Ambitious Pelister boosted by domestic success
HC Eurofarm Pelister enter the new season with strong new arrivals – and with a first domestic trophy in 16 years under their belt.
The Bitola-based team has taken over from HC Metalurg for the eternal runner-up position behind leaders HC Vardar 1961.
The team is improving with each match and their 2021/22 season couldn’t have started any better, showing they will be tough opponents in this season.
- head coach Željko Babić has been in charge since early 2020
- the club returns to the European League group phase after they lost in the Last 16 in 2020/21 to eventual champions SC Magdeburg
- second season under current name after unification of two clubs
- opened new season with winning Macedonian Super Cup against Vardar
- Marton Szekely-Marko Kizić is the new goalkeeper duo
Most important question: Will Babić find the perfect formula for success?
Pelister have had a good start to the season: they won all their preparation matches before finally winning a trophy again, beating Vardar in the Macedonian Super Cup, their first title since winning the ‘double’ (league and cup title) in 2005. It showed they are a team to keep an eye on.
The team’s core has remained unchanged, but several new arrivals will boast the depth and strength of the squad. After goalkeeper Kerim Hendawy returned to Egypt, Pelister signed two new goalkeepers: Marko Kizić and Marton Szekely.
The team’s Croatian connection was reinforced with the arrival of right wing Josip Božić Pavletić, with Nemanja Obradović and Reinier Taboada as new back-court strengths. Ingredients for a successful recipe?
“Our objective is to play good in the group phase and to secure our place in the Last 16. It is important to be fit and ready for the knockout phase in spring. The EHF European League is our first priority this season,” says head coach Željko Babić.
“We want to play in a European competition every year and bring big players to Bitola. Every match is important to be able to have a great project and we like to be among one of the best European clubs.”
Under the spotlight: Stipe Mandalinić
The Croatian left back came to Bitola in 2020 from Germany, where we was released by Füchse Berlin amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He soon proved to be a great asset to the team with his high-speed shots. Last European season he finished with 62 goals, and he also forms a strong partnership with team captain and centre back Josip Perić.
How they rate themselves
Aiming for at least the Last 16 again, Pelister are aware they can deal with the best teams. Team captain Josip Perić says his team will give their maximum in front of their fans.
“Our biggest motivation this season is to play in front of our fans after 20 months with empty stands. I am sure that they will be our eighth player this season. I am confident about our season. We have a great team, a lot of experienced players and with a little bit of luck we can be part of the knockout matches.”
What the numbers say
Željko Babić and his team are building a squad that should be able to go one step further each season. This year it consists of seven different countries: North Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Cuba.
Did you know?
Home of the club is the Arena Boro Churlevski. The former Arena Mladost was renamed in 2018 in honour of the late legendary Bitola player, part of the golden era of the club from 1984 to 1990.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Nemanja Obradović (PPD Zagreb), Josip Božić Pavletić (Göppingen), Marton Szekely (Porto), Marko Kizić (Vardar), Filip Ivanovski (Eurofarm Pelister 2), Reinier Taboada (Dunkerque)
Departures: Gradimir Chanevski (Butel Skopje), Blagojče Trajkoski (Eurofarm Pelister 2), Cvetan Kuzmanoski (Eurofarm Pelister 2), Marin Vegar (Steaua), Neven Obradović (-)
EHF European League:
Last 16 (1): 2020/21
EHF Champions League:
Group phase (1): 2019/20
Group Phase (1): 2018/19
Final (1): 2001/02
Last 16 (1): 2017/18
Macedonian league: 6 titles (1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005)
Macedonian cup: 6 titles (1990, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 20005)
Macedonian Super Cup: 1 title (2021)