Sweat, laughter and knee-socks: Kielce return to handball
On Tuesday (1 August) morning KS Vive Tauron Kielce welcomed Blaz Janc from RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko, Alex Dujshebaev (HC Vardar), Marko Mamić (Dunkerque HB Grand Littoral) and the young pivot Bartlomiej Bis, who moved up from Kielce’s second team, to the senior side as the Polish champions started their preparation for the new season.
Pair of knee-socks for Lijewski
“Oh, how I’d like to have knee-socks,” says Krzysztof Lijewski to Sławomir Szmal after 30-minutes jogging around the arena, which looks so strange and silent without fans filling every possible space around the court like they do on matchdays. But, in such company, the players are pouring sweat.
“Okay, I will find a pair for you,” answers the goalkeeper Szmal to Lijewski. “I should still have my old Hummel’s.”
“Oh really, knee-socks?”, says coach Talant Dujshebaev, standing nearby who can’t stop laughing.
“Well, Talant, you have nice, meaty calves, so you can expose them with short socks, but my slim ones need to be covered,” says Lijewski, taking a sip of water as he prepares to get ready for the next part of an exhausting Tuesday training session.
In a few minutes, the whole squad amicably waddles into the gym, disappearing behind the heavy doors of the main hall of the arena.
Recovering from the handball calendar
They are back in half an hour, ready to answer the gathered journalists' questions, but first, just five minutes more for stretching. The other players can only envy Szmal and Filip Ivić with what they can do with their legs.
But then there comes Talant. He pushes a stretching Dean Bombac’s back with his hand, imposing a deeper bend and the whole squad reacts with a laugh and the atmosphere is great.
“Hey, Michał, did you miss your teammates?” the journalists ask Vive’s captain, Michał Jurecki. “My teammates? Oh, no!” he grins, “but handball… oh yeah, so much!”
For him and many of his Polish teammates this was the first time in many years when he could spend all summer out of professional sport as Krzysztof Lijewski, Karol Bielecki, Mariusz Jurkiewicz, Sławomir Szmal and Mateusz Jachlewski all finished their national team careers which meant they could finally fully recharge their batteries.
“It was something new for me to have such a long break; two months. Now, it’s really is nice to come back to training” says Jurecki who appears light as a feather in contrast to a tiring combination of two previous seasons, punctuated by the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
It’s all about Talant
Vive have not changed very much, despite some new faces. Okay, maybe not just ‘some’ as Kielce hit the transfer lottery this year attracting promising young players, who have much bigger VELUX EHF Champions League experience than many older players.
Blaz Janc, Marko Mamic and Alex Dujshebaev, respectively 20, 23 and 24 years old have come in to fill the gaps after Tobias Reichmann, Piotr Chrapkowski and Paweł Paczkowski all left. The young pivot Patryk Walczak is replaced by the even-younger Bartłomiej Bis, who joined the seniors from the second team.
Why choose Kielce?
“Well, I had many offers, I just saw myself here,” explains Janc, “I wanted to work with Talant, meet these amazing teammates and these amazing fans”.
“Kielce is one of the best clubs in Europe and it was not difficult to make a decision,” adds Mamić before praising coach Dujshebaev. “Talant is a charismatic guy,” he said. “I think his behaviour pushes players forward and I really want to work with him as I expect I will develop myself thanks to him”.
Of course. both players are aware how explosive the coach can be, but they made sure in advance that they have nothing to worry about. “When the game is on, everyone loses control,” continues Janc. “But I talked to Uros [Zorman] and he said that after the game he is normal, Now I have seen at training that he is great.”
Zorman knows everything
A huge group of journalists soon embraces Talant’s son, Alex. He looks the most confident among the new arrivals. “I am sticking close to Julen Aguinagalde,” said Alex. “He is helping me a lot these first days.
“Of course, my Dad helps me too, but you know, I’d like to spend a lot of time with my teammates. I think we can create a really strong team with an amazing atmosphere.”
Each new player has their own guide as they embark on their new adventure with Kielce. “I stick to the guys from Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia, but I also speak German so I can communicate well with the German-speaking players,” explains Mamić. “I speak a lot to both Slovenians, especially Zorman. It’s his seventh year here and he knows everything!” smiles Janc.
Kielce captain Michał Jurecki admits that they did not have too much time to get to know each other yet but he will take care of everything. “We will not make it a baptism of fire,” he smiles. “It’s not necessary - we just need more and more time and I’m open for our new teammates.”
So now comes a tough time for Kielce as they grit their teeth and work hard for the difficult season ahead. Just two months after Alex Dujshebaev won the VELUX EHF Champions League with former club HC Vardar, he is still hungry for more success.
“It was amazing with Vardar,” he said. “But now I came to another great team who won the Champions League two years ago.
“Why not win it again?”
Photos: Anna Benicewicz-Miazga/VTK Media