Ten Successful Romanians

1. Irina Nagy Klimovschi (1936-2001)


Gold at the WCh 1956, 1960 (11 players) and 1962 (7 players)

1960/1961 European Champions’ Cup winner with Stiinta Bucuresti

1963/1964 European Champions’ Cup winner with Rapid Bucuresti


All-Star goalkeeper WCh 1956 and 1960

Club teams

Progresul Targu Mures, Stiinta Bucuresti, Rapid Bucuresti

National team

136 caps (2 goals)

WCh 1956, 1960, 1962, 1965

2. Mariana Tirca (1962-)


1995/96 ChL winner with Podravka Koprivnica


All-Star playmaker WCh 1995

Club teams

Rulmentul Brasov, CS Stiinta Bucuresti, Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, Podravka Koprivnica, GAS Anagennisi Artas

National team

All-time top-scorer 335 caps (2043 goals)

WCh 1986, 1987, 1989, 1993, 1995, 1997

ECh 1996



* Interview with Tirca

3. Valentina Cosma (1963-)


1995/96 ChL winner with Podravka Koprivnica


Club teams

Terom Iasi, Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, Podravka Koprivnica, ESC Yutz Handbal

National team

All-time third top-scorer 322 caps (980 goals)

WCh 1986, 1987, 1989, 1993, 1995, 1999

ECh 1996

OG 2000



4. Luminita Dinu (1971-)


Silver at the WCh 2005

2000/2001 and 2002/2003 ChL winner with Krim Ljubliana

2001/2001 ChL winner with Kometal Skopje

2006/2007 CWC winner with Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea


All-Star goalkeeper ECh 2000 and WCh 2005

Club teams

Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, Krim Ljubljana, Kometal Skopje

National team

201 caps (9 goals)

WCh 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007

ECh 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2008

OG 2000, 2008



5. Steluta Luca (1975-)


Gold at the Junior WCh 1995

Silver at the WCh 2005

2006/2007 CWC winner with Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea


Club teams

Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, Dossobuono Verona, Randers, FCK Copenhagen

National team

All-time second top-scorer 223 caps (1013 goals)

WCh 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007

ECh 1998, 2000, 2002

OG 2000



6. Simona Gogarla (1975-)


Gold at the Junior WCh 1995

Silver at the WCh 2005


Top-scorer of the ECh 2000

Club teams

CSS Focsani, Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, Krim Ljubljana, SD Itxako, Gyori ETO, Rulmentul Brasov, Rapid Bucuresti

National team

93 caps (455 goals)

WCh 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005

ECh 1998, 2000


Coach of HCM Ramnicu Valcea

* Profile on Simona Gogarla

7. Carmen Amariei (1978-)


Gold at the Junior WCh 1995

Bronze at the Junior WCh 1997

2002/2003 EHF Cup Winner with ESBF Besançon

2004/2005 and 2006/2007 ChL winner with Slagelse


Top-scorer of the WCh 1999

Club teams

Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, ESBF Besançon, Randers, Slagelse, U Jolidon Cluj, Rulmentul Brasov, FCK Copenhagen, Viborg, Terom-Z Iasi, SCM Craiova

National team

All-time 4th top-scorer 182 caps (855 goals)

WCh 1999, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2011

ECh 1998, 2002, 2004, 2008

OG 2000, 2008



8. Cristina Varzaru (1979-)


Gold at the Junior ECh 1998

Gold at the Junior WCh 1999

Silver at the WCh 2005

Bronze at the ECh 2010

2005/2006, 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 ChL winner with Viborg


All-Star right winger Junior ECh 1998

All-Star right winger Junior WCh 1999

Top-scorer of the 2009/2010 ChL

Club teams

CSS Corabia, Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, Rapid Bucuresti, Viborg, CSM Bucuresti

National team

178 caps (493 goals)

WCh 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011

ECh 2000, 2002, 2004, 2010

OG 2000


Plays for CSM Bucuresti (ROU)

