Women’s EHF Champions League countdown: 13 days to go – RK Krim Mercator (SLO) are two-time winners but this year qualified only after receiving a wild card to the qualification tournaments.
Earliest international start ever for former champions
Krim were taught a hard lesson in the previous season: For the first time after two decades, the 2001 and 2003 EHF Champions League winners were dethroned in the domestic league and finished runners-up after Zagorje.
Thus, the Ljubljana-based club needed a wild card to make it to the qualification tournaments for the 2016/17 season. On home ground they first beat Slovak champions IUVENTA Michalovce before having an easy-going final against Italian side Indeco Conversano, who had eliminated the favourites MKS Selgros Lublin in the semi-final.
The 2016/17 season is the first time ever Krim were not seeded for the top flight of this competition. But with new coach Uros Bregar, they will now fight to regain the Slovenian league title and defend their cup triumph for the 24th time.
Two key players left Krim prior to the start of this season: Team captain Tamara Mavsar joined Vardar, while Serbian Marija Obradovic transferred to German EHF Cup finalist side TuS Metzingen.
Thus, the team will lack some international experience, but they are eager to make it to the main round after missing this stage in the previous season.
“We had to start our journey in the European competitions this season sooner than ever. We were invited for the qualification and now have the opportunity to participate in Champions League for the 22nd year in a row,” says Tina Kravanja, Secretary General of Krim, adding:
“We will do everything in our power to perform on a top level in every game, trying to book a spot in the main round, which is our primary goal.”
In the group matches, Krim have only Scandinavian opponents. Against Larvik they will remember their last meeting in 2013, when Krim lost against the Norwegian side in the Champions League semi-finals. Besides Larvik, Krim will face Esbjerg and Sävehof in Group D.
“We all know how strong the Scandinavian style of handball is. We expect that all the matches will be very tough and intense. Our club is proud to be a member of this competition, but we also want to prove that we deserve to be among those teams, and that we did not qualify by accident,” says team captain Misa Marincek.
For Marincek, just the chance to be part of the Champions League causes happiness: “We worked very hard to go proceed from the qualification tournament, which was our primary goal at the start of the season. We are looking forward for the Champions League to start, as we expect a very interesting season.”
Kravanja also praises the chance to compete at the highest level again: “We take this as a big responsibility towards the society, sponsors, and fans, all the young players that are members of the club and those that are thinking of getting involved in handball in the future.”
RK Krim Mercator (SLO)
Qualification for the 2016/2017 EHF Women’s Champions League season: Slovenian runners-up, winners of qualification tournament 3
Newcomers: Nina Jericek (Nimes), Tamara Georgijev, Aneta Benko (Zagorje), Laura Kamdop (Fleury), Ines Amon (Velenje), Valentina Blazevic (Sesvete)
Left the club: Tamara Mavsar (Vardar), Marija Obradovic (Metzingen), Neza Avbelj, Maja Lukovic
Coach: Uros Bregar (February 2016)
Team captain: Misa Marincek
Opponents in the group matches: Larvik, Team Esbjerg, IK Sävehof in Group D
EHF Women’s Champions League records:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 22
Winner (2): 2000/01, 2002/03
Finalist (3): 1998/99, 2003/04, 2005/06
Semi-finalist (1): 2012/13
Quarter-finals (4): 1996/97, 1997/98, 2004/05, 2006/07
Last 16 (1): 1995/96
Main Round (6): 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15
Group Phase/Champions League (4): 1999/00, 2001/02, 2007/08, 2015/16
Other EC records:
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-finalists (1): 2015/16
Quarter-finalists (3): 1993/94, 1994/95, 2007/08
Slovenian champion: 21 times (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Slovenian Cup winner: 23 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 20152016)
TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cg