France-Spain, a match between true friends

Unlike basketball, where the rivalry is very strong, the last poster of the main round of the France-Spain world championship in handball is a match between friends on Monday evening in Krakow (21:00). The links between the players of the two nations are strong and nourished by the paths that handball players take between the Liqui Moly Starliga in France and the Spanish Championship.

In the 2000s, the French colony settled in Ciudad Real, a club that has since disappeared. This city, located 200 kilometers south of Madrid, hosted Didier Dinart for ten years, then Luc Abalo and Jerome Fernandez, who went over the Pyrenees. Then there was the Barcelona era, where former France captain Cedric Sorhaindo (2010-2021) and Nikola Karabatic between 2013 and 2015 won the last Champions League at the club. The Catalan capital today is as rich as the French with Ludovic Fabregas, Dika Mem, Melvyn Richardson, Timothey N’Guessan, not forgetting this World Cup package. But during the last ten years, with the rise of the championship, Spanish talents were also exported to France.

Five Spanish players in the French league

“Since I left (in 2013), the championship has continued to progress in terms of the structure and professionalism of the teams,” admits Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas, Barca’s 2013-2014 goalkeeper and former Toulouse player. And the affinity with the culture. Compare France and Germany, in terms of holiday time, pace… France is closer. There are many teams in the first and second division with Spain. It is good for our players to earn a living, but we would win. We can do the same in Spain outside of Barça. “

Because the main difference between the championships of the two countries is that France can regularly send several clubs to the Champions League. At the time of Montpellier’s coronation in 2018, there were three French for four places (MHB, PSG, HBC Nantes). Nantes and Paris return to Cologne for the European Final Four in 2021. The Spaniards still feature in the French Championship, the five-resident LiquiMoly Starliga, Ferran Sole at PSG, Inaki Pecina at Chambéry, Jorge Maqueda at Nantes and Cauldi Odriozola. and Adria Figueres at Chartres.

Nikola Karabatic and Gonzalo Perez de Vargas
Nikola Karabatic and Gonzalo Perez de Vargas © DR

N. Karabatich: “True bonds of friendship”

But beyond common trajectories, the players formed strong bonds with each other. Nikola Karabatic was invited to the wedding of Gonzalo Perez de Vargas last summer: “I have very good friends and more than my friends, admits Karabatic. I think about Gonzalo. Some players have left, but there are players like Viran Morros, Victor Thomas, Eduardo. Gurbindo is a friend . I’m playing with Ferran Sole and David Balaguer in Paris. They’re a real bond, so these matches are special. But when you’re on the field, you don’t want them to win.”

Gille: “It’s not just smiles and pats on the back”

For Pérez de Vargas, it is not only a question of human relations, but also the values ​​of handball, which make friends of many players of different nationalities: “I think it comes from handball, analyzes the Iberian goalkeeper. It is a very noble player. sport. People to each other he is very generous with us. We all have friends in other teams. On Friday I played against my team-mate Blaza (Slovenian Janc). On Sunday, it will be worse. There are four in Barca. I played. With Val (Porte), Niko (Karabatic). It’s nice to see them “.

All actors are warned. No one will be handing out gifts on Sunday evening at the Tauron Arena (9:00 p.m.). “There is a connection, very regular exchanges, explains Blues coach Guillaume Gille. For some, they are teammates. It will be forgotten during the match. These are the things that create something other than hostility and aggression. I remember France-Spain, which marked the history of French handball . It’s not just smiles and pats on the back.”

Legendary matches

Guillaume Gille refers in particular to legendary and legendary matches such as the semi-finals won by the Specialists at Euro 2013, the 2015 World Cup or the legendary quarter-final of the London Olympics with this one-goal victory (23-22) and anchored in the memories of William Accambray three seconds after the end the goal sent the Blues into the Olympic final four. Since then, La Roja have regained their colors by knocking out France (27-23) at Euro 2018 or denying the French bronze (35-29) at the last World Cup in Egypt in 2021.

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