* Profile on Cristina Varzaru

9. Valentina Ardean Elisei (1982-)


Gold at the Junior ECh 2000

Silver the  WCh 2005

Bronze at the ECh 2010

2006/2007 CWC winner with Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea


All-star left winger at the WCh 2005 and ECh 2008

Club teams

Universiteatea Remin Deva, Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, ZRK Knjaz Milos, HCM Baia Mare

National team

All-time fifth top-scorer 181 caps (735 goals)

WCh 2005, 2011, 2013

ECh 2004, 2008, 2010

OG 2008


Plays for HCM Baia Mare (ROU)

10. Cristina Neagu (1988-)


Silver at the Youth ECh 2005

Bronze at the Youth WCh 2006

Bronze at the Junior ECh 2007

Bronze at the ECh 2010

2014/2015 ChL winner with Buducnost


MVP of the Youth ECh 2005

MVP and all-star left back Youth WCh 2006

All-Star left back Junior ECh 2007

IHF Rookie of the year 2009

Top-scorer and all-star left back ECh 2010

IHF World player of the year 2010

All-star left back ECh 2014

Nominated for the IHF World player of the year 2014

Top-scorer of the 2014/2015 ChL

Club teams

Rulmentul Brasov, Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea, Buducnost Podgorica

National team

111 caps (455 goals)*

WCh 2007, 2009, 2013

ECh 2008, 2010, 2012

OG 2008


Plays for Buducnost Podgorica (MNE)

Some thoughts…

  • Longest NT career: Cosma 1986-1999.
  • One player has won an international cup with every team: Dinu.
  • Except for Nagy, all players have played for Oltchim Valcea.
  • Two players have never won a European Cup: Gogarla and Neagu**.
  • Two players have never won an NT medal: Tirca and Cosma.

The five all-time national team top-scorers are on the list: Tirca, Luca, Cosma, Amariei and Elisei.

In listing the ten most successful Romanians in the history of women’s handball, I have taken into account international medals, awards and recognitions, as well as the players’ contribution to the national team in  goals scored and matches played. But let us not forget the difference between our times and the previous era of handball: the IHF award only exists since 1988, the European Championship was first played in 1994, youth competitions were implemented only a couple of decades ago. In short, contrary to the heydays of Romanian handball in the 1960s, today, our players get plenty of chances to stand out.

* Selections and goals of all players until 2012 according to FRH. ** Eventually, Neagu won the Champions League with Buducnost in 2015.


Repost. The final of the 1990 WCh : USSR vs. Yugoslavia

This unique document was uploaded to YouTube by Stankekamera. I watched it out of curiosity, having only a vague idea of Morskova’s solid build (1.84m; 78kilos) and of Kitić’s preference for bare skin. This match is a reference for several reasons:

1. History

This is the last confrontation between the two blocks, before their dissolution in 1991. Their domination of the sport (“supernations’ handball) came to an end. USSR would compete at the 1992 Olympics under the name of The Unified Team and would win the bronze medal. Former Yugoslavia would continue to be represented by players from Serbia and Montenegro until 2006. In 2001, the inheritors of these two handball traditions, would medal again in the World Championship in Italy.

2. Handball Technique

The pattern of the game is significantly different from the one practiced today: painstakingly established attack (because no pre-passive play warning existed at the time), less breakthroughs, more 9m shots, focus on the centre position, great individual skills. We can actually spot some traces of these models in today’s former Yugoslavian and Soviet nations. Nonetheless, the defence has become, as a general improvement, mobile and offensive. Moreover, the pivots (Russia’s case) and the wingers (FYR countries case) are nowadays better integrated in the collective play. In contrast, I can’t think of many players today that are as good passers and shooters as the 1990 players. Was the ball controlled with both hands because the resin was worse?

3. Players’ Biography

The online information on the players is scarce, so this video is the only way people will learn that Dragana Pesic was the Anita Gorbicz of her time in terms of inventiveness and unpredictability and that there is a long tradition of making skilled Russian wingers and goalkeepers.

The players that we see on the field during this game and their positions are:

Svetlana Kitić (RB) was 30 at that time. She was the Primadonna of the game, in the way she moved, in the way she looked, with a permanent air of superiority.

