Budapest Day 5: Two Small Timeouts, One Big Victory

The first semi-final opposing Gyor and Midtylland, was for both teams more of a training session. This is understandable in respect to Ambros Martin’s approach of the Final4. However, it does not flatter the Danes, who have shown their skills in attack but lacked aggressiveness in defence. They may have brought a great spirit to Budapest, but it was not the right one.

The game started with Gyor’s superb attacking display, Görbicz’s passes having no truble reaching Loke. Tervel and Amorim’s defence was a thing of perfection, as Thorsgaard barely touched the ball, let alone score. On the other side of the court, Groot was as reliable as ever, whereas the Jorgensens’ fluctuations were extremely costly. Defensively, Line J. was the most disappointing player, as she let in several goals on the outside. To conclude on this first match, let us emphasize Gyor’s ease at scoring in crucial moments of the game and FCM’s well organised first and second phase that might get them past Vardar in the final for the third place.

Final minute of the first semi-final

The first half of Buducnost versus Vardar reproduced the scenario of the first game. However, Vardar’s deficit was mostly the result of their chaotic, and sometimes absurdly childish, attack. The second half continued in the same manner until the final 15 minutes.

In handball, we are used to see the team that catches up during the money-time win the duel. Unless… there is an overtime. The two stars of the teams, Lekic and Neagu were caught completely out of touch, so small things decided the final ten minutes: the audacity of the three French players in Vardar, the spectators’ frentic support, Buducnost’s play in minority and … the coaches’ decisions: all in all, the Macedonians were riding high. One minute to the end, Indira Kastratovic called a timeout the second Nikolic scored the goal that would have put them in front. The goal was cancelled and Vardar missed the next attack. Buducnost’s turn! Dalby makes an attacking foul, but Dragan Adzic is there to turn the game around with a timeout. In the overtime, Neagu returns from hell to show what an extraordinary survivor she is. Two small timeouts, one big victory.

Popovic interview before the second game


Budapest Day 4 : Teams Overview

DSCN0819Nemzeti Sport interviewed Lekic who believes Buducnost to have the upper hand in this fight. On the same page, Katarina Bulatovic, Radmila Miljanic and Trine Ostergaard speak their mind: “there are no favourites”. Instead of asking the question “Who will win?”, another one comes to mind “Who is there?”. The best players in the world and just a couple of absences. What do they have something in common ? A lot …

Cristina Neagu played the EHF Champions League in 2010, but it has been a long dry spell since then for the Romanian star. On the other hand, the Montenegrins in the team jumped from pre-qualification phase to the e-European podium in just two years. As for Buducnost’s international recruits, Woltering and Cvijic, they became world-renowned only since playing leading roles in the ChL.

Since Euros in Denmark, FCM started from scratch with national team players. Do you remember that beautiful Danish team which conceded the bronze to Romania at Euros 2010. Many players from that team are in Budapest, Dalby, Jörgensen, Troelsen, Thorsgaard. And Laerke Möller … one of the most unlucky player of the past years, is here, healthy and ready.

Andrea Lekic went through good times and bad times in Gyor and only now is she the leader of a team, a role that she has always wanted to assume fully. And what about the French girls in Vardar? In 2011, after Worlds in Brazil, I was observing the French payers’ wish to know the meaning of true glory, also known as “The Champions League”. They have done it, Pineau, Leynaud, Dembele are in Budapest.

Gyor has changed direction since 2010, when they were, to no one’s surprise, defeated by Oltchim Valcea in the ChL semifinals. Since then, they have started paving their way to the crown of Europe with the help of two brilliant players, Katrine Lunde and Heidi Loke, who have taken this lumpy team to another level.

The year 2010 was the beginning of a new generation, entering the elite with the same ambitions as their predecessors. They have come a long way to reach four years later, today, the peak of their careers. Today, the world’s best handball players have gathered in Budapest and that is what makes this event too remarkable to ever be reproduced.


