9 December 2016
Each week, we offer you a full portrait of one of the players that will be in the spotlights during the World Championships 2017, with the help from one of the four ambassadors of the competition. This week, Aron Palmarsson as seen by Philippe Gardent.
Born into a family of sportspeople, he is the son if Palmar Sigurdsson, former basketball Icelandic international, and the nephew of Eidur Gudjohnsen, who is maybe the most famous footballer ever in the country’s history. For his part, Aron Palmarsson chosed handball, and quickly showed a huge talent for it, as a center back or as a left back. In March 2006, aged 15, he made his debut for the first team of his birth city, Hafnarfjordur, and managed to score on his very first game ! His rise was then unstoppable : he became an Icelandic international at only 18, after the 2008 Olympics, and then joined Kiel, one of the most prestigious clubs in Europe, at 19. Chosen as the best rookie in Bundesliga in 2010, Palmarsson won an impressive amount of titles with the Zebras, among which two Champions League in 2010 and 2012. In 2014, Kiel lost the final against Flensburg, but the Icelandic center back was chosen as the Final Four MVP. In the summer of 2015, Aron Palmarsson left Kiel to join Veszprem, another major European club. His first season with the Hungarian side ended on a frustrating loss against Kielce in the Champions League final. Over the years, he has also become the key player for the Icelandic team, with which he won the bronze medal at Euro 2010 in Austria, and then was chosen as the best left back at the 2012 Olympics in London. In January in France, Aron Palmarsson will once again be the one on whom all Icelandic hopes are pinned.
Philippe Gardent about Aron Palmarsson
“He’s a quite atypical player. He’s not really a man of large built, far from it. He’s even smaller than most backcourt players, but he’s able to take any defence to pieces. He has got a pretty extraordinary right arm. It can go in all directions, his shots are very hard to read for the defence, it’s one of his main qualities. With ball in hand, he’s permanently dangerous, whether he is in motion or not. Some players are only dangerous where they run, he’s not one of them. He really has a taste for goal, for efficiency. As soon as he sees a shot opportunity, he seizes it, and he seizes it impressively. By contrast, he’s not the best defender. He’s still young, so he can improve that, and he can also get a little better on his shot selection. He wants to score so much that sometimes, he can waste opportunities. But that’s the way the game is, and he saved the day so many times by playing that way… He’s a leader within the Icelandic team. In fact, it’s clearly not the same team when he’s not here. Iceland has got good players, but with Palmarsson, they are able to beat anybody, whereas without him, they get back into line.”
Aron Palmarsson about the 2017 World Championship
“It is always great to participate in big tournaments like the World Championship. I think this one will be really good because it’s held in France. I like this country and I have a lot of friends from France that I have played with. Our goal in this competition is to go through our group and see what happens next. I don’t think there is any better or worse groups in this tournament, I think we can beat every team in our group but we can also lose against them all. Obviously, Spain is the favourite team, and then you have Slovenia, who has been playing really well in the last couple of years. Tunisia is always a strong and dangerous team. We have played a lot of times against Macedonia and they are always hard to beat. I don’t know really know much about Angola, which is also in the same group as us.”
The phenomenal play
In order to illustrate Aron Palmarsson’s talent, let’s go back to 2010 and to the European Championship in Austria. At the time, the 19 year-old left back was still a beginner with the Icelandic team, but he was already showing some marvelous daring. During the semi-final against the great French team, Palmarsson finalised a superb team play with two top-class moves : first a perfect fake wing pass, mystifying Didier Dinart and Luc Abalo, and then an extremely accurate shot in the top corner to beat Thierry Omeyer. Simply brilliant !
Picture : Norwegian Handball Federation