Théo Monar: “I want to win, full stop”
Théo Monar was a handball hit that nobody saw coming. The French line player, brought up in the HBC Nantes academy, arrived in the spotlight in 2021 aged just 20. Making it to the club’s A team, he took an increasingly important place in the roster. Since then, his progression has been a steady one.
Monar hopes to continue his development with Nantes when the EHF European League Men group matches start in October.
The now 22-year-old even took part in his first EHF EURO in 2022 with France, even though he does not take any of it for granted.
“I know I was called up partly because of the Covid-19 cases, and I fully understand that I am not one of the main players in the national team yet,” he says.
But still, his name rings a little bit differently now than it did two years ago. He signed a long-term contract with Nantes until 2026, and the average fan is certainly expecting a little more of him. But could it put him under a little bit more pressure ?
“Not at all, I try not to read what is written too much about me anyway. I know I still have a lot of progress to make, I still can become a much better player. I want to improve and help the team the best I can, everything around, I try not to pay attention to it,” he explains.
This season, though, the EHF FINAL4 2018 participants will not be playing in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, but in the EHF European League Men. Last season, Nantes could not make it past the play-offs in the biggest handball club competition, after losing to Orlen Wisla Plock.
“We were disappointed but, in the meantime, when you play at this level, there are only big clubs. And there is no shame to lose against Plock in the play-offs, we have to accept that we can also lose. And the most important is that we actually managed to bounce back and win a trophy, the French cup, at the end of the season,” Monar says.
Not meeting again with the EHF Champions League this season does not feel too much like a disappointment for Nantes, as the club has been used lately to play the EHF European League every two years. In 2021, they reached the quarter-finals, where SC Magdeburg prevented them from making it to the EHF Finals.
And no matter which competition, Nantes are always eager to play at 100 per cent anyway.
“We play every game to win. The European League is a competition with an impressive level, we played against teams that could play the Champions League two seasons ago,” says Monar, pointing out that SC Magdeburg graduated from the European League to the Champions League and won it straight away last season.
In the group matches, 'Le H' will face tough opponents in 2022 winners SL Benfica, Rhein-Neckar Löwen, and IFK Kristianstad. All four teams clearly have the chance to qualify for the next phase and Nantes will have no time to waste if they want to be among the two sides making it through.
“Champions League or European League, it does not make any difference to us. The club has said openly that it wants to go as far as possible in every competition, and I fully agree with that. When I enter a court, I want to win, full stop, no matter who we are playing against,” Monar concludes.
photo © Jean Le Boulanger / HBC Nantes