INTERVIEW: The man who takes pressure in his stride, Julen Aguinagalde, talks of Kielce's massive VELUX EHF Champions League 2015/16 win last season, playing with pressure, and his relationship with Talant
Aguinagalde: "Talant and I have the same handball brain"
After scoring the final penalty to give himself and Kielce their first title at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 last May; Julen Aguinagalde sat down with ehfCL.com ahead of the start of the Polish side's Group B campaign to discuss the momentous season and final, the all-important pressure penalty, his relationship with head coach Talant Dujshebaev, and the changes the squad has seen over the summer.
ehfCL.com: After some months, how do you feel about the penalty you scored that gave the first VELUX EHF Champions League title to Kielce?
Julen Aguinagalde: “It’s unforgettable, it was an incredible moment. I have won other finals and titles, but this was one of the best in my career. What it meant, how the final played out, the comeback, everything! And because it was the first Champions League title for Kielce, and for me as well.”
Check the teaser of the Julen's feature which will be part of the first magazine on ehfTV.com on Monday
How many times did you watch again the final and the shootout?
Julen Aguinagalde: “I haven't sat down to watch it all again; I don’t like to do that. But the shootout I did, well some of it (smiles).”
You aren't an expert from seven meters; what do you think when Talant Dujshebaev chose you to shoot the last one?
Julen Aguinagalde: “Really? I had no idea! I think the coaches decided who was going to be the five players to shoot in a hypothetical shootout some days before the final, but I didn’t know until then.”
Over the last seven years you have been in different squads under Talant’s control; do you have a special relationship with him?
Julen Aguinagalde: “We always try to maintain the distance between a player and a coach, but yes, he is special. He and I have the same handball brain and he influences me a lot. Talant is demanding, but also when he wants he is a pleasant person.”
Check out the official pre-season VELUX EHF Champions League Expert Hangout with Julen Aguinagalde
You had the ball, and the whole Champions League was in your hands; what did you think before that all-important shot?
Julen Aguinagalde: “I was thinking about two technical details just to make sure I would score, but I didn’t think of many things at this moment. Just I had on my mind that I must score the goal. The ‘how’ was insignificant, the Champions League was there waiting. It was a historical moment for us.”
What happened to that ball, you caught it right after the game was over?
Julen Aguinagalde: “It’s at home, still with a lot of sticky on it. The ball was really dirty when I caught it but is a really special one. I need to clean it and look for a place to keep it, probably with all the medals and the other awards.”
Name four teams who you think will make it to the FINAL4 this year...
Julen Aguinagalde: First of all, Kielce of course. The others would be PSG, Veszprém and Barcelona.
Where do you see the strengths and weaknesses of the current team after so many changes in the summer?
Julen Aguinagalde: “The new players will need his time to adapt. Our strength is the spine of the team is the same as before and with that we should be able to face all our games head on. The players who have come on board will make the team better, but we need to give them time.”
You put a lot of effort into the interaction with Polish fans like by writing in their language on social media. How is your Polish right now?
Julen Aguinagalde: I’m totally OK with Polish. Since I arrived, I wanted to learn the language and they help me if I am wrong with my spelling or in what I say. Writing is the hardest part; I prefer to speak or listen.
This Saturday at 17:00 local time, Aguinagalde and Kielce start their VELUX EHF Champions League season with their Group B tie away to HC Meshkov Brest. You can of course catch all the action live on ehfTV.com.