Mari Finstad Bergum: “Some positives can come out of the tough times"
The trip to Fana was meant to be a big party for Mari Finstad Bergum. Her family was in the stands, as her dad lives across the city and her sister came along for the evening. “I was very proud to show the girls around, showing them a bit of my native country and everything” she recalls.
But if, off the court, the Norwegian left-back had a very good time, on the court, things were much more complicated for Neptunes de Nantes. “We had some big defensive problems and they ran a lot more than they did. In these conditions, it was hard for us to hope for a good outcome” says the 24 years-old.
And like in Ikast two weeks before, Nantes came home with no points under their belt. So far, the 2021 European League winners have only won once in the group phase this season. “Things are tough right now as we have lost quite a few games in the last two months” says Finstad Bergum. “But I am sure that some positives can come out of all of this. We have to be even more focused in every game, and the atmosphere in the team remains very good.”
It can only help that, this season, Neptunes de Nantes feature four Scandinavian players. While three of them are Swedish, Mari Finstad is the only Norwegian of the lot, and she was one of the the first to arrive in Nantes, back in 2021.
“In Scandinavia, players talk a lot with each other. And I guess that Nantes has made itself a pretty good reputation” she smiles. “The coach is Danish, so it kind of helps as well, but the club is really professional and helps a lot for our integration. Only Nathalie Hagman was here before me, but she helped me a lot when I arrived.”
Now it is Finstad’s turn to help the new Scandinavian recruits for the everyday life tips. “Of course, it is a huge help when someone speaks the same language, and it seems it makes the team stronger together as well” she explains.
No wonder, then, that her first adventure abroad, which she started in 2021 when she was just 23, is already a success. This season, in the European League, Finstad has already netted 14 times across her team’s first five games.
“I wanted to give myself this chance, this opportunity that I had never had before. Nantes sounded like a very good plan for my career and, so far, I don’t regret anything. Of course, leaving Norway at 23 was not easy but, in the meantime, I was not that young. I can honestly say I’m very happy about taking the leap” says Finstad.
And before thinking about anything else, the left-back really wants to prove to her compatriots in Fana that Neptunes de Nantes are worth so much more than they displayed two weeks ago: “We have to be much stronger together and improve in every area of the game. If we let them score 30 again, then we are in trouble. But in the meantime, we have to win this game if we want to keep our qualification chances alive.’