Sarah Bouktit: The fans, the noise...We cannot wait to play in our arena again
Rewind to last January and few would have thought Sarah Bouktit would be playing at this level this DELO EHF Champions League season.
In 2020/21, Metz — the club for which she had always played — loaned the 19-year-old line player to fellow French club Fleury les Aubrais. “The goal was for me to play more and to develop as a player,” explains Bouktit.
And develop she did, as playing alongside experienced teammates like Alexandra Lacrabere helped her raise her level. “The time I spent in Fleury gave me some more confidence. I played a lot and, for a young player like me, there is nothing more important than playing. It was a very positive experience.”
Back in Metz this summer, with her first professional contract in her pocket, Bouktit’s short-term destiny was to be the number three line player behind Astride N’Gouan and Olga Perederiy. But after her Ukrainian teammate Perederiy was forced to retire due to a knee injury, Bouktit had a pleasant surprise.
“The coach and the president decided I could actually be number two and that they would not sign any other line player,” says 19-year-old Bouktit. “It’s a big opportunity for me and a huge mark of trust coming from the club. Now, it’s my turn not to disappoint them.”
The coach and the president decided I could actually be number two and that they would not sign any other line player. It’s a big opportunity for me and a huge mark of trust coming from the club. Now, it’s my turn not to disappoint them.
In her short career, Bouktit has never been one to disappoint. Her great performances at the U17 EURO in 2019 and then again at the U19 EHF EURO in 2021 enabled her to become part of the EHF Respect Your Talent project. The programme allows young players to be guided, off and on the court, by more experienced handball stars.
“It’s a very positive thing for us young players to have advice from women that were in our position before and managed to succeed. When you see Stine Oftedal or Andrea Lekic caring about us, I think it’s great,” Bouktit says.
Metz’ start in this season of the Champions League has been perfect, with three wins in as many games. Odense, Vipers and Krim could only stare and look at the damage the French side did. It seems that, despite many player changes over the summer, the team has already found their pace.
“We are writing our own story, week after week. Not only do we win, but we also play well, and that gives us confidence for the games to come,” says Bouktit, who has scored three goals so far in the top flight in 2021/22.
Confidence is exactly what she and her teammates will need this weekend, when Györ visit Les Arenes for the Match of the Week. This will be Metz’ first game in their own arena this season and their home fans could give coach Emmanuel Mayonnade’s players an extra boost to beat the Hungarian powerhouse.
“The fans, the noise…we missed them in the first game against Vipers, and we are really looking forward to feeling that again,” smiles Bouktit, who experienced such an atmosphere many times as a younger player. “I know people will have expectations, but our only aim is to win and to honour this big event.”