Igropulo: Switch off heads, just playArticle
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Igropulo: Switch off heads, just play

Brest is located right in the middle between his former club Chekhovskie Medvedi and his current team Füchse Berlin. And in the Belarusian city the fate of Konstantin Igropulo and his teammates will be decided on Saturday.

At 16:00 hrs local time Meshkov Brest will host the German side in the rematch of the third and final qualification stage for the EHF Cup Group Phase, and after a narrow 22:20 win on home ground in the first leg (including six Igropoulo goals), the 2012 VELUX EHF FINAL4 participants need to improve to reach the next stage of the competition.

But the dreams of Füchse management and team even go further, as the club is among the last three applicants for hosting the EHF Cup Finals.

But Igropoulo neither will have the final event nor the favourite role in his mind before and during the match in Brest, as he explains in this exclusive interview with eurohandball.com.

Füchse will arrive full of confidence in Belarus, as they – intermediately – took the lead in the German Bundesliga table on Tuesday after their clear 36:25 away win at Bergischer HC.

Stavropol-born Igropulo started his career in Greece, where his parents come from, before he transferred to Russian record champions Chekhovskie Medvedi in 2005. In the Moscow region the left handed shooter became Russian international.

After four seasons he took the chance to sign for FC Barcelona to become the VELUX EHF Champions League winner in 2011 in Cologne. One year later he transferred to Füchse Berlin, like his former Barca teammate Iker Romero one year before.

eurohandball.com: What had happened in the first leg against Meshkov Brest?

Konstantin Igropulo: It is very simple: We did not play as good as we usually do, and then a result like this happens. In general, we have a higher quality than we showed on home ground. But if we play like we did on Tuesday, it should be enough to clinch the berth for the Group Phase.

eurohandball.com: But Füchse are aware of the strengths of Brest?

Konstantin Igropulo: Of course! Handball is really boosting in Belarus thanks to their two top teams Dinamo and the national team. We are expecting a tough match in a fully packed hall with vociferous and frenetic spectators. Brest is a town with a long handball tradition and high current quality of the team, but we will try to grab our chance.

eurohandball.com: Are Füchse favoured in this match, also regarding the result of the first leg?

Konstantin Igropulo: Everybody in Germany says we are the favourites. But in Russia we say: A ball is round, and you never know beforehand which side you catch. So we should not talk about any favourite role, but simply our game.

eurohandball.com: Is it something special for you as a Russian to play in Belarus?

Konstantin Igropulo: Brest is half-way from Chekhov to Berlin, and the major language on the field will be Russian.

So it is something special, as I can feel a little bit like home. I have some friends in Brest, so I will like this match.

eurohandball.com: Your manager Bob Hanning held an impressive speech to the team before the first leg about the importance of those qualification matches and to qualify for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup. Are you under pressure now?

Konstantin Igropulo: We should not think so much about the future, the Group Phase and the pressure, because all of our heads must only be focused on those 60 minutes on Saturday.

We want to make a good game – and if we achieve it, we can talk about the future later.

So my intention is to switch off the head for all surrounding things and only play handball.

eurohandball.com: Füchse are bidding for the EHF Cup Finals. Is this bid another motivation for the team?

Konstantin Igropulo: To be still in the race for the EHF Cup Finals has a good and a bad impact. Of course it would be brilliant to host this tournament, but it is still so far away.

We have to play first to go to the Group Phase, then wait for the EHF decision and then we have to march through the Group Phase to be a real host.

But again and again I have to say, that we should not care about those things. We can see the match from both sides – motivation and pressure. I will just to do my job by 100 percent and do not think about any effects of the Saturday’s result. I go out on the court to score goals – that’s all.

eurohandball.com: Even as it was only for 24 hours: How does the first rank in Bundesliga boost you for the match in Brest?

Konstantin Igropulo: Even as it would only be for one single hour: To be on top of the best national league of the world is always boosting us. Maybe it is only a snapshot, but we are proud to top the ranking, as it proves our strength and what we are able to do if we play on normal level. Personally I am really happy to be number 1!

Photo: Camera4/Berlin

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br