Elverum out to prove they belong
With record-breaking crowds in Lillehammer last season and one of the most stunning summer signings, Elverum Handball have been making big statements of their intention to belong in Europe’s elite club competition.
Having recorded some promising results last season, the Norwegian champions must now find another gear to compete in a tough group A.
- entering the group phase for the sixth consecutive season since first qualifying in 2015
- announced one of the biggest signings of the summer, bringing in Olympic, world and EHF EURO champion Luc Abalo from PSG
- set attendance record for handball in Norway last season with 12,377 fans visiting Lillehammer’s Hakons Hall for match against PSG
- 2010 CL winner and Norwegian men’s assistant coach Borge Lund takes over as coach from Michael Apelgren, who moves to IK Sävehof
- won regular season in Norway, suffering just one defeat, and were awarded the title after play-offs were cancelled
Most important question: Can this new-look team compete?
Elverum’s inclusion in groups A/B last season was a surprise to some and although they did not progress to the Last 16, they performed admirably.
A big victory over Celje, a draw with Zagreb and narrow losses to PSG, Szeged and Aalborg showed they could test anyone on their day, but can they take that next step?
The squad has changed a lot over the summer, with 11 players and coach Michael Apelgren moving on, while Borge Lund takes the reins with 11 new arrivals. Besides Luc Abalo, the likes of Dominik Máthé and Josef Pujol will add quality and power to their back court, but it will take time to see how the squad gels and whether they have all the attributes needed to deal with Europe’s fiercest opponents.
Under the spotlight: Luc Abalo
The handball world sat up and took notice on 28 May as Elverum announced that two-time Olympic, three-time world, three-time EHF EURO champion Luc Abalo would be joining.
If not for the Tokyo Olympics being pushed back a year, Luc Abalo’s club career may well have been at an end, but with that swansong now a year away, the French right wing needed a new club competing at this level and Elverum made their move.
Abalo knows this competition inside-out, having won it in 2009 and reached the final three more times. His experience and enduring class will see him play an integral role and should help his younger teammates through tough times.
How they rate themselves
Elverum captain Thomas Solstad is in a defiant mood ahead of the campaign.
“We want to show that there is a reason that Elverum are in this year’s Champions League. We gained a lot of experience with our young team last season and we feel more prepared now.
“The group we came in is very though with a lot of great teams. I feel that it is a wide open race for top spot and the rest of the play-off places.
“Is very important for us to play in the EHF Champions League because it will show more of the spectators and team around the world that we are developing. And it also shows the other talents around the world that Elverum is a great club to develop in and you also have the chance to play at the biggest club arena.”
Did you know?
When they are not busy with life on court, two of Elverum’s players play an active role in handball media. Returning playmaker Josef Pujol is a part of the crew in the popular Swedish podcast Avkast while defensive specialist Rasmus Boysen is well-known in the handball Twitter community for his own observations as well as running @Hballtransfers.
What the numbers say?
This is Elverum’s sixth consecutive appearance in the group phase of the EHF Champions League, since first qualifying in 2015.
In that time, they have yet to progress from their group, coming closest in 2018/19 when they finished third in group D, a single point away from the knockout round.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Luc Abalo (Paris Saint-Germain Handball), Søren Tau (TTH Holstebro), Josef Pujol (GOG), Dominik Mathe (Balatonfured), Christopher Hedberg (IFK Skövde), Edwin Aspenbäck (IFK Skövde), William Nilsen Nygaard (Halden Topphåndball), Nicolas Aaron Robinson (TUS Dotzheim 1848), Niclas Fingren (Redbergslids IK), Oskar Kvernes (Elverum Academy), Simen Schønningsen (Ribe Esbjerg), Kristian Hûbert Larsen (Sandefjord Håndball)
Left the club: Magnus Fredriksen (HSG Wetzlar), Sigvaldi Gudjonsson (Kielce), Lukas Sandell (Aalborg Håndbold), Sebastian Henneberg (Aalborg Håndbold), Didrik Linderud (Fyllingen Bergen), Sander Linderud (Sandefjord Håndball), Alexander Westby (Drammen), Jonas Burud (JS Cherbourg), Kristian Krag Ørsted (JS Cherbourg), Jonas Elverhøy (On loan to Sandefjord), Alexander Mitrovic (On loan to Fjellhammer)
EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2020/21 season): 7
Group Phase (5): 2015/16, 2016/2017, 2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20
Qualification (1): 2013/14
Cup Winners’ Cup: Quarter-final 2010/11
EHF Cup: Group Phase 2012/13
Norwegian play off: 11 titles (1995, 2008, 2012-20)
Norwegian league: 4 titles (2013, 2017, 2018, 2020)
Norwegian Cup: 1 title