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EHF Women’s Champions League countdown, part 3: SD Itxako Reyno de Navarra (ESP)

»EHF CL Channel »2010-11 Women's News

Russian reinforcement

The Spanish Navarra region is famous for top handball, although in the past years it was rather the men’s team from former EHF Champions League winner San Antonio that wrote the headlines.

But things have changed in Navarra as the women’s club from the little town Estella has strongly reinforced over the last years.

And there is a direct connection to San Antonio: Coach Ambros Martin was a player of the EHF Champions League winning team from 2001. He has been coaching Itxako since 2004 and recently extended his contract for another three years.

The history of Itxako Reyno de Navarra is short but successful. Twelve years ago they relegated to the first Spanish league, and it only took them three years to qualify for European Cup competitions for the first time.

In 2008 they lost in the second qualification tournament for the EHF Champions League, after having reached the EHF Cup final just a couple of weeks before.

In the very same season they secured the biggest success in club history by winning the EHF Cup 2009 in the finals against Leipzig (GER).

One year later Itxako became Spanish champion for the first time. A victory that put an end to the dominance of Valencia clubs. Mar Valencia is still the only Spanish women’s club that won the EHF Women’s Champions League title.

But the Spanish title only meant another step upwards on the ladder of success, as Itxako continued to reinforce their squad for this season. And the list of newcomers sounds brilliant.

Russian three times World Champion and three times EHF Champions League winner Emiliya Turey arrived from Denmark. Additionally Itxako signed another two experienced Russians in goalkeeper Tatina Alizar and pivot Natalia Kurbanova.

French World Champion and runners-up of World Championship 2009 Raphaelle Tervel came from Larvik, Romanian international Oana Soit from Alicante and Spanish EHF EURO 2008 silver medallist Carmen Martin joined the team from Itxako’s strongest domestic opponent, Elda.

But despite those high-class newcomers Coach Ambros Martin remains careful: “We really want to reach the Main Round of the EHF Champions League for the first time. At the same time we want to remain number one in Spain,” he says about the club’s objectives.

In their EHF Champions League Group B they will meet Leipzig (GER), Hypo (AUT) and DVSC Korvex (HUN).

“All the teams playing in that superior league are difficult to play, but still I’m satisfied with meeting these opponents,” Coach Ambros Martin said – and adds: “I believe that we have good possibilities to reach the Main Round. We have six new players and it was hard work to integrate them. Thanks to their strength and experience this was possible in short time.”

Last season Itxako missed the Main Round in the hardest group of all EHF Champions League groups against Györ, Valcea and Zvenigorod.

The club isn’t only working on the sportive field: They just founded a “social area” company, which deals with a Spanish gender programme for the equality of women in the society.

The programme’s focus is on sports but it helps players in all matters like for instance law, studies, etc.

In the preparation phase Itxako showed high quality results. At a tournament in Germany they beat their upcoming group opponent Leipzig and lost the final very closely against Larvik (NOR), one of this year’s big EHF Champions League favourites.

Key facts

Newcomers: Emiliya Turey (from FCK), Tatina Alizar (from Volgograd), Natalia Kurbanova (from Togliatti), Raphaelle Tervel (from Larvik), Oana Soit (from Alicante), Carmen Martin (from Elda)

Left the club: Eli Pinedo (to Odense), Marieke van der Wal (to Göppingen), Laura Cracium (to Alicante), Conchi Berenevel (to Elda), Nely Carla Alberto (to Le Havre)

Coach: Ambros Martin (ESP, since 2004)

Find more information here.

TEXT: Björn Pazen