A six-week break between the end of the campaign and the start of pre-season? It's a rare occurrence – and one that Alina Grijseels is particularly enjoying right now. In an interview, the Borussia Dortmund women's handball captain reflected on last season and looked ahead to the next one.
Alina Grijseels had a season that was as stressful as it was successful, received numerous awards and is now looking forward to getting to know the many new signings. But before that, it's holiday time. A two-week cruise around the Nordic nations has been planned: Norway, Lofoten, Spitsbergen. The 26-year-old has earned the time off after a season that was overshadowed by many injuries at BVB – but which nevertheless came to a great end as the Black & Yellows finished as runners-up in the Bundesliga and reached the play-offs in the Champions League.
Alina, you look refreshed and relaxed. Is that how you feel?
Yes, that's how I feel. I can't remember the last time I had a break like this. It's partly down to the fact that the national team is on a break. So this is a real time-out. I did nothing for the first two weeks; I started the day with no real plan, no sports, no appointments. I just rested and met up with friends and family. I really enjoyed that.
No sport at all?
I can't completely do without it. But I did what I usually don't do during the season: strength and flexibility exercises.
You also attended the Final4 in Budapest.
Yes, I was there in a private capacity. It was a lot of fun to watch great sport like that in front of 15,400 spectators; it was a new world record for women's handball. It was a cool event, the supporting program was perfect – simply a huge event with an outstanding atmosphere.
Even the longest summer break comes to an end, what happens after the vacation?
In July, we will start our pre-season and hold a short training camp in Winterberg. I'm already looking forward to meeting the new players. It will of course be a challenge to integrate so many new players – but we've always managed to do so. Besides, we still have a lot of time.
Not all of your new signings are really "new" in Dortmund.
That's right, and of course I'm particularly pleased about the return of Harma van Kreij. Overall, we're in a good position. The newcomers are young and talented, whereas I'm a bit older at 26.
Where do you see yourselves in the Bundesliga next season?
It goes without saying there's no way past Bietigheim, that's for sure. They kept almost their entire squad so they don't have to gel as a team first. But we also have our qualities. I just hope that we'll have a little less bad luck with injuries this time around and that we'll be able to use our full range of players. There were times where the burden of the Champions League and Bundesliga pushed our increasingly small squad to the limit.
But all things considered, you were satisfied?
Yes, of course. We finished as runners-up with a big lead over our rivals and were in the Champions League play-offs. That was a unique experience. In the cup, we had the misfortune of drawing Bietigheim in the quarter-finals. We got the most out of it.
You're now of course hoping for a wild card for the Champions League. The decision is to be made on 27 June.
Yes, all the players absolutely want to play in the Champions League. I'm happy that the club has taken this path and presented its application on location in Budapest. Now I'm of course excited to see what the EHF decides.
The competition doesn't sleep, who do you expect to be the strongest opponents in addition to Bietigheim in the coming season?
That'll be really exciting; there are many clubs that have had a similar number of departures and arrivals to us. Neckarsulm have strengthened again, Thüringen too. Blomberg have stayed together and Buxtehude have had numerous departures. It will be important for us to be focused from the first matchday and to not allow ourselves to drop any points.