Mathias Gidsel and his journey towards the trophy
He came, he saw, he conquered - this is, in a few words, the career of Mathias Gidsel. When a debutant scores ten goals in his first ever World Championship match and is selected for the All-star team in his first tournament at the age of 21, he must be a very special handball player. Mathias Gidsel certainly is. At the age of 15, he left his Danish home village, switched to GOG Gudme and developed into one of the best backcourt players in the world.
Almost all top European clubs wanted to sign Gidsel; he opted for Füchse Berlin, where he extended his contract until 2028. At the 2021 World Championship, he was the shooting star of the eventual world champion; at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, he was tournament MVP at 21 and again voted for the All-star team. At the EHF EURO 2022, he won bronze as the All-star team right back but tore his cruciate ligament in the 3-4 placement match. After a few months, Gidsel was back on court again, becoming the top transfer before the current Bundesliga season. At the 2023 World Championship, he did not only win his second title on the world stage but also became the top scorer again with 60 goals and MVP.
Next weekend, the now 24-year-old right back aims for his first trophy with Füchse Berlin at the EHF Finals 2023 in Flensburg. He wanted this when he first arrived at the German capital: “Right on my first day, I said, I came here to win trophies not to finish third, fourth or fifth, now we have it in our hands,” says Gidsel.
In the semi-final on Saturday, his side will face Montpellier Handball, for Gidsel “the toughest opponent you could get. They have experienced players, the experience of winning the EHF Champions League, and they are having an amazing season in France. But I am also sure they did not want to face us in the semi. Both sides will have an extremely tough Saturday.”
Berlin having their spot in Flensburg, is mainly connected with Gidsel’s masterclass in the second leg of the quarter-final. After 12 victories in the same number of European League matches, Füchse had lost the first leg 37:33 to Kadetten Schaffhausen - when Gidsel was ruled-out. In the second leg, he ran over Kadetten and netted ten goals: First, Gidsel provided Berlin with the first four-goal gap at 27:23, then for that five-goals-gap, they needed to proceed, at 28:23 - his ninth of ten goals. “Gidsel sends lucky Füchse to Flensburg” was the headline on eurohandball.com
“I was really surprised how strong Kadetten were, and we had a really bad result in the away match, but finally, our team proved its strengths and ambitions; we did a great job, turned it around and reached our first goal: the EHF Finals 2023. Of course, now we want more after we had shown this long unbeaten series.” In general, Gidsel is very pleased with his first season at Berlin, he likes “this ambitious and amazing club”, he likes to play in Max-Schmeling-Halle with up to 9,000 fans cheering for them. He simply likes to live in a city like Berlin.
“I have this trophy on Sunday in my mind since it was clear that we made it to Flensburg,” Gidsel looks ahead to the EHF Finals 2023, but he is looking even further ahead when he talks about his long-term contract: “I came to Berlin not to win the 20th trophy in club history, I want to be part of this team, from which in 2028 they say that it made history, for example by winning the German Bundesliga trophy for the first time. This is my ambition. We have a team which can play together for many years, a team which was close to finishing on top in the Bundesliga, which now is part of the EHF Finals and which hopes to be part of the EHF Champions League sometimes and which can prove that we belong to the top of European club handball. This is why I signed for Berlin and no other club. I want to win something in handball. I am sure Füchse is a team you can count on in the future. And I hope that at the end of my first season, we will win the European League and that my journey with Berlin will begin on a winners’ podium, with a trophy.”
But Gidsel also knows from his experience at big tournaments with the national team that the way to this podium is hard and steep: “All teams which made it to Flensburg have the same chance to win. You need two top performances within 24 hours in the final tournament format. It is all about the current form on that specific weekend. And there is no favourite and no underdog in this stage of the European League anymore. The level of competition is rising year by year. Just look at Granollers, they played amazingly against Flensburg, and now they have the same chances to win the trophy as we have. Both German teams did not play that well in Bundesliga in the last weeks, and we missed the chance to stay on top of the league with some weak results - and now four teams have it in their hands to make the season a perfect one – with just 120 minutes of handball in their way.”
But maybe Füchse Berlin have a special advantage in Flensburg: Besides Mathias Gidsel, three more Danish players are in their squad: the two world champions Hans Lindberg and Jacob Holm and Lasse Andersson. And Flensburg is just located at the Danish border: “As Flensburg did not qualify, I hope the handball-crazy Danish fans will come to Flensburg to support us. If they do not wear the Füchse jersey, then maybe the Danish jersey to show their colours for us Danish players. I really count on my Danish people, as they can witness two great days of handball with just a short trip.”
When Gidsel talks about his career, he always talks about “a journey” with Füchse and the journey with the national team. “Of course, it feels great to have achieved those titles and my individual awards like becoming MVP of big events twice. But for example, I have not won the European League yet, but I have the chance to do so next weekend. I play handball for those big moments, and I hope to have two big moments at Flensburg. But as I said: Already facing Montpellier in the semi is something really huge.”
One of his Füchse compatriots is like a role model for Gidsel: Hans Lindberg. “When you see how he plays at the age of 41 is simply incredible. He is a role model for all kids in Denmark and our team. We look at him when we are under pressure because he is the guy to decide a match; he is a leader. For a 24-year-old guy like me, it is a real pleasure to play with Hans in the same club.”
Last weekend, Lindberg made special history by becoming the All-time top scorer of the Bundesliga, having now 2,907 goals on his tally, two more than Korean Kyung-Shin Yoon. “I hope Hans will continue playing for many more years,” says Gidsel. Regarding trophies, Lindberg is leading Gidsel by far as World, Olympic and European champion and Champions League and EHF Cup winner. But as he mentioned: “I am only at the start of my journey.”