Johanna Bundsen: “Hunger and desire are our strengths”
Swedish champions IK Sävehof have the youngest team of the EHF Champions League Women 2023/24 with an average age of 21.5 years. Many talents compose the almost all-Swedish squad, with seasoned players like Carmen Martin and goalkeeper Johanna Bundsen adding the necessary experience. Sävehof take on Brest Bretagne Handball in the Match of the Week on Saturday at 16:00 CEST.
The 31-year-old Bundsen brings in a lot of international experience at Sävehof: the two-time Olympian played almost 130 games for the Sweden and helped the team win bronze at the Women’s EHF EURO 2014.
Bundsen was Swedish champion with Sävehof nine times – including in her comeback season at the club in 2022/23. After a one-year absence, Sävehof are back in the EHF Champions League Women – and are now hosting the MOTW in round 2 against Brest Bretagne on Saturday 16 September at 16:00 CEST (live on EHFTV).
Both teams lost their season opener against a team from Hungary last week – Sävehof away at DVSC Schaeffler, Brest at home against Györi Audi ETO KC.
On the eve of the MOTW, Johanna Bundsen talks to eurohandball.com about her loyalty, the different approach of Sävehof compared to other top clubs, and being a professional handball player with a little daughter.
eurohandball.com: You have only played for two different clubs so far: Sävehof and København. What does loyalty mean to you?
Johanna Bundsen: My 10 years playing in Sävehof before moving to Copenhagen were very rewarding. Sävehof are a very familiar club, and I enjoyed myself very much. I felt that I was constantly developing and also had no stress to go abroad too soon. I like security, want life both on and off the court to be good, so that I can perform as well as possible as a handball player.
eurohandball.com: Was it obvious for you to return to Sävehof when you left Copenhagen?
Johanna Bundsen: It was not an obvious choice. Of course, I know what I am getting in Sävehof. All the facilities are very good, which is of course a plus.
eurohandball.com: Sävehof’s current squad is almost all-Swedish – how important is the club for Swedish handball, and of course for the identification with fans?
Johanna Bundsen: Sävehof have long been a club people know all over Europe. They have an incredibly nice youth activity and educate the young people well. I think it is important to take care of the youth players and give them an opportunity to take a place in the senior team. It would of course have been fun if you could get more foreign players to the Swedish league to take further steps. But it is important to find a good balance.
eurohandball.com: In this context, what does playing for the national team mean to you?
Johanna Bundsen: It is always an honour to play for the national team. I am incredibly proud and grateful every time I put on the national team jersey. I constantly strive to represent Sweden.
eurohandball.com: One of the two foreigners at Sävehof comes from Spain: former EHF Champions League winner Carmen Martin. What role does this experienced wing play in your team?
Johanna Bundsen: She is fantastic both as a player and as a person. She brings individual inputs and contributes a great deal of routine and experience to our otherwise very young team.
eurohandball.com: In average, Sävehof have the youngest squad in the whole EHF Champions League Women. How important are experienced ‘teachers’ like you for those handball ‘pupils’?
Johanna Bundsen: When you play in Europe, you meet some of the world's best players and it is a different level than it is in the Swedish league. It is important that there are experienced players in a team to support the youngsters in those matches.
eurohandball.com: And how is your relation to those young guns?
Johanna Bundsen: I myself have been a young gun in Sävehof and I remember well that I looked up to the older, experienced players back then. I want to be supportive and contribute with security, while it is important to make demands.
eurohandball.com: What are the current strengths of Sävehof?
Johanna Bundsen: We are aware that we have a young team, but there is also a great hunger and desire to constantly improve and develop. I think that is our biggest strength this year.
eurohandball.com: Two seasons ago, Sävehof took three wins in 14 group matches. Is the team more competitive this year?
Johanna Bundsen: This is difficult to answer. It is still early in the season, and we still have some work to do. We take one game at a time and prepare for each task. We will see how far it goes.
eurohandball.com: How huge do you see the gap between Sävehof and top teams such as Györ and CSM or Odense in your group?
Johanna Bundsen: If you look at the experience the other teams have, with seasoned players in all positions and a higher average age, the gap is of course big.
I am incredibly grateful to be able to play handball at a high level again after giving birth. My daughter Leah gives me a lot of energy and happiness. It has given me perspective on life. Handball is still a big focus for me, but it is also nice to let go of handball sometimes and just be a mother.
eurohandball.com: In the upcoming MOTW you face Brest with some Olympic and world champions. How do you rate Sävehof’s chances against the French side?
Johanna Bundsen: It will be a tough game. Brest are good at all positions. It is important that we come prepared and perform at a high level. It is also our first home game in the Champions League, so I hope the atmosphere in the arena will be good and that we can get some extra energy from it.
eurohandball.com: One of Brest’s players is Swedish playmaker Jenny Carlson. How does it feel to play against Swedes who are abroad?
Johanna Bundsen: Jenny is a close friend of mine, so it will be fun to meet her. It is always nice to meet other Swedish players.
eurohandball.com: How did (handball) life change for you with the birth of your daughter three years ago?
Johanna Bundsen: It was a big change but only for the positive. I am incredibly grateful to be able to play handball at a high level again after giving birth. My daughter Leah gives me a lot of energy and happiness. It has given me perspective on life. Handball is still a big focus for me, but it is also nice to let go of handball sometimes and just be a mother.
photos © Michael Erichsen & Petter Arvidson / Bildbrån