Aleksa Kolakovic a symbol of Saint-Raphaël’s futureArticle
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FEATURE: Young Serbian playmaker making the most of his increase of court time as Saint-Raphaël battle through injuries in the EHF Cup
»2018-19 Men's News

Aleksa Kolakovic a symbol of Saint-Raphaël’s future

At just 21, Aleksa Kolakovic already has some European experience under his belt. The young centre-back was part of the Saint-Raphaël squad which took part in the EHF Cup Finals last season, only to lose in the final against Füchse Berlin.

But this season, following the retirement of important players such as Aurélien Abily and Geoffroy Krantz, the team’s younger players have stepped into the spotlight and more so with current injuries to key players Adrien Dipanda, Xavier Barachet and Daniel Sarmiento.

“You can tell that they are not with us at the moment. Us youngsters work very hard to fill the gaps they left. Offensively, it seems to be working, but defensively it is a bit harder,” analyses Kolakovic.

The Serbian player scored seven in Balatonfüred this weekend, his best performance in the EHF Cup to date.

“It was very important for us to win there. I gave 100% and things turned out well, I’m very happy,” says Kolakovic, in whom coach Joël Da Silva put a lot of trust since the beginning of the season.

With first choice centre back Dani Sarmiento out injured for a month now, Kolakovic has had a lot more responsibility than he is used to.

“At the moment, the coaches have no choice but to give us a lot of court time. But since the beginning of the season, the coaches put a lot of trust in us, so we have to give it back to them. Of course, we will make mistakes, but it feels like the young players in the team have been improving with every game,” adds Kolakovic.

Learning from the best

At Saint-Raphaël, he finds himself with a true star in the centre back position. Dani Sarmiento has won everything there is to win in handball, from the VELUX EHF Champions League with Barcelona to EHF EURO with Spain.

The 21-year-old is making the most of training next to this kind of player, which has helped him develop quickly.

“I love asking the experienced players a lot of questions. I want them to correct me when I am wrong. It is nice to hear that how you play is right, but it is better to point to what can be done better. I am still young and I know I have a lot of room for improvement,” says Kolakovic.

As well as feedback from teammates and coaches, he can also expect his mother to send him a detailed review.

Why? Because in Serbia,  Sandra Kolakovic is a very important person in handball. She won bronze at the 2001 IHF World Championship with the national team before becoming a coach, taking part in EHF EURO 2006 with Serbia.

“She watches every game she can on TV, especially since a Serbian broadcaster has the rights for the EHF Cup this season. You can count on her to tell me if I did something wrong during a game,” says  Aleksa.

Not only was his mother a former international player for Serbia, but his grandfather also won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1972 with Yugoslavia. And Kolakovic feels like he has a lot to live up to.

“Sometimes it is a huge weight on my shoulders, but I can also be very proud of them and also of my father, who won the volleyball Euro with Serbia a few years ago.

“It has its good and bad sides but I can live with it, I am used to it now.”

Thanks to his background and his clear talent, Aleksa Kolakovic could well be the future of Saint-Raphaël and he intends to prove it in every game until the end of the season.

TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor