8 December 2016
Each week we talk to a sports personality or other celebrity about their relationship with handball and to discuss the 2017 Handball World Championships. Today, Hugo Lloris, French national football team’s captain, who played on Wednesday with Tottenham in the Champions League.
Have you ever played handball ?
Yes, when I was at school, we had quarterly cycles, and some were dedicated to handball. Of course, it had nothing to do with professionnal handball, which is more physical, but it allowed us to learn the rules and basics of this sport, and to experience the pleasure of playing handball.
Did you play as a goalkeeper ?
No, I was playing in the field, but very soon, I had this urge to compare a little bit the position and role held by the goalkeeper in football and in handball. I had the opportunity to meet Thierry Omeyer and to exchange views on the goalkeeping differences between football and handball, it was very interesting.
What are these differences ?
Finally, there are more similarities than differences : a handball goalkeeper does have more work than a football goalkeeper during the game and he doesn’t necessarly have to dive for the ball, as the goal is much smaller, but goalkeeping is as much physical in football and in handball. It’s always based on reflexes, you need to know how to use your hands and feet, you also need to take whatever place you can get in front of the goal… And the responsibility is the same : you are here to be decisive.
Do you think you would have been good at handball ?
I don’t know. With my size (1,88 m) and weight (80 kg), it would have been difficult for me to establish myself in this sport where the athleticism is so important. All handball players are very strong and powerful, it is kind of hard for me to imagine myself as a handball player.
Three words to describe handball ?
Win, win, win ! Handball is the most titled sport in France, I have a lot of respect for these athletes who managed over the years to challenge themselves, despite all the trophies they have gathered. It’s one of the rare French teams which permanently assumes this favourite’s tag. The players do have the temper and the personality to always challenge themselves in order to win.
What is your handball greatest memory ?
I remember the World Championship final won against Croatia in Croatia (in 2009), in a steaming hot Arena. Everything was working against this French team, which was just huge, demonstrating a tremendous strength.
One word about Thierry Omeyer, whom you met a few years ago ?
Thierry is the incarnation of consistency at the highest level, he is still a great player today, I’m impressed by his ability to maintain performance for so many years. I think there are no secrets, if he is still that strong, he must be a very hard worker. And behind a great player, there is always a great person, that is what I learned by meeting him.
According to you, who is the most phenomenal player within the French team ?
In addition to Thierry, I would say Nikola Karabatic for his overall career. It’s impressive too to see him stay at this high level for so many years. It asks a lot of talent, but also a lot of efforts and questioning. For every young handball player, he and Thierry are two very inspiring examples.
You recently played Euro2016 at home, did this put added pressure on you ?
It neccesarly puts some added pressure, in so far as we have the desire of doing good, of giving pleasure to all the French people, to the fans who are coming to support us in the stadiums. As to handball, the French players were so familiar with win that people hope to see them win again, moreover at home, but there are so many great players in this team that I’m sure they will meet expectations.
Is this a positive pressure or a negative pressure ?
During the Euro, even if we were a little inhibited at the beginning, we were able to gradually transform this pressure into positive vibrations, which allowed us to transcend ourselves, to push our limits against some very good opponents and to reach the final. We failed the last step, but it will stay as a great memory of sharing with my teammates and all the French people.
What are the potential traps when you are playing a major competition at home ?
The most important thing is to manage to focus more on yourself than on your opponents. This kind of competition comes down to small details, so focus is a key element.
What message does the team’s captain deliver before the first game ?
It is important to put forward the notion of collective work. To succeed, you have to dare, to bring about the success, but you can’t do that on your own. You can’t be waiting for the solo effort, results must come from the group. Then, when the team feels strong and confident, the individual talents can emerge, we saw that with us, and I hope it will be the same for the French handball team.
How, do you think, must this first game be handled ?
It’s not easy. For our part, despite our desire of doing well, it didn’t exactly happen like we wanted. Our start was a little listless but finally it ended well for us, which enabled us to let ourselves go and to really start the competition. This first game was crucial for self-confidence. But it has happened sometimes in the past that a team began with a loss and then won the competition. I’m thinking about the Spanish football team which managed to put things right during the 2010 World Cup and won the trophy. There is no absolute truth, but anyway, starting with a win makes things easier.
What advices would you give to the « Experts » ?
I don’t necessarly have advices to give to them, they are all great champions, who are used to win, be it Euro, World Championship or Olympic Games. I think that their defeat in the Olympics final in Rio was certainly hard to swallow, as they were better than the Danish team. I’m sure that, as the competitors they are, they will meet expectations and I hope that they will win the title. In any case, the French football team will support the French handball team. To be supported by all the French people, they will only need to put some energy on the field.