Budapest Day 3: A Land Of Athletes

Since coming to Budapest, I have seen people canoeing, running and cycling. What makes this county so drawn to sports? Did you know that Hungary is one of the most successful countries at the summer olympic games?

Before drawing the picture of the Hungarian sports culture, let us have a guess at the most productive sports at the Summer Olympic Games (have your pick before reading forward):

a. water polo, swimming, handball

b. fencing, swimming, canoeing

c. fencing, athletics, gymnastics

Handball, an olympic discipline since 1976, has done well with two bronzes and one silver. Also, Hungary is the greatest olympic nation in men’s water polo. However, as there is only one medal to grab in team sports, it doesn’t add much to the total count.

In gymnastics, some legendary athletes of the recent decades are Henrietta Onodi (a gold on vault) and Szilveszter Csollany (a gold on rings). As for athletics, the Hungarians haven’t been as successful as their Romanian neighbours for instance, or as the Bulgarians, further south. The explanation is obvious, if you ask me: they spend more time in water than on hard land.

Joke aside, in Budapest alone, aquatics facilities have existed since the Middle Ages, thanks to those pushy Ottomans that built Turkish baths all over town (still functioning today). In the light of these facts, the correct answer to my multiple-choice question, is quite easy.

A hundred years

of fencing, swimming and canoeing. At the London Olympics, a Hungarian sabreur, Aron Szilagyi, won the gold medal after a twenty-year break in men’s competitions. The pre-WWII olympic history of fencing was dominated by the Hungarians. Then a steep revival occurred in the ’60 and ’70. In women’s epee, Timea Nagy was and still is considered among the few best in history, after having won two olympic titles in 2000 and 2004.

The country’s first medal in swimming came at the Games of the I Olympiad, in Athens 1896. Soon afterwards, an olympic pool opened in Budapest, bearing the name of the first Hungarian gold medalist: Alfred Hajos. The hero of the recent decades was Krisztina Egerszegi, the undisputed queen of backstroke, having won gold in 200m at three consecutive Olympics between 1988 and 1996. How was this possible? The woman was 14 at her first Games.

I believe that canoeing is the least appealing sport to watch among the hungarian top three. I insist on ‘to watch’, because I am convinced, after spending some time around canoeing schools here on the Danube, that it is an exciting, competitive and demanding discipline to practice. Hungary’s most impressive results at the Games were achieved in Sydney 2000: four gold medals.

A thousand years …

in search of national identity. Hungary’s need to express pride in the nation comes after a long and loaded history including periods of occupation (by the Turks), suzerainty (of the Habsburgs) or even destruction (WWII). In 1956, students lead a demonstration demanding democratic reforms, but as they were no match for the overwhelming Soviet forces, the city was seized by the Russians.

1956 was the year of the Melbourne Olympics, which took place in autumn, shortly after the siege of Budapest. The Men’s olympic final in water polo brought together, you guessed well, Hungary and The Soviet Union. (Here is the trailer of a 2006 film recalling this fantastic happening). After an intense match, Hungary won 4:0.

Today, sports are a hobby foremost, an idea that has been seeded mostly by the media. Moreover, in such a city, it’s hard to keep one’s snickers inside as the soft climate together with the tracks on the hills of Buda and along both riversides are made for running. Besides, you have exceptional events like the Women’s Champions League Final4 to remind you that Budapest is maybe the greatest capital of sports never to have hosted Summer Olympics.

Photos of rowers on Labour Day

Budapest Day 2 : The Winds Of Budapest

A strong wind blows on the Danube, spreading the news left and right. While waiting for a tram on the left bank, I spotted an EHF Final4 Anita Gorbicz poster. I hadn’t seen any such advertisements on billboards in Budapest until today.

