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After the comeback against Nantes: interview with Maraike Kusian

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On Sunday, the Borussia Dortmund handball ladies pulled off a historic comeback. In the first leg at Neptunes de Nantes, they lost 28-19, but in the second leg, BVB gave it everything they had in the final phase, winning by a ten-goal margin to qualify for Final Four of the European League. Right-winger Maraike Kusian looks back on the historic day in an interview.

The incredible comeback against Nantes on Sunday was indescribable for everyone involved. How did you personally experience the game?

Right after the final whistle of the game in Nantes, I realised that it would be difficult to make up that nine-goal deficit, but it wasn't an impossible task. I never doubted that we could do it, and that's how I went into the home game. I was very pleased that the hall was packed out and that all the fans believed in us too. During the game, we were able to get a small lead, but could never really pull away. I don't know what happened 15 minutes before the final whistle, but somehow we turned on the turbo. Everything worked out. The defence was great, Yara ten Holte held firm in goal, we all fought for each other and we took every chance up front. My emotions continued to rise when I realised that we had managed to overcome the deficit from the first leg. When the final whistle sounded and the direct free-throw went over the goal, I was so happy that I shouted out everything I had in myself. The hall was shaking and we celebrated the victory together as a team.

Until that point, people didn't think you would be able to turn the game around after the result from the first leg. What were your plans as a team?

As a team, we were definitely convinced that it was doable. It was quite a tough task, but if everything works out and you play as a team, something like that is always possible. During the game, we didn't even think about giving up. That was out of the question for us! We fought for each other all the time and in the end, we were rewarded for it.

You were two goals up during the break, but somehow you got the impression that there was more in the game. What exactly was discussed in the dressing room? Who took the floor and what did your coach tell you?

If only I could still remember... At that moment, you've got tunnel vision and after the game, you forget everything around you. We knew we had to go up another gear to overturn the deficit. We talked about the tactics to use to have as much success as possible in the attack and that worked out, but I think it was our willpower that brought us the furthest. We gave 100 percent in every part of the game and as a team, we were simply unbeatable.

After more than 40 minutes, it was still a draw, then you turned on the turbo boosters. When did you realise that you could actually achieve it? 

As I said at the beginning, I never doubted that we could do it. In my head, I kept counting how many goals we had to catch up now and when we got on a bit of a roll, there was no stopping us. Anything can happen in handball. That's why I love this sport so much.

You yourself then suddenly really started to flow…

Yes, that's true. I didn't start the game well and was in my head too much. I was all the happier that the team stood behind me and motivated me to keep trying, time and again. When things started to go right, it took the weight off my shoulders and I was able to play with a clear head. We pushed each other more and more and then everything worked out.

To what extent did the atmosphere in the hall carry you to victory? The atmosphere was sensational!

Our fans were there for us from the very first minute. As the final whistle was approaching, they got louder and louder. Every action was cheered and celebrated. You could say that our fans were our eighth man on the court. The atmosphere was up there with the record-breaking game in the Westfalenhalle. The whole place was shaking.

Were there any more celebrations afterwards? How did you spend the evening?

After the game, of course, we celebrated massively in the dressing room, because we were just overjoyed. Then we all went for a meal. We had a great evening in high spirits.

Did you manage to get to sleep that night?

It was hard for me to sleep. I was still full of enthusiasm and happiness, and my boyfriend was waiting for me at home, and he was just as enthusiastic and happy as I was. He then told me how amazing the atmosphere was where he was watching. He and his friends were swept up in the excitement. Anyone who was not a BVB fan before that game will have become one if they watched that game.