Anniken Obaidli: Bringing the family name to the biggest stage
The 2022/23 season has been a notable one for the Obaidli family of Norway on the European stage.
The three Obaidli sisters – Sherin, Anniken and Mona – are all professional players. While Sherin and Mona made their EHF European League Women debuts with Molde Elite, Anniken has taken her first steps in the EHF Champions League Women, with considerable success.
After the Champions League group phase, Anniken Obaidli is fifth in the top-scorer ranking with 79 goals, including 10 away against Zagreb and 13 away against Kastamonu Belediyesi. Her performance helped Storhamar Handball Elite to the play-offs in what is also the club’s debut season in the premier competition.
The Obaidli sisters grew up playing handball together and they are part of a wider family keen on the sport.
"Handball has always been an interest in the family, as our mother, aunt and uncle played handball when they were younger,” Anniken explains.
“It was my older sister (Sherin) who started handball, so I came to her training once and thought it was fun. Then me and my little sister (Mona) went to handball training together with others our own age. So, it must have been a bit on the cards for us to start playing handball,” says the 27-year-old.
"It has been nice growing up in a family where my sisters have also played handball. This has resulted in an extremely large amount of handball talk, which I have greatly appreciated,” Anniken adds.
“We have discussed many games and given each other tips, while at the same time comforting each other and being positive if things have not always gone well. I have always taken my sisters' feedback with me, so I feel very lucky to have such close supporters in my everyday life with whom I can always express anything,” says the centre back.
All three sisters began their careers at Molde Elite, their hometown club, which plays in the Norwegian first division and this year finally reached the group phase of the European League at the third attempt.
But Anniken Obaidli left Molde for Storhamar in summer 2021, reaching the European League quarter-finals in her first season before this year’s Champions League debut, in which she has excelled. She is her side’s top scorer by some margin and her goal tally of 79 matches that of Krim Mercator Ljubjlana star and all-time top scorer Jovanka Radicevic.
“It means a lot, of course, it's the toughest league you can play in, and that makes it extra fun,” says the Storhamar player.
Success in a debut season is always hard to predict, but Storhamar met their target of reaching the play-offs after finishing sixth in group B.
"It's really cool that we have progressed. That was one of our goals before the season, so we are very happy about that,” says Obaidli.
Scandinavian meeting awaits
Storhamar have set up a Scandinavian showdown in the play-offs, as they face Odense Håndbold for a place in the quarter-finals (Saturday 18 March, 18:00 CET, live on EHFTV). Obaidli says she is looking forward to the duel.
“It will be very exciting to play against Odense. The team has an extremely high duel strength and a lot of pace, so I imagine it will be tough. It is always great to meet a top team with many class players,” says Obaidli.
Obaidli says she is also looking forward to playing another Scandinavian side – an experience Storhamar also had in the group phase, with two games against Team Esbjerg.
"Playing against a Scandinavian team means that you know the style of play. It's nice to play against familiar faces, so I'm looking forward to it,” she concludes.
Photos © Aniko Kovacs, S.H. Photography, nhcfoto.dk