Serbia’s Handball Federation President Velimir Marjanovic shares his thoughts about the EHF EURO 2012.
Serbia Seeking Road to Handball Recovery
Our ambition is not only do well in this tournament but set a cornerstone for a long-term objective of bringing handball back to the high level we enjoyed as part of the former Yugoslavia, Serbia’s Handball Federation (RSS) President Velimir Marjanovic told the EHF in an exclusive interview.
The upcoming EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia is the biggest international event the Balkan country is to stage since the European Basketball Championship in 2005. According to Serbian Handball Federation (RSS) chief Velimir Marjanovic, the January 15-29 tournament, comprising Europe’s top 16 nations, will be a spectacular event second only to major soccer tournaments in terms of fan interest and media exposure.
While Marjanovic acknowledged that organizing an event of this scale was a great challenge, he underscored Serbia was ready to host it now and pointed out the minor finishing touches still to be made in the four venues would be completed long before the tournament starts.
"The success of EHF EURO 2012 is of utmost importance to Serbia because it should represent a victory of sports and handball in particular. We want it to be an impeccably organised tournament which should send a clear message to Europe that Serbia is a country with a wealthy sports heritage and tradition," Marjanovic told the EHF.
"Handball is one of the most popular team sports in Europe and we want the 40,000 visitors that we expect to feel at home here and enjoy the event from start to finish. We are also convinced that the tournament will produce handball of exceptional quality, hence we have named our launch campaign "Handball Fantasy." It should give Serbia an impetus to secure a successful long-term future of its handball," he said.
Serbia last tasted international success in 2001, when they won their second successive World Championship bronze medal. It appeared to be the last roar of a generation which grew up in the former Yugoslavia, which was a world force to be reckoned with and won a haul of medals in all major competitions.
Marjanovic therefore also sees EHF EURO 2012 as an opportunity to rekindle a bygone era and lay the foundations for future talents to live up to Serbia’s handball potentials.
"The EHF EURO 2012 gives us hope that we will be able to catch up with the top European nations, which have made tremendous progress in the past 20 years at every level. We, on the other hand, seem to be stuck in a time-trap keeping us pegged back in the 1980s, which was the golden era of handball in this part of Europe," said Marjanovic.
"It is vital that we improve our infrastructure but the efforts we have already made to make sure that EHF EURO 2012 is nothing less than a spectacular tournament will show that we are capable of organising a top-level event. Our ambition was to produce not just a playable environment as regards the facilities, but one that will set new standards for future competitions and create a competitive environment for our own young prospects," he said.
On the other hand, Marjanovic acknowledged Serbian media needed to intensify their coverage of the sport. "Media in Serbia have broadcast very few top-level international events recently, especially when our national team or clubs failed to qualify for them. However, that has changed with the arrival of the Arenasport television network and Partizan Belgrade’s success of reaching this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League group stage. We hope that it will constitute a stepping stone for more sustained and consistent handball coverage in the future," Marjanovic said.
With 75 percent of all tickets sold, Marjanovic said he was convinced demand would equal supply for the eagerly-awaited event. "It is most encouraging to see tickets selling rapidly and by the looks of things, we will have capacity crowds in the vast majority of games. The sale was a bit slow in Novi Sad in the early stages but it has really picked up in the last few weeks, while the latter stages of the competition are certain to pull sellout crowds," the RSS president pointed out.
"Fans in Serbia have long been deprived of seeing top-level handball, which is the second most popular team sport in Europe as it’s only behind soccer. The level at which major international events are organised, including the VELUX EHF Champions League, shows that in no uncertain terms and it is of utmost importance for the media here to hype up the importance of EHF EURO 2012 as much as possible," he added.
Last but not least, Marjanovic expressed hope the home nation would do well in order to keep fans glued to their seats throughout the tournament and at the same time give Serbia’s handball a much needed impetus.
"We expect nothing less than a podium finish at the big tournament, which would also enable us to take part in qualifiers for the 2012 Olympics. We are a talented nation and Serbia should make the most of playing at home to achieve a good result which would also constitute a platform for future success. The overall impression and intensity of fan interest in a major international event often depends on how well the home nation does, therefore we have every incentive to earn a berth in the Medal Round. I think the national team and the players share this view and I am convinced they are looking forward to the challenge," said Marjanovic.
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TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic
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