Veszprém fan favourite fights for the throneArticle
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Peter Gulyas has been serving his hometown club for sixteen years but the home-grown right wing cannot get enough of handball.

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Veszprém fan favourite fights for the throne

‘Gulyas’ is the one Hungarian word everybody knows, but the handball fans immediately think of MVM Veszprém’s right wing instead of the delicious stew-soup cross.

Peter Gulyas is a real local hero in Veszprém; the 32-year-old is one of the club’s youth products and was born and raised in the Hungarian City of Queens. Gulyas is currently MVM Veszprém’s longest serving player along with Gergö Ivancsik who joined the first team together with the then 18-year-old right wing.

Right wing with back player qualities

But Ivancsik was born and grew up in Györ, while Gulyas is fully home-grown. "I was spotted by the club’s scouts when I was 13. Most people in Hungary think I was originally a right back but it’s not true, I started as a winger despite my height," the two-metre-tall Gulyas says. "As a junior player I played as a right back, and when I joined the first team of Veszprém I was told to be patient and wait for my chance.

"And these days I enjoy playing on the wing. I have no bad feelings about having to play there. Since I became a first team member, Veszprém had Zlatko Saracevic, Kiril Lazarov and Marko Vujin at right back and I was just happy to play for such a great team."

For any coach it is comforting to have a right wing who can play in the right back position, and Gulyas has proven many a time he has a lot to offer for his team from this key position, too. This season he had to fill in for both injured right backs, Laszlo Nagy and Christian Zeitz, against fierce rivals THW Kiel at home.

Gulyas put up a ‘player of the match-performance’ scoring five goals himself as well as assisting his teammates. His clever pass to Cristian Ugalde sealed Veszprém’s 29:27 victory seconds before the final whistle. "That was a great game. I was happy with my contribution but all that matters is that we beat Kiel. That was a very difficult period for the team and we badly needed a victory like that."

A true handball lover

Gulyas claims he owes everything to handball. "I’m extremely lucky that I have the chance to do what I love best. I love handball, it is my life. Almost all my friends are from handball because I have been playing it since my teenage years. But I just can’t get enough of it. I want more and more and as long as I can help the team I will continue to play," he says.

He does not think about retirement yet but has been training the local academy’s under-18 team. "I started with 12-year-olds, which was a lot of
fun, but now I train teenagers and I must admit I really enjoy it. My players are usually local boys and I can see myself in them. They are enthusiastic; they train hard and are willing to sacrifice a lot to achieve their dreams.

"My goal is to raise local talents for the first team. I may never become a first team coach but I feel I’m good with youngsters. I understand them, know their problems and they listen to me. This role suits me."

For many years Gulyas has been the fan favourite. He has never refused to give an autograph or to pose for a photo with a fan. There are a lot of hardcore Veszprém fans among his friends.

"These friendships started a long time ago. My first own flat was next to the fans’ favourite pub so I met a lot of them on the way home. Veszprém is not a big city so you meet fans anywhere you go in the city, but for me it has never been an inconvenience to chat with even complete strangers," he says.

"If you live here, you are not surprised by how much the locals love this team. Handball is a real passion in Veszprém and the long and successful history of the club makes the whole country proud.

"I know we have fans coming from 150 to 200 kilometres away as the team has become an international brand. I even met two French guys in Cologne last year, who were PSG supporters, but travelled to Germany to support Veszprém and they have been to Veszprém twice as well. That’s amazing!"

Gulyas knows how demanding the fans are but claims it is worth carrying this burden. "You obviously get under a lot of pressure playing in Veszprém but you learn how to handle it. And in return we get the atmosphere in the arena that pushes us to the limit."

Third time is a charm?

Veszprém are preparing for their third consecutive VELUX EHF FINAL4 appearance. First they failed to win a match, but last year the Hungarian
champions reached the EHF Champions League Final for the first time in 13 years. In 2002 it had been SC Magdeburg, in 2015 it was FC Barcelona who denied Veszprém, but this year Xavi Sabate’s team are considered favourites to finally lift the trophy.

"I believe this is the strongest FINAL4 ever. Some argue Barcelona are missing, but they are not here because Kiel proved they were the better side and deservedly made it to Cologne. I have nothing but respect for this German team that lost some great players but still managed to maintain their
international reputation," says Gulyas about Veszprém’s semifinal opponents.

"The FINAL4 is a great show. I admit we had to get used to all the hype, the media attention and the arena, but since this will be our third consecutive trip to Germany we are no longer embarrassed by the size of this whole thing," he adds.

"There are no guarantees when you face such strong opponents. Everything that happened this season just lost importance, the only thing that matters is to reach peak form both mentally and physically for the weekend. I can’t wait to get it started."

TEXT: EHF / es