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17.06.2014, 16:00
Farewell to the small woman with a big heart
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FEATURE: A look at the trophy-laden career of Ana Djokic which came to an end after the MVM EHF FINAL4 in Budapest
 

Farewell to the small woman with a big heart

The first MVM EHF FINAL4 in May was a huge occasion for women’s handball and even bigger for WHC Vardar SCBT, a club which reached this momentous event in its very first season in Europe's top flight.

While many in the team were looking ahead towards long-term success, this was the one and only attempt for Ana Djokic with the club. The 35-year-old line player joined from Russian side Rostov-Don during the previous summer and was set to retire at the end of the season.

Not content with easing into retirement, Djokic produced her best goal scoring form in the Women’s EHF Champions League since 2010/11 and her 32 goals proved to be a driving force for the Skopje side on their way to Budapest and securing third place at the event, allowing her to bow out on the biggest stage possible.

Proving everyone wrong

“You have Monica Seles in all sports” – this is what Djokic first coach said to her parents and describes best the talent she possessed at her young age. Djokic trained different sports and handball came later in life as she started playing at the age of 14, breaking all physical barriers for line players.

“Everyone said that with my body constitution I can’t play handball, and that is why one day I came home crying, and said in tears, I will show them that I can be the best”

Ana turned out to be one of the very few players that played parallel in two clubs and competed in both the first and second tier of the Serbian league, where she gained an enormous experience and helped her gain the attention of one of the best Yugoslavian teams at that time, Napredak. Djokic’s first Yugoslavian titles and the opportunity to play with the biggest names in handball at the time came with this club, as did her first European title, the City Cup.

Driven by a hunger for new challenges and successes, Djokic decided to move abroad and signed for Hungarian powerhouse Györ. Here Ana won the Hungarian championship three times and Hungarian cup four times, as well as reaching the finals of both the EHF Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup.

“I was growing with Gyor, and the club was growing with me. I was happy that this team had so many ambitions and I still see Hungary as my second home and the fans in this country are some of the best in the world.

“They appreciated when I was leaving my heart on the court and here I had many quality matches with many great players”

Hitting the big time in Montenegro

Djokic spent one season in Podravka, but the decision that brought her biggest handball achievements in both club and national team competitions was the transfer to Buducnost and playing for the Montenegrin National team.

“I don’t feel sorry and I think that I made the right decision taking Montenegrin citizenship,” said Ana.

The biggest successes in her career were the silver medal from the Olympic Games in London and winning both the EHF EURO and Women’s EHF Champions League in 2012.

“After the World Championship in Brazil ended and we were at the airport did we found out that we will play in qualification for the Olympics. We were very happy about this, and we seriously prepared for the huge event. Every thought on the Olympic Games gives me shivers. I believe that every player dreams about playing in this event.

“It wasn’t until the end that we were aware of our strength. We came right at the right time, from fourth place in the group stage we won against France in the quarter-finals.  The whole team was so focused on the opponents that we even forgot the event we were playing in.

“Olympic Games, Champions League and European Championship, everything happened very fast and this was the most effective period in my carrier.

“After London no one was surprised about us anymore, but still many thought that without Bojana Popovic and Maja Savic we would not be able to win the championship. I somehow knew that we will win a medal, because our team was powerful and we were consistently winning against powerful nations.

“The emotions you feel in sports, regardless if you are on the top or bottom simply can’t be compared with anything else,” said the line player.

After Buducnost, Djokic left for Russia, joining Rostov where she thought that she will end her carrier. However, after winning the silver medal in the Russian championship she received the offer from Macedonian champions Vardar, where she brought her career to an end with a trip to Budapest and the MVM EHF FINAL4.

“We achieved a great result in the first season and I’m sorry we didn’t reach the final, but finishing in third place in Europe it’s a great achievement from my team and a great end to my career,” concluded Djokic.

Although she has won almost everything there is to win, this is not the reason for Ana Djokic’s retirement. The desire to achieve is still there, but a new chapter ahead as she focuses on family life.


TEXT: Amina Idrizi / cor
 
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