Vranjes living out his dream against the very bestArticle
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Flensburg’s coach speaks about returning to the VELUX EHF Champions League as defending champions for the first time

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Men's News

Vranjes living out his dream against the very best

1 June 2014 is a day Ljubomir Vranjes is certain to remember for the rest of his life. It was the day his Flensburg side completed a sensational weekend by winning the VELUX EHF FINAL4 after two outstanding matches against the heavy favourite FC Barcelona (semi-final) and THW Kiel (final) in Cologne.

“This trophy changed everything,” said coach Ljubomir Vranjes in this exclusive interview with ehfCL.com.

Not quite everything, despite some big offers to become coach of PSG Handball and the German national team, the Swede stayed put. Read about why he remained with the club, his new priorities and how his team has changed since the triumph in Cologne.

ehfCL.com: Young players arrived, experienced players left – how did the new squad perform in preparation for the new season?

Ljubomir Vranjes: We had an intense time of preparation, but I am fully satisfied with the way we worked. A newly built squad with young players like Johan Jakobsson, Anders Zachariassen, Kevin Møller and Kasper Kisum need some time to rehearse.

Highly experienced stars and national team players such as Michael Knudsen, Sören Rasmussen and Steffen Weinhold left the club, so now the young guns have to show what they are made of. Individually they have all developed already and I feel that we are on a good path. The atmosphere in the team is perfect and everybody is looking forward to the start, meaning that we can work towards becoming more stable and lifting our performance levels.

ehfCL.com: You had offers to take over the likes of PSG and the German national team after leading Flensburg to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 title. Why did you decide to stay?

Ljubomir Vranjes: There were several reasons for this decision and it makes no sense to speak about everything in public. But one thing is for sure, that my family and I really like living and working in Flensburg, and I can win titles with this team.

ehfCL.com: The most prestigious trophy you raised was winning the VELUX EHF Champions League in June. What were the consequences and the impacts in terms of fans, players, public and media?

Ljubomir Vranjes: After winning the title there was euphoria, mainly in the Flensburg region, but also nationwide and partly worldwide.

We have won the biggest title you can win in handball. There’s not much more to say. A lot of people, who did not know us before, now know what SG Flensburg-Handewitt is, what it stands for and which players are in our squad. Additionally, the media interest in our club has grown rapidly and significantly with a constant stream of Journalists asking about this extraordinary title.

Our fans are still simply proud and enthusiastic and the trophy is the most photographed object in our arena. So this title has an immense meaning for the club and every single player.

ehfCL.com: Do you start the new season with more confidence as the reigning VELUX EHF Champions League winner?

Ljubomir Vranjes: Indeed, it feels different. We know what we can achieve and what we have achieved together. However, we also know that the season starts with a level playing field and we can earn nothing from what happened in June.

As we have a new squad, new tasks lay ahead for me as a coach but one thing nobody can take away from us is the knowledge and the experience of the Champions League and how to win it.

ehfCL.com: Is the VELUX EHF Champions League now a higher priority than other competitions such as the German Bundesliga for SG Flensburg-Handewitt?

Ljubomir Vranjes: We have no priority in terms of competition. We want to win every match regardless of the competition. I don’t care if it is Champions League or Bundesliga, there is no difference.

Nevertheless, playing in the Champions League means you’re living out your dream. Being able to face the best players and clubs in the world is more important.

ehfCL.com: How do you rate the opponents Flensburg will face in the group phase?

Ljubomir Vranjes: It is a tough group with strong opponents, in which Barcelona definitely is the main contender. Below them it’s definitely possible to finish in second position, we have a very good chance to proceed to the knock-out stage.

ehfCL.com: Is reaching Cologne again your main goal for the VELUX EHF Champions League?

Ljubomir Vranjes: Of course we dream of making it to this exceptional event in Cologne. We now know what it means to be part of the FINAL4. But we have a new team and we need to rehearse. So my first goal is to win as many matches as possible and to develop as individuals and as a team.  

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor