Homecoming star bolsters TatranArticle
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VELUX EHF Champions League countdown: Tatran Presov (SVK). With an almost unchanged squad, the Slovakian side aim high in two international competitions.
»2018-19 Men's News

Homecoming star bolsters Tatran

Last year, they failed to advance from the qualification tournament on home court. This season, Tatran Presov have directly entered the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase.

With former Olympic and world champion Slavko Goluza as their coach and an almost unchanged squad, the Slovakian record champions vie for a play-off spot.

Three questions ahead of the new season:

- What is the impact of coach Slavko Goluza after his first season?

The defeat against Alpla Hard of Austria in the semi-final of last year’s qualification tournament left hosts Presov in shock. But Goluza stuck to his course and added some new players to his squad. Later, Presov played full-speed handball with a galore of goals. Goluza mixed the typical Balkan shooters with some efficient wing players. But he also missed the second major international goal: qualifying for the SEHA league finals tournament in Skopje.

- How far will Presov’s journey go this season?

In 2005, Tatran qualified for the Last 16 of the EHF Champions League for the first, and so far only, time. Matching that achievement this season doesn’t seem unrealistic as the group phase draw could have been worse.

“Bjerringbro are the favourites, the rest of the teams are on an equal level. The logistics and travel are more challenging than the sportive tasks. But of course all opponents deserve our highest respect,” says manager Miroslav Benický.

If Tatran finish in the top two of Group C, they will likely face a high hurdle in the play-offs, with potential opponents such as Leon, Elverum or Plock. Also, it will be important how Tatran cope with their tight schedule as they also compete in the SEHA league again.

- Does Presov’s offseason preparation give an indication?

There were a few highs, and one low. Presov won a strong tournament in the Bosnian city of Doboj and easily earned the trophy of the Czech-Slovakian cup competition for the fourth straight time after beating Banik Carvina 41:27. But they lost their opening match in the SEHA league 26:25 against newcomers Steaua Bucharest.

Under the spotlight: Martin Stranovsky

One of the most prolific national team players has returned to Slovakia after 13 years, and he will wear the Tatran jersey for the first time. Stranovsky left Nove Zamky in 2005 and went to Spain. After seven years with Leon and two seasons with Barça, he moved to Germany to join HC Erlangen for four years. Now back in Slovakia, he carries high expectations on his shoulders. He is Tatran’s new team captain as successor of Radovan Pekar, who has retired from handball.


“Our main objective is to finish among the best two sides in our group and to qualify for the play-offs. Anything afterwards would be a great bonus for the club and the fans,” says manager Miroslav Benický.

Team captain Martin Stranovsky adds: “All opponents in our group are beatable. Most important will be to get points at home and play as well as we can away. Also, avoiding injuries and staying healthy will be key to success.”

Fun fact

The fans love it: mascot Nestor is a star at Presov. The horse, nicknamed after the most famous Slovakian race horse, always plays a crucial part in the entertainment shows at the arena. Even opponents praise Nestor: “I have never seen a mascot like this horse,” says Thorsten Storm, manager of THW Kiel.

What the numbers say

With 2.09 metres, Michal Kasal is among the tallest players of the 2018/19 season. The 24-year-old Czech international is the next in line of very tall Presov players. The tallest player in the VELUX EHF Champions League is Vardar’s right back Dainis Kristopans, who is a former Tatran player.

Tatran Presov (SVK)

Qualification for VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19 season: Slovakian champions

Newcomers: Martin Stranovsky (HC Erlangen), Titouane Afanou Gatine (Paris Saint-Germain)

Left the club: Radovan Pekar (retired)

Coach: Slavko Goluza (since 2017)

Team captain: Martin Stranowsky

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2018/2019 season): 14
Last 16 (1): 2004/2005
Last 32 (1) 1993/1994
Group Phase (6): 2005/2006, 2007/2008, 2008/2009, 2010/2011, 2015/16, 2016/17
Qualification (5): 2009/2010, 2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:

Quarterfinal: 2011/12, Group Phase: 2017/18, Last 16: 1994/1995, 1995/1996

EHF Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarterfinal: 2005/06, Last 16 2007/08, 2008/09

Slovakian league:
14 titles (2004, 2005, 2007-2018)

Slovakian cup:
15 titles (2002, 2004, 2005, 2007-2018)

TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew