Brest eager to pick up the bannerArticle
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FEATURE: The coach of the new Belarusian champions Zhelko Babic is looking well beyond the qualification when setting the goals for the VELUX EHF Champions League as he wants to steer his team through the Last 16 gate.

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Men's News

Brest eager to pick up the banner

Belarusian handball fans hope that their club will be represented in the VELUX EHF Champions League again this year. Last two seasons, playing against Europe's best teams was a privilege of Dinamo Minsk, but now HC Meshkov Brest are eager to pick up the banner and advance to the group stage.

To achieve this goal, they have to win the Group 1 qualifying tournament that is going to take place on 6-7 September in Brest. Of course home court may help, but in any case the team led by the Croatian Zelko Babic have to beat their rivals. On Saturday, 6 September, the hosts will play against the Dutch champions Targos Bevo HC, and if they win, the next day they will face either Tatran Presov from Slovakia or HC Vojvodina from Serbia.

As an important preparation stage in mid-August, HC Meshkov Brest took part in Belgazprombank Cup which also took part in Brest. The Belarusian team beat the Romanian club Odorhei and the Russian Chekhovskie Medvedi, but lost to HC Motor Zaporozhye from Ukraine and took the second place.

Goal is clear

"Our goal is clear — we have to qualify for the Champions League. But if we want to do it, we have to change our game a little. Our shape is not the best yet, but I know what I should do to make the team better. I believe that we will look quite differently in September," said Zelko Babic.

Bankruptcy of Dinamo Minsk and their withdrawal from the Belarusian league in late February definitely helped HC Meshkov Brest to get a national champion's title for the first time since 2008. Moreover, Dzmitry Nikulenkau, Maxim Babichev and Dzianis Rutenka, three national players of Belarus who became free agents after the dissolution of Dinamo, were immediately picked up by the Brest team.

Their arrival definitely added some more quality to the team, but the squad became too big. No wonder that in summer the team management decided to part with some players.

However, some new players have been brought in as well. As in previous years, the transfer campaign had a visible a Balkan accent. The newcomers are Serbian left back Nikola Manojlovic, Slovenian left wing Simon Razgor as well as Janko Brozovich, an Austrian right back with a Montenegrin ancestry line.

These players need some time to adjust to the new team, and season trainings and matches are a perfect opportunity for that. Following the training camp in Slovenia already on 31 August, they are going to take the first official test of the new season. At a SEHA league game, Brest will face the Bosnian champions Borac Banja Luka.

But definitely the focus is mainly on the VELUX EHF Champions League. Zelko Babic, who starts his second year at the helm of the team, already looks well beyond the qualification. "In any case, our minimum program is to advance to the play-off," he says.

Brest HC Meshkov have other goals as well, that is to become a national champion yet again, and to perform well in the SEHA league. "Working in Brest is actually a big stress," Babic admits. "You have to win all the time, which is impossible. If you can work under such pressure, you work, if you cannot — you go home. I am still alive and going to work."

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / br