AN INTERVIEW WITH LINO CERVAR FOR THE WEB-SITE “BALKAN HANDBALL”: METALURG SENDS A MESSAGE
This interview is taken over from the web-site “Balkan Handball“.
The Macedonian handball revolution has started with the achievements of the Macedonian club Metalurg, and has crossed the borders of the Balkan and slowly has become a European phenomenon. In the moments when Western Europe does not have anything new to offer to the sport, there is an incredible energy and frenzy coming from a small country which have made the handball a number one sport, have put it on the pedestal as if it the most important thing in the country which is rarely seen in the world today. One of the initiators of this was also the Croatian coach Lino Cervar who again had something to say for “Balkan Handball” while he was in Belgrade for the last weekend.
“The enthusiasm is very important. It was lost somewhere around us, and once it had been a priority. Enthusiasm is power, concentration and an inner force”, the eloquent coach of Metalurg starts his story about the Macedonian handball wonder.
Third season in a row, Metalurg has reached the Top 16 phase in the EHF Champions League, but it seems that with the results so far has equaled last year’s score. The effect is amazing.
“Our group was considered to be the Group of Death. When PSG and Barcelona stand in front of you, then you prepare yourself to lose. You wonder if you could win against Dinamo, with 11-12 players, I am talking about experienced international players, in a situation when you enter the Champions League through the qualifications, because Vardar had won the championship trophy at home. We had been in a difficult situation, but we refuted everything. We were left without the main team leader, Mojsovski, without a bench, because Kozlina, Doder, Batinovic, who are excellent players and shared exactly the same time on the court as the first team, had left.”
You had the chance to acquire the second place in the group…
“If we had talked about this before the beginning of the tournament, then someone definitely would have said that we were crazy. To win against Barcelona, and to be very close to defeat PSG for the second time is worth the respect. Whole Europe saw how we outplayed Barcelona. They wanted to win against us. In a situation like that, every coach would have been proud of. Even if we do not achieve anything else and not be part of the quarter-final like last year, this is already an identical achievement.”
How do you rank the victories in your career?
“This one against Barcelona is very dear to me. No matter that someone does not want to admit that they are better of weaker from you. If you admit this, then it turns out that you do not have a clue. Some players find it hard to admit a defeat against us, especially if they receive enormous salaries and have got a budget with seven zeros, and then there is the little Cindric from Ogulin and he has got the control over them. You have got Mirkulovski who is a real enigma. He acts like he does not have the strength, but in fact he has got two hearts and is a big fighter. You have got also Renato who is 39-40 and played his best match ever. This is not an easy thing to digest”, says Lino.
In the Top 16 phase, you have avoided the Germans, Flensburg and R. N. Löwen, but the best Scandinavian team, KIF Kolding, is waiting for you…
“I absolutely do not fool myself that it is going to be easy. I firmly stand with my feet on the ground. I know that no matter which team we are playing against we are not the favourite. The others are the favourites. But, there is always a chance to win and we must think positively. I believe that if we have enough of our fighting spirit, and discipline and the recovered Atman, then we can fight and pass them. And they have got Hvidt, Boesen, Spellerberg, Rocas and Karlsson, Jorgenssen, who dominates in the defense. It is obvious what kind of players they are, but our matches proved that we are not a team which feels inferior to the others and has got frustrations. We convert all our disadvantages into a motivation.”
“Boris Trajkovski” has to become bigger…
“We are going to make again a feast for the eye. There are going to be people from Skopje and from all over Macedonia. We have got the biggest number of fans. We are a club of the whole of Macedonia. We have fans in Skopje, but also in the other cities. Here lies our strength. It is a big achievement to be the team on the second place right after Kiel in the number of spectators; it is a great success that we have sold 3500 season tickets and our tickets are usually sold in 20 minutes. We have got the smallest budget of all our opponents. For example, Dinamo Minsk fell apart over night, with a budget of 3, 5 million euros. We represent stability and a second rank power. It is not easy for us. It is always hard in times of crisis, but that is not manifested in our play. Our trade mark is the desire for victories and the enthusiasm.”
