Kastratovic: I remember it like it was yesterdayArticle
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FEATURE: One of Macedonian handball's all-time greats looks back at her past triumphs and forward to more as a coach

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Kastratovic: I remember it like it was yesterday

Although she started playing handball very late, at the age of 16, this was not an obstacle in the development of one handball’s all-time greats.

Indira Kastratovic started her handball carrier in Bosnia, playing for three years before moving to Serbia where she played with three Serbian teams – Vojvodina, Novi Sad and Belgrade, and then moved on to FYR Macedonia, where she achieved her biggest success. 

“In 1996 I took Macedonian citizenship and the following year played in the World Championship, where the Macedonian national team came in seventh place and I was the best scorer of the competition (71 goals).

“Nobody knew who we were at that time, but after we defeated the Olympic champions Denmark, I think that everybody got a clear idea from where we come from,” said Indira her biggest success with the Macedonian national team.

The 1999/2000 season was the first really successful campaign for Indira and Kometal, as they reached the final against Hypo Niederösterreich, but they could not go all the way. Kometal then missed out on European competition due to a one-year ban, but Indira had another huge reason to remember that year.

“Our team was banned from the Champions League for a whole year, but in this year many good things happened to me as I give birth to my daughter,” she recalled.

One year later came her biggest success in the EHF Champions League and this is something that the entire sporting nation remembers like it was yesterday.

“We lost in Norway by seven goals against Larvik in the semi-final and this was a big disappointment for all of us. In the opening minutes of the return match we lead 9:1 and we just had to keep that difference,” said the former right back.

The most memorable games in her life came in the final against Herz Ferencvaros at the end of the 2001/02 season: “I remember it like it was yesterday. The whole country was in green and yellow and thousands of people were on our square. This is definitely something that you can experience only once in a lifetime and I think only the Macedonian audience know how to make you to feel like a real winner.”

After this success Kastratovic played one more final of this competition in 2004/2005 before bringing her playing career to an end in 2006. The 43-year-old sees some key differences in the way handball is played nowadays.

“Today players are running more and there is a passive rule, which forces you to finish the attack quicker. There are more shots and more running as well as more mistakes. In the past years, the main focus in handball was concentrated on losing by as few goals as possible when playing away, but now this is not a case. There are no more weak and strong teams and the pressure is the same whether you are playing at home or away,” says Indira

Back at the top of Europe

Several years later, she is back, but this time as a coach of the Macedonian women's handball club – WHC Vardar SCBT.

According to Kastratovic the pressure is much bigger when you have the coaching role as you have to think for the 16 players of your team, but also you have to think about the players in the opposite team.

Before the MVM EHF FINAL4 in Budapest, Kastratovic expressed her emotions.

“Many people were sceptical of the beginning of this project and it was very hard to bring these players into the team, but Vardar is turning into a special story and it is good that Macedonian club handball is coming back, because people here really love handball.

 “I think that all four teams in the FINAL4 deserve to be there. Buducnost won this competition two years ago and Györ are defending champions. They have a huge advantage, because they have been playing together for longer, while we are still trying to find ourselves.

“I’m happy that my team qualified in the final tournament and we will do our best in order to achieve a great result there,” concluded Kastratovic.


TEXT: Amina Idrizi / cor