In the sea of tourists set on wining and dining, the Women’s Final4 is the last thing you’d think about. I brought up the word “handball” today to a French. Nothing, no reaction. I was expecting a sign of approval on his kind face. Not today…

So, I headed north in search of the Roman remains of Budapest. Just in theory, because the modern Budapest has very little to do with the original settlement. Obuda (the old Buda) and further north Aquincum have been integrated in the contemporary urbanism. Archaeological diggings find place under public highways and next to residential blocks.

Some of the places on my map, like the villa of Hercules, were difficult to find. But as soon as I returned to more ordinary paths, the Aquincum museum offered me an enriching selection of objects excavated recently in the Budapest area. The most intriguing thing you will find in this museum is an organ, a genuine music instrument from the Antiquity, known to us through literary and epigraphic sources. Moreover, a Hungarian scholar has reproduced the instrument that we can listen to on the museum’s second floor.

Other highlights are a facsimile of a modest roman villa, based entirely on finds at Aquincum and a temporary exhibition showing the museum’s researchers’ favourite objects that normally sit in a box in the warehouse. A delicate small samian terracotta depicting the popular god Mithras, a children’s game and two millefiori brooches were among my favourites.

Getting back to Budapest’s city centre after having visited the Roman colonia was another story. If one wishes to take the boat back, then he should get a bus until the next station north and anticipate a 20 minutes walk to the Danube without the help of guiding boards. It is worth it, even if you do not have wind proof clothing.

In the evening, as I was still under the spell of the (almost) ten euros cake that I just had at Gerbeaud, another billboard came my way, on a deserted street. The northern and southern winds were telling me all day long: it’s soon Final 4 day!


Budapest Day 1 : The Colours Of Pest


In case you’re coming to Budapest and have no clue about Hungarian history, long story short  :

The leader of a tribe from the Ural mountains decides in the 9th century to hit the road in search of better food and housing. And so he settles in Pannonia (the geographical feature in which Hungary lies).

His immediate follower, Stephan, is the first crowned king of Hungary, around the year 1000. The Hungarian kings are great supporters of the church and, as all eastern europeans at the time, hate the Ottoman Empire.

Mathias Corvinus is the last king under whose reign Hungary was self-standing. Calamity strikes in 1526, at Mohacs, when the Turks defeat the Hungarians. In 1686 the Turks are chased away by the christians.

The Habsbourgs’ (that you might know as Sissi’s folks) internal and foreign policy becomes that of Hungary. However, artistically, Budapest benefits from new urbanism projects.

What’s more, the Habsburgs vote for the austro-hungarian duality in 1867, meaning that Franz Joseph is now emperor of Austria and Hungary, the latter being awarded the right to have its own internal policy.

Eclectic Pest

As this brief history leads to think, there are much more colours to Budapest than green, white and red. I spent my day trotting the streets of Pest and trying to put a label on it. Eclecticism is the word that best defines the East Bank of the Danube.

For instance, wherever I went, at the Parliament, at the Opera or at St. Stephan’s Basilica, I was told stories about marbles from Italy and France, gold and stones from Transylvania, blue-pinkish textiles from local manufacturers, all reunited in « mammouth » architectural works meant to convey the Hungarian identity through art.

Moreover, the artists of the 19th century, exploited a wide pallet of sources : the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroc, the Hungarian folklore, antique frescoes, and surprisingly, ottoman curves. If someone woke me up in the night in front of a window of the Parliament’s main stairs, I would think myself in Istambul.


If you choose to visit the Parliament, you’d better not stay in line for a ticket or you might have to queue up for 30 minutes, and end up doing your tour in Hebrew or Russian …  because those sessions are the only ones available . Be practical and buy your ticket online for 200 HUF additional charges. Prices  : Parliament 1750 HUF and Opera 2 900 HUF . Both visits are too short for the money, around 30 minutes …on fast forward.

