FEATURE: BHC SKKM-Ekaterinodar takes to the court at the Beach Handball Champions Cup, ready to confirm the leading role it has gained in the sport
Ekaterinodar fight for title, recognition and attention
It is almost ten years ago that a Russian men’s club last won a European Cup competition when Chekhovskie Medvedi in 2006 lifted the Cup Winners’ Cup.
However, this is indoors and things are looking different when it comes to beach handball, where a club from Krasnodar, BHC SKKM-Ekaterinodar, tries to take over the lead.
In 2014 the team came second at the ebt Finals in Thessaloniki, one year later in Budaörs they finished third – but in between came their biggest success when they won the inaugural edition of the EHF Beach Handball Champions Cup on the island of Gran Canaria.
The tournament’s second edition has just thrown off and the defending champions, of course, have travelled once more to the Spanish island, eager to defend the championship plate they won last year.
12 teams have registered for the men’s event and Ekaterinodar sees itself matched against Camelot (NED), Grosseto (ITA), Skayringom (DEN), Płock (POL) and Lloret Beach (SUI).
“This year everything will be more complicated. This is the second tournament. A year ago, maybe the guys came to get acquainted with this new stage in the development of beach handball, the Champions Cup,” says the team’s captain, Roman Kalashnikov, who was the top scorer and MVP at the ebt Finals 2015.
“This year the teams will approach the event more seriously and bring stronger players. We will try to progress past the group phase and I hope without major problems.
“There are two or three teams that are strong in the group, and we will have to do our best in the games against them
“We cannot relax at all. You can be first in the group and then lose in the quarter-finals and you are left empty-handed,” says Kalashnikov.
The 10-player team of Ekaterinodar already arrived on 3 November, giving them enough time to test the conditions and train together.
It seemed a necessary step, given the face that several of the club’s main players could not come to the tournament.
Because of this, Ekaterinodar coach, Vladimir Poletaev, took on a player’s role in addition to his regular duties, and furthermore some responsibility has been shifted to the team’s youngsters.
German Manukol and Yegor Kochura have joined the team and they bring no less than the experience of winning this summer’s Men’s 19 European Championship with them.
According to Kalashnikov the focus will be on establishing the same kind of teamwork that led them to the title in 2014.
“We have a well-established attack line with experienced players who have been playing together for several years, but in defence we might encounter some problems.
“The team is being updated, because of this there is no teamwork in defence as players are constantly changing, there is no stability yet,” he says.
By participating in the Champions Cup the team hopes to attract more young people to beach handball and to receive more attention for their sport in Russia.
All Ekaterinodar players are amateurs and all of them are working somewhere or studying.
However, the team expects to confirm its leading role in European beach handball in Europe and sets itself the highest goals.
“A good result this year for us would be winning the quarter-finals. But we always keep the first place in our mind,” says Kalashnikov.
“Maybe we are not prepared that well for some reasons, but we have the highest ambitions and the Russian spirit will make us fight until the end.”
TEXT: Philipp Kolotushkin / ts
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