Farewell without trophy but full of pride
When you face the son of your idol, maybe it is time to say goodbye.
Dominik Klein, the German left wing of HBC Nantes, had his last international game in the VELUX EHF Champions League Final in Cologne last Sunday. Klein and Nantes were defeated 32:27 by Montpellier HB and their youngster, Melvyn Richardson.
After the match Klein told him with a smile on his face: “Melvyn, your father Jackson was my idol when he played at Großwallstadt, my first professional club. I wanted to play like him. That was my reason to start my handball career.”
Jackson Richardson was part of the Großwallstadt squad from 1997 until 2000. A year later he won the EHF Champions League with Portland San Antonio.
Klein soon became one of the Zebra fans’ favourites
Klein joined Großwallstadt in 2002 at the age of 19, and four years later he made a crucial step in his career by joining THW Kiel.
In his first of 10 seasons there, he won the World Championship with Germany and the EHF Champions League with Kiel, soon becoming one of the Zebra fans’ favourites.
On Sunday, Klein was back in Cologne - wearing the Nantes’ shirt. As usual, he was very emotional, always trying to motivate the fans to cheer and his teammates to fight. But in the end, the 34-year-old wing failed to win his fourth Champions League trophy.
“Getting to Cologne with Nantes already was something like winning a title for me,” he said after HBC fans on the stands had given him a big hand. His family – wife Isabell, a former German international who also played in Nantes since 2016, and his son Colin – was at LANXESS arena as well as many good friends.
“I compare my career to a puzzle, and here the last puzzle piece was inserted. Being able to celebrate this with my family and my friends, including the fans, is just fantastic,” Klein said. “This arena in Cologne is so special for me because I won the Champions League here twice in 2010 and 2012 and became world champions in this arena, so there's no better place to end my international career. All in all I am just proud, so incredibly proud.”
Klein was overwhelmed by his emotions after his seventh Champions League final since 2007. Together with former THW teammate Christian Zeitz, he is the most successful German Champions League player with three trophies.
Klein has been preparing for the end of his career. Since last year he has been working as an expert for German public TV station ARD and some weeks ago he was announced as the ambassador of Men’s IHF World Championship 2019 host city Munich.
Also on longer term Klein will remain connected with handball.
“This sport gave me so much, I learnt so much for my life thanks to handball, now I want to give something back,” Klein said, adding he wasn’t sure yet in which role.
"Nantes was a defining time in my career"
In autumn his wife will give birth to their second child. After the end of the French league season, the Klein family will return to Germany after two years in France, where they learnt more than a new language.
“This time was defining for my career, too,” he said. “And I am so proud that this young club made such huge steps in the time I played for them. It was extremely great to be part of the club exactly in this period.”
Next week, both Kleins will be on the court at the Olympiahalle in Munich, where the German national women’s team (against Poland) as well as the men’s team (Norway) will play a match.
While Isabell will have her official farewell from the German national team, Dominik will launch a project to empower kids through sports.