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“During the Limburg derby we fight tooth and nail”

“During the Limburg derby we fight tooth and nail”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

The seven sins of handball player Mike Kusters

 

  • Greed. I’m not greedy; I don’t need to have the best of the best. The only thing I can think of is my shoe addiction. I always want to wear sneakers in my free time. For a long time it was Adidas, but now I mainly buy Asics. As a keeper I wear normal handball shoes. You can buy special keeper’s shoes, but they’re not always that comfortable. Because of all the sideways movement, normal shoes tend to wear out quickly. Some people go through six pairs a year; for me it’s two. I always tape my heel in so I can glide easily across the ground.
     
  • Gluttony. We’re supposed to eat a healthy and varied diet, but the trainers don’t breathe down our necks about it. I never need to ask my mother to cook healthily, because she’s been doing that since I was a kid. Chips are my guilty pleasure, preferably cheese and onion. A handball player needs lots of carbohydrates. You’d be amazed how many calories a keeper burns. It takes a lot of strength physically, but also mentally.
     
  • Lust. I’m not in a relationship. Not that I don’t want to be, that’s just how it is; I’m not really actively looking. I train a lot, play matches on the weekend and if I’m not busy with handball then I’m studying. It is possible, especially if the other person understands what it’s like to play a sport at this level. There are plenty of Lions players with girlfriends; usually they’re players themselves. I had a girlfriend from the handball world for almost two years. But she went to the Handball Academy in Papendal and then to Germany to play in the Bundesliga. At some point we just weren’t seeing enough of each other. I’m not a big flirt, no. And I don’t know if I fall in love easily; ugh, that’s a hard question. It depends who crosses my path.
     
  • Envy. I’m not the jealous type. I’m mainly focused on my own performance, at university too. Sometimes just passing an exam can keep me happy for a long time. I play in the Lions’ second team, but of course I’m hoping for a spot in the first team. Haha, no, that doesn’t mean I want to kick the first keeper out. He’s a good friend and I can learn a lot from him. I do get really enthusiastic about the dedication and style of some keepers at the highest international level, like some of the German guys. They often have a really high percentage of saves. If you save 25 out of 50 balls – so 50 percent – then you’re doing great. Even 33 percent is already good. Our staff keep track of the saves during matches so that afterwards you can see on paper how it went. It never comes as a surprise though. If I have a bad feeling, I don’t even need to see that piece of paper.
     
  • Sloth. I train a lot; in that sense I’m not lazy. But when I’m free, on Wednesdays, I like to do as little as possible. I still live at home and my little brother and I sometimes ask my mother if we can do things, although we don’t really need to.
     
  • Wrath. I’ve become calmer. I used to get angry and frustrated if something didn’t work first time, like a new exercise. Or if we lost. Then I’d say, ‘I’m quitting, I’m going to do something else.’ Now I’m able to put things into perspective; I’ll do better next time. A bit of emotion is not a bad thing. It’s necessary even, otherwise you won’t make it. We always pep one another up before matches. The Limburg derby between the Lions and Bevo from Panningen is very special; it’s like Roda JC against MVV. We respect one another – it’s healthy competition – but we really fight tooth and nail, with more aggression and more fouls than usual.
     
  • Pride. I hate people who are always showing off about what they think they can do, who think they’re better than everyone else. I don’t put myself in the spotlight. But I know what I can do; I have self-confidence. I usually make enough saves, and after all, that’s the main task of the keeper – as the coach says, ‘just stop the ball, it doesn’t matter how’, haha. If my sport comes up in tutorials, I’ll talk about it, but I don’t bring it up myself. I’m an introvert and I listen more than I talk. I could do with being a bit more assertive. With a coach I’ve known for a while I’m brave enough to speak my mind, but if there’s a new trainer I find that harder.

Mike Kusters, 20, third-year Health Sciences student. Born in Sittard, lives in Geleen

Trains twelve to fifteen hours per week, keeper at handball club Limburg Lions I and II (plays in the Bene League, with men’s teams from Belgium and the Netherlands) 

Best performance: sixth in the youth European Championships in Sweden in 2014, training for a permanent spot in the first team; aiming with the club to finish in the top four this season

This is a series about students who sport at the highest level

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