Ekberg impresses — but has even more to offer
“I agree that I have never played at the level as I have done over the past two seasons. I have a great feeling and the reason for that is the I haven’t been injured for a long time,” says Niclas Ekberg.
THW Kiel have two remaining goals this season: defending the titles in the Bundesliga and the EHF Champions League. And the German side are on pace to achieve just that, currently sitting on top of the Bundesliga table and with only two games standing in the way of the EHF FINAL4 2021.
“It has been a strange season because you never know if the games will be played or not. But we have done a great job so far when it comes to only focusing on the game at hand and not at all on the outside noise,” says Ekberg.
After disposing of Szeged in the play-off round, Kiel now face French powerhouse PSG in the quarter-finals. The Swedish right wing has respect for Wednesday’s opposition.
“They often score a lot of goals and they also concede a lot of goals, so for us it’s important to keep them under 30 goals a game. If we can do that, our chances to make it to [EHF] FINAL4 are good,” he says.
Ekberg was one of the key figures when Kiel took the trophy last season. He has great — but also unusual — memories from that weekend in late December.
“It was quite different. We are used to playing that type of games at the end of a season, kind of like a bonus. But it’s always a big thing lifting the Champions League trophy and we hope to do so again,” the Swedish national team player says.
Ekberg himself has proven all season that he is among the top players in the world, scoring goals at a high rate right from the start and not slowing down the slightest. In the domestic league, he sits fifth overall in the season,with 172 goals — but taking home the scoring title in Bundesliga is not something he thinks about:
“To me everything is about winning titles as a team. These two seasons I have played well, but I hope I can deliver even greater seasons in the coming years.”
Ekberg has climbed the ladder on THW Kiel’s list of top scorers of all time, now in third place behind fellow Swede Magnus Wislander and Kiel coach Filip Jicha. Everything points to Ekberg being the club’s top scorer ever when he decides to call it quits.
“That is something I will cherish after my career. I hadn’t thought about it before a journalist told me about it, but it means a lot to me.
“If Jicha is feeling nervous? Not so far, but maybe he will bench me in the future,” Ekberg laughs.
Kiel and Ekberg want to win the Champions League again, but the season will not end there for the 32-year-old. In July and August, Sweden will participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Ekberg returned to the national team just before the Olympic qualification in March, after missing the January World Championship, and seems to be enjoying his comeback.
“My body needed a break, but I love being back. We have a fantastic group where everyone fights for each other as a team. It’s the Scandinavian way of building a team. Even though we have a lot of amazing players, no one plays for themselves,” says Ekberg.
Ekberg has the chance to finish this season very strong — by potentially winning two titles with Kiel and then giving it all with Sweden in Tokyo.
“It’s all about us performing when it matters. If we do that, we can have a great summer,” concludes Ekberg.