Nocandy: “Arriving in Budapest is entering a different world”
Three years ago, Méline Nocandy was apprehensive about playing her first EHF FINAL4 Women – also the first for her club, Metz Handball.
“Everybody has told me it is completely surreal, so I can’t wait to see what is going to happen,” the centre back said back then, in 2019.
Reminded of her words, Nocandy laughs: “The sweet days of innocence.”
Those days are gone.
“I am even more excited this time. Back then, going to the EHF FINAL4, for Metz Handball, was incredible,” she says. “I remember thinking to myself when I entered the arena, that some of the best players with the most amazing careers had never had the chance to be there. And there I was, at 21.”
The memories of her sole visit to the EHF FINAL4 remain vivid. Metz finished fourth, after being defeated by Rostov-Don in the semi-final.
“We arrived there full of confidence, we had beaten Rostov twice during the season. But we saw that it was a completely different team in Budapest,” Nocandy recalls.
In her first season as captain of Metz, but in her last before moving to Paris 92 in the summer, Nocandy is now aware what it means to play at the season highlight event.
“We have to put it in our heads that when you arrive in Budapest, you enter a different world,” she says.
“You have to forget what you have done and not done during the season. It’s one weekend, 120 minutes, and either you lose it all or you take the trophy.”
The year of captaincy has been an easy one for Nocandy, now 24. The team is heading to the EHF FINAL4 and can also win both the domestic league and cup titles in France.
Nocandy herself is enjoying her best European season in the Metz jersey, having netted a personal best 73 times already.
“It has been really easy for me, as there were no low points this season. I have only known one professional club, and that is Metz Handball. So, I try to do the same thing I always do,” says Nocandy, with her move to Paris 92 nearing.
You have to forget what you have done and not done during the season. It’s one weekend, 120 minutes, and either you lose it all or you take the trophy.
There will be a few tears shed when the French international says goodbye to Metz, but now is not the time for emotions.
“The next few weeks are my last chance to leave a trace here. If I could win those three trophies, that would be magical,” she says.
“I already wrote my part of history with Metz, as I was their youngest captain ever and also the first from the West Indies. But to me, that is not enough.”
No French club has won the EHF Champions League Women yet. Before Nocandy and Metz can think about changing that, they will have to get past titleholders Vipers Kristiansand in the second semi-final on Saturday 4 June at 18:00 CEST, after Györi Audi ETO KC and Team Esbjerg have contested the first semi-final.
“Some might think we are the outsiders. Clearly, I don’t see us being any of this. We are full of confidence and ready to rock,” Nocandy says.
“If we can manage to switch to EHF FINAL4 mode, we have as much chance to win the trophy as any other team.”