Briet: “This journey is full of emotions”
The last time HBC Nantes played at the EHF FINAL4, in 2018, Thibaud Briet watched the games with fans in France on a giant screen in the club’s arena.
But when Nantes return to LANXESS arena in Cologne this weekend, Briet himself will be part of the action.
The French side will take on Barça in the second semi-final on Saturday at 18:00 CEST, after Paris Saint-Germain Handball and Aalborg Håndbold have opened the event at 15:15 CEST.
A few weeks after helping his team grab its ticket for the EHF FINAL4 2021, the young left back is still struggling to realise what is going on.
“To think that, apart from Eduardo Gurbindo and Kiril Lazarov, all the top players in my team have been to the EHF FINAL4 only once or twice, and that, at 21, I will already play it, it blows my mind,” Briet said.
Briet is playing in his first Champions League campaign. Last season, he gained his first international experience, playing with Nantes in the EHF Cup.
His arrival at Europe’s highest club level was impressive. He scored four times in Nantes’ stunning 35:27 away win at THW Kiel in September. And just weeks later, he netted four times against a team he could meet again on Sunday: Aalborg.
“If you had told me all of this last summer, I would have signed the contract a thousand times. The journey, until now, has been full of emotions and also full of joy,” he said.
Briet is the next in line to come through the Nantes youth ranks, following the likes of Nicolas Tournat or Dragan Pechmalbec, who are now established national team players for France and Serbia, respectively.
What makes Nantes’ development of young talents so special?
“I would not be able to say, really. But it really helps to see that there are examples to follow. When you see Dragan, you think that you can do it as well,” Briet said.
Also, the experience players like Kiril Lazarov and Valero Rivera bring to the team, is of added value for the young players.
“I learn a lot of looking at them, just seeing how they prepare for a game, or the routines that they do before training,” Briet said.
“I try not to think about everything too much. Maybe this summer, on holidays, I will look back at the last 10 months and think that it was crazy, but right now I try to take it out of my head.”
I try not to think about everything too much. Maybe this summer, on holidays, I will look back at the last 10 months and think that it was crazy, but right now I try to take it out of my head.
One thing he cannot stop thinking about right now is the EHF FINAL4. As a massive NBA fan, Briet expects to experience “something similar: a huge arena with an impressive show. It’s just a shame our fans cannot be there.”
Anyway, his EHF FINAL4 experience will be vastly different from the time he watched it on that giant screen in Nantes three years ago.
“I went there with my parents, and of course, as a young handball player, you are dying to get there one day. So, to think that it is now my turn to enter this arena is a little bit mind-blowing.”
No doubt Briet’s parents will be in the H Arena again to watch the EHF FINAL4 action on that giant screen, while their son is having the time of his life in Cologne.