A sort of homecomingArticle
«Go back

One of the most decorated players of handball history is starting the mission to capture the last trophy still resisting his longstanding siege. Ivano Balić from Atlético Madrid speaks to ehfCL.com just before the first Match of the Week of the new season against THW Kiel.

»EHF CL Channel »2012-13 Men's News

A sort of homecoming

Twice world handball player of the year, Olympic champion, world champion, twice EHF EURO silver medallist: Ivano Balić is one of the greatest current players on the global handball stage. But one title is still missing in the cabinet of the Croat legend: the trophy of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

After four years at RK Zagreb Balić returned to Spain, where he had already played for Portland San Antonio. Now he wears the jersey of Atlético Madrid – and right the first ever VELUX EHF Champions League match for his new club is a classic – the rematch of the 2012 final against THW Kiel on Sunday 30 September (18:00 hrs local time). This clash will start this season´s edition of Match of the Week series shown live on ehfTV.com with full English commentary from expert commentator, Tom Ó’Brannagáin. There will also be additional footage and special camera setups.

In the second part of an exclusive interview with ehfCL.com, Balić talks about his “home-coming” to Spain and his future in the national team.

ehfCL.com: Does it simplify your start in Madrid that you speak Spanish and that you had already played in the Spanish league before?
Ivano Balić: Indeed, for me it is something like a homecoming, I know what to expect, I understand everybody. It would have been much more difficult, if I had to learn a new language like German or French.

ehfCL.com: Did you have offers from those countries after your contract in Zagreb had not been extended?
Ivano Balić: There were different options, but nothing serious except Madrid. They wanted to have me and we made our agreement in only ten minutes.

ehfCL.com: Was another reason for your transfer that you won all major titles except the VELUX EHF Champions League trophy?
Ivano Balić: I wanted to play for a top club and Madrid is a top club. And you really need to be in a perfect shape to play for this club. We can win the Spanish league and we can win the Champions League, so this was another reason.

ehfCL.com: How many titles are you aiming for next season?
Ivano Balić: I honestly think that we have a good chance to reach the FINAL4 in Cologne. And then it is only two games, in which the individual shape will decide about winning or losing. In the Spanish league, unfortunately, it will be only the matches against Barcelona, which will be decisive for the title. If we are focused enough to win the first game, then we have the chance to win the title, too.

ehfCL.com: After four years in Zagreb you left Croatia again to Spain – with which emotions?
Ivano Balić: In the past four years I was very happy in Zagreb, it is my home-country, it is only three hours by car away from my home-city Split. So it was difficult to leave. But Spain is very similar to Croatia, concerning the people or the mentality.

ehfCL.com: Your club future is settled now in Madrid, what about your future in the Croatian national team?
Ivano Balić: After the Olympics I had been asked this question many, many times. And currently I really don’t know. The national team means everything to me and gave me everything, but in the past two tournaments I did not get so much playing time. So I have to decide what to do.

Read the Part 1: Focus on future, not history here

TEXT: Björn Pazen /br