This is Me: Mikkel Hansen
Mikkel Hansen's trophy shelf is almost full. Almost. World championships, EHF EURO titles, Olympic gold, national leagues. You name it, Mikkel Hansen has them all. Except one. You know the one. Whisper it quietly. The big one. The one that must not be named. The one that Hansen and his mates in Paris will be doing everything in their powers to bring to the French capital. When you've won everything there is to win in handball - but not this one - how does it feel? Here, Mikkel tells us. So give it a read.
This is Me: Mikkel Hansen
The missing piece
I am still chasing it.
The trophy shelf is almost full now. World championships, EURO titles, Olympic gold, national leagues, I have got all of them.
All of them, but one.
The EHF Champions League. Five times I stepped on the plane to Cologne. With dreams in my head and hopes in my heart. But so far, all I came back with was the best scorer trophy. Twice. Not exactly what I expected.
It is not something I keep thinking about it all the time, though. I try to put aside all the bad vibes anyway.
And being one of those competitors, it would not change a thing if I had already lifted the trophy twice. I would want to go through it again, with new teammates, another club, another scenario.
You do not reach that level in sport if that hunger for success runs dry. Thankfully, being surrounded by all these amazing players every day helps me being even more motivated. And I am sure that, one day, the EHF Champions League gold medal will join the other ones on the shelf.
The EHF FINAL4 – this is the kind of thing that you start thinking about in your back garden. You count down from three and then you start playing.
You pretend you are one of your idols and then…3-2-1, go! It starts, and you imagine the full stands and that you are scoring the winning goal in the last second.
That was the scenario in 2017. Perhaps the worst time I played the EHF FINAL4. We touched it. The trophy was right there. It was looking at us from the side of the court. But then, Vardar nicked it. One goal. One second. I can only imagine what it was to be them.
I had been there so many times in my head.
I never realised I could reach that level until I became a professional. Before that, the EHF FINAL4 and the national team were just dreams. And then, one day, the dream came true.
This is how I would sum up the EHF FINAL4: a dream come true.
In order for this dream to become true, my parents were keys. Helle, my mum, and Flemming, my dad, were always there for guidance.
Despite being one of the best Danish handball players of his generation, my dad never pushed me.
He was more of a guide. Always there for advice, standing in the shadows, available, but never imposing himself.
And, of course, when you are 18 years old, to have someone who has been through all of the toughness before, it helps. If you had known my dad, you would know he was not into big speeches.
But the guidance – oh the guidance – there was plenty of it.
Coming back to dreams turning into reality, handball helped me growing my interest in arts.
In Denmark, we have plenty of great artists, a culture that dates back to the Vikings, and as a consequence, I have always been eager to discover more.
And when, economically, handball helped me being more an actor than a spectator in the arts department, my interest in them took a whole other turn.
It allowed me to go to exhibitions, sales and to come back from them, sometimes having bought a painting or a sculpture. I stopped looking at it as a passive fan, more like an active one.
And arts, I try hard to get interested in all of them, not just sticking to one area. Painting, architecture, sculpture; there is always something to learn or to marvel at.
And living in Paris, one of those cities where you are surrounded by exhibitions and galleries, just fuelled my interest even more. Here, even a lamppost can sometimes be a work of art. You go out in the street, open your eyes and see new things every day.
To me, it has always been important that we, handball players, are aware that there is much more to the world than just the ball. And when you can enjoy one of your passions thanks another one of your passions, it is incredibly fulfilling.
But this weekend, in Cologne, only handball will matter. As a twist of fate, Aalborg will be in front of us. In front of me, to try to stop us from climbing on the podium.
Sure, there will be familiar faces in front of us, but this is a feeling I know. These games leave no room for feelings. All that matters, at the end of the day, is the win.
And maybe, just maybe, after that, I will think about my move back to Denmark in a year.
Handball has brought me amazing experiences, great teammates. The road has been worth it. It would not make anything different if I had the possibility and, come the end of my career, I will feel privileged, without a doubt. But it is time to go back home.
And looking at things right now, there is a chance that I will have the opportunity to win the EHF Champions League playing in Denmark.
Because the seeds have been sowed in Aalborg, there is that possibility – if I do not manage to do it before, of course.
I will never stop chasing that dream. The dream I had in my back garden when I was playing with my sisters and dreaming of being the best player in the world.
Sometimes dreams come true.