  • Olympic Games: silver in Moscow 1980 and gold in Los Angeles 1984;

  • European Champions Cup with Radnički Belgrade in 1984;

  • Yugoslav Sportswoman of the Year in 1984;

  • IHF World Player of the Year 1988;

  • IHF Best Female Player in History.

Maja Bulatović (LB) was 22 and one of the few Budućnost players in the team. The Montenegrin would later become the icon of the small state, but she would never get to play under their colours.

Svetlana Antić (LP) was, as she recalls in this interview, an atypical pivot, tall and stout. Hardly could one find someone bigger than the Russian pivots nowadays. On the contrary, both pivots we see on the court Tjan and Prjachina were of medium size.

  • Gold medal at the 1984 Olympics;

  • All-Star Team LP at the 1990 WCh;

  • European Champions Cup with Hypo Vienna in 1992;

  • Plays for Austria at the 2000 Olympics;

  • Stops her career in the French club of Besançon at 38, after winning the Cup Winners Cup.

Dragica Đurić (GK) is no other than the current goalkeeper coach of the Serbian Women’s Team. She talked about the Los Angeles and the Seoul OG to balkan-handball: “The most significant medal is definitely the gold from Los Angeles. Because of one bad half we stayed out of the fight for the gold in Seoul, four years later. My generation was not very lucky, because we were forbidden to go to Barcelona in 1992, and that year, in all tournaments, we were by far the best team. We played great. The realistic potential of that generation was three Olympic gold medals …”

Other players: Dragana Pešić (CB) Olga Sekulić (only during the opening minutes) Stanica Gole (LW), Stana Vuković (RW), Katica Lješković (GK), Tanja Polajner (defender, LP).

Natalia Morskova (LB) was 24 and already a respected player. She would become a monument of the ‘90s.

  • Two Olympic bronze medals in 1988 and 1992;

  • In 1991, she leaves Russia (and natal Rostov) for Valencia;

  • Top-scorer of the Champions League in ‘94, ‘97 and ‘98;

  • 1998 Champions League winner with Mar Valencia;

  • She eventually obtained the Spanish citizenship and played 49 games under their flag.

Elena Nemaskalo (LW)

  • Olympic bronze medal in 1988;

  • All-Star Team LW at the 1990 tournament;

  • She played for Spartak Kiev and won 7 European Champions Cups

  • From 1995 on, she  played for Croatia. Her daughter, also a winger, is currently a member of the Croatian NT.

Svetlana Bogdanova (GK) 26 at the time. Being asked how come she had such a long career (like her colleagues, Vydrina, Morskova, Nemaskalo), she says: “My generation of Russian players is a very strong one, we recover fast and we are used to a lot of training.”

  • She won bronze with The Unified Team at the 1992 Olympics;

  • 1998 Champions League winner with Valencia;

  • She ended her career in Itxako;

  • She was voted by the Russian Federation the best Russian GK of the 20th century.

Other players: Svetlana Vydrina (RB), Galina Onoprienko (CB), Marina Bazanova (RW), Tijan and Svetlana Prjachina (LP).

00:03:07 – First shot of the game taken by the Russian RB, Vydrina, and the first save for Đurić.

00:03:30 – Morskova 1:0

00:03:45 – An out-of-this-world assist from Kitić to the LP, Antić. Early on, we get the feeling this woman really likes to toy with the defence in front of her. 1:1

00:04:20 – The Russian playmaker, Onoprienko, succeeds in a rather girlish breakthrough. 2:1

00:04:50 – Sekulić gets injured and so Maja Bulatović comes onto the field. Oh, but was it a RC foul?

