Gassama face club coach in crunch match at EHF EURO

MAL7445 V EHF / Björn Pazen

Two great handball nations face each other in the last Women’s EHF EURO 2022 match in Podgorica on Wednesday for a do-or-die duel in group D: Germany and Spain. While Spain need to win after their defeats against Montenegro and Poland, Germany have two points, and a draw would see them through.

For one of the Spanish players, the match is a special one: line player Kaba Gassama. Since the summer of 2022, she plays for German and EHF European League champions and EHF Champions League participants SG BBM Bietigheim.

So, she will not only play against four Bietigheim teammates on Wednesday (live on EHFTV at 20:30 CET), but also against her club coach: Markus Gaugisch, the Bietigheim coach who has also taken over the Germany national team since last April.

“I am a bit nervous as they know me so well, but I also know their system,” said Gassama, who arrived from French side Fleury Loiret, where she played for one season after winning the EHF European League with Nantes in 2021. Her home club is BM Granollers.

And Granollers were the reason why she moved to Germany.

“Bietigheim’s Spanish goalkeeper Vicente Alamo is from Granollers. He asked me: ‘Kaba, we need a pivot.’ I said: ‘Why not, this is a good team, they play Champions League, they are the German champions.’ So, I tried it.”

In Bietigheim, Gassama became successor of Luisa Schulze, who left after the club’s perfect 2021/22 season, which saw them win more than 50 straight matches and three trophies: EHF European League champions, German Bundesliga, and domestic cup.

“Living in Germany is different to Spain or France, but there are so many nice people around. And the success we have in Champions League and German league makes everything easier for me. When you arrive in a new team, you need to have good vibes. And when you win so many matches, it is more than OK,” Gassama said.

20221109 ESP Gassama Full Width 1

The situation of her Spanish team, however, is rather different and difficult after two defeats at the EHF EURO, but Gassama was optimistic: “We still have a good atmosphere in the team. We know we need to beat Germany, we are strong, we stand as a team and have a good feeling.”

Since 2002, Spain have always reached the main round of a Women’s EHF EURO, Germany missed the second stage of the competition only once, in 2010.

Their most recent duel ended in a crucial win for Spain: in Gassama’s hometown Granollers, Spain won 26:21 in the quarter-final of the 2021 IHF World Championship.

But Gassama did not want to compare this match with the one in Podgorica.

“It is a different match. Maybe it is the same German team, but with a different coach and a different playing system. In general, it is a new context, a new tournament. By looking at the results here, Germany are the favourites, but I think it is fifty-fifty match.”

20221109 ESP Gassama Quote Gaugisch
Kaba has excellent physical skills, you simply cannot stop her. It is really hard to defend her – and Lysa Tchaptchet. Both are tall, have a strong physical presence. Exactly this kind of line players fit to the Spanish style of play.
Markus Gaugisch
Germany and Bietigheim head coach

For her club coach, Gassama is an integral part of the Spanish team.

“We signed her at Bietigheim because she is a good player. And we are happy at the club that so many of our players are here at the EHF EURO. This is a proof of quality for us,” Gaugisch said.

“Kaba has excellent physical skills, you simply cannot stop her. It is really hard to defend her – and Lysa Tchaptchet. Both are tall, have a strong physical presence. And I am sure, Spain are scouting exactly for this kind of line players, as they fit to their style of play.”

Confronted with Gaugisch’s statements, Gassama just started laughing.

“He said this only because I am in his team, he tried to put a pressure on his defence,” she said. “The Spanish tactics really consist of strong pivots. Spain is famous for a good cooperation with back court players and pivots.”

When playing in attack, Gassama mostly be up against Germany defence boss Xenia Smits, a teammate at Bietigheim.

“When I met her in the team hotel, I said to her: I know you do this and that, and I wait for this and that to score,” Gassama said. “But she knows me too, like Jule Maidhof, who might also defend against me.”

While there are still many options for the final standings in group D  – Montenegro are through, but apart from Spain and Germany, Poland are also in the race for the main round – most likely either Gassama with Spain or Germany will fly home after Wednesday’s match.

“Of course, it could be that we are sending Markus and Germany home,” Gassama said. “But I am here with the national team of Spain, so no question about this.”

photos © 2022 Anze Malovrh / kolektiff

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