Momir Ilic: 'Cologne means everything to me'Article
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INTERVIEW: Telekom Veszprém's Momir Ilic takes to the court today for his eighth VELUX EHF FINAL4 - and the end of his playing career

Momir Ilic: 'Cologne means everything to me'

Cologne is a very special place for Momir Ilic, who by the end of this weekend will not only have played 16 matches of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in the LANXESS arena, but many more Bundesliga and Champions League games with his former club VfL Gummersbach.

In 2009, the now 37-year-old Serb followed his former coach Alfred Gislason to THW Kiel and became Champions League winner twice in Cologne (in 2010 and 2012).

In 2013 and after three VELUX EHF FINAL4 events, he left Kiel and joined Telekom Veszprém. In the 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons, Ilic was top scorer of the VELUX EHF Champions League. In both cases, he received the individual award after a loss – against Barcelona in the 3/4 play-off in 2014 and versus Barcelona in the 2014/15 Final.

You’re playing your eighth VELUX EHF FINAL4 now. What do you feel when you enter the LANXESS arena?

Momir Ilic: It is such a long story and such an intense emotion. Cologne means everything to me, I’ve known this arena for almost 15 years, I had so many great matches here and for me, the LANXESS arena is definitely the temple of handball. There is no better place for handball in the whole world.

When you look back on your first two appearances at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 – what do you remember most?

Momir Ilic: Of course, that we won both events with THW Kiel, that we had two great parties with thousands of THW fans in Cologne. Especially the 2011/12 season was the best of my life, you cannot be more successful than winning three titles including a clean sweep in the Bundesliga. And we had a close semi-final against Berlin, but then raising the trophy was an incredible feeling.

In 2015 and 2016 you received two more trophies at Cologne – what do the awards of the VELUX EHF Champions League top scorer and All-star left back mean to you?

Momir Ilic: This is something very individual, but you know that you need the support of the team to become top scorer. I was proud to receive those awards though in the moments I got them I felt very sad, as we had just before lost the Champions League final. So this year I came here for a different trophy.

How do you rate the development of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 from 2010 until today?

Momir Ilic: Already the first event was huge, it was a brilliant start, and since then the tournament has grown. When I think about LANXESS arena, it is about 20,000 fans, a great atmosphere and a truly perfect finish to the season. All players want to make it to Cologne, but only a rare number get the chance. So I am proud to be here for the eighth time.

You can become all-time top scorer of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 tomorrow – do you have this in mind?

Momir Ilic: Definitely not. Tomorrow is the last match in my career. This is what I think about, I will reflect on my career but not have the number of goals in mind. Those statistics are more for media than for players.

What is your plan for your future from Monday?

Momir Ilic: I will stay in Veszprém and will be the assistant coach – and maybe then I have another chance to make it to Cologne, we will see…

TEXT: Björn Pazen/jh