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12.11.2014, 07:00
Handball-mad Skopje is the place to be for Lekic
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: Andrea Lekic is looking forward to an action-packed season as she aims to reach giddy heights in the Women’s EHF Champions League as well at the upcoming EHF EURO 2014 in Hungary and Croatia
 

Handball-mad Skopje is the place to be for Lekic

In her prime and enjoying life at Macedonian champions Vardar Skopje, Serbian playmaker Andrea Lekic is more determined than ever to impress for club and country in what promises to be another fruitful season for the 27-year old centre back from Belgrade.

Having led Serbia to their first international medal in women’s handball when they finished runners-up in the 2013 World Championship on home court, Lekic is eager to expand her trophy cabinet which also includes the 2013 Women's EHF Champions League title with her former club Györi Audi ETO KC.

Lekic was also named the 2013 World Handball Player of the Year for her accomplishments but has retained a down-to-earth attitude and revealed her future ambitions in an exclusive interview to eurohandball.com.

Apart from professional topics, Lekic also discussed the joys of living in a city possessed by handball and dreaming of winning Europe’s premier club competition after heavy investments.

eurohandball.com: What does your routine day in Skopje look like and are you enjoying your stay in the Macedonian capital?
Andrea Lekic: It is probably no different than for most professional athletes. I have two training sessions every day, in between which I have lunch and coffee with friends. I am the kind of person who likes to explore cities I live in so I am often on the move to discover new restaurants and cafes. I really like it here.

eurohandball.com: You are very popular with fans, so how much of a distraction is it to be asked for autographs and photos every day?
Andrea Lekic: It is not a distraction at all. This is a handball-mad country and the fans here are absolutely fantastic. They are not intimidating and with handball being the national sport, we know that we will always be in the focus of their attention.

It is a privilege and an honour to be so popular and I'm sure the entire team feels that way.

eurohandball.com: Can you compare Vardar with your former club, Györi Audi ETO KC?
Andrea Lekic: There are differences and some similarities too. Györ has been in the top echelons of women’s European club handball for quite a while Vardar is a young club which has done a fantastic marketing job enticing fans with a new arena and a fan shop.

You can’t expect miracles in two years but Vardar is definitely on the right track to become a European force. I love being part of such projects and that’s why I'm here.

eurohandball.com: You seem enjoy playing in your more preferred role of centre back at Vardar?
Andrea Lekic: Yes, every player loves a degree of freedom on the court. The two years I spent at Györ were the highlight of my career as I won the Women’s EHF Champions League with the club, but at Vardar I have been given the opportunity to feature in my favourite role of a playmaker. I am really enjoying it and wouldn’t change it.

eurohandball.com: You reached the (MVM EHF) FINAL4 last year, is there any pressure to go a step further this season after heavy investments by the club’s owners?
Andrea Lekic: No, there is no pressure at all. Of course, our ambitions are to keep improving and if possible do better than last season, when we finished third in Europe’s premier club competition, but the board is aware that we need time to gel as a unit.

I think it will be a fiercely competitive season and tiny details will decide who wins the coveted trophy.

eurohandball.com: The Women's EHF EURO 2014 in Croatia and Hungary is around the corner. Surely, Serbia will be aiming for a podium finish after winning the silver medal in last year’s World Championship on home court?
Andrea Lekic: Absolutely. The goal must always be to emulate past success or surpass it, but it would be audacious to make any promises. We have an incredibly tough preliminary round group but we are focused on hitting top form in time for the 16-nation tournament.

The European Championship is much more exhausting than the World Championship because there are fewer rest days. Still, we are hoping for a medal because nothing compares to playing for your country.

eurohandball.com: Are you happy with the EHF EURO 2014 draw pitting you with one of the two hosts, Croatia, in the main round should you reach it?
Andrea Lekic: Any opposition in a European Championship is difficult as even the emerging nations have proven to be tough nuts to crack. We want to take some points into the main round and if we get there we will be up against Croatia. Having hosted two major tournaments recently, we are fully aware how difficult it is to play against the home team because we know how much we benefited from fan support.

eurohandball.com: There are a lot of young players in Serbia’s team. Can any of them come to the fore and be a secret weapon in your quest to win a medal?
Andrea Lekic: My personal opinion is that injecting fresh blood personified by two or three young players every time we get together is the way to keep the national team competitive. I know what it meant to me when I was called up for the first time to join the squad as a 17-year old. Young players will benefit even if they are there for just a couple of days and the national team, in turn, will benefit in the future.

The likes of Andjela Janusevic and Sanja Radosavljevic are Serbia’s future and there are several others who should be included into the squad. This generation is at its prime now and will peak at the 2016 Olympics if we qualify, hence we need to think long-term.

eurohandball.com: What would it mean for the national team if one of Serbia’s clubs were to reach the EHF Champions League Group Matches?
Andrea Lekic: As I run a handball camp for young talents, it would mean the world to me personally and the national team would reap long-term rewards. Radnicki Kragujevac came so close this season and it was absolutely great to see them beat FC Midtjylland, last season’s FINAL4 participants, to get into a position to qualify.

Their victory was totally unexpected and showed that our clubs have vast potential, but unfortunately the barren run has continued as far as Serbia’s group stage involvement is concerned. Our talent requires a financial infrastructure to generate success, because the Serbian league is not on the same level with the national team. Long-term consistency requires constant investments. 


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / ts
 
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