00:06:40 – Kitić with a RC foul on Nemaskalo who receives the penalty. 3:1

00:08:20 – 4:1

00:09:45 – Bulatović’s first goal. 4:2

00:10:30 – Beautiful action with Bazanova and Morskova in LW position. 5:2

00:10:50 – Time for for some left-handed-Pešić-passing to the pivot. She feigns by spreading her right arm, while keeping her left one close to the body. 5:3

00:11:40 – Kitić scoring very much like Bojana Radulovics. 5:4

00:12:50 – 6:4

00:13:45 – 2min Kitić, And Vydrina seems one solid penalty shooter. I wonder if she missed any during the game… let’s see! This is already the 3rd Russian penalty – they speculate very well the gaps in the Yugoslavian wall. 7:4

00:15:30 – Morskova 8:4

00:16:25 – A lob from RB position – Kitić. 8:5

00:17:12 – The quality of the Russian passing is close to perfection – they are not only creating space, but they are also creating a beautiful display of passes around the back and releases in the air. 9:5

00:18:25 – 9:6

00:20:30 – An action between the two wingers. 10:6

00:21:45 – Another girlish feint that works well. Pešić scores with almost no push in her feet – well pulled off. We have to say that both goalkeepers were underperforming at that point. 10:7

00:24:10 – 11:7 Bazanova

00:24:40 – The first Yugoslavian goal coming from the wing (Gole). 11:8

00:26:10 – Kitić’s shot in place goes in and the Yugoslavians think they are back in the game. 11:9

00:26:45 – A counterattack phase perfected with an over-the-shoulder pass from Pešić to Antić. The shot is missed, as Svetlana Bogdanova starts to warm up in the goal.

00:30:00 – A beautiful save by Bogdanova who afterwards launches the fastbreak. 12:9 Prjachina

00:31:30 – 13:9 Vydrina

00:33:50 – Kitić was a bundle of nerves and made some rush decisions in defence. Another suspension. 14:9 Vydrina

2nd half

Katica Lješković substitutes Đurić.

00:37:20 – 14:10 Bulatović

00:38:15 – 15:10 Morskova

00:38:50 – 15:11 Pešić can shoot too. But I’d rather take her no-look passes and the fitted detached hair.

00:40:10 – 16:11 Vydrina

00:43:10 – 17:11 Morskova

00:43:40 – 17:12 Bulatović

00:45:10 – 17:13 Kitić

00:45:45 – 17:14 Bulatović signs the 2nd Yugoslavian comeback with an audacious breakthrough.

00:46:20 – 18:14 Vydrina, old school. When you compare this to Kitić’s and Pešić’s impossibles angles, you get the picture of two opposite handball worlds: the Yugoslavians lacking in the physique department, the Russians not much into plain embellishments.

00:47:15 – 19:14Vydrina

00:47:40 – 19:15 Bulatović

00:49:00 – Watch Pešić agreeing with Antić on their next move and prepare for something fine! 19:16 Antic’s backwards shot ending a cascade of beautiful passes. – Comeback n° 3 within 3 goals and I am thinking, come on Russians! Aren’t you tired, just a little bit?

00:50:00 – With the enchanted goblins working the wing? No way. Vydrina scores her 15874008th penalty. 20:16

00:50:40 – 20:17 Bulatović

00:51:20 – Kitić’s act is one of the highlight of the game. Indomitable Kitić! Pešić lobs the goalie from the 7m. 20:18 “Tri gola” situation overcome. We have a match!

00:53:00 – 20:19 Gole. 14min to the end

00:53:30 – Vydrina assists the pivot and hell freezes over. 21:19 Prjachina

00:56:25 – The usual state of tension creeps in, when teams do foolish things like wrong substitutions. 12min left

00:57:20 – What a move, what an angle, what a reaction! 22:19 Nemaskalo

00:58:00 – Pešić with a classic. 22:20 On the replay, you can count 4 steps, but in live action there is no way you could tell that small hop she takes when she receives the ball.

00:58:30 – Bazanova 23:20

01:00:55 – Kitić 23:21 At 30 she runs the fastbreak like a maniac.

01:01:55 – 24:21 Morskova. 7min to go

01:04:19 – GK n° 2 with two crucial consecutive saves against Kitić. 5min

01:05:20 – Vydrina misses her first penalty of the day. 4min

01:06:09 – Pešić shows that sometimes you better keep it simple. 3min

01:07:42 – See what happens when Morskova shoots the GK in the face!

