For Kielce’s Karacic the only way is up
The Match of the Week in round 8 between Lomza Vive Kielce and HC Vardar 1961 on Wednesday not only brings excitement to the many fans of the two clubs.
It is also a special occasion for Kielce centre back Igor Karacic, who is meeting his former teammtes - just like he did last week, when Kielce won in Skopje 33:29 for their first away win over Vardar in five years.
Karacic spent seven years in Vardar before joining Kielce in the summer of 2019. It was a tough goodbye, but the Croatian international is happy to be with the Polish champions.
“'I have enjoyed every day I spent here. We have a great atmosphere in the club and we support each other. I think that says all about Kielce and how happy I am here,” Karacic says.
Near-perfect start into the 2020/21 season
Kielce have had a near-perfect start into the 2020/21 season. In the Polish league, they are comfortably in first place with the maximum 27 points from nine games.
Also in EHF Champions League group A, Kielce are leading, despite opening their campaign with a 31:30 defeat at SG Flensburg-Handewitt and a draw with FC Porto.
Kielce top the group with 11 points, two more than Flensburg, halfway through the group phase.
“I am extremely happy with how the season started. We live in challenging times and it's not always easy to have a normal training session,” Karacic says. “It is really good that we are able to play. We are lucky that we are all healthy and that the head coach has all players ready for the matches.”
The dropped points against Flensburg and Porto are “setbacks,” as Karacic calls them.
“Both were hard away matches. We gave our best, but that is handball. There are a lot more matches ahead and group A is a tough one,” he says.
Playing one of his best seasons
The 32-year-old playmaker is playing one of his best seasons. With 34 goals in the EHF Champions League, he is fifth in the competition’s top scorers list and the second-best scorer of Kielce, just one behind Alex Dujshebaev, who had a 10-goal outburst against Vardar last week.
In the shortened last season, Karacic scored 34 goals in total.
“I am satisfied with the play of the whole team. We all give 100% on the court, trying to fulfill the coach’s demands and that is the most important part. The goal is to maintain that level,” Karacic says.
Wednesday’s MOTW will be 12th clash between Kielce and Vardar, with the Polish side improving their head-to-head advantage to seven wins against three last week.
Even tough Kielce might look like favourites on paper, Vardar are a team that you just can't count out on any occasion.
“Vardar are never easy opponents. You have to be fully concentrated for 60 minutes. Kielce have the better roster right now and that is our advantage for that duel,” Karacic says.
Special connection with Vardar
Karacic was one of the fans’ favourites during his time at Vardar, where he became part of the club’s history and he got into the hearts of the fans.
The Croatian player called Skopje his second home and leaving the club was not easy.
“Last season the duel was emotional for me as the fans and the club welcomed me most beautifully,” he says. “This season is a little bit different because no fans are on the stands and it gives a different perspective on the match. But it’s always nice to see your friends and to talk to each other.”
Kielce's goals for the season are obvious: getting back to the EHF FINAL4 and winning the Polish league and cup.
“We are on a good way to fulfill our dreams but the season is long and you never know what to expect,” Karacic says.
Both he and his teammates are hoping they will reach their desired goals together with their fans, as everyone is missing the packed Hala MOSiR.
It would be the cherry on the cake of every prize the team is trying to win this season.