Poland's very own legendArticle
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FEATURE: Bozena Karkut was the stand-out player of a generation in Polish handball, who enjoyed enormous success with HYPO at ther turn of the century

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Poland's very own legend

Bozena Karkut is an indisputable legend of Polish handball, the best right wing in its history and by far the most successful player, including the two EHF Champions League titles she won with Hypo Niederösterreich (1998 and 2000).

Her career in Poland was always connected with the city of Wrocław, where she was born in 1961 and where she started practicing handball as a kid.

“The times were different, we didn’t even have proper shoes but we were happy just to play and have fun. That is why it is sometimes hard for me now, as a coach,  to understand  why players as young as teenagers think so much about money, good contract and why they can’t have our mentality,” she says.

Karkut stayed in Poland until 1989, a  very important and symbolic year in the history of modern Europe, then moved to Vozdovac Belgrad and one year later she started the Norwegian part of her career. 

In 1993, she came back to Wrocław and played for three seasons with local club AZS AWF, the same team she started her handball adventure with. But the happiest times were still to come, even though she was over 30. 

In 1997 Karkut joined Hypo Niederösterreich and one year later she was celebrating her first European crown. In the final games against Mar El Osito L’Eliana, she scored nine goals.

“I came to Austria at the age of 36 but I still remember the words of my coach, who said to me at the very beginning: “you are good, so you will play”. 

The goal of the team was very clear - winning the biggest trophies in Europe. I was very lucky to win the Champions League in 1998 and 2000 with Hypo and these are those emotions you will never forget. I remember very well the final match in Spain as it was an incredible experience. We beat Mar El Osito twice, showing our superiority. I still have in my mind the sight of the cup against the seaside and the sunrise.

The last year of her playing career was also amazing. At the age of 39, she won with Hypo for the second time, scoring seven goals in the final games against Kometal Skopje in 2000. 

She returned to Poland later that year and took over as coach of the ambitious team Zaglebie Lubin in a city 75 km away from her hometown Wrocław.  

It’s very seldom in modern sport, in which the position of the coaches are rather weak and they have to change teams so often, but in 2015 Karkut will probably celebrate a beautiful anniversary of 15 years working for the same team. 

During this period she won a lot of medals in the Polish league, one Polish title (2011), Polish cup three times (2009, 2011, 2013) and reached the European Cup semi-finals twice (EHF Cup in 2001 and Cup Winners’ Cup on 2002).

“I have to admit that my playing career helped me a lot in coaching. I know well that you have to fix very clear objectives and try to reach them. I spent many years abroad in former Yugoslavia, in Norway, the country full of people in love with our sport, and at the end of my career I played in Austria. Now I can use this experience with my players,” explained Karkut.

In May she will be fighting for another medal in the Polish league and most probably keep her fingers crossed for Buducnost Podgorica in the first Women’s EHF FINAL4, the new team of Kinga Byzdra, who is her very well-known former key player at Zagłębie Lubin .

“I believe that the idea of the tournament like this is very good. It worked well with men so from all points of view it should be a good solution. 

“For marketing reasons, media and all the fans, who will be very glad to see the best teams during one weekend in Budapest. It’s going to be a very interesting tournament, I suppose.   

For Polish women’s handball one thing is sure - Kinga Byzdra winning the title would be the biggest individual achievement since 2000 and another reason Bozena Karkut could be proud of.

Photo credit: Wojciech Szubartowski

TEXT: Michał Pomorski, Łukasz Lemanik / cor