All about momentum for Toto and Vardar
Judging from his stats and his impact on the court, Jérémy Toto looks like an EHF Champions League veteran. But here is the truth, at 29, the French line player has been discovering Europe’s most prestigious club competition for the first time this season.
“I would not say playing it was a dream per se, more like a goal to achieve. But I knew it would take time and that I had to go step by step. The European League Finals last season with Plock was a huge leap for me already,” he says.
The least you can say is that, between Jérémy Toto and HC Vardar 1961, things clicked right away. As soon as the player landed in the Macedonian capital, it became obvious that this was a match made in heaven.
“It is very easy to find motivation here. Vardar is a prestigious club, you are surrounded by very good players, playing the Champions League – what is not to like?”
It obviously helped that the staff decided to sign four French players last summer. All of them have integrated well, quickly finding their feet both on and off the court.
“We spend some time together, and there is definitely some French spoken in the dressing room. What’s more obvious, though, is that we speak the same language on the court. All of us four have the same background and of course, the team benefits from that,” explains Toto.
While he had been branded as a defender in the past, the Créteil-born player has now become an all-around player. His 42 goals scored in the group phase show just a glimpse of how important Toto has become for his team.
“I have hugely motivated to prove that I can play on both sides of the court. In the past, people branded me as being a half-player as I was only defending. For the past two years, but especially since I arrived in Skopje, I have been proving that I can be efficient on offence as well,” he says.
High demand and trust
According to Toto, David Davis’ arrival on the bench has changed everything for Vardar. The Spanish coach has breathed some confidence in his players, who paid him back with some crucial wins in the group stage and qualification for the play-offs.
“He has the same mood as us, he wants us to enjoy handball. The coach is very demanding, very precise about what he wants us to do, but he also trusts us a lot,” explains Toto, who played for another Spanish coach, Xavi Sabate, last season in Plock.
Playing against Veszprém in the play-offs will be another opportunity to have fun on the court. And as Vardar showed it many times this season, they will not be afraid of anything.
“I know this will be a special game for the coach, because of his relationship with Vardar, but also for a lot of us, as we will be playing the play-offs in the Champions League for the first time. But we want to keep the momentum going, to go with the flow and to make everybody at the club proud.”
At the end of the season, Jérémy Toto will be returning to France, as he signed for Nantes for the next season but the impact the club has had on him will not be forgotten.
“It allowed me to show the world of handball I could play at the top level. Before, some so-called experts would put me in the box, whereas I showed them that I could do a lot of things on the court. And that is thanks to Vardar. So I want to help the club until the day I leave,” concludes Toto.