February awards crown first-time winners Pukhouski and Klujber
February was a busy month for Europe’s top players, a month of crucial battles in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase as well as Women's EHF Champions League Main Round.
A panel of EHF correspondents voted for their EHF Player of the Month for February 2019. The men's honours went to Barys Pukhouski from Motor Zaporozhye, while the women's award goes to Katrin Klujber of FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria.
“A bonus for my work”
32-year-old centre back Pukhouski is the first Belarusian and the first Motor player to win the award and he was delighted to learn it. "That is good news and a bonus for my work," he told ehfCL.com.
In three continental top flight matches in February, Barys scored 24 goals in total and he finished the group phase as the second top scorer with 80 goals, seven behind Montpellier's Melvyn Richardson.
However, this seems to be of little importance for Motor player: "I am not focused on my personal statistics. Maybe I scored a lot because my teammates set me up very well. I'm not chasing any records and prefer to think about team result."
Motor’s results were impressive in February, beating Flensburg and Skjern at home and securing a Last 16 spot with one match to spare.
"It was a tough month both physically and psychologically, but we prepared very thoroughly for the games and ultimately did a good job," Pukhouski said.
In the next round, Motor will face Vive Kielce and Pukhouski sees a chance of going through: "Even if Kielce are favourites, they have many injured players now, so maybe they are one of the best options for us. Anyway, we have to prepare well."
“I still cannot believe it”
Katrin Klujber is another first-time EHF Player of the Month winner and it is a milestone for the FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria right back.
“It is a huge pleasure and I still cannot believe it. I think it is a great achievement and I am pretty sure that for the next couple of days I will get many messages and calls, but then I will focus on the next challenge.”
Klujber will only turn 20 in April, yet the young talent has already gathered plenty of European experience. As a 17-year-old, she won the Women’s EHF Cup with her previous team Dunaujvaros, and has made an immediate impact since joining FTC in January.
“Since 2016 when we won the EHF Cup with my former team, my whole life sped up and I enjoy it a
lot. I had my debut with the national team and in the summer of 2018 we won the World Junior Championship.
“Then, I changed club colours and it was one of my best decisions. It is like a family at FTC. Not only my teammates but the whole staff is very helpful, and right now I feel that I could retire with this club,” said Klujber.
And she has big plans for the future: “Of course, I would like to win every competition and tournament. Our age group in the national team as well as in the club is amazing. However, Tokyo 2020 is my first target. I hope we can play in our style and win more and more games in Japan.”
EHF Player of the Month - February 2019
1. Barys Pukhouski (BLR) - HC Motor Zaporozhye
2. Andy Schmid (SUI) - Rhein-Neckar Lowen
3. Kentin Mahe (FRA) - Telekom Veszprem HC
4. Michal Jurecki (POL) - PGE Vive Kielce
5. Luc Abalo (FRA) - Paris Saint-Germain HB
1. Katrin Klujber (HUN) - FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria
2. Nycke Groot (NED) - Gyori Audi ETO KC
3. Helene Fauske (NOR) - Herning-Ikast Handbold
4. Grace Zaadi (FRA) - Metz Handball
5. Mireya Gonzalez (SPA) - Siofok KC