Belarusian international talks to eurohandball.com before the first leg of the Challenge Cup final
Pukhouski wants to bring a trophy to Minsk
After a long period of time, SKA Minsk have a good chance to win a European club competition. In the final matches of the Challenge Cup, the army team from Minsk will face Handball Esch from Luxembourg. The first leg will take place on 18 May in Luxembourg, while the return leg will be played on 25 May in the Belarusian capital.
Before these crucial games, one of the SKA leaders, the 26-year-old centre back Barys Pukhouski speaks to eurohandball.com.
eurohandball.com: Are the matches against Esch the most important games for SKA Minsk during this season?
Barys Pukhouski: One of the most important, that is for sure. The whole team think like that. We are very motivated and want to win the Challenge Cup. And nobody is going to underestimate the Luxembourgish team. Somehow they managed to reach the final, so they are not weak. And I am sure that our opponents are preparing something for the final games…
eurohandball.com: But still SKA are the favorites, or not?
Barys Pukhouski: I am not 100 per cent sure. I simply have never seen any Esch games. But generally speaking, handball in Luxembourg is less developed than in Belarus. Therefore we can say that we have more chances. And we will give our best despite the fact that we are quite exhausted at the end of the season.
eurohandball.com: Were you surprised that the club from the tiny Luxembourg reached the final?
Barys Pukhouski: Definitely. Before the previous rounds we expected Esch to be eliminated. But they showed great spirit and won many games just by a couple of goals. So they deserved to be in the final. Fortune smiles on the best.
eurohandball.com: What are your memories about the previous games of SKA Minsk in the current Challenge Cup season?
Barys Pukhouski: Oh, only positive ones. In fact, we managed to win all the matches. Especially the away games have been quite good for us. We played with confidence and never had a reason to panic. In the semi-final, the second leg against Runar was pretty hard. But in the end, we did just what our coach expected from us.
eurohandball.com: In your opinion, how prestigious is the Challenge Cup compared to other European club competitions?
Barys Pukhouski: Well, of course the EHF Champions League and the EHF Cup are more prominent competitions. At the same time I think that the Challenge Cup has obviously more prestige than such international tournaments as the Baltic league or SEHA league. SKA Minsk have not won any trophies like that for a long time. So we are eager to make a present for our fans.
eurohandball.com. During this year, SKA have already won the Baltic league, and the team still has chances to become a Belarusian champion. Had you expected such a successful season?
Barys Pukhouski: Of course I did not know for sure. Before the start of the season I said that we really wanted to compete. And I felt that we had enough potential. However, I did not expect the year to be so successful. In fact, we have suffered only a couple of defeats during the season…
eurohandball.com: Can you say that the season have been a success for you personally?
Barys Pukhouski: Now it is too early to say! If we lose all the decisive matches, it will be quite painful. But so far, I am quite happy with my performance. I played a lot, and I think I did a good job.
eurohandball.com. You have already signed a contract with the Hungarian club Csurgó for the next season. Why did you decide to leave SKA Minsk?
Barys Pukhouski: I am 26 now and I have never played abroad. It is interesting to compare the development of handball in Hungary and Belarus. I want to see how everything is organized in Hungarian clubs. Besides, I just want my family to live in another country, to see what it is like, how people live there, to learn something about the Hungarian history… In my opinion, I should develop not only my handball skills, but also my personality. I want to broaden my horizons.
eurohandball.com: Most likely SKA will also lose several other key players in the summer. What will happen with the team after that?
Barys Pukhouski: New leaders will emerge! SKA have lots of young talents, and they will get more playing time after we leave. So I am quite optimistic about that. The club has a good leadership and good coaches. Spartak Mironovich, the head coach, also feels positive about the future. He signed a new contract with the club, so he knows what he does.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / br
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