The top scorer who hated taking penaltiesArticle
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FEATURE: Romania's most successful player speaks of her time with Viborg, where she won three EHF Champions League titles and top scored in the 2009/10 season

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The top scorer who hated taking penalties

If you want to find Romania’s most successful handball player, you don’t have to look further than Cristina Varzaru.

The pacey right wing, equipped with crafty technique and a great handball brain, has been an integrant part of Viborg’s success in the Women’s EHF Champions League in the second part of the last decade.

During a span of five seasons, the Danish side won three EHF Champions League trophies (2006, 2009, 2010), dominating European handball in a manner that could hardly be replicated.

”I like to think that between 2005 and 2010, Viborg was the best team in Europe, even though we won only three Champions League trophies. We built a good team very quickly, we trusted each other and this helped us build a great atmosphere. The team was like a big family in a small town and that made everything special,” said Vărzaru.

“It took a lot of planning from the club, but everything fell in place at the right time. We had a winning mentality and that meant a lot for us. It gave us the strength to overcome our most difficult moments,” added the right wing.

Goal machine

The peak of Varzaru’s career was the 2009/10 season, when the Romanian ace helped Viborg win the Women’s EHF Champions League by becoming the top goalscorer of the competition, with 101 goals.

It was far from an errorless season from the Danish champions, who lost four games during the road to the final, including a one-goal defeat against the other finalist, CS Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, in the main round.

But Viborg bounced back impressively and managed to oust Oltchim in the final, by an eight-goal aggregate margin, 60:52.

Varzaru’s performance during the season was nothing short of extraordinary. In a star-studded team, which had Bojana Popovic, Grit Jurack, Katrine and Kristine Lunde and Rikke Skov, the Romanian wing managed to stand out, by scoring goals in crucial moments.

Therefore, Varzaru, who scored a fifth of Viborg’s 60 goals in the final against her former team, won the top scorer trophy, winning by a three-goal margin ahead of Brazilian right wing Alexandra do Nascimento of Hypo Niederösterreich.

”The three seasons in which we won the Champions League were special. But playing against Oltchim in the final was very difficult, mentally speaking. It was my first team and it was always hard to play against many of my friends and teammates from the national team,” Vărzaru explained to

It was the best season for the Romanian wing, who had been dealt a great list of injuries throughout her career, missing at least one and a half seasons with problems in her knee and her Achilles’ tendon. But Varzaru always came back stronger and mentally ready to cope with all the problems.

”I did not expect to become the top goalscorer. I did not even plan for this situation before the season. But at some moment, my coaches, Jakob Vestergaard and Mette Klit, told me that I was to take the penalty shots. It was me and Bojana Popovic, but they trusted me.

”I hated to take those shots, I always preferred the difficult shots, without a good angle, from the wing. But their decision motivated me a lot. I scored 101 goals and this is one of my finest memories from my career.

“I was pumped up before the final, as I was playing against Oltchim, my former team. I wanted to celebrate the title there, in my home country, even if I was playing for a Danish side. Jakob told me that being the top scorer had to be an objective. I scored 12 goals against Oltchim and my dream came true,” said Varzaru.

Two years ago, after six hugely succesful seasons with Viborg, Varzaru decided it was time to come back to Romania. Therefore, she signed a two-year contract with CSM Bucuresti, a team which has huge ambitions for the next years.

“I have never felt more respected than in Viborg, but my heart told me I need to come back to Romania, to be closer to my family,” said Varzaru after leaving Viborg.

”I am still playing handball and I will play until my love for the sport will fade and until my body will let me play. However, I am sure that one day I will feel the urge to coach. Now I am an assistant teacher at the Sport University in Bucharest and I love what I am doing,” continued Varzaru.

Support for Neagu and Buducnost

The three-time winner also agreed to share her thoughts on the MVM EHF FINAL4 in Budapest, which will take place 3 and 4 May.

”In a way, it is unfair for the fans of the teams that are qualified, as they want to see their favourites play at home. But seeing how much success the event has in the men’s competition, I can’t begin to wonder what will this format bring in the women’s competition.

"It will be a fantastic FINAL4, with teams that come from different handball schools. My favourite team will be Buducnost, as they have a young team which plays beautiful handball. I enjoy seeing Radmila Petrovic and Majda Mehmedovic playing, they are my favourite wings from this year’s Champions League.

“But the main reason I am a Buducnost fan is Cristina Neagu. Players like her are not born every year. To play with her in the same team, Romania’s national team, is one of the objectives I still enjoy playing handball for,” concluded Varzaru.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cor