Bertus Servaas (President of Kielce): "First place is a dream"

“Dutch, businessman in Poland, what does handball represent for you: a business, a pleasure?
No it’s fun. You have to be a little crazy. Handball is the most beautiful sport in the world. I like this fight between two teams. It’s awesome.

And it’s cheaper than a football club!
Ah yes, I don’t have the means to invest in football!

What is Kielce’s budget?
Around 7 million euros.

Bhakti Ong, one of the French agents (including Nedim Remili leaving PSG for Kielce), told us that you are tough in negotiations…

(laughs) I negotiate but I think I do it fairly. But of course I know the players, the legal experts and the manager want to have as much as possible. But you must have respect for each other. I always keep my word.

It seems that you always pay the right price…
We know the market, how it works, how much a player is worth. I’ve been in this business for 20 years, I have very good relationships with a lot of players. Because the players themselves are very important. I never do anything behind the back, that’s why I’m respected by the managers.

Talant Dujshebaev has been your coach since 2014, why did you choose him?
He was not only a great player (Olympic champion in 1992, world champion in 1993 with Russia, naturalized Spanish in 1995, five-time winner of the Champions League), a great coach. He has incredible strength but is terribly emotional. We also have emotional guys in the group, so we always fight together. Talant is a coach who creates a family: everyone is important, everyone feels important. He is a bit like the father of players. I’ve never met a player who doesn’t want to be coached by Talant Dujshebaev. For me, it’s easier.

“Talant Dujshebaev (the coach) had been approached by Paris but his wife wants to stay in a small town. It was our chance”

You say he is a father for players, but a demanding father, no?
Yes of course. He’s a badass. He wants everything to be done as he thinks should be done well. He never says anything about the players, the club outside the club. I think that’s also why the players respect him. It’s always from the front. Never anything behind their backs. That’s our club: a big family with a great atmosphere. I think this is our success.

Talant Dujshebaev has extended his contract until 2028. Why such a long period?
We have a lot of long contracts. Most of the players we have now are under contract until 2026, 2027, 2028. We have a young team, with a very bright future ahead of us. Next season we will have two more good players with Nedim Remili and Benoît Kounkoud (from PSG). But that does not guarantee us to go to the Final Four, you have to feel like in a family, to form a real team.

How do you manage to keep Talant Dujshebaev for so long?
(he cuts off with a burst of laughter) Because he loves me!

And do you like it too?
Yes I love it. Talant had been approached by Paris but his wife wants to stay in a small town. It was our chance. We have been together for eight years, we are friends. Of course sometimes we have different opinions but we trust each other. That’s a success. That doesn’t mean Talant will stay another 20 years. If you want to build a good club, you shouldn’t change coaches or players too much. We are in a very stable situation. I will never interfere in sport because what could I do better than Talant? Of course, I give my opinion. Sometimes it is different. But he is the boss for the sport. I am responsible for finance.

How do you work with him on transfers?
I take care of the context: I discuss with the managers to see which players are free. We talk with Talant about the proposals. For us, the most important thing is to understand if a player is suitable for the club, as a person. I know very good players but as a person, we don’t want to have them in the club. Sometimes if you don’t have a good feeling, you shouldn’t sign. I will always fight for my family.

“Nedim Remili and Benoît Kounkoud should not say a word of French but speak in Polish. Talant wants that: we are in a Polish club, we have to speak Polish. He does not agree to speak English or German during a time-out.

Why are you recruiting so many French players?
I like the personality of the French players. We are joking at the moment around Nedim (Remili) and Benoît (Kounkoud) who will not have to say a word of French but speak in Polish. Talant wants that: we are in a Polish club, we have to speak Polish. He does not agree to speak English or German during a time-out. Of course, it’s difficult for guys like Nicolas (Tournat) or Dylan (Nahi) but they try. When I’m in the locker room, I sometimes hear them speaking in their language, and I say to them: “Guys, you speak Polish! We always joke about it. But it’s important: if you want to live in a country, you have to speak the language of the country. I still have that principle and I think that’s one of the most important things.

What can you say about Nicolas Tournat and Dylan Nahi?
Dylan is the engine of the team, he plays with the supporters. Both are great, they are very involved.

And Nedim Remili and Benoît Kounkoud?
They are two players with an incredible winning temperament. We’re going to have fun with them.

Why do they sign in Kielce: the money, the project, the coach?
It’s not just for money. We are certainly not the club that pays the most in Europe. The most important is Talant Dujshebaev. For the atmosphere too: we probably have the best supporters in Europe. The Polish league is not the strongest, you can play longer, with fewer injuries. It allows players to rest sometimes or to play at only 80%. And from a financial point of view, it makes it possible to spread (the payment) over a longer period. But I think the most important thing is the president of the club (laughs).

“Being in the Final Four is already a great achievement for us”

Do you put a lot of pressure on the coach, the team with the obligation to win the Champions League for example?
No, no pressure. I do not like it. Of course I want to win the Champions League. But you have to be realistic. There are four very high level clubs (Kiel, Veszprem and holders Barcelona), you can win like being fourth. I always want to be in the top 8, to be in the Final Four is very good, to reach the first place is a dream. Being in the Final Four is already a great achievement for us.

French clubs say they are at a disadvantage compared to other countries, including Poland, because of taxation. What do you think ?
It’s true. But we pay in euros so sometimes 10% more. But we pay less taxes than in France where the taxes are indeed very high. On the other hand, the sponsors in France are higher than in Poland. In France, revenue from ticketing is also higher because ticket prices are higher. There is also the fact that French teams play more difficult competitions: the Champions League, national competitions with high-level opponents. It also increases the risk of injury. »

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