INTERVIEW: As the beach handball season has come to a close, eurohandball.com had the chance to catch up with one of this year's outstanding players, Russian Roman Kalashnikov
"I'm not superman"
At the beginning of November Russian club Ekaterinodar won the EHF Beach Handball Champion Cup for the second year in a row.
With the beach handball season now in its weather-induced hibernation, eurohandball.com correspondent Filipp Kolotushkin had the chance to talt to Roman Kalashnikov, the best goal scorer of the tournament in Gran Canaria, captain of the team and the Russian national team and one of the season's outstanding players.
eurohandball.com: Roman, in hindsight, how tough was this title defence for you?
Roman Kalashnikov: For me it was more difficult this year, primarily because of my poor physical fitness, and I also thought that this year our rivals were well prepared. They definitely have been approaching the Champions Cup more seriously.
eurohandball.com: Nevertheless, no team was able to defeat you. You even lost just one set...
Roman Kalashnikov: Each match was unique. I cannot say we completely smashed any opponent. There were games where we were trying to work out some new combinations or prepare for the next match.
eurohandball.com: Which match was the most remarkable?
Roman Kalashnikov: I remember the quarter-finals against the Sand Devils from Germany. That was a persistent and serious battle. And then I remember the final against Team Sweden. We had never played against them and they were actually like the national team; many of them had played at the European Championships. These two games are the most remarkable because the quarter-finals were the minimum achievement for us, and in the final, of course, we fought for the overall victory.
eurohandball.com: Did you have any supporters in Gran Canaria?
Roman Kalashnikov: Unfortunately, this year a lot of our fans had not been able to come there to support us as they did a year earlier. But I had support from my family. My father was our coach; my mom was looking after my daughter. They are two of my main supporters. During the quarter-final one family from Kaliningrad, who holidayed in Gran Canaria, accidentally found out about the Cup and then they came to our remaining games and cheered for us.
eurohandball.com: What about foreign fans?
Roman Kalashnikov: They were absolutely polite with me, personally, and were friendly and respectful towards the Ekaterinodar team, especially in the final match. I guess that more than a half of all the fans, who attended the game, were cheering for us. In addition, we were supported by the teams who were eliminated earlier. Honestly, I've never seen any aggression or hostility from our rivals. The main principle of beach handball is fair play. And I believe that there reigns a friendly atmosphere despite of the heat of the game itself. During the game we can swear and fight, but always, when the game is over we are friends.
eurohandball.com: Ekaterinodar has been the team which has the least amount of penalties for what you received the fair play award. How important is it for you to follow the fair play principles of beach handball?
Roman Kalashnikov: I would say that fair play is the main feature of our game; it is the reason why we can play a perfect game in defence. Evgeny Svestula was probably the best defender at this tournament. His blocking is almost always clean. In matches that we were quite sure to win, we set the goal to not get any suspensions. And if anyone earned a suspension, he had to do push-ups or some sprints as a punishment.
eurohandball.com: What other players would you highlight? Your team also had the best goalkeeper in the ranks…
Roman Kalashnikov: Roman Valiakin showed a perfect game in many moments and saved important shots when games were on the edge. In attack Vladimir Poletaev’s experience helped us in key moments such as at the end of the final, when we were trailing by one point five seconds before the end of the second set. We created a beautiful combination when Poletaev made a perfect pass to Yevgeny Svistula. In this situation, the Swedish player had no choice but foul him and it granted us a penalty which I converted.
eurohandball.com: Let’s turn to you. You became the best scorer with 143 goals in 8 matches. What do you need to achieve such results?
Roman Kalashnikov: The success that I have in beach handball all comes thanks to the team. A lot depends on if the team trusts you and gives you the opportunity to finish the attack. Perhaps it also helps that I’m one of the first right-handers in beach handball who plays on the right wing, that might make it harder to defend me. The rest is experience and practice. I do not have unique physical abilities to throw ball stronger than anyone else, jump higher than anyone else. I’m not superman.
eurohandball.com: When did you start beach handball?
Roman Kalashnikov: I played indoor handball in school and it was only at university that I started playing beach handball. I want to say thanks to my father, Vladimir Kalashnikov, because he is the founder of Ekaterinodar in 2009 and he gave us the opportunity to play in the European Beach Tour.
eurohandball.com: What are the prospects of development of beach handball in Russia?
Roman Kalashnikov: There are some positive signs. There are people out there who are trying to develop beach handball. Beach handball is becoming more popular in Europe. If beach handball will be in the Olympics 202 and strong handball countries like France, Germany, Spain, Poland will increase their attention to beach handball, I’m afraid that Russia might lose its current leading role. Maybe we are competitive right now, but at the same time we have a lot to learn from other teams. For example, the team of Sweden is engaged all year round, even in winter they continue to train indoors. I would like it to be the same in Russia. It would be a pity if the efforts that my friends and I and the coaches in this sport have invested, will be lost one day.
eurohandball.com: Do you think you will be able to win the Champions Cup for the third time next year?
Roman Kalashnikov: Surely, he is a bad soldier who doesn't dream of becoming a general. We involve young players, and we hope that the club will have the proper financial backing to continue. We will try to find same crazy handball fans like us and they will give their very best for the game. I don’t want to lose the history that we have started creating for Ekaterinodar.
TEXT: Filipp Kolotushkin / ts
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