Martin: MOTW winner will be the team that better handles frustration

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EHF / Kevin Domas

You might not see Ambros Martin every weekend, sat on the bench for a club playing in the EHF Champions League, but the Spanish coach still keeps an eye on everything that goes on across Europe. And for good reason, as he is now the Spanish national team coach.

By the coincidence of the schedule, many of his players will be on the court on Saturday, when FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria take on Rapid Bucuresti in the next Match of the Week. A clash between two teams that have so far been delivering performances far from their usual standards.

“This game will be about which team can handle its frustration better, as it is hard mentally to lose two or three games in a row. But in the meantime, my opinion is that it is a good opportunity for both teams to learn and find solutions in stressful situations” explains Ambros Martin. “Coaches and players have to work together to get better, and you probably see the personality of everybody involved.”

From the outside, it seems hard to find a reason why FTC and Rapid have been struggling since the start of the EHF Champions League season. The Hungarian side reached the EHF FINAL4 final last year while their Romanian opponents made it to the quarter-finals in their first ever season in the competition.

“You can say that both were surprises, but to me, they were different surprises. FTC created the sensation when they beat Metz in the return leg, but they still had ups and downs during the season. Rapid, on the other hand, played consistently throughout the season, even in the group phase” analyses Martin, whose team of Györ stumbled against Rapid last season in the group phase.

So, what could possible have gone wrong in Ferencvaros and in Bucharest? Both sides changed coaches in the summer, with Martin Albertsen joining FTC while David Ginesta Montes is now on the bench for Rapid, after replacing Kim Rasmussen two weeks ago. “I think those two coaches are smart enough to know that if you want to make some changes, you have to make them little by little. When you take over a team that has been working well in the past, there is no need to change everything over. You have no time to, anyway, since the preparation is really short,” says Martin.

One thing that the four-time EHF Champions League winner puts his finger on, though, is that FTC are now driven by a Scandinavian coach for the first time in their history, after 16 years under the direction of Gabor Elek. “It could be an explanation for their struggle, that’s true. When the club has been used to a way of doing for so long, it takes a while for everybody to adapt. The Scandinavian way of coaching is completely different to the Hungarian mentality and it might not be easy for players to handle the change, especially if they have been there for a long time” says Martin, who is certainly speaking from experience; he stayed in Györ for a combined eight years, from 2012 to 2018 then from 2021 to 2023.

Amid the bad results, though, some players have still be able to shine. And when we ask Martin to point to the stand-out performers in each team, he does not have to think for long. “Alicia Fernandez has done a very good job, in my opinion, for Rapid. She always tries to find the right way to help her team and she has been very consistent in her performance” he says, before giving praise to Andrea Lekic in FTC’s camp, “Even if the years pass by, she is as motivated as ever. She is the typical leader that you need in your team, someone that is ready to give everything every time and that is trying to pull her teammates up.”

For sure, Ambros Martin will be watching the game on Saturday, but not only to observe the Spanish players ahead of the forthcoming national team week in October, with two EHF EURO 2024 qualification games in sight for Spain. “As a coach, it is not easy to be in this situation, but you have to analyse the situation and find the solutions. It is not always necessary to try to change everything, sometimes, you just need one good game and the wheel will start spinning the other way” he says, before concluding, “One thing is for sure: the winning team will probably think their season starts for good on Sunday night, whereas the other one will be in a bad situation.”

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