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12.01.2017, 12:24◄ last page     

NEWS REPORT: The former RK Celje, BM Ciudad Real and FC Barcelona player and captain of Belarus national team officially announced his retirement

Rutenka calls it a day

At the age of 35, six-time EHF Champions League winner Siarhei Rutenka has decided to retire from handball. While the Belarusian national team have departed to France to compete at the 2017 World Championship, their former leader and captain stayed in Minsk and held a special press conference on Thursday, where he officially announced his retirement.

"Maybe now I look calm but I've been thinking about it for a long time. Even my wife didn't believe me and asked me all the time if I was serious. But I see it as a new page in my life. I am not the first player who has finished his career, and I will not be the last. My conscience is clear as I had a 100% commitment to playing for both my clubs and the national team,” said Rutenka.

Failed adventure in Qatar

The Belarusian, who also holds Slovenian and Spanish citizenship, contemplated for a long time whether or not he would continue his career. The last club he played for was SKA Minsk where Siarhei finished the past season.

Upon leaving in the summer, Rutenka said that he would consider retiring unless he received a good offer. Subsequently nothing came until December when it was announced that he was moving to Qatar's Al Quiada.

However, his adventure there did not last long — even less than in 2015 when Rutenka signed with Lekhwiya SK but spent only a few months in Doha.  

"Now I arrived in Qatar, trained for two weeks with the team and fulfilled all my obligations. However, when we reached the point of signing a contract, they decided to review the financial conditions. I did not accept that and came back home. But I am not angry or frustrated because of that. What happened, happened,” Rutenka said.

"Besides Qatar, I had some other offers - actually about ten of them. But they all looked the same. Somehow the club bosses seemed to think that Rutenka was sitting home doing nothing, and therefore he would jump at any chance. So in the end I did not reach an agreement with any team.'

A career rich in trophies

Rutenka, whose younger brother Dzianis plays for HC Meshkov Brest, began his career in Arkatron Minsk. At the age of 19, he moved to Slovenia where he had spells at Gorenje Velenje and RK Celje. He won the Slovenian league four times and in 2004 helped Celje to win the EHF Champions League.

The next step in Siarhei's career was Spain where he spent in total ten years, from 2005 to 2015. Being a part of Ciudad Real and Barcelona, he added many trophies to his collection, including eight Spanish league title and five more victories in Europe’s elite club competition. The Belarusian won the EHF Champions League six times in total - only Andrei Xepkin has earned the trophy more times (seven).

"I've had many milestones in my career, but I don't think it will be interesting if I name them all. I am happy not to have changed clubs every year, and I have good memories with all of them. I won a silver medal with Belarus at the 2000 Junior European Championship, and this success stands out in my memory. But I regret not winning a trophy with our senior national team,” said Siarhei.

The page is turned

While playing in Slovenia, Rutenka accepted the offer to defend the colours of their national team and took part in a number of major tournaments, including the 2004 Olympics and EHF EURO 2006 where he was the top scorer with 51 goals.

However, later Siarhei decided to play for his home country Belarus again, and after the required three-year break from international action, his comeback took place in 2010. Soon Rutenka became the national team captain and played a big role in Belarus' progress in recent years.

The 2017 World Championship qualification play-off against Latvia last June, in which they just narrowly beat their neighbours, turned out to be Siarhei's swan song in the national team. Now Rutenka's era is over, and Belarus begin a new life without a player who has been iconic for the nation for many years.

As for Rutenka, the handball page appears to be turned: "If my experience is needed, I will be happy to share it, but at the moment, I do not plan to stay in handball. Definitely I will contact players and our federation and I wish them all the best, but now I have a project in another field. It's a business project since I have to feed my family."

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cor

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