The captain is back. After missing the last World Championship as she had just given birth to her twins, French left wing Siraba Dembélé Pavlovic is back in the France team which will start its EHF EURO campaign on Friday against Montenegro. And she cannot hide her impatience for the competition to start.
“I think all of us wondered if the EURO was going to be played or not. It’s been quite hard focusing on it, but now that we know we are playing, we are 100 per cent into it,” says the 34-year-old.
The CSM Bucuresti player has not confirmed it, but this EURO may be her last, with youngsters Manon Houette and Chloé Valentini ready to take over. But Dembélé Pavlovic, who has played for some of the European powerhouses in the past such as Vardar Skopje and Rostov-Don, still has something to bring to the table.
“I am a very calm person and I try to be so on the court. I feel like players like me or Alexandra Lacrabère or Amandine Leynaud, we have to help the younger generation unleash its potential. But, in a way, our mission is already almost fulfilled,” she explains.
The EHF EURO 2018 was, of course, one of the turning points in this changing of the guard for France. Players like Orlane Kanor or Laura Flippes played a huge role in the first ever French European title, one that still brings special memories.
“This was probably the most emotional title for me, because we were playing at home, in front of our families. To have so many people supporting us and making us reach deep inside ourselves, it remains one of the best memories in my career,” remembers the captain.
But after the glory came the fall, illustrated by the last world championship in Japan. France were out even before reaching the main round, conceding their world crown to the Netherlands. With the Olympics being postponed to 2021, France are exactly in the same situation as they were in December 2019: titleholders of the competition they are about to play and six months ahead of Tokyo.
“But the situation seems really different to me. I remember, when we won the EURO, one of the first things that went through our heads was: we’re qualified for the Olympics,” recalls Dembélé Pavlovic.
It seems like, this time, things are a little bit different for France.
“All the girls want to show what they’re worth. They feel like they have not played at their real level in Japan, that they played against opponents who were way more motivated than they were,” she says, even though she was not in Kumamoto.
That does not mean she does not have her own reasons for wanting to help her teammates reach their goal.
“As a captain, I have to lead the team. And if the team wants to show its real level and keep sitting at Europe’s head, it’s my duty to help it,” Dembélé Pavlovic concludes.