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Omeyer: Young players give fresh life to this team

INTERVIEW: talks with the oldest player at the EURO, Thierry Omeyer, and the youngest, Benoit Kounkoud, about the relationship between generations and professional handball

Photo: Uros Hocevar / Stephane Pillaud

The first was born on November 2nd 1976 and was one year old when the Bee Gees released ‘Stayin’ Alive’. The second was also born in winter, but more than two decades later, on February 19 1997. He was one year old when France won their only football World Cup title, in 1998.

Thierry Omeyer and Benoit Kounkoud are the oldest and youngest player at the EHF EURO 2016, and play together both in the national team and for Paris Saint-Germain Handball. But what can they share and learn from each other? How do you feel about your age, Thierry? You can say ‘I am your father’ to Benoit.

Thierry Omeyer: Very good! I try to exchange a lot with the young players, as we are a part of a same team. What about you Benoit – how does it feel to play with a player like ‘Titi’?

Benoit Kounkoud: I’m lucky to be in the same club as him. It’s great for me. We try to use his experience as much as possible. He gives us some advice, help us and correct us. Even though you don’t share the same position on court, what kind of advice do you have for Benoit?

Thierry Omeyer: When we have a shooting session at training, I give him some advice about his shot, his position, and the opposite goalkeeper. I try to give him my knowledge and experience in order to help him to progress.

Benoit Kounkoud: His advice can be on anything. Shooting, state of mind – he’s helping us in every way. Benoit’s age group (players born 1996-98) may be a ‘golden generation’. With your experience, what do you think about them, Thierry?

Thierry Omeyer: These young people have dived into being professional athletes and created habits to train twice a day, hard and strong, early. They now also have the experience of winning after their result this summer. They have a really good mentality. It gives fresh life to this team. Do you remember how you were at his age?

Thierry Omeyer: So far! It gives me the desire to train every day to stay at their level. When I was young, I was like that, loving training every time.

When you are young, you have a lot of enthusiasm, you are trying some things. You have a lot of things to learn but you can also surprise the others. No one knows you yet. I recognise myself in all those young players.

But when I was young, I was student as the same time as playing handball. I was training late at night because some of the players were working during the day. Those were really the first steps toward professional handball. They’re lucky to have good conditions to work now. Benoit, what does it mean for you to be so young and play in a very decorated national team and in such an ambitious club with so much stars? It there a lot of pressure sometimes?

Benoit Kounkoud: It’s great for me of course. I’m trying to give my best and to learn every minute. But I try to put things in perspective and not think about it too much because you can become a spectator then.

I’m trying to do what I can do. If you think too much about it, you can be in failure on the court. Thierry, how would you define handball evolution over the last 20 years in one word?

Thierry Omeyer: Speed. The speed of the game has really increased. There are many more goals and actions. The shots are also faster.

written by Mejdaline Mhiri / cg