07.09.2016, 03:35
Trefilov: "I do it to atone my sins"

INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: Evgeni Trefilov, who steered Russia to women’s handball gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics, talks about the most recent success, the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 and why he cooks fish soup at the end of each season

Trefilov: "I do it to atone my sins"

It is fair to say that Russian women’s handball and Evgeni Trefilov are two sides of the same coin. Taking aside one brief interruption in the 2012/13 season, he has coached the women’s team since 1999. Much has been written about him – in particular about his temper that sometimes shows so vigorously on the sideline.

However, if something proves him correct, it is success. Four World Championship golds between 2001 and 2009 and the most recent gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games speak for themselves.

And then there is the other side of Trefilov; one that sometimes seems to be hidden during matches. One that shows a man deeply passionate about the sport, a coach that cares about his players and a father and husband that continuously tries to juggle his love for handball and his love for his family.

For ehf-euro.com, Filipp Kolotushkin spoke to Russia’s women’s head coach Evgeni Trefilov.

ehf-euro.com: Evgeni Trefilov, Russia’s gold medal at the Olympics is three weeks old, but it is never too late for some congratulations. When you look back, do you remember what you felt after the final whistle?
Evgeni Trefilov: Nothing at that moment. It was like a vacuum inside me. I spoke to other people who were in similar situations, and it was the same for them. There was just emptiness and tiredness. It is the players who are happy and enjoy this moment.

ehf-euro.com: There is a video of you in which you kiss every player after the final. Will that become a good tradition now?
Evgeni Trefilov: It is already good tradition after every season. It’s an apology for the fact that I was hard on them and maybe too harsh. Anyone who worked with me, can confirm this. We go to the countryside, I offer them a glass of wine, grill some meat, cook a fish soup. That’s to atone my sins in front of the players. Any guilty man does that (laughs).

ehf-euro.com: How would you describe your relationship with them? Do they understand you?
Evgeni Trefilov: I hope they understand me, however it’s impossible to understand them sometimes. I'll be honest, a woman's mind is like a closed book. Sometime they do things and you just can’t figure out why they would do that. I will just say that it is completely different if you coach men and if you coach women. Ask any coach about it. However, there is dedication. If they believe in you as a coach, I believe women will easily surpass men.

ehf-euro.com: What has been changed over the past two years? Your team did not make it past the preliminary round at the EHF EURO 2014, they reached the quarter-finals at the World Championship 2015 and now they won the Olympics in undefeated fashion. On paper, that looks like an amazing progress.
Evgeni Trefilov: I believe the most important thing is well-established teamwork. If a coach has the time to build a team, he has a chance to win a medal almost immediately. We used all 14 players during games at the Olympics. Other teams only used 8 or 9 players, and that’s including the second goalkeepers. We may have conceded some goals early on, however towards the end that helped us to be much stronger and fresher.

ehf-euro.com: With Rostov-Don and Astrakhanochka there are two teams in the Women’s EHF Champions League. How do you rate their chances?
Evgeni Trefilov: Six players from Rostov-Don were part of the Russian national team. They will feel more confident and must act as leaders. On top, the team has other good players like Iuliia Managarova, Regina Shemkute and their Norwegian goalkeeper Katrine Lunde. Rostov-Don is prepared for the EHF Champions League, they should reach the FINAL4. Unfortunately, HC Astrakhanochka is not at the same level. It will be hard for them to make it past the group matches.

ehf-euro.com: Will the Olympic success positively affect handball in Russia?
Evgeni Trefilov: I hope more young people will join handball clubs. People tend to look at success. It gives them hope and motivation. I have my own personal example. In 1976, the men's national team became Olympic champions for the first time. Valeri Gassy played for this national team and he also played for our club. We were young players, looked up to him and tried to follow him. It was a while ago, but I don’t think anything changed. The sport is still 10 per cent of talent and 90 per cent of hard work. Nothing has changed.

ehf-euro.com: The EHF EURO takes place in December. Do you foresee any changes in the national team compared to the Rio Games?
Evgeni Trefilov: Irina Bliznova, Olga Akopian and Tatiana Erokhina have announced their retirement. We will have to look for players to replacement them. As a result the team will change a little bit. The best players always leave. Consider age, family and children. I totally understand them.

ehf-euro.com: Do you have someone in mind to replace them?
Evgeni Trefilov: We have some very interesting players, however they are still quite young. There is going to be a period during which they will mature from youth to the senior team. I have a few players in mind, but I will not name them, so they don’t get too full of themselves.

ehf-euro.com: You have won gold at World Championships and now at Olympic Games but never at an EHF EURO…
Evgeni Trefilov: I would love to win it. I have bronze and silver medals, but there is only one place on the podium – the first place. The remaining ones are not particularly attractive even though they are quite prestigious.

ehf-euro.com: Who are the main favourites for you? Which teams can surprise?
Evgeni Trefilov: I think the favourites will be, as usual, Norway, Sweden because most of their players are at the prime of their career. France also will be among the favourites. The Danish team is not so strong at the moment. However, I do think they will improve and their time will come. Romania and the former Yugoslav nations can surprise us. There is also Spain. Their matches are always very tight and the result is unpredictable. There are nine or ten teams that fight for medals.

ehf-euro.com: With a very short break in 2012 you have been the head coach of the Russian women's national team since 1999.What is it that keeps you going?
Evgeni Trefilov: The desire to win obviously.

ehf-euro.com: Do you ever get tired of handball?
Evgeni Trefilov: Sometimes. However, it is just impossible right now. It is non-stop. I recently became the head coach of Kuban from Krasnodar. There are problems everywhere.

ehf-euro.com: What helps you to take your mind away and relax?
Evgeni Trefilov: Family. I’m waiting for my children to visit me. We will meet, we will talk, discuss the problems we all have. There is an old saying: "Little children - little troubles, big children - big troubles" (laughs).

ehf-euro.com: What is first for you? Sport and then family or the other way round?
Evgeni Trefilov: It is a very interesting question and very difficult to answer. All are intertwined. However, as I become older I realise more and more that the family has be a priority. I do understand it now, but I did a lot of stupid things before. I have a wonderful family, a beautiful wife and unfortunately I sometimes give little attention to them.

TEXT: Filipp Kolotushkin / ts

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