Funny Games

Do you remember what was the hottest country in Europe last year?

This year, a region stands out. OG, ECh and now, the youth came forward to claim not one, but three medals at the Mediterranean Games in Mersin. The Ex-Yugoslavian countries are on top of their game.  Serbia and Montenegro are the achievers. Slovenia and Croatia have shown during this last competition of the season they may have rediscovered hope for the future.

I put together the final stats for the Mersin Games, otherwise unpublished.

The player that caught my attention is the Croatian Lana Franković (21; 1m83; LB).



Winter Calling

Some handball players were tweeting about the first snow this morning.

Fudge writes from northeast Switzerland. Dreamy scenery!

Ljubljana surprises Tervel with the first snow of the year. And here is a great picture from Dani Piedade.

Enjoy your handball afternoon!

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

” (…) 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!


Croatian Moment

During the ChL match between Krim and Podravka, Andrea Penezic was accidentally slapped by Vesna Milanovic Litre.

Kristina Franic came to check on her teammate, while Milanovic Litre stayed next to her throughout the time she was on the floor.

The two goalkeepers on court, Grubisic and Jelcic also showed their concern.

Milanovic Litre waited for Penezic to recover before leaving the court.

Yet Another Moving Good Bye: Andrea Lekic

Andrea’s leaving Krim is almost incredible to me.  I expected her to lead that team for a very long time, if not for the rest of her career. She could have become what Indira Kastratovic was for Kometal. I guess Krim will be transformed during the next years and fans just have to get used to it.

Also, a clin d’oeil to Barbara Varlec, who will be missed in next year’s CL. All the best to her in these happy times!

More here.