Trondheim in January 2020: the Spektrum Arena was sold out with more than 8,000 fans, when co-hosts Norway made the whole country happy in the preliminary round of the Men’s EHF EURO 2020.
They beat Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina and record world champions France – and the spotlight was on one player, who withstood all the pressure: Sander Sagosen.
The back imprinted the tournament with his aura, his performance and mainly his goals – with 65 strikes, he became top scorer and the best-ever scorer at a single EHF EURO event as Norway made it to the semi-finals, ultimately losing a bruising encounter with Croatia before beating Slovenia for bronze.
Trondheim in December 2020. The Spektrum arena was supposed to be sold out with more than 8,000 fans, and co-hosts Norway wanted to make the whole country happy in the preliminary round of the Women’s EHF EURO 2020. Then came Covid-19, and Norway had to step back from hosting. With the tournament now entirely in Denmark, Norway are playing in Kolding.
Sagosen is sad about this.
“When I think of our matches in January, I still have a shiver running down my spine. Those were the best handball moments of my life so far,” the 25-year-old tells ehf-euro.com, adding: “The people in Norway, and mainly in my hometown Trondheim, love handball. It would have been a huge atmosphere for the girls. I really would have loved to see the spectacle there, but this pandemic stopped it.”
Sagosen has a strong bond to the Norwegian women’s team beyond pure national pride. His girlfriend is Hanna Oftedal, sister of superstar and IHF World Player of 2019, Stine Oftedal.
While Sagosen left Aalborg to join Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in 2017, Stine Oftedal left Issy-Paris at the same time to join Györ – and since then has won the DELO EHF Champions League twice. Oftedal is one of the leaders of the Norwegian team, which has proceeded with confidence and the optimum of four points to the main round, also in Kolding.
“Of course we follow this event at home,” says Sagosen, who moved from PSG to THW Kiel in Germany this summer. There he plays with Stine’s boyfriend, German international Rune Dahmke, EHF EURO champion in 2016 – who made it to the final by beating Sagosen and Norway after extra time.
Hanna Oftedal has also represented Norway, but had to end her career due to an injury last year at the age of just 25.
“Hanna and Stine are in close contact during the tournament, of course. And I cross fingers that Norway can win something this time, they have a really strong team, which looks great at the moment,” Sagosen adds.
But does Sagosen have advice for Stine, as they play in the same position?
“Indeed, we talk about handball, but she is so good, she definitely does not need advice from me. I am looking forward to seeing Stine play,” he says.