Denmark v Netherlands: Main Round Group 1 - Men s EHF EURO 2022 Mathias Gidsel of Denmark in action during the Men s EHF EURO 2022 Main Round Group 1 match between Denmark and Netherlands at MVM DOME on January 24, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary. SanjinxStrukic/PIXSELL

Mathias Gidsel looks like the boy next door. The slightly tousled blond hair, the slim figure despite the 1.90 meter height for a handball player and the everlasting smile do not give an idea at first glance what a top star the new signing of Füchse Berlin is. And even when the handball player talks about his career, he doesn’t use the superlatives that sports fans and critics like to use, just down-to-earth descriptions of himself.

“My family isn’t that enthusiastic about it. There isn’t that much praise,” he says, explaining his reluctance. The sports gazettes and the international associations praised him for this. Not only has Gidsel been world champion, Olympic silver medalist and bronze medalist at the European Championships with Denmark in the past two years, he has also played his way into the all-star team at major tournaments in his short time with the national team and has been was even voted Most Valuable Player at the Tokyo Games.

“It was something like a space experience,” says the right back, giving the impression that he can’t quite grasp his own development yet. “I don’t even know what happened there. First I was nominated and warmed up the goalkeepers in training and suddenly this journey started and I got all these awards. It’s indescribable.” Idols like world handball player Mikkel Hansen, whom he had previously emulated, suddenly became his teammates – the “village boy”, as Gidsel often describes himself, never dared to imagine that.

His life was geared towards handball from an early age. Growing up in the handball village of Skjern, Gidsel made his first attempts with the ball at an early age and eventually left home at the age of 15 to attend boarding school and play for the youth section of GOG Gudme. From there it only went up, Gidsel becoming one of the most sought-after players ever.

He crowned his eight years on the Funen with the championship in his last season, even a cruciate ligament rupture at the European Championships in January couldn’t stop him. In just four months, the exceptional talent fought back and became the decisive factor in the fight for the title. “He has the courage to make decisions. He has the speed and the technical understanding. That’s why he was able to impress at a young age,” says his former coach Nicolej Krickau, who brought Gidsel to the pros when he was 18.

What makes the back right is on the one hand his extremely low number of mistakes and on the other hand an enormous throwing efficiency. In addition, Gidsel radiates an almost irrepressible will on the field, even going for the goal when he is attacked by several opponents. Unlike many other young players, the Dane impresses with his consistency in his performances, always seems focused and is difficult to shake. Characteristics that Gidsel has trained over the years – also with the help of a mental coach. “Of course it’s not always easy. But in the end it’s always about playing handball. Not for the fans, not for the media. And that’s what I’m trying to focus on,” says Gidsel.

For the 23-year-old, sporting success also comes with a certain responsibility. During his rehabilitation, he attended a “Lehehlte” hospital, a program that aims to help sick children in a variety of ways to make their lives a little easier. “The visit there opened my eyes,” says Gidsel, whose current knee problems are therefore quickly put into perspective. “I still find it a bit strange that people look up to me. But that’s the way it is and I want to do something with it.” While he’s not full of himself to believe he can change the world – that’s what heads of state are for – every bit of distraction, every smile he throws at someone Being able to conjure up a face is worth the effort.

That’s why he’s currently working on his own project that aims to connect people through handball. He doesn’t want to reveal too much just yet, but it is important to him to set up an initiative that is based in Denmark but works beyond national borders. “After all, there are problems everywhere. And if you have the opportunity to inspire and help, then you should do it. Otherwise you have missed your purpose,” says Gidsel. “I’m not a star who doesn’t know how to talk to people anymore. I’m still me, just Mathias and still the boy who loves to play handball and make people laugh.”

When Gidsel talks about his ideas, it quickly becomes clear why his new sporting director, Stefan Kretzschmar, described him, among other things, as “the heart is in the right place”. But that was of course not the only reason why the foxes wanted to bring Gidsel to Berlin. Gidsel stands for titles and for continuity, for things that Kretzschmar and Co. strive for in the long run. Above all, Gidsel is a player who, despite his young age, can and wants to take on responsibility. One who has rejected the big clubs and prefers to work something out.

Down to earth, but so much more than just the boy next door.