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04.05.2017, 12:00◄ last page     

Try to find a picture Isabelle Gulldén with a sad expression on her face. A small hint before starting this quest: you will hardly find any. The Swedish star has an infectious smile and her attitude rubs off on her teammates

Isabelle Gulldén: CSM’s stalwart who plays with a smile

She was the driving force behind CSM Bucuresti's surprise Women ’s EHF Champions League win last season, and she has led the Romanian side to yet another TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 with stunning performances all season long.

“Handball is more fun when you are having fun. Some players are not wired like this, maybe you will not see Linnea Torstensson, my fellow Swede, smiling on the court. Me, however, I play well when I am enjoying myself,” says Gulldén, the top scorer of the Women ’s EHF Champions League last season and the MVP of the EHF EURO 2014.

“If I get a black eye or some bruise on my face, it does not matter, I am still happy. I am never nervous while playing,” adds Gulldén.

Swedish banners from the Romanian fans

The 27-year-old playmaker has been a jack-of-all-trades for CSM in a bumpy season that saw the title holders nearly eliminated in the group matches of Europe’s premium handball competition.

Be it flawlessly placed shots, insane no-look passes or outstanding effort in defence, Gulldénwas again the floor general, dictating the tempo and the rhythm of CSM’s attacks.

Her efforts have been truly appreciated by the home crowd, who molded the Swedish player into a superhero.

As her contract was up this summer, there was no news about Gulldén extending her stay in Bucharest. Therefore, several fans came to the game against Krim with banners both in English and Swedish pleading the Swede to stay.

“That was really amazing from the fans because it really made me happy, it made me belong here. Seeing the banners in Swedish really made my heart melt.

“Playing in front of 5,000 fans is the best feeling you can get and you can thrive on that extra energy,” adds Gulldén with a large grin, as she extended her contract with CSM for the next two seasons.

Bella, the blogger

But the real challenge, says the superstar, is not winning trophies or becoming the best in the world, rather inspiring more children to take up playing handball.

“We have more than 1,000 kids in Bucharest who are trying to break through CSM’s ranks. If I can convince children to take up handball, it would be amazing. Of course, not all of them know English, so I am always trying to learn some words in Romanian so I can motivate them and talk to them,” added CSM’s star.

Gulldén has also started a blog in which she keeps track of her handball milestones, her training schedule and she also uses it to keep in touch with her fans.

Nevertheless, Bella is still finding time to fulfill the plethora of requests for pictures and autographs from fans.

The simple, yet intricate style that she brings to the table - game after game - has instantly transformed the CSM crowd into an admirer of her qualities.

“There are games in which the fans queue for 30 minutes or maybe even an hour for an autograph or a picture. Every fan is important, so I take real pleasure in staying with them and repaying them for the energy they give the team,” says Gulldén.

No clear favourite for the FINAL4

There will be more and more fans flocking to CSM’s games in the next two seasons, as the Romanian side will surely be a force to fear. Cristina Neagu’s transfer will not transform CSM into her team; Bella Gulldén is here to stay and will surely be the virtuoso behind CSM’s attacks for at least the next two seasons.

But the Romanian team needs the Swedish star right now. Gulldén has scored 15 goals for the titleholders in last year’s final against Győr, or in other words, an outstanding 51,7% of CSM’s goals.

“I think this FINAL4 will be a lot different than the previous one. There are no clear favourites, but I think CSM will be on everyone’s minds now.”

“This does not make me nervous. In fact, I am never nervous on the court. It will be amazing if we do the double, but it is very hard to achieve that,” concluded Gulldén.

There are at least 120 minutes of intense handball ahead of CSM should they repeat their amazing achievement and double up on their triumph from last season.

But at least one thing is for sure: win or lose, Bella Gulldén will have a smile on her face and put ones on the faces of all those passionate Romanian fans. It is what she does best.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / si

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