Stine Oftedal, leader of the young ones
Four EHF EURO, three world, and two EHF Champion League titles, an IHF World Player of the Year prize, and a bunch of MVP and All-star Team awards – including at this EHF EURO – have not changed Stine Oftedal, who remains a humble personality. She is about to collect her next medal with Norway today.
Oftedal is the team captain of defending and record EHF EURO champions Norway. She always takes the responsibility, is like the extended arm of the coach, like the leader guiding through a dark forest without fear – but with a smile on her face.
Tonight at 20.30 CET, hours after being included in the Women's EHF EURO 2022 All-star Team, the 31-year-old centre back will play her sixth EHF EURO final, facing Denmark. From the previous se has won four: in 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2020.
This year, however, is different. Experienced players such as Camilla Herrem, Veronica Kristiansen or Kari Brattset Dale are not playing the EHF EURO due to different reasons. Seven Norwegians play their first major tournament – and the captain became the leader of a young pack.
“It feels great to be in the final and to be one of the leaders. It shows we have done many things right. In general, we created a lot of habits to get the new ones into the team, so it went smoothly,” said Oftedal ahead of the final against Scandinavian neighbours Denmark, who played their last final 18 years ago – against Norway, and lost.
“When we enter a championship, we always have the hope and the belief that we are able to make it to the final. But of course, this time it was different, as some went out, new ones went in. We did not know before the tournament if we have created a winning team after all those changes. Honestly, I am really proud that we made it to the final, that we kept on fighting and working. It feels great to lead this young team,” Oftedal said.
31 goals and 33 assists so far at the EHF EURO 2022 speak a clear language for Oftedal – she is the hub of Norwegian attack, besides Henny Reistad and Nora Mørk.
And even more important: she is the one to guide the young ones through this tournament.
We did not know before the tournament if we have created a winning team after all those changes. Honestly, I am really proud that we made it to the final, that we kept on fighting and working. It feels great to lead this young team.
Norway had lost their last main round match against their final opponents, but then showed an impressive performance against France in the semi, winning 28:20.
Now it is Denmark again – and Norway normally do not lose two matches against the same team in the same tournament.
“We are good in bouncing back after defeats, but of course this is a final, a different match. Denmark played well over the whole tournament. I am sure it will be a really close race, we take a lot of confidence from our clear victory against France. But it is a new match. Every match lives its own life.”
In contrast to Denmark, who return to a major final after 18 years, Norway have the experience of handling those crucial games.
“This experience to play many finals should normally be a good thing, but of course you still can lose it,” Oftedal said.
For her coach Thorir Hergeirsson, she plays an exceptional role in this tournament.
“Stine is the captain, and as a captain you always have to go in front and show the other players the way we want to go,” Hergeirsson said.
“She is important in our attack and outside the court. But we have many good leaders, they are not captains, but have the same experience and personality as her.”
In the final, Oftedal will face two teammates from her club Györi Audi ETO KC: goalkeeper Sandra Toft, who succeeded her as World Player of the Year, and back court player Anne Mette Hansen.
Hansen is also full of praise for the Norwegian centre back.
“Stine is a really good player and an amazing person. It is really good to have her in your team. She has so much experience, she is smart and leading the attack.”