On Sunday (kick-off 4:05 p.m.) the Handball Sport Verein Hamburg (HSVH) wants to pose problems for the German champions in Magdeburg before points are at stake in the home game against TSV Hannover-Burgdorf in the Bundesliga on Thursday. A key figure here is HSVH playmaker Dani Baijens, who attracted international attention as a Dutch international at the recent World Cup. Baijens about his childhood in Rotterdam, a special card game and the cafés in Eppendorf.
WELT AM SONNTAG: You grew up in Rotterdam, which is actually a football stronghold. How did you get into handball anyway?
Baijens: That's easy to explain: my grandfathers and grandmothers played handball, then my parents - and so my brother and I grew up with handballs. We dreamed of becoming professionals from an early age and my parents supported me in this way as much as they could.
WELT AM SONNTAG: And what about football? Handball isn't nearly as popular in Holland as it is in Germany, is it?
Baijens: There is no way around football in Rotterdam. Three teams are currently playing in the honor division. But I always felt more comfortable with handball, even though people looked at me askance at school. Handball is a girls' sport in the Netherlands. The cool guys are said to be the soccer players.
WELT AM SONNTAG: The strong impression you made recently with your national team at the World Cup probably helped the image of the sport.
Baijens: To be honest: Unfortunately, the masses didn't get that much of it. Our games were not shown on free-to-air television. In the handball scene, however, our development is being followed closely. In any case, no one makes jokes about Dutch handball anymore - especially since our women also became world champions in 2019.
WELT AM SONNTAG: How much did the 26:33 defeat against Germany rankle you?
Baijens: Of course I would have preferred a close result, but we don't yet have the quality of the top teams across the board. If you have to play through a tournament like this, you eventually lose your strength.
WELT AM SONNTAG: It was heard that a fantasy card game was important to you during the World Cup.
Baijens: Right. We played Werewolves of Mirkwood every free minute. With 16 men. That was an awful lot of fun and is much more communicative than dallying on the Playstation.
WELT AM SONNTAG: On Sunday, HSVH will play against the German champions SC Magdeburg, and everyday life in the Bundesliga will begin again. The first leg was narrowly lost at 28:30. What can your team achieve in Magdeburg?
Baijens: Everyone is fit and we are very excited for this duel. But it will be extremely difficult to score points in Magdeburg, especially since their new circle player Oscar Bergendahl is apparently already well integrated. Of course, I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Kay Smits again. We've known each other since the youth national team and I think it's great that he's playing such an important role at SCM. I really want to beat him on Sunday though.
WELT AM SONNTAG: Do you think Magdeburg can defend the title? Or will the foxes become German champions for the first time?
Baijens: It's very difficult to say. I think Flensburg is unfortunately significantly weakened by Jim Gottfridsson's injury. As always, Kiel will stay on top, and in the duel between Magdeburg and Berlin it will also depend on who can handle the pressure better in the end.
WELT AM SONNTAG: Speaking of pressure. You were heavily challenged at HSV Hamburg in the first half of the season. After Leif Tissier's serious injury, you had to work straight away in the middle.
Baijens: Our coach Toto Jansen put his trust in me back then. That was nice on the one hand, but also a lot of responsibility on the other. In general, however, I like to announce the moves. I try to get others into good shooting positions and one of my strengths is being able to keep a cool head even in tricky situations.
WELT AM SONNTAG: In the national team you usually play on half links, with HSVH mostly in the middle. What do you prefer?
Baijens: I no longer think at all in these rigid positions. My speed is my capital - no matter where I play. In modern handball I sometimes trigger the action and sometimes I complete it. And when it comes to our moves, I have to be familiar with all the running paths anyway.
WELT AM SONNTAG: If you are not in a sports hall, you live in Hamburg-Eppendorf. What do you like there?
Baijens: What a question! I love the cafés and restaurants around the Eppendorfer Baum. I live with my girlfriend Nyala. She is also a handball professional, but some injuries have forced her to take a long time to regenerate. I think she'll be really fit again soon - and who knows, maybe she'll attack again. The Buxtehuder SV would certainly be interesting for them.
Single tickets are still available on hamburg-handball.de for the home game on Thursday against TSV Hannover-Burgdorf in the Hamburg sports hall (throw-off at 7 p.m.).