Edouard Kempf: 'Survival showed our fighting spirit'
On Saturday afternoon, Paris Saint-Germain Handball's reserve team rounded out the National 1 campaign, one week after beating relegation with a win over Créteil (36-27). Our right-winger Edouard Kempf, who signed his first professional contract in February, played a key role for our youngsters this season.
Psg.fr: You just clinched survival with the youth academy team. It's the team's second season in the National 1. Was it tougher the second time around?
Édouard Kempf: The first year was easier for everyone asa we had some more experienced players and we were still riding the wave of promotion form the National 2. We secured our survival more quickly than we did this season. Our group was tougher this season; in the play-downs, we also had three wins fewer as the sides we beat went into the play-offs. That hurt us a bit... But we went about our business and the fact that we clinched survival showed our fighting spirit. For the players who are leaving the reserve team squad, it was important to leave things on a positive note.
You've played with he senior team in the Champions League. Do you get the same adrenaline rush with the youngsters?
It's different... playing with the senior team is a dream come true! Every time I get a chance to play at that level, I'm thrilled. It reminds me of all the hard work it has taken to get there. Even if I'm, sitting on the bench, it's an honour to be able to share the daily routines of these important players. In the National 1, it feels more like work, even though I know there is plenty more hard work left to go.
Is it not difficult to come back down to the reserve side?
It can be tough sometimes, because after playing the with the senior team, you might feel it's going to be easier... but that's not the case! You need to get back to 100% focus mentally, physically and technically. The National 1 is a high-level competition. You need to prepare well for matches and concentrate just as intensely.
There are several players from the youth academy who have become first-team regulars. Are they important for you?
Absolutely! It shows us that it's not impossible to get to the other side. The academy here is excellent and if you work hard and get into position by signing a professional contract, you can get there. But it's not an end in itself. It's a first step and the beginning of a whole new challenge.
This summer, you'll née on duty with the France U21 team. What's on the cards?
We're going to play in the World Cup in Spain. We'll start our preparations in June. It's an important competition for the team, as it's the last one that this generation will play together. Last year, we were very frustrated to lose in the final [31-30 defeat to host nation Slovenia in the U20 Euros]. So we're very motivated to go after this title. We want to savour this moment together, after six years of hard work, titles and happiness. It will remain etched in our memories.