Kim Rasmussen: “You cannot simply say no to a team like Rapid”
Romanian champions CS Rapid Bucuresti have been the surprize package of the EHF Champions League Women this season, registering wins against Györi Audi ETO KC, Metz Handball and Team Esbjerg on their home court.
Yet the special ingredient was missing for the Romanian side, which ended up in fourth place to set up a do-or-die doubleheader against Krim Mercator Ljubljana in the play-offs. The management decided it was time for a change and replaced head coach Carlos Viver with Kim Rasmussen, only two weeks before the first leg in Ljubljana.
Rasmussen is now in his third stint for a Romanian side, after leading CSM Bucuresti to their first title in the European premium competition in 2016 and Gloria Bistrita for a short time in 2021. While the change was somewhat unexpected, Rasmussen insists that he is ready for any type of challenge at Rapid.
eurohandball.com: You know Romanian handball well, you spent a year in Bucharest at CSM. What tipped the balance into accepting this challenge?
Kim Rasmussen: It was an easy decision to take. As a coach you cannot say no to such challenges when they come on the plate. If you want to stay up to the task, to coach at a high level, you simply cannot say no. However, it is not the perfect moment to come to such a club, but you are dealt a hand of cards and you need to play them as they are. I have never come back to a city I coached in before, so it is something special. I know Bucharest very well, nothing has changed, therefore I am focused 24 hours a day on handball.
eurohandball.com: Let’s get to the point. Rapid play against Krim, an experienced side, with the second leg at home, where your team have not lost a game this season. Are you the favourites?
Kim Rasmussen: We must qualify, that is sure. But this is a very tough game, chances are 50-50 if you ask me. They won their last match in the Champions League against CSM Bucuresti and have players who have seen it all in the best competitions in the world. We need to be focused for 60 minutes in each match, because if you lose concentration for three minutes, it can be the difference between progressing to the next phase and losing the spot in the quarter-finals.
eurohandball.com: How did you find the team, is it difficult to take charge at this stage of the season?
Kim Rasmussen: The most important task for this job, for any job, is to make the team happy, to help them perform at the highest level. We do have the quality to win against any side in Europe right now, I am sure of this, but we must strike the kind of balance needed to do this constantly. I am not here for only two weeks or only for the matches against Krim. I am committed for the long term and I am here to help Carlos Viver’s work to be developed, he did an amazing job.
eurohandball.com: Were the players receptive to your appointment?
Kim Rasmussen: I think it was business as usual. I do not know if players were happy or sad with this change, but what I can say is that all of them have been very, very nice, it helped a lot. As a coach, you cannot win if players are not happy, if they do not play at the highest level. I did not come here to change everything, other than making some minor changes in attack that will be up to the players. What I am interested in is to have a better defence, because this is what wins you championships.
eurohandball.com: Rapid had their share of trouble with injuries this season, with key players missing games. How did this impact the team?
Kim Rasmussen: Sport. It is sport. It can happen. We have a chance, like I told you before, and we have to take advantage of it, regardless of injuries. A team can have bad days, but we must improve our chances to play for the quarter-final berth here, in the Polivalenta, with a sold-out arena and the fans carrying us to the win.
eurohandball.com: When you won the Champions League with CSM, you were big outsiders. Do you feel that Rapid have the same story, rookies that have achieved plenty in their first season?
Kim Rasmussen: I love to be an underdog. I made some small miracles in my career, winning the title with CSM in the first year in the Champions League was one of them. But let’s talk about Rapid. Qualifying for the EHF FINAL4 in Budapest would be a big surprise in this moment, we need to be honest. I think this team still needs to earn a bit of experience to do that. Next season? Well, it could be, I think we have a very good team. But right now, we need to be extraordinary to seal that place among the top four sides in the competition.
eurohandball.com: Is it an advantage to play the second leg of the play-offs against Krim at home?
Kim Rasmussen: That is clear. These fans create an incredible atmosphere, you get goosebumps when they are singing for 60 minutes. We felt it in our first league game, against Magura Cisnadie, when we had some bad moments, and they continued to help us by singing. Multiply that by five or six and you have a sold-out Polivalenta, a bigger arena, with more fans.