01:10:25 – 24:22 Pešić

01:12:35 – 24:22 FT

Gentlemen of handball

Hello, visitor! How is your handball life? I have recently made an acquisition I would like to share. It is a poster of Gheorghe Gruia, comprised in a series of images of the Montréal Olympics. Until the day I came across this vintage photo, I had never suspected Gruia was such a star in the 70s.


This is the story of my discovery in short. I have very limited knowledge of men’s handball. I have heard wonderful stories about Gatu, Birtalan, Penu and Gruia, but never actually watched a game of theirs (remember the interview I translated once, in which Gruia was mentioned). The moment I set my eyes on the poster, I knew this must be Gruia. He was just like I had imagined him, beautiful, flying, a god with arms spread. I find the blue-yellow-red lined bands of his sweatshirt cute.

Browsing the internet for information, I came across the page of the 2013 World Championships which lists four Romanians among the best players of all times. According to them, “Gruia played for Romania 126 times and, in the 1992 IHF news bulletin he was called the best handball player ever.” It seems we can’t compare him to any of the right backs of today. Nagy, Lazarov, Andersson – none prevails the way Gruia did.

The Pursuit Of Steadiness

An idealistic overview of leadership issues at the end of the Olympic cycle. Read it here.


(…) But are patience, cyclic planning and time investment still of relevance to our times and markets? As it turns out, teams are forced to give up on their best players, the ones expected to develop passion on top of passion – commitment to a team, to an audience, to a town and to a nation on top of their love for handball.

Bojana Popović Penalties, 2006 Vs 2012

This is the penalty kick that in 2012, made a strong impression on handball fans and handball ignorants. It happened during the Champions League semifinal between Buducnost and Larvik.

Now, back in 2006, Macedonia’s legend, Indira Kastratovic played her retirement game. On that occasion, Popović scored against Luminita Hutupan-Dinu. The technique was brought to extremes, with some outrageous effect.

More footage from that game on the Kometal Sampion Facebook Page.

Simona Gogarla And The Tale Of Two Cities

May I interest you in some women’s handball? I promise a story full of drama, starting in the solemn ’90s and reaching a bitter and tearful end in 2007 , the year Paris Bercy closed its doors to Simona Gogarla. From chevaleresque Ljubljana, city of dragons, to imperial Saint Petersburg, city of tsars, this lady went through several handballistic lives. The climax of her story is set in Romania of 2000, a country in search of reference points.

In 1994, she transfers from Focsani to Chimistul Rm Valcea and becomes national champion for the first time in her career. In 1995, a young and talented generation projects itself into a certitude for the future by winning the WCh in Brazil. Simona is the main weapon in the final against Denmark, scoring the decisive goals in the dying minutes of the game. Overall, her playing time is not noteworthy, with 12 goals in 7 matches. However, a match is all it takes for a true talent to shine.

[Some of her teammates at the time were: Steluta Luca, Alina Dobrin, Narcisa Lecusanu, Cristina Mihai, Carmen Nitescu, Carmen Amariei and Ildiko Barbu.]

She takes part in the 1997 WCh and the 1998 ECh. She talks to Prosport about the period prior to the European Championship, in Romania: “For about 18 months, I was not called to the national team. The Slovenians insisted on me to play for them, but I did not accept their offer”. Consequently, in 2000, she is Romania’s sweetheart, as she becomes top scorer of the championship. Journalists write that she and Luminita Hutupan are unanimously acclaimed. The crowd bursts into a GO-GAR-LA shout after every single vital goal.

The 22 y old Simona had landed in Ljubljana in 1997 and was now, three years afterwards, at a turning point.  “(… )I had some wonderful years in Slovenia. At that time, Olimpija Ljubljana was the better team, but Krim set the foundation of a solid team. In my first season, we won the first title is the history of the club. Since then, the team has never lost a national trophy. And before I left, I played the final of The Champions League, lost to Dunaferr, in 1999.” she recalls for Prosport.

