How France and the Netherlands handled their coaches’ absences

EHF / Kevin Domas

At the Men’s EHF EURO 2022, the same rules apply for players and coaches – if you test positive for Covid-19, you have to isolate for five days, leaving when you have had two negative tests in a row.

Those rules meant that France and the Netherlands had to play their main round group I matches on Saturday night without their head coaches, after both Guillaume Gille and Erlingur Richardsson tested positive.

While both Gille and Richardsson are doing well, their staff had to work hard to make up for their absence on the court.

“This is something we had prepared already, even before coming here. If a member of the staff can’t play his role, we have identified someone who can replace him. And that goes from the coach to the physio,” explains Gille from his isolation room in Budapest.

The French federation reacted immediately to the news on Friday by booking a plane ticket for Yohann Delattre, who usually coaches the under-21 national team. The former international player was Erick Mathé’s assistant on Saturday and will support Mathé for as long as Gille is absent.

“It was not that hard to adapt, Guillaume and Erick work a lot together anyway,” says Nikola Karabatic. “It was stranger not to see Guillaume by the side of the court during the game. But most of us are experienced enough anyway, so we know when we are doing something right and when we are not.”

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Experience seems to be the key for everyone to adapt in these conditions.

“It was actually an easy job for me, because I know with the experience of the guys that we could do a lot,” says Edwin Kippers, who took over on the Dutch bench for the Netherlands’ victory against Montenegro.

For the Dutch players, there was even less time to adapt, as Richardsson became unavailable just on the morning of the game.

“We still prepared the game very well. We had worked already on the video analysis together, so I just had to use this work and show it to the players,” adds Kippers.

Even though the head coaches were unable to be on court, they were still involved in the matches. Erick Mathé, for instance, gave a quick call to Guillaulle Gille at half-time of France’s game against Iceland, just to share a few ideas.

“We had to make it quick. One, two minutes max. We saw the same things anyway, so the answers we thought of were quite the same,” explains the assistant coach.

Ultimately, France failed to find the right answers against Iceland and suffered their first loss – while Kippers had more to celebrate as the Netherlands secured their first-ever main round win against Montenegro.

Doubtless, there will be more phone calls between assistant and head coaches as both sides prepare for what will prove to be vital matches on Monday.

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