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Dinamo Minsk on the verge of making the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 for the first time

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Challenge number one

After the home win against Füchse Berlin on Sunday (31:24), Dinamo Minsk almost secured a play-off spot in the VELUX EHF Champions League. The Belarusians need just one more point to guarantee their place in the last 16.

"We have a down-to-earth goal, just to qualify for the knockout stage,” says Dinamo head coach Sergey Bebeshko.
Füchse are a very strong opponent, but they have a tough calendar as they play two matches in a week. We wanted to capitalize on that and tried to play fast handball."

Belarusian handball has rich traditions, mainly associated with the achievements of SKA Minsk in the 80’s. But now, the major force in Belarus is Dinamo, another club from Minsk.

It is quite a new project as the club was founded in June 2008. But since then, the Belarusian league has become a predictable competition as Dinamo has already won four titles in a row. And it is widely expected that they will win the fifth in the current season.

But the ambitions of the club go beyond the domestic tournaments. Dinamo want to become a force to be reckoned with in Europe, and the team’s progress in this respect is evident.

After just two years of existence, in the 2010/11 season, the Belarusians already played in the VELUX EHF Champions League group stage. No European club had ever joined the continental elite as quickly as the Minsk side did.

However, two years ago Dinamo managed just fifth place in the group and did not get to the knockout stage.

And in the next season, they lost in the qualification round to the Swedish champion, IK Sävehof. The Belarusians went on to play in EHF Cup, where they reached the quarter-final.

But the ambitious club bosses wanted more. The main goal was to play in the VELUX EHF Champions League again.
In the summer of 2012, the squad underwent considerable changes. Previously, the club mostly relied on Belarusian national players.

Bit it became obvious that more players with international experience were needed in order to obtain good results in Europe. Some domestic players had to leave the team, and their places were taken by players from Russia, Ukraine, Balkan countries.

All in all, nine new players arrived in Minsk during the summer, including three goalkeepers. And most of them integrated quite well.

When the Serbian goalkeeper Dimitrije Pejanovic got a serious injury early in the season, the club immediately signed a Montenegrin Rade Mijatovic, who does a great job as a back-up for the Russian Vadim Bogdanov.

Ukrainians Olexandr Shevelev, Vladislav Ostroushko, Mykola Stetsyura also contribute to the team’s results, while the best summer signing is another player from Motnenegro, Vasko Sevaljevic.

The 24 year-old left back moved from San Antonio Pamplona after the Spanish side had faced financial problems.

“The Spanish league was one of the best in Europe, but now it’s in crisis,” says Sevaljevic. “And I came to Minsk because I had heard that Dinamo is a serious club with good organization.

“The main motivation for me was to play in the Champions League. This is the challenge number one.”

Sevaljevic is now one of Dinamo leaders, just as the Russian centre back Pavel Atman, the Belarusian centre back Dmitri Nikulenkov and the Ukrainian right back Sergei Onufrienko.

The head coach Sergey Bebeshko also comes from Ukraine. The 44 year-old has a lot of international experience after having played in Spain for many years and becoming an Olympic champion back in 1992.

And now he tries to bring the Belarusian champion to a higher level. The players are also eager to turn their team into a well-established European side.

And they were very happy on Sunday after winning their fourth VELUX EHF Champions League match in a row.

"Fantastic. It's hard to say something, I am full of emotions. Some time is needed to realize that we beat Berlin.

Now I feel like I love everyone," Maxim Babichev was euphoric.

"That's how the team is being built. We won because of our character. If even one player had been afraid, we would have lost by ten goals," added Dmitri Nikulenkov.

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cor