Babic and Pelister looking to make big strides
These are exciting times for Macedonian handball and HC Eurofarm Pelister as they venture into the territory of the European League.
With a big name joining the team in the summer and a new, very experienced coach on the bench, they will be looking to make some noise this season.
- RK Eurofarm Pelister is the new name of RK Eurofarm Rabotnik after a 2019 joint ownership agreement with RK Pelister
- former Croatian national team coach Zeljko Babic took on the job before this season
- made seven signings over the summer, including fellow Croatian Stipe Mandalinic
- they have six Macedonian league titles; joint second most with Metalurg
- their arena is named in honour of the late Boro Churlevski, a former player from Bitola
The burning question – Will Babic’s transfer plan pay off?
HC Eurofarm Pelister’s pre-season has been very impressive. The Macedonian side played 12 friendly matches and won 11 of them, even beating Vardar twice along the way. So, what is the secret to their success?
Well, head coach Zeljko Babic had clear plans in pre-season: “Our target during the summer was to sign younger players with a lot of energy. We have a great team this year, but my best ‘players’ are work, discipline and team spirit.”
With the retirement of Petrovski along with Kuzmanoski and the departure of old-heads like Mitrevski (FC Porto) and Ostroushko (Al-Sharaf), an injection of youth was needed.
Babic didn’t waste any time over the summer months signing seven new names. Stipe Mandalinic (28) was their biggest transfer news when the club signed the Croatian international after he was released by Füchse Berlin amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Line player Tomislav Kusan (26) makes his way from the ASOBAL where he had a strong season with BM. Logroño La Rioja, while left back Dejan Kukulovski (22) bolsters the back court after signing from Vardar on a three-year deal.
Centre back and Croatian international Lovro Jotic will be a loss after he put pen to paper for rivals HC Vardar 1961. The young Macedonian international Mario Tankovski (22) and Bosnia and Herzegovina international Josip Peric (28), who has signed from Frisch Auf Göppingen, will make up the new-look centre back position.
Sharpshooter - Stipe Mandalinic
With buckets of experience in the German Bundesliga with Füchse Berlin, EHF Champions League milage with RK Zagreb and of course featuring regularly in the Croatian national team, the left back will be a key feature for Pelister this season.
The 2018 EHF Cup winner brings his ‘no-frills’ style of play to Pelister, offering strong shooting from distance and at 1.95-metre tall a formidable presence for any defence.
New blood - Josip Peric
Coming in fresh after two years of experience in the Germany Bundesliga with Göppingen, the Bosnian and Herzegovina centre back has seemingly gelled quickly with his new teammates going on the pre-season results.
Peric, at 1.80-metre, is very technical, speedy and can punish defences in one-against-one situations. He will share court time with new signing Mario Tankovski.
Experience is key - Mirko Radovic
He was a big actor in the side’s EHF Champions League Group Phase 2019/20 campaign, netting 21 goals from the right wing.
The Montenegrin international has a wealth of experience having played for five different clubs. Should Radovic have an off-day, Pelister also have Serbian international Milan Djukic at their disposal – giving them some strong options on the right-hand side of the court.
A night to remember...
Playing under the name RK Eurofarm Rabotnik, the club made it to the EHF Champions League group phase in the 2019/20 season. They were very unlucky after some great performances not to come away with some more points, losing their opening three ties of the group by a single goal. By mid-November, Rabotnik’s only victory of the season so far came at home against Cocks.
Going into the Sävehof tie, the Swedish side had suffered just one away defeat, in Irun. And in their last outing Sävehof had turned a five-goal half-time deficit around to win 25:24. So Rabotnik were far from lacking motivation when the whistle blew in their home tie.
The hosts produced a great first half performance and thanks to a goal flourish they mounted a 6:0 run and a 18:12 lead at half-time.
In the second half, Sävehof hunted their hosts’ lead with purpose and five goals in quick succession from William Bogojevic helped draw them level with eight minutes on the clock. And it looked like another lead and more points were slipping from Rabotnik’s grasp...
Bogojevic’s ninth goal of the day looked certain to give the guests a point in the final minute of play, but Rabotnik’s Mirko Radovic had other ideas, firing in a standing shot right before the final buzzer to secure a 32:31 win, to massive celebrations from the home crowd. It was so sensational it even made it to No. 1 in the EHF’s Top 5 Goals.
Pelister will surely be in the hunt for more magical nights such as these once the European League action throws off this season.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Stipe Mandalinic (Füchse Berlin), Mario Tankovski (Metalurg), Dejan Kukulovski (Vardar), Josip Peric (Göppingen), Tomislav Kusan (Naturhouse La Rioja), Nenad Kosteski (HC PPD Zagreb), Mateo Maras (Metkovic-Balic)
Left the club: Nikola Mitrevski (FC Porto), Lovro Jotic (Vardar), Vladislav Ostroushko (Al-Sharaf), Olexadr Shevelev (-), Goran Kuzmanoski (retired), Mihajlo Petrovski (retired)
EHF Champions League:
Group phase (1): 2019/20
Group Phase (1): 2018/19
Last 16 (1): 2017/18
Macedonian league: -
Macedonian cup: -