Nikola Portner: « We have a promising generation »

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Already a member of the swiss senior national team in a position which requires a lot of maturity, Nikola Portner, 19 years old, is one of the biggest talents on the goalkeeper position. Son of the former player Zlatko Portner (middle back of the Yougoslavian team which won the bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics and three Champions League), Nikola knows where he wants to go and emphasizes the work as a key value.

Handball-Talents: Let’s talk a little about you. You are the son of the legendary Zlatko Portner, so I suppose contrary to others handball players, handball has ever been your favorite sport ?

Yes ! I grew up with this sport. As a child, I observed my father playing handball and he took me with him at trainings. Since I touched a ball, I can’t drop it. And by looking all me father’s trophies, it motivates me even more to succeed in this sport.

Handball-Talents: Some « son of » don’t succeed to perpetuate their elders talent. How do you explain your success despite your young age ? 

A lot of training ! I was educated this way. Always doing more than others, working on your weaknesses to become one day the best complete possible player. Surpassing oneself and giving your maximum all the time…

Handball-Talents: How do you look at your father who was certainly the best middle back at the end of the eighties ?

My father is and will always be my childhood hero. I couldn’t have a better idol at home, whether it be as father or handball player. He showed me handball and teached it to me. Knowing that he was one of the best at his position makes me proud and gives me the desire to do the same. 

Handball-Talents:  Who are the goalkeepers who inspire you ? And how could you describe your style ?

I haven’t any goalkeeper who inspire me all the time but I observe a lot and I try to take a little from everyone to build my own style. Each goalkeeper has a little something which make him special. I have a lot to learn and it’s just the beginning of the road.

Handball-Talents:  Born in France, from a serbian father and you grew up in Switzerland, it wasn’t too hard when you had to choose to play for a country ? 

Not really. Switzerland gave me everything and it’s the first which called me when I was 15. Switzerland is important for me and I owe it something back.

Handball-Talents: You were voted best goalkeeper at the U19 World Championship in 2011 and you finished 6th with Switzerland, how did you live this competition ? And what is the goal for the U21 World Championship this summer ? 

What happened in Argentina in 2011 will remain engraved in me forever. I received the most beautiful individual reward of my career. We finished 6th with Switzerland as nobody expected us so I think we made something big at collective level. For the upcoming World Championship, I would reach at least the semi finals as we were stopped in quarter finals in the last World Championship.

Handball-Talents: Nicolas Raemy and you seem to be the most promising players of your generation. Do you think of others players who could pretend to the high level ?

Yes ! We are six players from the U21 team to already have some games played with the senior national team as we are still in the juniors cycle. Outside Nicolas Raemy and me, there are Luka Maros, Luca Spengler and Stefan Huwyler (only in defence) on the left back position and Fabio Baviera as pivot. We have a promising generation but we must keep working and surpassing our limits every day.

Handball-Talents: You had to preserve your goal against some players of your generation. For you, who were the most impressive players ?

My list is very long ! But Borut Mackovsek (Celje, Hannover next season), Jim Gottfridsson(Ystad, Flensburg next season), Hampus Wanne (Onnereds, Flensburg next season), Bogdan Radivojevic (Partizan, Flensburg next season), Theis Baggöe (Silkeborg) and Rui Silva (Sporting Portugal) come to my mind right now.

Handball-Talents: You are playing for Bern and your contract expires at the end of the next season. Have you a little idea of the team or the championship which will welcome you for the next step of your career ? 

I don’t know yet where I’ll end or if this will be this season or the next one. But I have serious contacts.

Handball-Talents: You played against The Experts last year, it remains a great memory despite the defeat ?

Yes of course ! Playing against the best teams in the world in club or in national team enable me to progress and earn experience which is the most important thing for a goalkeeper.

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