Mironovich at the helm of Minsk for almost 40 yearsArticle
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EHF Cup countdown, part 11: SKA Minsk (BLR)
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Mironovich at the helm of Minsk for almost 40 years

If you are out for the club with the longest continuity on the bench and the most legendary coach of all 16 group phase participants of the EHF Cup, you definitely cannot miss SKA Minsk.

Since 1976, so in his 40th season, Spartak Mironovich (77) is on the helm of the most traditional Belarusian handball club and former winner of all Soviet and international competitions. Almost all of the players in this competition were not even born when Mironovich took over SKA.

Besides that he was coach of the famous Soviet national team that became Olympic champions in 1988 in Seoul and as EUN team 1992 in Barcelona, before another coaching legend - Vladimir Maximov - took over. Mironovich, former member of the Belarusian National Olympic Committee and Belarusian national team coach, has seen good times and bad times at SKA since he took over.

In the meantime, clubs such as Dinamo Minsk or Meshkov Brest have taken the lead in their league, with SKA last championship season going back to 2002.

But adding fresh blood to the team, SKA rose in the previous years. In 2013, they took their first international trophy since 1990, winning the EHF Challenge Cup. Now, SKA Minsk are the first ever Belarusian club to be part of the group phase of the EHF Cup after failing twice in qualification before.

Seven SKA players were part of the Belarus squad for the EHF EURO 2016, including Viachaslau Saldatsenka, who was – in terms of statistics - the best goalkeeper of the preliminary round in Poland.

And having improved as a team in the previous years, Spartak Mironovich’s goals for him and his team is high: qualification for the EHF Cup Finals in Nantes.

During qualification, the Belarusian runners-up had no problems in remaining victorious four times against Volendam (Netherlands) and the Austrian champions Alpla Hard, arriving from the Champions League qualification.

In Group C, SKA Minsk will face Pfadi Winterthur, Saint-Raphael Var Handball and Bjerringbro-Silkeborg.

Three questions to coach Spartak Mironovich:

What are your expectations for the group phase of the EHF Cup - regarding your objectives and your group opponents?
Spartak Mironovich: I suppose we get useful practice and six tough matches with serious European teams. Before the draw I had wanted to get stronger teams not weaker. Because only through playing matches on a high-level do you improve. I hope that we will be competitive in Group C and get a ticket to quarter-final.

What does the participation in the group phase of the EHF Cup mean to you and your club?
Spartak Mironovich: We have many young and talented players. But there is not a high level competition in our national championship. So we need to look for other areas to develop. Therefore, the participation in the group phase of the EHF Cup is a great opportunity for our team to get important experience and become better as a team and as players.

What teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Spartak Mironovich:  Chambery Savoie Handball, HBC Nantes, Frisch Auf Göppingen and SKA Minsk

SKA Minsk (BLR)

Newcomers: Aliaksandr Padshyvalau (Vityas), Aliaksandr Patsykailik (Gomel), Maksim Lapitski (Kronon)

Left the club: Ivan Matskevich (Steaua, Bucharest), Barys Pukhouski (Motor Zaporozhye), Viktor Zaitsau (St. Petersburg), Kirill Knyazev (Pogon, Szczecin), Yury Lukyanchuk (Riihimäki Cocks), Andrei Kaliarovich (Riihimäki Cocks)

Coach: Spartak Mironovitch (since 1976)
Team captain: Aliaksandr Bachko

Qualification for the EHF Cup Group Phase:  Round 2, 32:25, 32:30 against KRAS Volendam. Round 3, 33:23, 35:23 against Alpla Hard

Past achievements

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
(forerunner Champions Cup: winner 1987, 1989, 1990)

EHF Cup records:
Qualification 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15

Cup Winners’ Cup records:
Winner 1982/83, 1987/88

EHF Challlenge Cup records:
Winner 2012/13

Belarus league champions: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
USSR league champions: 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989
Belarus Cup winner: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2012
USSR Cup winner: 1980, 1981, 1982

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc