The anticipation is huge and hopes are high. On Thursday, the Dutch men’s team will make history in Trondheim as they play their first ever match at an EHF EURO final tournament.
The Netherlands face Germany in the opener of group C. The clash is a classic in football, but has not happened in handball since 1993.
One of the top players in the Dutch squad is 24-year-old Luc Steins, a classical playmaker, who had not even been born when the sides clashed for the last time.
In contrast to many of his teammates, he has never played for a German club, but moved to France at the age of 21. First he played for Massy, then joined Tremblay and since this summer plays for Fenix Toulouse. Luc is not the only member of the Steins family in the Dutch squad, as his younger brother Ivo was nominated too.
One day prior to the start of EHF EURO 2020, Luc Steins exclusively talked to ehf-euro.com about the handball boom in Netherlands, the strength of his side and the chances to be a stumbling stone for a top nation.
ehf-euro.com: What does the first ever participation in a Men’s EHF EURO mean for you and for Dutch handball?
Luc Steins: It is really important for Dutch handball, especially men’s handball, as our women’s national team is already on a really high level. They are world champions, we are debutants – this is the difference.
We have a young team with some experienced players such as Gerrie Eijlers or Jeffrey Boomhouwer. They worked very hard for so many years to qualify for such a tournament for the first time – finally we made it. For us young guys this tournament is a great opportunity to show the world what we are capable of. And for others it is a great stage for making it abroad to international clubs afterwards.
ehf-euro.com: Most of the Dutch players already play abroad. Is it – like in the women’s team – usual to leave the Netherlands quite early to get international experience?
Luc Steins: Definitely you have to leave to improve. We have the BeNe League together with Belgium, and the level of this competition is increasing year by year. But you need to play at a professional level to have the chance to qualify for a tournament like the EHF EURO with the national team. Almost everybody has to sign for a club abroad, and they have the will to show their ambition now. The young guys will be eager to prove that they are willing to make this step.
ehf-euro.com: What did the transfer to France mean for your personal career?
Luc Steins: The French league – alongside with Germany’s Bundesliga – is one of the best leagues in the world. Of course, playing there improved my level and I am really happy that I can play at this high level. Definitely you become a better player, when you are part of such a strong competition.
ehf-euro.com: Did the women’s gold medal at the World Championship cause a handball boom in the Netherlands, from which the men’s team can now profit?
Luc Steins: The women’s team has been at a high level for many years and has won several medals before. So there is a boom for women’s handball in Netherlands. Now it is our job to cause a boom for boys to play handball. I hope that many people will watch our matches on TV, it is our moment to start now.
ehf-euro.com: What are the realistic chances and expectations for your team?
Luc Steins: Our group is tough, and it might be really hard to qualify for the next round, when you face teams such as Germany or Spain, but just playing those matches will be a big experience for us. We have beaten Latvia already and faced them many times in the last couple of years, so we know them quite well. This will be the match to focus on to win.
But the opening match against Germany is something special, as many of our players play for German clubs. We will try everything, but we know that Germany and Spain are the favourites, fighting for the first two positions. But you never know what will happen in our first EURO match. Definitely we will show that we can play handball.
ehf-euro.com: Is a handball duel between the Netherlands and Germany different to the football classic between the two nations?
Luc Steins: Probably it will be a little bit different. I saw some posts on the internet that some fans from Germany even did not know that the Netherlands have a national handball team. But we have! Those messages really give us a lot of motivation that we can show that we have a good team. We will fight for every ball and for every goal. We are trying to win this match.