Nimes bid to improve on last season’s journey
Playing in their third consecutive season in Europe’s second tier, USAM Nimes Gard are becoming regular participants in the group phase of the EHF European League Men.
With more European experience gained after reaching the Last 16 last season and a team that barely changed over the summer, Nimes hope to be one of the surprise packages in the competition.
- Nimes finished fifth in the French league last season, two places below their best league finish from 2019/20
- Nimes qualified for the group phase after beating HC CSKA 65:58 on aggregate in qualification round 2
- Russian side Chekhovskie medvedi eliminated Nimes in the Last 16 of the EHF European League 2020/21
- only two players signed for Nimes this summer: Norwegian line player Henrik Jakobsen (Fenix Toulouse) and young French right back Mathieu Salou (Cesson-Rennes)
Most important question: How can stability help Nimes reach their goals this season?
After a few seasons building their team, Nimes chose not to change much in the summer. Line player Nicolas Nieto was replaced by Henrik Jakobsen, who will bring his experience to the position.
While he is now one of the regulars in the Norwegian national team, Jakobsen has also played in Europe’s second tier with Toulouse and GOG.
With only two new players, it seems obvious that coach Franck Maurice will gain time to prepare his team. As seasons often turn into a race against time for coaches, this is surely no bad thing for Nimes.
Under the spotlight: Remi Desbonnet
The 29-year-old goalkeeper has confirmed that he will be moving to Montpellier at the end of the season – but count on him to be as focused as ever until the end of his stay at Nimes.
Playing in his ninth season at the club, not only has he turned into one of the best French goalkeepers, but he also excels at setting up fast breaks.
His long passes to Mohammad Sanad are one of the reasons why the Egyptian right wing is currently one of the best scorers in the French league. Expect some amazing highlights from this pair in the EHF European League this season.
How they rate themselves
When asked about Nimes’ chances in the EHF European League, captain Julien Rebichon said: “For me, there is no big favourite because it is a very tough competition and everyone can beat everyone.”
Last season, the French side upset some more experienced teams. With the goal to go even further in the competition, they intend to do the same this time around.
Rebichon outlined his team’s high ambitions. He said: “We want to qualify for a quarter-final at least, but we are keen to go even further.”
Did you know?
USAM Nimes enjoyed their prime in the 1990s, when the club was at the top of French handball, but they were also among the clubs that count in Europe.
On big European occasions, games were even set up in the city’s Roman amphitheatre, as a veil was put above the spectators’ heads to prevent it from being flooded by rain, and the players arrived on the court like gladiators.
What the numbers say
39 – that is the age of the oldest player in Nimes’ squad: Michaël Guigou. Starting his third season at the club, after 20 seasons playing for French rivals Montpellier, the left wing has already hinted that this may be his last season before retirement.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Mathieu Salou (Cesson-Rennes) and Henrik Jakobsen (Fenix Toulouse)
Departures: Nicolas Nieto (Limoges Handball) and Vid Kavticnik (retired)
EHF Champions League:
Group phase (1): 1993/94
EHF European League:
Last 16 (1): 2020/21
Group phase (1): 2019/20
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Last 32 (1): 1994/95
French league: 4 titles (1987/88, 1989/90, 1990/91, 1992/93)
French cup: 3 titles (1984/85, 1985/86, 1993/94)