This is Me: Hampus Wanne
Hampus Wanne had only just started his professional career when his penalty goal took SG Flensburg-Handewitt to the EHF Champions League final in 2014. The lob fooled Danijel Saric and Wanne became an instant hero in northern Germany. But how did this ice cold left wing end up in Flensburg? Here Hampus tells us his unique story of how he went from an unknown in Sweden to one of the best players in the world.
This is Me: Hampus Wanne
Swedish obscurity to top-flight champion
It was the summer of 2012 and the Olympics in London were on. During Ljubomir Vranjes’ years as head coach in SG Flensburg-Handewitt they always spent time in Sweden during the pre-season. And ‘Ljubo’, being brought up in Gothenburg, wanted to spend time on the Swedish west coast. During that specific year it was basically just the German national team who didn’t qualify for the Olympics. Therefore Flensburg were a bit shorthanded player-wise that summer.
I was playing for Önnereds HK when I got the call if I would be able to join Flensburg during their camp in Stenungsund. It was me and three other young players.
Of course I said yes.
A few years later I learned that Ljubo always brought in some young players from a local team that he wanted to check out.
So me and a few other players got that opportunity that year and it was completely absurd to share the court with players such as Holger Glandorf and Lars Kauffmann. I played mini handball when I was younger and I used to pretend that I was one of those players because of their shot power. I was 18 years old and utterly starstruck during practice. I was just a little shit back then and having Ljubomir Vranjes as a coach was huge as well with him being a legend in Swedish handball.
After the last practice me and the other young players joked about how sick it would be if one of us would get a contract offer from Flensburg. A week later I was sitting at home. I was still living with my parents, and just watching TV. Then my dad entered the room and asked if I was sitting down. Yes, I answered. What do you want? He then said that Ljubo wanted me to come down to Flensburg to discuss a contract with the team.
It was a crazy feeling that a club as big as Flensburg had seen something in me and that they were ready to offer me a contract. I had only practiced with them two times. But that was how it all started for me. I still have Ljubo to thank for a lot of things but he always tells me that I have myself to thank. It was really cool that he gave me an opportunity.
When I moved to Flensburg that summer it was a shock for me. It was the first time I moved to a different country and I did not know the language at all. I was just 19 years old. And in front of me on the left wing was Anders Eggert in his prime. On the other wing was Lasse Svan, who dominated the position then and still does. Now I was getting ready to play against THW Kiel and Rhein-Neckar Löwen and not to mention games in the EHF Champions League.
It all became so big so fast and you can’t really prepare yourself for that. And I clearly felt that I was the worst player on the team. In Sweden I had played for the youth national team and was considered a big talent but this was a slap in the face. It was pro handball at a massive level. Early on Ljubo made it clear to me that I was there to learn from Eggert. But I noticed that I learned more from Svan because our style of play is more alike. Eggert is all about wrist and I don’t think we will ever see a player like him again. Eggert was amazing to me and tried to teach me things every day but I learned more from Lasse.
The first six months were very tough. I barely played. If we were up by 10 goals at home and there were 10 minutes left I got to play a little. But I was glad to have Jim Gottfridsson there with me and it was his first year in Germany. It was the same as well as for Bogdan Radivojević and Draško Nenadić. We all became great friends and we had a lot of fun together.
In March or April I suffered a stress fracture in my back which caused me to not play any games the two months before the EHF FINAL4. I had just turned 20 and was the super obvious second choice on the left wing. I was in the match squad against FC Barcelona but I had not imagined playing anything at all.
And then, in the semi-final against Barca, we were down six goals with eight minutes to go. I remember that Ljubo subbed me and Bogdan in and told us that we should run like fools and not think too much. I scored three goals and Bogdan two during those eight minutes. Plus, at the other end, Sören Rasmussen would not let any shots go in behind him.
I actually can’t remember anything at all about the extra time. It’s all a bubble really. And then it was time for the penalty shootout. I knew that I was supposed to be the third shooter on our team. But then Ljubo turned to me, pointed really hard with his finger in my chest and told me that I would be the fifth shooter instead. “Yeah, sure,” I answered. I really did not understand then how big it was. I had just been in that world for almost a year and did not understand the magnitude of a German team being on the verge of a huge final. If we made it to the final it would only have been the second time in the club’s history to do so.
Eggert came up to me and asked if he could give me some pointers as to what Saric usually does during penalties. I said no because I have always felt that it is up to the goalkeepers to adapt to me and not the other way around. In the back of my mind I knew that I wanted to put the ball high because he had lowered his arms earlier during the game.
I felt that I had a huge advantage because I knew who he was but he had no idea who I was. I was so young. I have never talked to Saric about it but I guess that he thought that since I was so young I would just do something easy. But I didn’t and it worked out pretty well I would say. I was still a child in my mind and therefore I did not understand what I had done. Today I would have understood that the ball needs to go into the net – but I just stood there and was pretty relaxed watching the penalties before it was my turn.
Ljubo was a genius in the talk before the penalties. He just stood there with the biggest smile on his face and the confidence just beamed from him. He was completely sure that we would win. Myself, Jim, Weinhold, Bogdan and Eggert took our penalties and the four of us were not used to that situation at all. Barcelona had players like Rutenka, Karabatic and Tomas… Absolute legends.
But we did it. I did not understand what had happened until I turned around after the ball went in and I saw the whole team running to me. They hit me like a train. Then I woke up. I remembered that I had a stress fracture in my back so I got worried since all of these giants were basically running me over. Tobias Karlsson with a body filled with adrenalin is pretty powerful. I can promise you that.
I hadn’t really proved anything yet, though. I had played for like 20 minutes and scored one penalty. Before that Eggert had done all the work. I have always felt that I want to prove that I belong at this level. I wanted to be like Eggert and Svan and prove that I could play in a huge club like Flensburg for a long time. I still have that same drive in me. And you are never a better player than your last game.
I did not feel like I had arrived until we won the Bundesliga title in 2017/18. That year I played in every game and I really contributed to that achievement. Then I felt that I was one of the best players in my position.
But it’s hard to talk about personal success in a team sport. I was really proud last year to be voted into the All-star Team during the World Championship and to be awarded as player of the year in Sweden is something I am really proud of. But it’s hard to beat winning the EHF Champions League and especially since I was so young. It’s the biggest achievement of my career. At least so far.