Men’s EHF Cup countdown - part 3: Having reached the group phase is an achievement in itself for RD Riko Ribnica and the Slovenian club hope that it will be able to tease some of the 'big guys'
A small city enters the big handball stage
In 2016, the year of their 60th anniversary, Riko Ribnica achieved their best ever result in the Slovenian league, finishing third, only the powerhouses from Celje and Velenje.
And compared to runners-up Velenje the team from the small city with just about 10,000 people made it to the group phase of the EHF Cup right in their first international season after beating Romanian side Timisoara in Qualification Round 3.
The team of head coach Robert Beguš consists almost entirely of Slovenian players, the only foreign player is Bosnian Alen Kulenović, one of five new arrivals at the start of the season.
“We are part of the EHF Cup for the first time. We would be glad to win some points and gain as much experience as we can for the next years,” says Beguš.
In Group A, Ribnica will face 2015 EHF Cup winners Füchse Berlin, Danish side GOG and French runners-up Saint-Raphael.
“All opponents have larger budgets and much more experience in international competitions than we have. We will try to win some matches though, in particular those on home ground,” says Beguš.
For him, the three German participants Berlin, Melsungen, Magdeburg and EHF Cup Finals hosts Göppingen are the main title contenders this season.
For the Ribnica coach to be part of the competition is already a success. “This is a recognition and confirmation that even in small towns and small clubs good to very good handball can be played.”
The only player missing the group phase for Ribnica is Erak Slavko who sustained a knee injury in December and was expected to be sidelined for six to eight months.
RD Riko Ribnica (SLO)
Newcomers: David Kovačič (MRK Krka Novo Mesto), Slavko Erak (RD Slovan Ljubljana), Alen Kulenović, (HSG Bärnbach), Rok Setnikar (SV Beckdorf), Gašper Horvat (RK Jeruzalem Ormož).
Left the club: Aleksander Atanasov (RD Slovan Ljubljana), Peter Batinič (ŠD Škofljica), Andris Celminš (RK Gorenje Velenje), Črt Abrahamsberg (end of career)
Coach: Robert Beguš (since 2013)
Team captain: Blaž Nosan
Slovenian champions: 0
Slovenian cup winners: 0
TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
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