"It was like a thriller movie script"Article
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INTERVIEW: Natalia Morskova was a true hero of the Women's EHF Champions League Final in 1997 and she speaks about her team's path to glory

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"It was like a thriller movie script"

In the latest 'Legends of the Women's EHF Champions League' feature, ehfCL.com focuses on the 1996/97 season and speaks with Natalia Morskova, who led El Osito l’Eliana (Mar Valencia) to do the unthinkable in Spanish women’s handball at the time - clinch a European Cup title.

Morskova was on fire over the two-legged final, scoring an incredible 25 goals in total, including 17 in the nine-goal first leg win. She recalls that season and shares her views on the state of women's handball today.

ehfCL.com: What do you currently do for a living?

Natalia Morskova: I still live in Valencia (Spain) and work as a gym instructor, teaching different disciplines, such as aquagym, breathing techniques, aerobics, keep-fit sessions, specific work with children and so on. I also work in a real estate company searching for residences for Russian people who wish to live in this lovely climate for six months every year.

ehfCL.com: And related to handball?

Natalia Morskova: Last year I trained Aicequip, a female team in Valencia in the Spanish top division for a few months, but unfortunately I decided not to continue at the end of the season due to the economic situation the team was facing.

ehfCL.com: When you look back to the 1996/97 season, what are your fondest memories?

Natalia Morskova: The European club competition, there is no doubt about it. And not only for the title itself but for the way we got it. Back in those days the female teams in Spain were lacking support and of course money, so I remember going to play to Bosnia with only 8 or 9 players because it was cheaper to pay the fine than the fare tickets.

But big things really started in the semi-finals. It was already incredible to have reached that step in the competition and it was against Austrian giants Hypo, who were always among the top teams. There was magic when we played the first leg at home and we beat them by 12 goals (34:22) allowing us to get to the final, although we lost by 11 goals (26:15) in a nerve-racking match (which was almost suspended a few minutes from the end).

The final was unbelievable and a great atmosphere surrounded our team from the beginning. We obtained a tremendous win against the mighty Danish club Viborg by nine goals (35:26). Once again, the second leg was like a thriller movie script! There was a moment in the second half where we were trailing by eight goals.

I don’t know how, but we came back to terms as a team and pulled back seven to lose only by one goal and take the title.

ehfCL.com: Do you follow current season? If so, which players do you fancy and why?

Natalia Morskova: As most people know, I had to finish my career sooner than expected due to many knee injuries; in fact I practically had no cartilage left. I loved handball so much and suddenly could not practice it anymore, so I abruptly ended my relationship with it.

To me it is really painful to see the sport I put so much passion into from the outside, so I only see it from time to time and therefore do not have the capacity to follow anybody or any team in particular.

In any case I feel the level of handball has not improved a lot from my days (especially in Spain). It may be only a matter of age but I see the players today on TV and tend to think they are just too young and not too strong.

ehfCL.com: What do you think about the Women’s EHF FINAL4 being held for the first time?

Natalia Morskova: I have to say I really enjoyed those days where you did not know anything about the team or players you were confronting until you physically met them on court. That kind of mystery behind every match was very exciting, but I realise time moves on and it is very good to upgrade women’s handball the same way as it was for men’s. It is great for promoting the sport and bringing new sponsors too.

TEXT: Francisco Javier Miranda Lasheras / cor