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25.01.2018, 14:30
Ever-present Minsk face huge challenge
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EHF Cup countdown #3: SKA Minsk (BLR). Always playing on European level since 1993, the Belarusian side have been drawn into a tough group
 

Ever-present Minsk face huge challenge

The EHF has been organising European club competitions since the 1993/94 season - and SKA Minsk have been part of one of these tournaments each season.

After dominating the Soviet era in the late 1980s and winning the Belarusian league 10 times in the 1990s, SKA were passed by other domestic clubs such as Dinamo or Meshkov.

But under the leadership of legendary Spartak Mironovich, who coached SKA for nearly 40 years between 1976 and 2014, the club started to rise again and the three-time Champions’ Cup winners took the EHF Challenge Cup trophy five years ago.

In the current season, SKA do not only hope for their first Belarusian league title since 2002, they have also made it to the EHF Cup Group Phase for the second time after 2015/16.

The way to this stage was steep but the team of new head coach Igor Papruha made it after leaving CSM Bucuresti and Spanish top side La Rioja from Logrono behind in the qualification rounds.

Now Minsk will face even more challenging sides in Group A: Magdeburg, Bjerringbro and Presov.

“We have very strong opponents in our group. Magdeburg are a top representative of the Bundesliga, Bjerringbro are one of the best teams in Denmark, Tatran play in the SEHA Liga and have beaten teams such as Meshkov Brest and Zagreb this season,” coach Papruha says. “But we still set the goal to reach the quarter-finals though we know that this is a very difficult task.”

Getting strong results in the qualification, his players have enjoyed the taste of success.

“It is a serious challenge for our team to take part in the EHF Cup Group Phase and also a great experience for our young players,” Papruha says. “They can only raise their performing level in games against strong opponents. And our team know if we believe in us, we can climb all hills.”

For Papruha, the French and German sides are the main contenders for the trophy.

“But there are no weak teams in this stage of the competition. Every participant can cause a little sensation,” the Minsk coach says.

The current SKA squad is almost an all-Belarusian one: the only foreign player is Ukrainian new arrival Vladislav Dontsov. Like Belarusian international Hleb Harbuz, Dontsov played for Motor Zaporozhye before.

Currently, two key players - goalkeeper Ivan Moroz and left wing Ivan Brouko - suffer from injuries but Minsk hope they are fit again before the start of the group stage in February.

SKA Minsk (BLR)

Qualification for the EHF Cup Group Phase 2017/18: Round 2:  30:26, 33:30 against CSM Bucuresti (ROU), Round 3: 36:28, 30:35 against La Rioja (ESP)

Newcomers: Vladislav Dontsov (Motor Zaporozhye), Hleb Harbuz (Motor Zaporozhye)

Left the club: Vadim Gayduchenko (Dinamo Bucharest), Artur Karvatski (Balatonfuredi), Aleksei Shynkel (Motor Zaporozhye), Denis Kritsky (Kalish), Aliaksander Patsikaylik (Azize Turkey)

Coach: Igor Papruha (since July 2016)

Team captain: Aliaksander Padshivalau

Opponents in the group matches: Magdeburg, Bjerringbro and Presov in Group A

EHF Champions League records:
-

Other European Cup records:

EHF Cup:
Group phase: 2015/16

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Winners: 1982/83, 1987/88

EHF Challenge Cup:
Winners: 2012/13

Champions Cup (forerunner of Champions League):
Winners: 1987, 1989, 1990

Belarusian champions (10): 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
USSR league champions (6): 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989
Belarus cup winners (6): 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2012
USSR cup winner (3): 1980, 1981, 1982


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew
 
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