Gorenje Velenje take to the road in search of victoryArticle
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Slovenians travel to north Germany by bus for second leg encounter

Gorenje Velenje take to the road in search of victory

Aching muscles from hours of sitting in uncomfortable positions, blood-shot eyes from lack of sleep and hearing the monotonous sound of an engine humming on the motorway.

These are the scenes you would expect from your average high-school excursion? But no, it is Gorenje Velenje travelling by bus to Flensburg for the return leg of their Last 16 tie in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

“The times are hard and this was the only viable solution,” explains Branko Tamše, coach of Gorenje, who packed his squad on Wednesday night hoping that 1,400 kilometres between Velenje and Flensburg would pass without any further complications.

Times really are hard in Velenje, and not just economically. There were only 15 players on that bus for the game on Saturday, 23 March.

The two defensive pillars, Dino Bajram and Matej Gaber, were forced to stay at home due to injury.

The gruelling 16-hour drive was even harder for Niko Medved and Janez Gams, bruised from past battles, and for Jure Dolenec as well.

The latter picked up a knock on the shoulder in the last match against Maribor in the domestic play-offs. Nevertheless, Gorenje eased past the EHF Cup participants 40:28 and remain on top of the table.

“It is what it is. There is no use complaining. We have to make do with what we have available,” says Tamše who deliberately scheduled the trip a day earlier for his team to have enough time for recovery and two training sessions.

Gorenje are chasing a three goal deficit from the first leg after a 25:28 defeat, which in Tamše's opinion can be overturned.

“Flensburg are the clear favourite, don't get me wrong, but we did have a chance to win in the first match. Unfortunately we didn't take it.

“Now we have nothing to lose. We know very well where our reserves are and where the Germans are potentially vulnerable. If all the stars align, we are capable of producing a good result.”

If they were to eliminate the Germans it would be a fitting swan song for Tamše and his men.

At the end of the season the current coach will yield his position to Ivan Vajdl and a lot of the key players will disperse across Europe in search of new challenges.

An era will come to an end, so there is a real sense of purpose and determination.

Experienced backcourt player Luka Dobelšek supports that.

“It will be hard to surprise them in any way, but there is not one soul on this bus that is waving a white flag before the match.

“We played very well in our last match, so we are confident that we can repeat our performance in Flensburg. Morale is high and anything is possible.” 

TEXT: Grega Sever / cor