Martin: “The relationship with the EHF FINAL4 is one of platonic love”
Named the All-star coach of the EHF Champions League Women five times, Ambros Martin has set a high bar for other coaches to follow. The Spanish mastermind will take part in his eighth EHF FINAL4 this weekend in Budapest, trying to seal the fifth trophy in his career with Györi Audi ETO KC.
It is a story of perseverance, intelligence, emotions and grit, but ultimately Martin will go down in history as one of the most decorated coaches in the history of women’s handball.
There have been ups and downs for the 55-year-old former left wing, especially with two finals lost that will remain etched in his memory. But nobody will take away the titles won with Györ in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018, and Martin is now trying to secure a fifth title for himself and the sixth in the Hungarian team’s history.
“For me, the relationship with the FINAL4 is one of love. A platonic love, of course, but it is exactly the format that can bring the outpour of emotion needed for such a competition, whether you win or you lose a game here. Basically, you have two games in two days to secure the trophy. You just need to ride the wave and see where that gets you,” says Martin.
“I think we are waiting for the calm before the storm right now. I am looking forward to the competition now, there are only a few days before the showdown, so we are preparing and see how everything goes. Sure, there are some emotions, but I am calm, we had a long season behind us and we are just getting ready to play.”
With so many trips to Budapest – six with Györ and one with Rostov-Don – the Spanish coach knows the format and the requirements inside out, therefore a touch of calmness before the proper start of the competition is needed.
Yet memories cannot be erased, regardless of whether they are good or bad. With seven editions of the EHF FINAL4 under his belt, Martin, who will leave Györ at the end of the season to take over Spain women’s national team, can be overwhelmed at times, because it is impossible not to think about the past.
“There are plenty of good memories, of course. Right now, we focus on what we have to do, because you can only influence what is going to happen in the future. Most, if not all, of our players have been here, know what is going on, they have their memories too, so from that perspective, it is easy,” says Martin.
However, Györ’s coach also remembers the losses, which represent missed opportunities and seasons of hard work which did not yield a trophy. That includes 2021/22, when Györ lost 31:33 to Vipers Kristiansand in the final with the Norwegian powerhouse making it two consecutive titles in a total show of dominance.
The other? Surely the one against CSM Bucuresti in the 2015/16 season, when Györ were overwhelming favourites, only to concede a loss on penalties against the rookie Romanian side, in the biggest surprise ever in the EHF FINAL4.
“We lost against Vipers because we played good, but they had a perfect game, without any big mistakes. So that win was totally deserved for them. But the loss against CSM Bucuresti stinged a lot, because losing at penalties is definitely heartbreaking.
“It was very difficult to concede that title and that loss, but you learn from everything, from every experience you have, therefore it was something that helped us in the end, Györ won two trophies after that,” says Martin.
This season, though, was different for the Hungarian powerhouse. Györ lost three games in the EHF Champions League Women, a far cry from the seasons when they established a record 55-game unbeaten run.
Yet they are still in the EHF FINAL4, putting together a four-game winning streak to reach the business end of the competition, while teams like Metz Handball and CS Rapid Bucuresti, the only sides to hand Györ losses this season, failed to make the cut for Budapest.
“It has been a different season, of course, but the quality of the competition has grown. No team is unbeaten, all of them have lost at least two games. Therefore, the balance is there, we need to be sharp and we need to understand that everything can happen at the EHF FINAL4,” adds Martin.
This will also be Martin’s last hurrah for Györ in Budapest, at least for the time being, before he takes over “Las Guerreras” this summer. Will Martin miss the emotions of a day-to-day job?
“I have always said that I would like to be the coach of a national team at the Olympic Games. I have been Romania and Russia’s coach and I missed that chance, especially with the Romanian side. Leaving them was the biggest mistake in my career. Karma came at me fast,” says Martin.
“But now I am going to coach Spain, it is the first time in my career when I am taking over my national team, so I think it is going to be an interesting experience and if we can get to the Olympic Games in Paris 2024, sure, it is going to be amazing,” concludes Martin.
Photos © Aniko Kovacs