|08.10.2016, 12:00||◄ last page|
Women's EHF Champions League countdown - 6 days to go: Buducnost (MNE).
Representing a small nation with a big goal
It was a summer with a lot of handball news and headlines from the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica.
First, Buducnost coach Dragan Adzic resigned as Montenegrin national team coach after failing to guide the London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallists past the preliminary round at Rio 2016. Then he reversed his decision and, with it, continues in his dual role and in both cases, six-time Women’s EHF Champions League winner Bojana Popovic will be his assistant coach, after her short-lived playing comeback at the Brazilian Olympic Games.
With the start of the club season, Adzic’s and Montenegro’s handball focus will be on Buducnost, starting their 21st Women’s EHF Champions League campaign. In 2012 and 2015 they won the trophy and along with HC Vardar, Buducnost are the only club who have made it to all three previous Women’s EHF FINAL4 tournaments in Budapest and a spot in Hungary again is the main target for the upcoming season.
Based in Podgorica, Buducnost have signed just two new players ahead of their 2016/7 campaign, including Spanish national team goalkeeper Darly Zoqbi De Paula, arriving from former French champions Fleury. But six players have left the club, including the influential Majda Mehmedovic (to current Women’s EHF Champions League holders CSM Bucuresti) and Radmila Petrovic, who retired, plus, for the group matches, Serbian line player Dragana Cvijic is set be ruled out by a knee injury.
“Our wish is to play at the FINAL4 again, but we have to go step by step,” said the ambitious new captain of Buducnost, Milena Raicevic. “The first goal is the best possible result in the group matches and to find our form.
“For us, this is important because we do not have strong matches in the domestic championship so we have to work through a Champions League game.”
Alongside the Montenegrin side in Women’s EHF Champions League Group A are German side Thüringer HC, Metz Handball from France and Norwegian debutants Glassverket IF.
“We were not drawn in such a strong group this year [compared to previous years]”, said Raicevic and admits they are all ‘serious; sides who cannot be underestimated.
“For every opponent we have to prepare the best we can,” she continued. “With HC Thüringer we have played them a lot of times so maybe we know them best in the group; they play very fast handball so against them we expect a lot of running.
“We have played Metz a couple of times, too but in contrast, Glassverket are a new team in the Champions League - we don’t know them, but we expect that they will play fast.
“But if we play the way we can, no one can stop us.”
For club director Maja Bulatovic, Glassverket is the biggest unknown, but their geographical position highlights the class in the competition.
“They come from the country of the world, European and former Olympic champions,” she said. “This means that we will need to approach the game with our maximum focus.
“Metz and Thüringer HC we know very well and we have a positive balance against both of them.”
Bulatovic underlines that the participation in the Women’s EHF Champions League is not only important on court for Buducnost but for the country as a whole.
“The competition is growing every year both in organisational and competitive ways,” she explained. “Montenegro is a small country and handball is the No. 1 sport here. The Women’s Champions League is in the same range of European and World Championships and Olympic Games for us in the club and for the entire public and fans in Montenegro.
“The whole nation is cheering for Buducnost and every year the main goal of the club is making the final and then winning the trophy.”
Qualification for the Women’s EHF Champions League Season 2016/17: Montenegrin champions
Newcomers: Itana Grbic (HC Vardar), Darly Zoqbi De Paula (Fleury Loiret Handball)
Left the club: Radmila Petrovic (end of career), Majda Mehmedovic (CSM Bucuresti), Jovana Kovacevic (Bekescaba), Echraf Abdallah, Itana Cavlovic, Ana Rajkovic (both RK Jagodina), Ljubica Nenezic (Kispest Budapest)
Coach: Dragan Adzic (since 2010)
Team captain: Milena Raicevic
Opponents in the group matches: Group A - Thüringer HC, Metz Handball, Glassverket IF
Women’s EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 21
Winner: 2011/12, 2014/15
Semi-finals: 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2010/11, 2013/14, 2015/16
Main Round: 2012/13
Quarter-finals: 2002/03, 2003/04
Last 16: 1995/96
Group Matches: 1996/97, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10
Other European records:
Women’s Cup Winners’ Cup - Winner: 1984/85, 2005/06, 2009/10
IHF Cup - Winner: 1986/87
Montenegrin league: 28 titles (1985, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Montenegrin cup: 21 titles (1984, 1989, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
TEXT: Bjorn Pazen/amc