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06.12.2011, 20:00
Momir Ilic: "Let's put Serbian handball on the map"
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Left back talks about the upcoming EHF EURO and his ambitions with his club Kiel.
 

Momir Ilic: "Let's put Serbian handball on the map"

Having scored six goals in THW Kiel’s 35:24 win against his compatriots Partizan Belgrade in the Pionir Arena, one of the five venues hosting EHF EURO 2012, Ilic was distraught with the fact that merely 1,000 fans turned up to see the Serbian champions take centre stage against one of the game’s giants in Europe’s premier club competition, the VELUX EHF Champions League.

He also expressed concerns that Serbia, who have never won a medal as a single nation and last tasted success in the 2001 World Championship as part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, would be deprived of much-needed home support if it doesn’t enjoy a podium finish in January’s showcase event on home soil.

"Anything short of a medal at EHF Euro 2012 will be a failure and it’s about time we put Serbian handball on the map of medal winners," Ilic said. "Low attendances at top level games in Serbia are a real concern, the turnout for Partizan’s match against THW Kiel was disappointing and it’s clear that handball is not a crowd-pulling sport here," he added.

"The most likely reason is that we’ve had no success as a nation in the past 10 years and hence we need to shine in EHF EURO 2012. Our Four Nations Cup match against Croatia in the Pionir Arena also didn’t draw a capacity crowd although it should have, given the rivalry between the two teams. It’s up to the players now because fans will come flocking if we earn their support," Ilic pointed out.

As realistic as ever, Ilic acknowledged that covering themselves in glory would be a tall order for the Serbian team facing world class opposition in what he sees as the toughest international event. 

"We have a great chance, but we have to resolve the problems in our game and be fully focused in each game at EHF EURO 2012, expectations are huge but if we are able to raise our game we should be able to figure as one of the medal contenders," Ilic assessed.

"France, Croatia, Spain and Denmark are the obvious favourites for a podium finish but there are a number of other teams who can defy the odds and win a medal. The European Championship is much tougher than the worlds because there are no rank outsiders and every team is capable of doing well," he said.  

"It should be a spectacular tournament and fans in Serbia can look forward to a flurry of entertaining matches. Naturally, we want to delight our supporters and have a memorable tournament," Ilic added and once again underscored the importance of playing on home soil in a passionate atmosphere:

"Hopefully, we will have capacity crowds throughout the tournament because home support will be vital for us to do well. It could be the decisive factor." 

The 29-year old sharpshooter also looked back at the Four Nations Cup, an EHF EURO 2012 dress rehearsal played in the first week of November in three of the five European Championship venues. The Serbians beat their neighbours Croatia but had very little else to cheer about after losing the other two games against winners Hungary and the Czech Republic. 

"Four good teams took part in the Four Nations Cup and it was a perfect build-up for us to play against three strong opponents ahead of the European Championship. We need to keep working hard to be ready for the European Championship, given the imperative of putting Serbian handball back on the world map in order to yield some long-term benefits," Ilic said.


TEXT: Mark Hegedues
 
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