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15.11.2017, 12:00
Malus: We will bite strong once again
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FEATURE: Rising Slovenian star Jaka Malus was top scorer when Celje defeated Kiel in Sparkassen Arena in Round 7, and looks forward to a repeat performance against the German giants on Sunday
 

Malus: We will bite strong once again

On Tuesday, just two days after a huge upset in Sparkassen Arena, one of Celje's rising stars, Jaka Malus, had two teeth pulled out by his dentist. But Celje will not set up a toothless performance in their own Zlatorog hall against the same opponent, THW Kiel, in Round 8 of the VELUX EHF Champions League.  

“It is going to be an even tougher match for us. Maybe Kiel didn't expect we could put up such great performance, but we can manage to bite once again,” says Malus.

21-year-old Malus, a former captain of the Slovenia youth national team, proved on Sunday that he can be a leader despite his age. The top scorer of the match, with eight goals – including the last one, that sealed the first-ever win for his team in Kiel – had that extra little motivational impulse as he faced his ex-teammate Miha Zarabec. It was not easy for Malus to step into those shoes this year.

“It was a great evening for Celje and also for me as an individual,” says Malus. “I do not compare myself with Zarabec though. He is a great player, I learned a lot playing with him, as I learn playing against him.”

A modern player similar to Sagosen

Malus had his first Champions League experience last season. A month ago, he played his first minutes for the senior national team, with coach Veselin Vujovic commenting on his modern style of play, similar to that of Norway's Sander Sagosen.

“Sagosen is even more dangerous for an opponent’s goal – he is a bit taller, and a better shooter from outside. But I realise that I am a little bit different from other prominent Slovenian playmakers and that there aren't many players like I am,” says Malus. “Nikola Karabatic was always my role model, but I try to play more like Andy Schmid. I think I have more things in common with him.”

Malus learned how to be a leader playing for medals with Slovenia’s 1996-98 generation team. Young players also need role models in their teams, but the locker room in Celje is mostly home to handball toddlers this year – Malus being one of them.

“We have the youngest team so far and the fans did not expect a lot, especially after we were drawn in Group B. I was actually happy that I could play such top teams, but worried of course because of the hard challenge. We did set high goals, we want to climb out of this group, and by beating Kielce and Kiel we proved we can do it. Once you realise that the superstars in other clubs are still humans, then you can win games,” Malus says like a veteran.

1996 – a good year

Malus won the 2014 Youth Olympic Games gold medal in China and Youth World Championship silver in Russia in 2015. 1996 saw a good handball harvest for Slovenia: Blaz Janc (Kielce), Urh Kastelic (PPD Zagreb), Gal Marguc (Celje) and Malus were all born that year and aim to make impact in this sport. They are quickly losing their baby teeth.  

“That youth experience was very important. We were happy that we came from the same club. That made things easier. We learned how to cope with pressure in the medal matches, I learned how to play responsibly and when to lead,” says Malus. “But playing on this level now is a lot different. I still try to enjoy every minute on the field and of course give everything I can to win. I enjoy the decisive moments.”

Maybe he will have a chance for another important moment on Sunday. Celje will do everything to make things harder for the German giant, particularly as the two teams are level on the Group B table with five points. There are seven more group phase games to come – and seven more to watch out for Malus.

 


TEXT: Uros Volk / cg
 
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