The euphoria which rules the Macedonian handball cannot be compared to the attitude towards our sport in any other country in the world. There are countries where the handball is really admired, but the extent of identification with the victories is not seen on any place else…
“It is incredible how much we contribute to it. We have a lot of children and the parents come with them also. We have 17 schools all over Macedonia. Bitola, Prilep, Struga, and everywhere our children play in our jersey. We are open for the families, for the family values, we work in a different way and the others have already started to copy our work. This is a victory for the sport. Look at the atmosphere before the beginning of the match. Watch them during the whole match. There is no taking off the shirts at waist length, there is no turning backs. We are a European team, this is our behaviour, we promote the culture of the advanced countries and this makes me happy. When you watch a match of Metalurg, you would not say that it is held in Macedonia, a country which is misunderstood and struggles with its identity. It is a small country that dared to fight for its name. When you look at our stands in the arena, how our people behave during the matches, this is the West. You are fooling yourselves if you think the opposite. “
What do you think about the rivalry between Vardar and Metalurg?
“I respect that club, they are founded on a different basis, but they fight to achieve some results and to organize themseleves. I support them and I am glad that they entered the Last 16 phase. I do not have any words against them. We have different concepts, they are creating their squads from European players. They have a lot of foreigners. In our roster, we have 70% of Macedonian players. On one hand, you have got a genuine Macedonian club, and on the other you have got Vardar which is based on foreigners. In six men’s and women’s national squads, more than 50% of the players come from Metalurg. With this, I have told you everything.”
Are you afraid of losing the score race with the “Red-blacks”, having considered the investments of Sergei Samsonenko and the announcements that they are going to reinforce themselves with a world class players?
“I would like them to by the best players in the world and to beat them again. For me, that is a challenge. Should we do the same, to buy and to compete? It is not the same. However, I fulfilled the dreams from my childhood, I won everything that there is to win, but in order to be remembered, I try to win over Barcelona with a mosaic of young and old players who mainly are not affirmed. That is my motivation.”
You announce a new recruitment, the coming of a new generation of young players led by the extra talented Taleski, Neloski …
“We have that young team which plays in the home league and is going to play in the play-off of the home championship. We are going to make recruitment in the next season, so the public will meet five-six 2 m tall players. We have just brought Vuko Borozan who is 204 cm tall. We are going to need two or three players more, so that in the next season we can enter the court with around ten players that are going to be more than 2 m tall. They will be the new actors. People love new faces, and those boys from 18 to 21 years are going to be a new challenge for everyone.”
Last season, you were left without the trophy. What did you learn from the defeat from Vardar?
“We have to be very careful. We have a big motive, much bigger than theirs. We want to beat the Macedonian champions – the European squad.
What do you think of the progress of the SEHA – project?
It is a league which is still developing. I understand it like that. It is not rightfully accepted by EHF. I see a lot of potential in this league, but we must be better organized in order to be an example for the others. We will not be better than the Bundes-liga just like that, but we must offer something new in the way we will lead and organize the league. We must give the clubs more freedom, all of us should be in charge and all of us should reaffirm the magic word – trust. Without trust, we will forever be stuck on the Balkans, but the previous one. We will not get what we want which is the reaffirmation of handball in this region. We are genetically connected to this sport and, although the Germans and Scandinavians invented the handball, indeed it was born in this region. The late Mr. Vinko Kandija said that we have got a big hand and wide shoulders and only the people from the Balkan could have that. In order to promote it, we must establish a system of trust. Only on the basis of trust, we can establish a better organization where all of us would lead the league and would be content. And those people are the audience, players, referees …”
People more often talk that the handball needs something new. It is about putting a limitation of the time for the attack. What is your opinion?
“I absolutely agree with this. The limitation of the duration of the attacks would lead to a change in the dynamics of the game. We would be forced to work harder on the technique. No matter if there are 20, 25 or 30 seconds, both the coach and players would have to show what they can, and they could not play without an idea. Creativity and innovation would be more prominent, and without them, there is no progress in anything. As Einstein had said, to work always in the same manner is the best way to make mistakes. It is a way that leads into a defeat.”