Chrapkowski: A small piece of talent and a huge portion of hard workArticle
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INTERVIEW: One of Kielce's summer signings is coming into his own in the VELUX EHF Champions League, just in time to face his former club in the Match of the Week

Chrapkowski: A small piece of talent and a huge portion of hard work

The upcoming Sunday will be the next scene of the Polish derby, which this time is moving on the stage of Kielce's Legion Hall. After defeating Płock 30:28 in front of their own fans it seems that it is now time for Vive to dot the i’s in the Match of the Week.

The game has further meaning for Piotr Chrapkowski, who transferred from Wisła to Kielce at the end of last season. The left back did not have an easy beginning in his current club, because in Kielce he was perceived as a true “Oiler” (as the players from Płock are called due to the oil company which sponsors the team) after he had a huge influence as Wisła snatched the title from the hands of Vive three years ago. Now, when he finally earned respect of the local handball community, he will have to face the fans of his former team on his new territory.

It is not a problem for ambitious Chrapkowski. The player has been considering transferring to Kielce since his junior career in Cartusia, the handball team in his home town, Kartuzy. Because of his stubbornness, strong character and years of a hard work, now he is able to boast about being a part of one of the core clubs among Europe’s elite. Or maybe it is Kielce that can be proud of having him in their ranks, as he is not only a promising athlete but also a humble and smart young man with a well organised system of values. It has been an intensive week for you. Two matches and a few days spent travelling. The draw achieved against THW Kiel seems to be a pretty good score as you played away. Are you satisfied with the result?

Piotr Chrapkowski: Not really, because we could have won that game. At the end of the first half we were in the lead by three goals but after break we started to make individual mistakes and play nervously. Everything was done too fast, we should have calmed down the game but we didn’t manage to do this.

Sjöstrand performed miracles in goal; it is unprecedented to have such effectiveness on such a high level of competition. Of course there are things we can be happy about but we are not satisfied with the final score, because that Kiel, without Zeitz and Palmarsson was definitely possible to defeat. Two days later you came back to the domestic scene and an unusually high-scoring win (41:31 against Gaz System Pogoń Szczecin – ed.), while you covered for Krzysztof Lijewski in an unusual position. How was it to play at right back?

Piotr Chrapkowski: Interesting (laugh). Last time I had an opportunity to play in this position was in the fifth class of primary school. Last Tuesday I had a great support from my teammates, they were preparing huge spaces for me and this is why it looked quite well. Very well even. Do you think you could even oust Krzysiek from right back?

Piotr Chrapkowski: Oh no, Krzysiek is one of the best specialists in his position, so he is safe (laugh). Furthermore, his left arm is much stronger than mine. On Sunday everything is back to normal and you will play on your nominal position against your ex–club. Does it seem to be a bit easier for you this time to play in the Legion Hall than it was in October at Płock, where you had to face the blue wall of unfavourable fans?

Piotr Chrapkowski: Yes, it does. Now I feel the support from the fans, I know the hall like the back of my hand, after all I spend time there almost every day. Of course we will treat this game very seriously and as regards to me, I will have an additional adrenaline (laugh). I expect the Płock fans to be against me but it only gets me going. Don’t you consider such behaviour to be a symptom of an intellectual anachronism?

Piotr Chrapkowski: Well, of course, the animosities between the clubs and the towns are exaggerated. I remember that when I was playing for Gdańsk (Chrapkowski’s second club) and I won away against Płock, the fans were hurling abuse at me and even throwing plastic bottles! But when I came to Płock they accepted me and so it was in Kielce too.

I had a difficult beginning, but both my wife and I have been receiving more and more nice gestures. We are becoming part of the club, of the team and of the whole Kielce family. Of course you will always find somebody who will have something against a particular player, but you know you cannot please everyone. You earned this during the season and also at the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark. The fans had a possibility to see a broad spectrum of your abilities. How was the championship for you?

Piotr Chrapkowski: Luckily at this championship coach Biegler trusted me and I had an opportunity to spend plenty of time on the court. Actually my task was to play first of all in defence but I think I was also quite successful in attack.

Unfortunately during the game against Belarus I got injured and it was difficult for me to stand correctly. That’s why my goal scoring record was poor in the second part of the tournament (laughing). In defence it was Piotr Grabarczyk who helped me a lot. I felt confident and confidence is a base in the defence, so I would like to thank him for this. Due to his skills our defence looked really good. Don’t be such humble. You are young, talented and ambitious – at least this is how they say.

Piotr Chrapkowski: First of all, I am not as young anymore, I will be 26 soon. Actually we can safely assume that I am middle-aged person (laughing).

I always try to do my best regardless of whether I play for my club or national team. Of course in order to play on such a high level in the Champions League, you must have some genetic predispositions and talent but the rest is just a hard work.

To be honest, I had a little crisis, I wanted to finish my handball adventure right after graduation from secondary school but my coach, Jarosław Frankowski, convinced me to stay and take a part in junior contest. I agreed and I don’t regret my decision. When did the thought of playing in Kielce appear in your mind for the first time?

Piotr Chrapkowski: To be honest, I was talking to the president of the club, when I was still in Cartusia. We were in touch when I was in Gdańsk and in Płock. Finally there came a time when I decided that coming to Kielce would be the best solution for the development of my career and my family life so I moved to Kielce and I don’t regret my decision. You left Płock when the club experienced a little crisis. A bit has changed since that time. What kind of team is it now?

Piotr Chrapkowski: Yes, a lot has changed with the management board and the coach. Płock has always been famous for the tough defence. The boys are not afraid of the aggressive play and force their opponents to throw from unprepared positions. This is their business card.

Now they are trying a bit of Spanish handball provided by Mariusz Jurkiewicz. They are developing themselves and bringing in some young players. I am sure they will benefit from them. It looks like a difficult match on Sunday then.

Piotr Chrapkowski: Each game in the Champions League is difficult and this one will be special because of the fact it’s the Polish Derby. We are not satisfied with our failures against Kolding and Dunkerque but it’s no use crying over spilt milk. We cannot change it; we can only improve for the challenges ahead.

We don’t want to finish this season in the Last 16, we want to reach the FINAL4 and we are able to do this. We don’t play only for the prestige, but we play in order to have a psychological advantage in the future. You also play for the image of Polish handball, which you did very well in the reverse fixture back in October.

Piotr Chrapkowski: Yes, of course, Polish handball is moving forward and is visible with the naked eye. I hope it will be at a standard soon that two Polish teams will have the automatic right to play in the Champions League. I think we deserve it due to the good international results and the achievements of Kielce. 

TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / cor