The youngest coach of allArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown, part 15: RK Partizan Beograd

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The youngest coach of all

All eyes on Belgrade – the whole world of handball will get the Serbian capital in their focus in January 2012, when Belgrade is the mayor venue of the Men’s EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia.

But the Serbian handball is already now back on track of the European elite.

Qualification winners

By winning the Qualification Tournament in Presov – thanks to victories over Athens and Porto – RK Partizan Beograd qualified for the Group Stage of the VELUX EHF Champions League for the first time since 2003.

Since then only one Serbian club – Red Star Belgrade in season 2008/2009 – reached the Group Stage.

Unlike other clubs

The traditional club Partizan is different from all other 24 participants in several aspects: They do not only have the youngest coach of all, but they are the only team with players only from their home country – a young talented squad.

30 year old coach Aleksandar Brkovic took over Partizan in March 2010 and formed a team that dominated the Serbian league last season.

Besides, the Serbian champions have the lowest budget of all participants of the VELUX EHF Champions League and the lowest average age of the players.

To underline the outsider’s role of Partizan they have to play in one of the strongest groups with opponents from Montpellier, Kobenhavn, Kiel, Szeged and Leon.

Strong underdogs

But for club manager Aleksandar Blagojevic this constellation does not cause negative emotions: "According to our name and reputation our aim in this season is to win the Serbian championship and the Serbian cup.

Since we are new in the VELUX EHF Champions League and due to several other indicators we seem not be a threat to the others, but we will try at least to have some victories on home court."

Optimistic view

Blagojevic continues: "Despite the fact that our group is declared to be the toughest one, we are very happy for this opportunity to attract fans by great handball matches, and all of that happening just before the EHF EURO 2012."

Team captain Nenad Maksic is not afraid, too: "Our group is the strongest and the hardest one, but anyway our goal is to do our best."

Three questions to coach Aleksandar Brkovic What are your expectations for the upcoming season of the VELUX EHF Champions League – concerning your objectives and your group opponents?

Aleksandar Brkovic: Although many say that our group is a "Group of Death", we are very pleased that our young talents will have the opportunity to face the stars who play for our opponents.

We are aware that we are far away from being favourites in our group, but on the other hand we will do our best to surprise – and why not to win?

Despite that it is a very difficult, almost impossible task, we are not giving up. What does the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?

Aleksandar Brkovic: For all of us this will be a great experience and privilege of course, especially because we will be the first Serbian club to play VELUX EHF Champions League in the new format with 24 teams.

For me personally, as one of the youngest coaches, and perhaps the youngest in the history of the EHF Champions League, it will be a great honour to stand against such coaches as Gislason, Martinez, Anderson or Canayer.

All those clubs attract great interest, so we are sure the matches will see lots of fans, which will be a great prelude to the EHF EURO 2012 that our country is hosting. What teams are your personal favourites to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and for winning the title this season – and why?

Aleksandar Brkovic: I appreciate German and Spanish clubs and among them the winner should be sought, however there are a few more teams competing for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 like Montpellier, the strengthened team from Kobenhavn and always tricky Chekhovskie Bears who are practically identical with the Russian national team.

If there are no injuries and other unforeseen things I believe that THW Kiel will face FC Barcelona Intersport in the final, because they have great results and continuity, they didn’t change line-up very much and they are even stronger than last year.

Club facts – RK Partizan Beograd (SRB)

Newcomers: Vladimir Mandic (RK Vojvodina Novi Sad), Veljko Milosevic (Metaloplastika Sabac), Vanja Ilic (PKB)

Left the club: Sasa Marjanac (Vojvodina Novi Sad), Aleksandar Pilipovic (PKB), Bojan Butulija (Israel), Milan Rasic (Torevieja), Nemanja Ljubenović (RK Pančevo)

Coach: Aleksandar Brkovic, since 2010

Qualification for the 2011/2012 VELUX EHF Champions League season: Winner of the Qualification Tournament 1, Serbian Champion

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2011/2012 season): 6
Last 16: 1995/96
Group Phase: 1999/00, 2003/04
Qualification: 2002/03, 2009/10

Other EC records:
Cup Winners Cup: Semi-finals 1998/99, 2001/02
Challenge Cup: Semi-finals 2010/11

Serbian champion: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2009, 2011
Serbian Cup winner: 1959, 1966, 1971, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2001, 2007, 2008

Further information

Find more information on RK Partizan Beograd HERE.

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TEXT: Björn Pazen