Another proof of eclecticism is the co-existence of labyrinth-like streets and large open spaces. As I wandered the streets surrounded by tall white and beige buildings, I felt the need to breathe. And that’s exactly what happens  : Pest’s lungs are its many squares and parks. Budapest’s squares are huge crossroads. Have you ever got lost in a public square  ? You will in Budapest.


If you are looking for relaxing music, nice terraces and a sparkling crowd, have cake at Gerbeaud Cukraszda, on the Vörösmarty Square, just before the Vaci street. For a quiet moment in the middle of the city, have a bite on the Egyetem square, at the southern end of the Karolyi street in Pest. The open book-fountain there is surely something you have never seen before. The Magyar street park with its open air café is also a beautiful place to rest in. It comes with a visit at the National Museum.

Until next time ! Viszlát hamarosan!



Romania’s Next Generation Update

PerianuThanks to GSP, who has interviewed Gabriela Perianu, I can update my post on Romania’s most promising players, written two and a half years ago.

Gabriela Perianu …


Born: 20/6/1994

Plays for: HC Dunarea Braila


Favourite player: Bojana Popović – “She was sensational! I wish to reach her level. This is what I train for.”

Dreams of: playing for Gyor or Buducnost, in five-years’ time

International competitions:

ECh U17 – 2011 – best LB

ECh U19 – 2011

WCh U18 – 2012 – best LB

WCh U20 – 2012

ECh U19 – 2013

WCh – 2013


One question: who will win the 2013 WCh?

The EHF, the IHF, coaches Heine Jensen and Alain Portes, players Andrea Lekić, Allison Pineau and Jovanka Radičević answer.

The EHF writes:

Defending champions, Norway (seeded in Group C), and EHF EURO 2012 gold medallists, Montenegro (seeded in Group A), are once again among the hot contenders for a medal, and so are Hungary, the bronze medallists of the EHF EURO 2012 and the hosts of the upcoming EHF EURO, together with Croatia, in December 2014. The Serbian team on home court is always a force to reckon with, as the men’s team proved by winning silver in January 2012 and the women’s squad by its fourth place in December 2012.

The IHF emphasizes:

But the list of main contenders for the medals is as long as never before: Up to ten, eleven teams are aiming for the semi-finals, with some big names.

Norway arrive at Serbia as the defending World Champions after entering the top of the podium by a final victory against France in Sao Paolo two years ago. All four 2011 semi-finalists are part of the 2013 edition, as also Denmark and Spain have made it to the event.

But in contrast to 2011 two former Yugoslavian are aiming high: Host Serbia and European champions Montenegro, who took the biggest success in all sports by becoming European champions one year ago after beating Norway in a thrilling final after two extra-times in Belgrade.

Aside, Hungary, Romania, Germany, Netherlands (after eliminating Russia in the qualification) build the strongest phalanx of an overall of 12 European teams in Serbia.

Heine Jensen predicts:

There is a big group of favourites. Norway and Montenegro are favourites, but Brazil and the French team too. Let me make a joke: In this tournament the world record holder in championship winning is without chance.

Alain Portes agrees:

Norway and Montenegro are favourites in my eyes.

The official website has interviewed Andrea Lekić:

I believe that Montenegro, as European Champion, can be very confident about it. There is Norway as well, as the current World Champion. To this list I would like to add Brazil, as well as South Korea, who played an extraordinary Olympic tournament last year. I hope that with a good performance we can also have a chance to fight for the Championship.

… Allison Pineau

I won’t count France among the favorites, because our last performance in Serbia. Norway and Montenegro are definitely the favorites for the gold.

and Jovanka Radičević

It’s going to be a though and uncertain championship. Usually there are surprises on World Championships, but I know one. Whoever plays against us, will have a hard time.

Is this going to be the third championship in a row disputed between Norway and Montenegro?

What can newcomers Serbia, Poland and Czech Republic bring to the world stage?

France, Denmark, Germany, Romania? Are you there yet?

Do I see a non European contender?

The answers, in two weeks.