF Finals
The first big surprise of the EHF Finals Men 2021 comes a day before the first match has even begun.
Kim Ekdahl du Rietz is back - and even back on the big stage. Rhein-Neckar Löwen announced on Friday that the Swedish left back will play for them at the final tournament of the EHF European League at SAP Arena in Mannheim this weekend.
Löwen assistant coach Klaus Gärtner unveiled the secret while talking to journalists ahead of the team’s semi-final against Füchse Berlin.
“The team heard that Kim had traveled back from Hong Kong and that he was looking forward to playing some handball. He gave a good impression in training and we are sure he can add something to the team,” Gärtner said.
Ekdahl du Rietz previously played for Löwen from 2012 until 2017. In 170 matches for the German team in all competitions, he scored 587 goals. He won EHF Cup with the German side in 2013, when he faced his former team from Nantes in the final, and the domestic Bundesliga title four years later.
In 2017, Ekdahl du Rietz retired from handball, only to return to Löwen the following year. He helped the team win the German cup – and pulled another surprise when he signed with Paris Saint-Germain HB.
After two years in France, Ekdahl du Rietz called it a career again in 2020.
The 31-year-old Swede moved to Hongkong to study global politics and economics, although he tried to stay physically fit, as well.
“I have been playing some street basketball, been to the gym, done some running, but it is different from playing handball on top level,” he said. “I also played with a handball at the campus, there was a handball goal so I could keep my shoulder loose.”
His semester ended a few weeks ago and Ekdahl du Rietz arrived on Frankfurt airport last week Tuesday. Then things went fast forward.
“The last time when I quit handball, I was well aware of the fact that I was going to miss it a lot,” he said. “Being on the court and off the court, having the whole handball family around, that was going to leave an empty space in my heart. For me, this is just for the weekend. I am happy I can just live this old life of mine.”
A main role in Ekdahl du Rietz’s return has been played by fellow Swede Mikael Appelgren, the Löwen goalkeeper who will not play this weekend after undergoing shoulder injury in October.
Meanwhile, Ekdahl du Rietz has completed five, six full training sessions with the team.
“He showed some of his old moves in training. If you saw Kim, you couldn't believe that he had not played handball for more than a year,” Löwen right wing Patrick Groetzki said.
“I hope he can help us, especially in defence. We hope for the best but don’t want to put too much expectations on him.”
The last time when I quit handball, I was well aware of the fact that I was going to miss it a lot. Being on the court and off the court, having the whole handball family around, that was going to leave an empty space in my heart. For me, this is just for the weekend. I am happy I can just live this old life of mine.
Ekdahl du Rietz said he had no doubt when being asked by his former club.
“I had the best time of my career at Löwen and when I got to know that they need some help, of course I am here to help them,” he said.
Ekdahl du Rietz steps in as Löwen’s regular left backs Lukas Nilsson (ankle) and Romain Lagarde (thigh) are injured. On a positive note, the EHF Finals hosts will see captain Uwe Gensheimer return from a lengthy absence.
Does the Swedish back know a lot about his team’s semi-final opponents?
“I have tried to watch some handball but due to the time difference it was really hard,” he said. “I can’t say anything about Berlin or the other teams. But Berlin were always hard to play against, they were never my favourite opponents.”
Löwen manager Jennifer Kettemann said the club was “pleased and thankful that Kim helps us out for the second time after 2018. There is almost no other player for whom the motto ‘once a lion - always a lion’ fits better.”