Källman: ”Our goal is the EHF FINAL4”
It is fair to say that MOL-Pick Szeged have had one of the more disrupted starts to their season in the EHF Champions League.
With several players missing, the Hungarian side lost their opening three games of the season but finally got some points on the board last week with a victory over Elverum.
They hope to build on that in Thursday's Match of the Week against SG Flensburg-Handewitt, led by captain Jonas Källman, who could be in his last season with the club.
"My goal is to give back to the club as much as I can and hopefully play well enough that they want to keep me for another year," Jonas Källman says.
The Swedish 39-year-old is on his last year of a contract that was extended for this season. The left wing has been the captain for several years now and an important figure for a team that has won everything but the EHF Champions League since Källmans arrival in 2014.
"I think we have a big chance of having a great season this year since we basically have the same team as last year. Hopefully, everyone will see that we are a close-knit team and even more so this year.
"Our goal is to reach the EHF FINAL4 but we know how hard it is."
This year has been a different one considering the restrictions all over Europe due to the Covid-19 pandemic and with his side one of the worst hit, Källman is of course well aware of the challenges involved.
"Will have to try and adapt as well as possible and show our supporters that we still are a strong team, especially at home. If we want to reach the top we have to win our home games.
Szeged are one of the strongest home teams in Europe and have won 17 straight home games in Europe's top flight.
"If I am being completely honest I had no idea about that before you told me. I don’t think about records at all. I am just focused on winning the next game."
Jonas Källman left IFK Skövde in the Swedish domestic league back in 2002 and has since played for Ciudad Real, Atletico Madrid and MOL-Pick Szeged (he played in Skövde for a short while in 2013).
Still learning at 39
Källman has a resume that not many active players can present. He has won three EHF Champions League titles, five league titles in Spain and the Hungarian championship, just to name a few. But he is still one of the hungriest players out there.
"I have always had luck when it comes to injuries, knock on wood. So I have to thank my mom and dad for giving me good genes. For the last 10 years, I have really taken care of my body between games and tried to get as much rest as possible.
But considering everything he has achieved, what makes him play with the same passion for the game?
"First and foremost it is because I still enjoy playing. I love to score goals, I love to practice with my teammates and to be able to learn new things about handball.
I think we have a big chance of having a great season this year since we basically have the same team as last year. Hopefully, everyone will see that we are a close-knit team and even more so this year. Our goal is to reach the EHF FINAL4 but we know how hard it is.
Jonas Källman won three EHF Champions League titles with Ciudad Real, the first two are more special to him than his latest.
"The first one is always special. The second one is special because we lost the first game against THW Kiel at home. Then on their home court, we won the game and I think I scored 10 goals on 10 shots that game."
In 2014, Källman moved with his family to Szeged and there he has stayed. Why? He loves the club and he loves life in Szeged.
"The club has grown every year and become more and more professional. There is still a lot to be done though and the new arena will be finished in about a year. That alone will help the club because everything will be at the same place – dressing rooms, gym, restaurant and everything else. It will be a massive step forward for the club."
Outside of handball, Källman and his family enjoy life in Hungary.
"The kids enjoy school and their friends. They have learned Hungarian, but I am still struggling with it."
As mentioned before, this season may be Källman's last at MOL-Pick Szeged. His contract expires at the end of this season, but it seems like he wants to stay longer than that.
"I would really enjoy having the chance to play in the new arena. But then I have to show everyone that I can still play at this level and make them want to write a new contract. It is up to the club, but if it were up to me I want to stay for another year. The club has been great to me since the beginning."
Despite his desire to play, thought on the future are on the Swede's mind as he is working on getting his Master coach qualification.
"That is the one I have left, but there is no rush. The day I stop playing, I want to try coaching but maybe after a year I will learn that it is not for me and that is okay.
"I believe that I have learned things over the years that I can teach others. I have the Swedish style combined with the Spanish way of thinking since I have had the pleasure of being coached by Spanish coaches for so many years. My idea is to mix the best of the Swedish and the Spanish way of thinking about handball."
Nevertheless, he has already started giving back to the sport he loves. In 2013 he started a handball school in Spain which he still runs.
"The school has given me a feel for how it is to coach and I have learned a lot. One thing is for sure, it is much easier being a player than a coach."
But before Jonas Källman becomes a coach he and his MOL-Pick Szeged side want to make it to the EHF FINAL4 at long last, after many years of trying.
"We will certainly give it our best," concludes Källman.
I have learned things over the years that I can teach others. I have the Swedish style combined with the Spanish way of thinking since I have had the pleasure of being coached by Spanish coaches for so many years. My idea is to mix the best of the Swedish and the Spanish way of thinking about handball.