New legends after tragic deathArticle
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VELUX EHF Men's Champions League countdown, part 8: HCM Constanta (ROU)

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New legends after tragic death

It was one of the most tragic incidents in Romanian handball: unexpectedly and aged only 44 Zoran Kurteš died in the beginning of May 2010, caused by a heart attack. Kurteš was the successful coach of the Romanian top team HCM Constanta.

Some days before this terrible loss the team from the Black Sea won the Romanian championship for the fifth time. Because of Kurteš’ death the Romanian Cup final was postponed.

The Handball Club Municipal had to react and to find a new coach, and with Alexandru Buligan they were able to sign a real Romanian legend. The former goalkeeper was part of the Romanian Bronze medal team at the Olympics 1984.

From 1990 on Buligan played in Spain, became an EHF Champions League winner as a player and later on also as an assistant coach for Portland San Antonio. At the side of Juan Carlos Pastor he was assistant coach for the Spanish national team that became World Champion in 2005. He was still working for San Antonio before he was asked by Constanta to return.

"I think it will be less difficult to return to Romania after 20 years in Spain. I hope I can fulfil the expectations the people have and that we’ll have a fruitful collaboration," Buligan said. The new coach especially focuses on having good results in the EHF Champions League.

As Buligan mostly worked with goalkeepers before, the club was still searching for a head coach found the right candidate in August. Continuing the Serbian tradition they had with Kurteš they presented Jovica Cvetković.

The 51 year old, who signed a two years contract, had been coach of the Serbian national team at the World Championship 2009 in Croatia, before that he coached teams like Red Star Belgrade or Irun and Santander in Spain.

As a player he was member of the fabulous team of Metaloplastika Šabac, winner of the Champions Cup (forerunner of the EHF Champions League) in the 80’s.

“With Cvetković we’re aiming high in all competitions," Constanta club director Nurhan Ali said: "Our goals are winning the Romanian championship, possibly the Romanian Cup and reaching the Last 16 in the EHF Champions League."

Cvetković said: "I am very pleased to be in Constanta, as we have a team with very good players and high ambitions. My ambition is to play handball in a very modern and very pleasant way. I will do everything for this."

And as a kind of gift for his club, Cvetković brought Macedonian playmaker Branislav Angelovski from Vardar Skopje to Constanta, who signed a two years contract, too.

Not even the EHF Champions League groups draw stopped the Romanian optimism, as director Nurhan Ali mentioned: "We have been drawn into a very nice group. It’s good not to be in Group A. To play against Ciudad Real is always a pleasure. Zagreb is also a tough team and we can hardly wait to play against them. St. Petersburg, Flensburg and Bosna are great opponents. We fear no one! We respect all other teams but we want to make clear to them that HCM Constanta wants to progress to the knock-out stage. Having been seeded in Pot 6 isn’t reflecting the real value of our team. We want to prove to everyone that this was a wrong decision."

And his calculation sounds quite easy: "I believe that if we win eight points in our home matches and manage to get a victory in Sarajevo we should be qualified. Maybe we can bring home points from St. Petersburg, too."

In contrast to last season, when HCM had to play in Buzau, they hope to be able to play on real home soil again. "We will fulfil all standards, as our sports hall will be refurbished now," Ali said.

Besides the fact that they had to move to Buzau, Constanta had some impressive results like the home victory against Montpellier and the clear qualification for the Last 16, when the Romanians had been eliminated by MKB Veszprem.

The preparation for the upcoming season was split in four phases, the last one included some tournaments in Germany. At the Sparkassen-Cup Constanta ended up on second rank, and Alexandru Csepreghi was awarded the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

Before that they had a training camp in Serbia. Cvetković was pleased with the performance of his team: "We have worked a lot, we have trained hard and we didn’t have much time to recover."

Key facts

Newcomers: Branislav Angelovski (from Vardar Skopje), Cike Osita Onyejekwe (from Stiinta Bacau), Nikolaos Riganas (from PAOK Saloniki), Marius Stavrositu (from Steaua Bukarest)

Left the club: Alexandru Dimache (to HC Odorhei), Mihai Timofte (to CSM Satu Mare), Darko Pavlovic, Miroslav Simic, Uros Vukovic (destinations unknown)

Coach: Jovica Cvetković (SRB, head coach, since 2010), Alexandru Buligan, Eden Hairi (assistant coaches)

Club records

Five times Romanian Champion, fifth participation in the EHF Champions League, semi-finalist Cup Winner’s Cup 2006

Find more info here.

TEXT: Björn Pazen