18.04.2019 11:20

Romero: “What is normal for Barça, is incredible for Hannover”

World champion, EHF EURO finalist, Olympic bronze medallist, two-time EHF Champions League winner, EHF Cup winner: Iker Romero (38) has won silverware and trophies in all major handball competitions.

The Spaniard’s last title was winning the EHF Cup in 2015 with Füchse Berlin in the last international match of his long career.

Now Romero is back on the international stage, but on the bench: as assistant coach of fellow Spaniard - and six-time EHF Champions League winner - Carlos Antonio Ortega at German club TSV Hannover-Burgdorf. He is also team manager of the Spanish national team.

In Hannover’s first-ever Men’s EHF Cup Quarter-final, Romero will face his former club Füchse Berlin for a spot at the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals in Kiel on 17/18 May. The all-German clash starts in Hannover on Sunday at 15:00 CET (live on ehfTV.com), the return leg will be played in Berlin on Sunday 28 April.

Before the quarter-final, Romero speaks exclusively with europeancup.eurohandball.com about trophies, chances and the significance of the second leg.

europeancup.eurohandball.com: When you look back on your last EHF Cup match as a player, the final against Hamburg in 2015, what are your main memories?

Iker Romero: It was outstanding, it was almost the last handball match of my life. It was my last title, a great final on home ground in Berlin. And it was the first ever international title for Füchse Berlin, amazing for the club, the fans and the team. It was a brilliant day! We had won the German Cup the year before, but this trophy was my final highlight of four incredible years at Berlin. Of course, the first big title of your life has a bigger relevance than all the others, but the same refers to the last trophy, which is still the one most present in your head.

europeancup.eurohandball.com: Compared with winning the EHF Champions League twice with Barcelona, how do you rate the EHF Cup trophy?

Iker Romero: The first Champions League trophy back in 2005 was the best title I have ever won. But you have to compare the clubs: I just had won the Champions League in Cologne with Barcelona when I joined Füchse. Right in our first season, our debut in the Champions League, we made it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 at Cologne, which was an incredible thing for Berlin - but maybe normal for Barcelona. We lost the semi-final by only one goal and were close to the final, simply unbelievable. Then we qualified for two EHF Cup Finals and took the trophy once. For a club like Füchse Berlin this is an outstanding achievement.

europeancup.eurohandball.com: Now you face your former club in your new position as assistant coach of Hannover. How much will it help your team that you know everything about Füchse?

Iker Romero: Of course I know them well, and it might be an advantage - but still Berlin have such a high quality of players in their squad. They have many super stars. We will have our first ever quarter-final in an international competition ahead, which is really huge for our club. If Barcelona reach a quarter-final, it is the normal goal. For Hannover, this is incredible. To have come that far is already a great result for us.

europeancup.eurohandball.com: Do you like the role being an underdog against the defending champions?

Iker Romero: Everybody can talk and discuss about roles and predictions, and even if Berlin are under more pressure than we are, in the end we have one ball, two goals, six court players and a goalkeeper each. The decision will be taken in 120 minutes. If we want to proceed, we have to play two extremely good games.

europeancup.eurohandball.com: Even though you do not like predictions, what would be a perfect result for the first leg in Hannover on Sunday?

Iker Romero: A victory, regardless the goal difference. I have played so many knock-out matches to know that there will definitely be no decision after the first leg. You can catch up so many goals in a handball match. I faced Leon with Berlin in the Champions League Quarter-final 2012, and we had lost the away match by 10 - but we qualified for the VELUX EHF FINAL4. Everything is possible and within 120 minutes every single goal counts. You can win away, you can make up a deficit of many goals, but still I would prefer to win the first leg on home ground.

europeancup.eurohandball.com: In the second leg you will return to the arena where you won your last title. Is a trip to Berlin still something special for you?

Iker Romero: Si, senior! The Max-Schmeling-Halle is still very special for me, I still have so many friends in Berlin and I always like to go back there.

europeancup.eurohandball.com: Hannover count on two Spanish coaches. Would you describe your tactics as Spanish, too?

Iker Romero: Spanish handball is different from German handball and from Scandinavian handball. But we have players from many different countries in our squad, so I would not call it a Spanish tactic.

Author: Björn Pazen / ew