In between 2001 and 2004, her career is marked by repeated failures at final tournaments: the 2001 and the 2003 WCh, as well as at the 2004 ECh in Hungary.  After such an amazing ECh in Romania, Simona is persuaded to return to her home country and play for Oltchim. Her most notable perfomance in Valcea is the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup, lost to Lada Togljatti, in 2002.

After spending one year in Spain, playing for Itxako, Simona trasfers to Gyor. Here, coordinated by no other than Anita Gorbicz, she reaches the final of both the EHF and the Cup Winner’s Cup, whitout winning any of the trophies. Will luck ever come her way?

In 2005, that was certainly no luck, but something grater: a perfect team, animated by international experience and a coach that prefers the exercise of defence to that of the attack. [Saint Petersburg suited us well, as did Herning last year. As if it were the physical temperature that makes us cold minded and lucid… Romanians would resort to absurd arguments when it comes to handball, so why not?]  Simona’s “bad luck” is now covered in silver, one noble metal.

A difficult time follows the winter of 2005, for she faces injury and fluctuation in form.  The year 2007 finds her in Brasov.  No sooner spring sets in, than the team reaches the final of The Cup Winner’s Cup. Clearly outclassed by Larvik, Simona, Cristina Neagu and a certain Woo Sun Hee, among others, succumb to pressure. In 2008 – 2009, the team is set to take on Europe with Carmen Amariei, Alexandrina Barbosa, Lidja Horvat, Gabriella Juhasz and Ionela Stanca completing the roster. Instead, the season brings financial problems and failure to reach the  group stage of The Chapions League.  In the wider context of Tadici’s recontruction plan, which will not be implemented because of his scandalous sacking, Simona will never return to the national team.

Having terminated her contract with Brasov because of Mariana Tarca’s taking over the team, Simona Gogarla plays her first match for Rapid Bucuresti in January 2010. Today, she is coaching Rapid Bucuresti.

The winter cold has settled over Saint Petersburg. If you asked me about the weather in Ljubljana, I would assume it became colder on Saturday night.

In retrospective:

Mihaela Ignat

Cristina Varzaru

Alina Dobrin


Excursus –> Talking of Ljubljana, here is Luminita Dinu after yesterday’s match, wearing the scarf of the Krimovci, supporters of the Slovenian team:

–> Moving on to the other match of the group, I was reading and enjoying all the publicity in the local French media. Eyes were on Bojana Popovic long before the clash had begun. Some amusing quotes from http://www.republicain-lorrain.fr/:

” (…) We are often considered a team that behaves well, too nicely. I’m sick of it! Let’s rebel! I need us to convey pleasure, to respect our opponent without exageration. There’s no point in bowing before Popovic. Kristina Liscevic will not waste her time prostrating. I need all my players and Liscevic can become essential (…)” Gardillou, the coach of Metz, intense as usual

” We can sense we’ve passed into another world. Big teams have big demands. Don’t ask me why, but the Montenegrins have asked to be in rooms with numbers ending with 30… They are divas. ” Thierry Weizman, the manager of Metz

“Svetlana Ognjenovic:  I know Popovic well.  She’s a nice girl outside the court. I wouldn’t say we are friends, but I prefer her in the locker room than in the middle of the match. She shouts less.”

“Claudine Mendy who has found her way with 6/13: « Not enough to my taste! I still have quite some failures. But not everyone is Popovic. » Clearly, the number 17 has impressed yesterday. And the dark-haired did not annoy only with her goals. She spoke during time outs, cutting her coach – who’s also her boss on the national team – short and she kept smiling at the refs after every whistle. ” (author: Marjorie BEURTON)

(there’s a short, but pertinent and witty, portrait of Popovic here – see prt sc – and also an interview with Krumbholz, presenting The Lady)

Now, this is what I call media coverage! Note that the writing style is not ill intentioned, nor mocking, nor malicious for that matter. It is a way of spicing up the atmosphere before and after the event. It is marketing, good marketing. Come to think of it, the Arènes were truly burning on Saturday night, when Metz was closer to victory than anyone dared to hope!