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!



Girls With Epées, Teams With Balls

It rarely happens to find an opinion article on handball in the Romanian press. I should say this happens in only one place: Radu Naum’s blog. In my search for a colorful opinion on Oltchim’s performance so far, I came across this post of his on the Romanian Women’s Epée Team.  Today, four girls represent all that was once good and successful in our country and is now lost, the last drop of water in a hitch-hiker’s bottle.

These girls have all won individual medals people do not care about as much as they do about their multiple European and World team titles. As in gymnastics, as in handball, the public appreciates a team when he sees one a tad more than the deeds of a bright individual. These four girls have told the press they are NOT friends, but that they are a team when it counts. It made me think about our coach begging his handball players to “Help each other in defense!” as if this was an act of graciousness and not an unconditional duty towards the team.

The four fencers just told us the secret when it comes to performing well – do not expect to build friendships, but teams – a secret that Martin Ambros knows better than any other coach in Champions League. An explanation like: “Adina Meirosu and Oana Manea work well together on court because they are close friends” has no place in Estella. There, Begona Fernandez will be as efficient assisted by Oana Soit, by Sandy Barbosa or by the bland Andrea Barno.  It is not a question of who likes who, but of who does what. Clear tasks set up by the coach in order to make a team work in its ensemble, from wing to pivot (do I have to remind you how Spain scored that last-second goal against Romania at the 2009 WCh? Guess not), will support a fantastic handball machine, with fewer individuals and more than one functioning mechanisms.

In contrast, Romania has focused on building two-way relations that once broken, become fatal. Just have a look at Ionela Stanca in Oltchim’s last season, after Cristina Neagu stopped playing! The loss of this axis alone was probably more important than Cristina’s goals, because it represented the perfusion that  artificially kept us alive throughout all those matches.

Take Begona Fernandez out of Itxako, AND Nerea Pena, AND Oana Soit, replace them with not such quality players, and the machine will work just as fine.

Season Preview Interviews

The website does a series of interviews with key actors of the teams playing Champions League this season. Here are the juicy parts and the alternative translation:

Herbert Muller, coach of Thuringer HC:

I think we have a good squad as well for this year, but you don’t have to look only titles, but have to see the team development.

=>> It was plain luck we won the title last season, no one in the club expects us to actually win points in the group stage.

I think the team fits from it’s team spirit, but here at Schmelz the final piece was still missing to win one of the close matches. Shots that went in last year now didn’t go in. We have to work on that.

=>> This is not FTC, so don’t expect us to score from the 9m line.

Galina Gabisova, goalkeeper of Rostov Don:

In the previous season many things were not as they should have been. I played a little, so there was no relation between us (her and Suslina), but this season things will change.

=>> CL is the least of my worries. If I get to play 10 min every other match, that will be my trophy.

Simply, I decided in the last moment to stay at home. My parents had a little role in this decision, but I also wanted to stay and prove that in Rostov, I’m number 1.

=>> There’s a rumor Inna will retire soon.

Jana Krause, goalkeeper of Buxtehuder SV:

At the moment I`m very satisfied here and feel very good in the team, but I`m also very ambitious. I don`t know what will be after two years. Then I will be 26 years old, where the best years for goalkeepers begin. It could be interesting to make new experiences in a foreign country, but I haven`t thought about this yet.

=>> Englert, Woltering, I’m coming!

It is a dream to reach one of the CL groups with Buxtehude. I played two seasons with Nürnberg in the CL, and that was a greatly experience and feeling to play against the best teams and players in Europe and the world.

=>> I realize those days are gone now and Women’s Champions League is degrading. Let’s face it: we are only battling with Debrecen for the “worst team of CL award”.

Ana Djokic of Buducnost:

The most memorable match in the previous season was the match against Larvik, because in this match we fought for something that Buducnost has not experienced yet, and that is the entrance in the final of the Champions League.

=>> I am pretending that was not one of the biggest fiascoes in the history of the Balkan peninsula.

How do you see the future of Buducnost?  I see my team in the top of the Champions League.

=>> How do I see the future of our Future? Tricky question. I’ll do like Adzic and say something redundant.

Ambros Martin, coach of Itxako:

Finally we have shown that the same teams do not always have to rule Champions League.

=>> Swallow that, Voina!

For the two opponents that we already know I think that Oltchim has improved from last year and Hypo signed a lot of new players, all of them are very good players so we will see what will happen. (Note: they are playing Dinamo, not Hypo)

=>> I have no idea who our opponents are. I just hope we get to kick some Romanian a.. again.

Website Review Part 2: Győri ETO And Itxako

This one, is less about esthetics and more (much more) about information. News is not only up to date, but they are very documented. There is no need to search for it somewhere else, like on They always have interviews after any event, be it winning a trophee or signing a new player. They allow comments. I always enjoy reading this part because it gives me an ideea of how the club is perceived by the spectators. Their photo gallery is complete, but difficult to scroll through, you have to do it page by page. In the end, you’ll get used to it. They have pictures of all outside-the-court activities, like Team Buildings or parties. We first found out about those from Cristina Varzaru, remember? There is not much left to say, only that its simplicity breaths quality.

And now, the best of the best. Itxako has the merit of having discovered Youtube and Facebook and that is what sets them apart from Gyor. Also, the appearence is more playful, but that’s a matter of “Who needs it?”. They have huge photo galleries on Facebook, which is the magic solution to easy browsing!