At Metz Handball, she is always seen as the “baby” of the team. However, time has passed. Méline Nocandy, who arrived at the club in 2015 from her native Guadeloupe when she was still only 17, is now 24. Above all, she is now the firmly established and recognized captain of a team that will face, Saturday, June 4, the Danes of Vipers Kristiansand (at 6 p.m.) in the semi-finals of the Champions League, three years after a first qualification at this stage of the competition.

“Baby” of the Metz team, Méline Nocandy is however without question, in the sense that it was in Metz that she took her first professional steps and where she was built. It was within the club that she became a player embodying “professionalism and rigor”, as described by Thierry Weizman, the president of Metz Handball for almost seventeen years.

“Méline is the guarantor of the values ​​of Metz Handball, she embodies loyalty, she always leads by example,” he adds. “She is devoted body and soul to her team,” confirms Béatrice Edwige, who for many years wore the colors of Metz Handball with the one who plays as a center half.

“Able, single-handedly, to overturn a match”

But it is also and above all on the pitch that Méline Nocandy has established herself, becoming the conductor of the Messina attack after the departure, in 2020, of Grace Zaadi in Rostov, Russia (Zaadi returned to Metz in March, due to the war in Ukraine).

“She has innate technical and physical abilities and she is able to bring changes of pace during the match”, explains Béatrice Edwige, who now plays in Budapest, at Ferencvaros, but still rubs shoulders with Méline Nocandy in the France team where this the latter has also become a pillar of the selection (53 games played with the Blue).

“Méline is capable, on her own, of reversing a situation in a match”, supports Thierry Weizman. And if the coach of Metz, Emmanuel Mayonnade, considers the player as one of the best center-halves in Europe, at Les Bleues, Olivier Krumbholz had, for his part, the opportunity to praise his ” very high tactical level”. It is for all these reasons, human and sporting, that the captain’s armband was offered to him this season. A situation she had already experienced in 2017 with the Bleuettes, European junior champions. However, before accepting, Méline Nocandy “preferred to seek advice from those who know me best, like my parents”.

Not surprising, because among the Nocandys, in Guadeloupe, handball “is a family sport”, she explains: his parents, his uncles and aunts played it, which means that, from the age of 6, the little one round ball held no secrets for her.

It is also on the island that she won her first national title: in 2015, she won the French National Championship 1 (the third level of the discipline) with her team from Trois-Rivières. Since then, the titles have accumulated: four times French champion (2017, 2018, 2019, 2022), two French Cups (2017, 2019) and an Olympic gold medal with the French team in 2021.

In the Champions League, “a victory is possible”

This year, Méline Nocandy aims to add another line to her list, with the Champions League. Which would be a first for Metz. And, for her, a way to make a success of her exit since it will be the end of her adventure with her training club and she will join, next season, Paris 92 (until June 2024).

“We work hard and we know what we have to do to get there,” she explained in a determined voice before facing, in the semi-finals, Vipers Kristiansand, reigning European champions. “For the first time, it does not shock me to say that a victory is possible”, exclaims with pride Thierry Weizman.

Whatever the outcome of this European Final Four (or “final square”), there will then be a departure for Paris, where she will meet a coach she knows well: Yacine Messaoudi, who was at the Metz training center when she entered it at the age of 17 and who, when her future arrival was announced in November 2021, described her, no more and no less, as “our Mbappé of women’s handball, by virtue of its precocity and its margin limitless progress.

But, behind this change of club, there are also other reasons. If Méline Nocandy says she is proud to have realized her dreams as a little girl and to have become the player and the woman she is today, giving “everything to play as often as possible”, she admits to thinking a lot about her coming. To the point of feeling the need to rethink her life outside of handball, which she says she put on hold for seven years.

“I think I forgot for a moment that, in life, it’s not just handball,” says the one who is pursuing a university course at a distance (a diploma in management of a high-level sports career at the Strasbourg IUT). She believes that playing in Paris should allow her to have a little less pressure. “Here in Metz, it’s very hard, you have to be all the time. However, the objective is not to erase handball. Far from there. “Grandma”, as she is nicknamed in the French team, says in particular that she is looking forward to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.