Like FC Barcelona Handball, which has been attracting French players for several years and where four players from the French team are currently playing, will the Kielce club become the new El Dorado for French handball players? The Polish formation, present in the last four of the Champions League, faces Veszprem in the semi-finals on Saturday June 18, and is counting in particular on Nicolas Tournat and Dylan Nahi to qualify for the final on Sunday. The two French will be joined this summer by Nedim Remili and Benoît Kounkoud, from Paris-Saint-Germain, attracted by the sporting ambitions and reputation of coach Talant Dujshebaev.
At first glance, Kielce, 200,000 inhabitants, many religious monuments, nestled in the heart of the Holy Cross Mountains, between Krakow and Warsaw, does not seem to be the most attractive city in Poland. But his handball club has become one of the best in Europe and, as such, represents an opportunity for more and more “great” players.
“I also had a bit of prejudice when I arrived, admits the pivot of the France team, Nicolas Tournat. But I was pleasantly surprised, because it is a country still under reconstruction and there are a lot of new facilities, especially for children”, continues this father, who arrived in 2020 from Nantes and who comes from extend his contract until 2027.
Since last summer, Nicolas Tournat has had a new French neighbor in Kielce, left winger Dylan Nahi. “We live fifteen meters apart,” they recount. The former Paris-Saint-Germain player, considered one of the nuggets of French handball, signed up for the Polish club in 2019, aged just 19, before actually joining them in 2021. , the coach and the president gave me their trust when I was very young. When they signed me, I played very little in clubs, but I think they saw my room for improvement, and that was the main thing that made me sign here”, explains Dylan Nahi.
Talant Dujshebaev, one of the best coaches in the world
Recently crowned Polish champions for the 11th time in a row, the Kielce handball players are now aiming for a Champions League title, a competition that the club already won in 2016 and in which it would like to shine again.
This sporting ambition, coupled with significant financial resources, is one of the main arguments put forward by the club to attract some of the best European players. “I’m going to look for something there that I didn’t get at PSG, that is to say the Champions League, assures Benoît Kounkoud. I only wanted to leave Paris on the condition of joining a club that is fighting for the European Cup. I have the ambition to pass milestones in my career, the sports project pleases me and financially I find myself there too. »
In Poland, the French right winger will evolve under the orders of Talant Dujshebaev, considered one of the best coaches in the world. Born in the USSR, then naturalized Spanish, named best player in the world twice, in 1994 and 1996, he has already won the Champions League four times as a coach and is aiming for a fifth title as soon as possible, with the French within its workforce.
“Everyone knows that French players are the best in the world,” he explains. When we talk about Remili, Kounkoud, Tournat and Nahi, we are talking about players from the France team, who have won everything. So that guarantees us that they will be players capable of fighting for the Champions League. »
“The French are great professionals”
Former coach of Spanish club Ciudad Real, one of the greatest handball teams of the early 21st century, Talant Dujshebaev is used to managing French people. He notably had under his orders Luc Abalo and Didier Dinart in Spain. “The French are great professionals, with great preparation, so it’s easy to coach them,” he said. Now I talk a lot with Luc, whom I consider to be a son, and with Didier Dinart, whom I question each time because he knows these players well, he has worked with them. »
With such a CV and such an aura, the presence of Talant Dujshebaev on the bench is a strong argument for the French handball players, delighted to evolve under his orders: “We work very well and I feel that he is making me progress. He is someone who loves his players and who makes it felt. He is interested in us on all aspects, in the hand and outside, ”says Dylan Nahi, who advised his former teammates and friends from Paris-Saint-Germain to join him in Poland.
“The fact that there are other French people, whom I particularly appreciate, has necessarily weighed in the balance. I did not sign in this club with my eyes closed, ”explains Benoît Kounkoud. However, the tricolors of Kielce must merge into a collective: “The goal is not to stay among French people, otherwise we would have stayed in Paris. We have to open up to our teammates and at least try to understand the language, since all the coach’s instructions are given in Polish,” reports Dylan Nahi.
Nedim Remili and Benoît Kounkoud have been warned: they will have to quickly learn Polish to integrate better into their new team, understand their coach and aim for the coveted Liga Mistrzów (“Champions League”).