Radicevic: “We showed many, many times that we have a big heart”Article
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INTERVIEW: Right wing Jovanka Radicevic reflects on the year 2012, which was exceptional for Montenegrin women’s handball, with Buducnost winning the EHF Champions League and the national team earning Olympic silver and EHF EURO gold

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Radicevic: “We showed many, many times that we have a big heart”

In a few days’ time Jovanka Radicevic can finally return to her favourite place: the handball court.

Montenegro is soon easing restrictions installed during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing Buducnost to resume team training.

“Most of the time I tried to keep myself fit with training at home. We had a plan but it was strange because normally you are with the team every day,” said Radicevic in the latest star player interview by Chris O’Reilly on the EHF EURO Instagram account.

“In the end I am happy because I think we are maybe the only team in women’s handball who can start to train normally. So I am happy to be on the court again,” the right wing said.

With the Women’s EHF European Championship 2012 in the spotlight on the EHF EURO Facebook page and YouTube channel this week, sweet memories come alive for Montenegro - and Radicevic.

In May, Buducnost lifted the EHF Champions League trophy. In August, the national women’s team returned home from the London Olympics with a silver medal. And in December, the team added gold at the EHF EURO in Serbia.

“The year 2012, maybe some time you can repeat this, but I am not sure. Generally, for Montenegro, this is really big, big history. It was an amazing year,” said Radicevic, adding that “2013 was also good for me, as I took the Champions League with Györ. So these two years for me are everything.”

String of successes for Montenegro

The string of successes in 2012 was remarkable as Montenegro had only been competing as an independent nation for six years.

As a 20-year-old talent, Radicevic had been part of the start of the country’s handball history in 2006.

Four years later, Montenegro played their first major tournament, finishing sixth at the EHF EURO 2010 in Denmark and Norway, followed by 10th place at the World Championship in Brazil the following year.

“We were really disappointed, we really had a good team,” Radicevic reflected on the 2011 worlds. “After this World Championship we were sad because of the result but we promised ourselves: one day we will make a medal.”

The team didn’t waste much time to fulfil their promise. Next summer, Montenegro made it all the way to the Olympic final, where they lost to Norway.

And even though some of the top players, including Bojana Popovic, retired from the team after the Games, Montenegro defeated the same opponents four months later in the EHF EURO final.

“We started to work more as a team, we were as a family,” Radicevic said. “We fought every training for this. I am really proud of this team, we showed many, many times that we have a big heart.”

“When the moment of the final comes, you forget everything”

And even though it has been more than seven years now, Radicevic can easily recall the final weekend of the EHF EURO 2012.

On Saturday, Montenegro edged hosts Serbia 27:26 in a tight and thrilling semi-final. And less than 24 hours later, Norway waited in the final.

“I remember the morning after the semi-final, I was thinking: how will we play this final? Nobody could walk. At breakfast, no one spoke with each other. We were really tired,” Radicevic said about the aftermath of the exhausting contest with Serbia.

“But when the moment of the final comes, you forget everything. When you enter the court, you give everything you have for the final,” she added.

Montenegro certainly needed to give everything to beat Norway, the dominant force in women’s handball at that time.

The match ended in 24:24, and even one round of extra time couldn’t separate the teams, 28:28. Finally Montenegro carved out a 34:31 win in the only final in women’s EHF EURO history featuring two periods of extra time.

“I will never forget this final. I think this was the best final ever of the European Championship,” said Radicevic, also recalling how she, being a left-handed player, scored the last goal of the match… from the left wing

“I am lucky that I am part of the best national team in the world,” said Radicevic. “The people here really live for the sport. When you come from a small country, all people want a medal, they want us to fight. We are a team that always fights, winning or losing, and they respect that.”

“Coming back to Buducnost was a really good step, here is my home”

No wonder that in the summer of 2019, Radicevic wanted to continue her club career in Montenegro after eight seasons abroad, which saw her play for Györ, Vardar and CSM Bucuresti.

“I was eight years abroad without family. Coming back was a really good step, here is my home,” the right wing said. “I am really proud of my career and of the clubs I chose to play for. Every club gave me something different, it was a good experience.”

Back at Buducnost, Radicevic is confident that the team, which will be reinforced with the likes of Andrea Lekic and Allison Pineau for next season, will play an important role on international level again.

So fans can prepare to see her exuberant goal celebrations when play finally resumes?

“For sure, handball is my love,” Radicevic said. “Everything that you see on the court, is me how I am.”

TEXT: Eric Willemsen / ehf