Tønnesen: “Kielce vs Paris, a game between two of the best teams in the world”
He might not be able to speak French yet, but Kent Robin Tønnesen has been feeling at home in Paris already. After joining Paris Saint-Germain last summer, it has been all about handball for the 32-year-old. He has not even had the time for a spot of sightseeing, however - keep it a secret - he might be looking forward to his next day off so he can go and visit the Eiffel Tower with his kids.
“Of course, I don’t join a handball club only for the city it is in. But to be able to play at such an ambitious club, that has been trying to win the EHF Champions League every season, and to live in a city like Paris, which is so interesting, there is nothing that I will complain about” smiles the right back.
It is no bad thing, either, that Tønnesen joined in Paris what could be described as a small Scandinavian colony, alongside Danes Jannick Green and Jacob Holm, as well as Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Palicka. Being able to communicate with some of his teammates has been key in the Norwegian player’s adaptation so far.
“Andreas has been really helpful with everyday life stuff, like school for my kids and so on. He has been showing me around a little bit, let’s put in the story that he has been a excellent tour guide!” says Tønnesen, before bursting into laughter. “Seriously, though, it’s good to have some faces you know by your side. But all in all, everyone has been really helpful.”
After six seasons playing for top clubs in Hungary - four for Telekom Veszprém, two for OTP-Bank Pick Szeged - Kent Robin Tønnesen decided to discover yet another culture. As a professional player, he wore the jerseys of Haslum in his native Norway, Sävehof, Wetzlar and Berlin before moving to Hungary. “Paris is the start of a new journey for me, and I am really excited about it. I might have played in many clubs already but I still want to grow as a player, I still want to improve myself and to help the team the best I can” he explains.
The least that anyone can say, after two rounds of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, is that Kent Robin Tønnesen has wasted no time making an with Paris. He has scored seven goals in the competition already, including the game-winner in the first round against his former side Szeged. But he was also crucial when Paris lifted their first trophy of the season, the French Super Cup, beating HBC Nantes by ten goals (35:25).
“It’s true, everything has been really smooth since my first steps with the team. But it is also easier to fit in when you play with such good players as Luc Steins or Nikola Karabatic” explains Tønnesen, before adding that his own experience at changing clubs might be a good reason for such a good start of the season: “I guess that you learn to adapt as well, and you understand quite fast how things work in a new team. I am not afraid to change and to learn some new things.”
In Paris, the two-time EHF FINAL4 participant with Veszprém is playing for coach Raul Gonzalez. You might think that, for a Scandinavian player, playing for a Spanish coach takes some adaptation, but in fact, Tønnesen had David Davis as a coach in Veszprém for almost three seasons. Plus - fun fact - Davis was Gonzalez’s assistant when Vardar Skopje won the EHF Champions League in 2017. “You can see similarities, but also some changes between the two. Every coach is different, and I had quite a lot in my career, so I’ll just try to do what I do best and to fit the coach’s plan.”
Speaking of plan, everything has been going according to Paris’ so far, as the French side won its first two outings in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, in Szeged (31:29) and against Zagreb (35:31). But in Kielce on Wednesday, everyone is waiting for a high-octane Match of the Week. “It’s going to be a tough game, against a team that was in the final of the competition in the last two seasons. I expect a physical game, between two of the best teams in Europe. But then, I feel like we are ready for it, and that we definitely have the chance to get a good result there” concludes Tønnesen.