Jérémy Toto: “I am super-excited about playing Kielce”
Sometimes, you need to take a break in order to come back even stronger. This sentence could sum up Jérémy Toto’s career.
The HBC Nantes line player was, in his own words, “put in a box” all though the first part of his career, when he played with Créteil and Saint-Raphaël. At 27, he made the choice to go abroad – first to Orlen Wisla Plock in 2020, followed by HC Vardar 1961 in 2021 – and this move changed his career.
“In Plock, I just learnt to be an offensive player. A lot of things that I am right now, as a player, I owe it to Plock. And in Vardar, I played for David Davis, a coach that made me change my vision of handball. He’s one of the best coaches around, everything that you do on the court is for a reason, like how you put you foot or why you do such a move. He made a new player out of me,” says Toto, who came back to France last summer.
He is now leading the Nantes attack and is a centrepiece of the defence too. For Toto, this is a natural follow-up to the last two seasons.
“When I started scoring five goals a game in the Champions League against teams like Kiel or Szeged, I started believing in myself even more. Like, we all have two legs and two arms, maybe some are more talented than others, but I can also be part of the top tier,” he explains.
Even though he joined Nantes only last summer, Toto feels like he has been there for ages and he swiftly became one of the main assets in Gregory Cojean’s team.
“I guess it all comes with experience. I went abroad, played with people it was sometimes a bit tough to get your message across because of the language, so you have to learn how to adapt. To me, these two years far from France were 100 per cent positive” Toto says.
Toto and Nantes have had an extremely good season in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League; with two rounds remaining, Nantes are currently in third place in group B, two points ahead of THW Kiel.
“We really do not want to waste the good start of the season that we had, beating Aalborg twice and Kiel at home. That loss against Celje (in round 11) did us harm, but when you see that they almost beat Barça last week, you understand that everyone can beat anyone in the Champions League,” points out Toto.
Although Toto is playing his second season in the Champions League, he is not taking anything for granted. He claims he would not have believed someone who told him five years ago that he would have a role in a high-profile team in the competition, adding: “I’m as excited as possible every Wednesday. I enjoy every moment even more as I made it to the top level quite late in my career. It is still a pleasure to enter those courts every week.”
Hosting Industria Kielce on Thursday (20:45 CET, live on EHFTV) will be even more special for Toto, as the Polish side features one of his great friends, his “brother”, Dylan Nahi, as well as former Nantes line player Nicolas Tournat, who will be making his comeback to the H Arena.
“I don’t put myself under any more pressure than I should. There are people in this Kielce side who are very close friends, even though Benoit Kounkoud won’t be able to play. But no matter who I am playing against, the most important thing is to win to secure the third spot.”
In this process, the fans in the H Arena will be crucial, once again. While travelling teams are unanimous about how the atmosphere is really a great help for the hosts, Toto admits he has never seen anything quite like it.
“In December, France were playing the final of the football World Cup, and we all thought the arena was going to be empty. But, no, it was sold out. On Thursday, Nantes’ football club is playing against Juventus at the same time, but we’ll be playing to a sold-out crowd again,” he marvels.
“That is completely nuts. Like, all the tickets until the end of the season have been sold already. How crazy is that?”
Photos © Nick Jürgensen / saschaklahn.com, Jean Le Boulanger / HBC Nantes