Lekic: Give us time to rehearse as a teamArticle
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INTERVIEW: Vardar's Serbian newcomer and 2013 Champions League winner talks about the new project and the expectations in Skopje

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Lekic: Give us time to rehearse as a team

She is the team captain of the Serbian women’s national team and although Inna Suslina is the Vardar team captain, Andrea Lekic is also the new “leader of the pack” in the newly formed team at Skopje. In May the back court ace made her dream come true and won the Women's EHF Champions League with Györi AUDI ETO from Hungary. After playing for Krim and Györ, Lekic now takes on the next challenge to bring Vardar ahead.

Before the top duel against last season’s finalist Larvik HK (the first home match for Vardar in the competition), Andrea Lekic unveils the secret of the new Vardar project, which had started with highest ambitions and expectations in the Macedonian capital.

ehfCL.com: You have won the Champions League after several attempts with Györ last season, now you transferred to a Champions League debutant – what was the reason for this step?

Andrea Lekic: To be honest: I came to Skopje to win the Champions League again. Maybe it looks strange to change from the defending champions to a team which had to start in qualification. But this is normal life, you make a step and you have to be convinced of it. Vardar Skopje are on the road to something big and until now I am absolutely satisfied with how we are going on this road. We played a very good and successful qualification and now we are aiming to make the next step, qualifying for the main round.

ehfCL.com: But as officially announced by the club, the main round should only be one intermediate step…

Andrea Lekic: Yes, we have higher objectives, but we need time to rehearse as a team. Vardar have eleven new players. So at first it is our goal to enter the next stage then we see what will happen. We all must hope that no injuries occur and we can become a team. We are getting better and better day by day, but as I know not only from Györ it really takes time to go all the way. Some clubs needed six, seven attempts to finally raise the trophy.

ehfCL.com: The newly built team of Vardar is an international selection of world stars. How does it feel to be part of a mixed squad like this?

Andrea Lekic: It is really, really interesting, not only from the sporting point of view, but for life. You meet so many new characters and you got to know so many new friends. This is an experience for social life. For me personally, it feels like coming home after Krim and Györ, because they speak my language.

ehfCL.com: The way the team was selected was interesting. Vardar first looked onto the positions, then researched the “market” for available players. How was your first contact?

Andrea Lekic: It was even before the EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia. There our coach Indira Kastratovic and sports director Sergej Samsonenko had in-depth looks upon all potential new Vardar players. And the market of women’s handball is not as big as for men’s teams. Now we have some big names in the team, but again: We still need to become a team.

ehfCL.com: Some clubs failed on their way to the top in the last years, mostly because of financial problems. Are you sure that this will not happen at Vardar?

Andrea Lekic: Absolutely! Vardar is a long-term project. The club has the clear aim to build something big, knowing that success cannot be reached in only one year. Thanks to Kometal, women’s handball has along tradition in Skopje, the city is a unique place for handball. The fans are fanatic, it is totally different to any other country in the world. Now we have to convince those handball fanatics for our women’s team by top results. There is still a big base for women’s handball in Skopje.

ehfCL.com: But there are also two more men’s VELUX EHF Champions League participants at Skopje, fighting for spectators. Are they boosting handball in general, or are they taken away the interest from Vardar women’s team?

Andrea Lekic: They are boosting us, as they boost handball in general.  We just have to take this great opportunity of this handball euphoria in Macedonia.

ehfCL.com: Several coaches already expect Vardar as one of the semi-final contenders. Do those expert views put additional pressure on the team?

Andrea Lekic: No, in contrast: It is nice to hear that they have those expectations. We have a great team. I am pleased that I was part of a big team, which won the Champions League and now I am pleased to be at Vardar.  Maybe we can cause a big surprise already in this season. You never know. But I am sure that those external expectations do not put any pressure on us.

ehfCL.com: In between the group matches and the main round, Serbia hosts the World Championship in December. Is winning a medal a realistic goal after finishing fourth at the 2012 EHF EURO also on home ground?

Andrea Lekic: It was the clear announcement of our federation that we go for a medal at home. We are aware of this pressure, we have learnt at the EURO to be attended by such a big audience in Belgrade. I won the Champions League this year, and it is my clear wish to finish the World Championship with a medal as the Serbian captain.

To have such a tournament on home ground is the best you can get as a sportsman or sportswoman, but to go that far to win a medal is harder at a World Championship than at a EURO due to the playing system. You never know which team you face in the Last 16 and the first knock-out stage can shatter all your hopes and dreams.To be honest, I don’t want to feel this deep sadness again, which we all had after missing the medal at the EHF EURO. My dream is to win a medal.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br