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EHF Champions League

This is Me: Luka Cindric

A man influenced by one handball's all-time greats, Ivano Balic, Luka Cindric is writing his own story in the sport. It might have been a very different path for Luka. He could have played professional football. However, on the advise of his mother and father, he chose handball. And we're eternally grateful. With such a close bond to his parents, Luka reveals just how hard he felt the death of his mother and the joy he experienced when he became a father for the first time. There's much more behind Luka Cindric than meets the eye - and that's why this week's piece is definitely worth your attention.

This is Me: Luka Cindric
Handball is my life

I am from Ogulin, a small city in Croatia and since I was a little boy I was into sports. The crucial point was at the age of 12. I knew I fell in love with handball and decided I will pursue it. But it could have all been so different.

Before my life changed I was playing football. At the age of six, like all the boys, I joined the local club. I was really good at it and I enjoyed it. When I was 12, right before I switched to handball, I got an interesting offer.

Dinamo Zagreb, a football club that was playing in the UEFA European League quarter-finals this season and one of the biggest clubs in Croatia, was interested in me. They wanted me to join their academy. However, my parents didn’t like the idea at the time. They didn’t want me to move to Zagreb alone at that age.

My parents kept telling me: “There will be more offers, son. Just keep on training hard.” Not long after that I started to play handball and I juggled between the two sports. But my love for handball was stronger in the end. And it’s good that it was. Currently, I’m living my dream.

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My father was a handball coach and I spent a lot of time with him. That’s why it was normal for me to start playing handball. I fell in love with the sport immediately.

The biggest influences on me were my parents. They were my stronghold throughout everything when I was growing up. My father’s support, advice and everything else was important for me. My mother was my motivator, my life coach.

That’s why my mother's loss was extremely hard for me. We had a special connection and it was hard to accept that she is gone. That part of 2019 is something I don’t like to talk about. Today, I feel like when you experience that kind of sadness, something different enters your life.

But my ray of sunshine in that dark period was the birth of my daughter Alisa. Her coming to this world was something really special, indescribable. That moment changed me completely and all of a sudden you have different priorities in life.

My family has a huge role in my life and we cherish each day spent together. My long-time partner Lara is an important link in my life. I became a better person with her.

When you live a sports life it’s not easy. You always travel, you are away on many important dates, but with support everything is easier. That is not easy, but love conquers all. Having my family near me on this road was a blessing.

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So, the road started in my hometown Ogulin, then Senj before I came to Karlovac. Karlovac was the first turnaround in my career. We were playing good and some of today’s great players were there with me to like Veszprem’s Vuko Borozan. At the time, there were many great players and we, young players, learned a lot from them.

Because of that, one of the coaches that will be remembered forever is Dinko Dankovic. He gave his best in teaching us everything, handball, tactics, friendship and what sport means. We even got to the Last 16 of the former Challenge Cup and that was one of the biggest successes.

Everything has to come to an end, so had my time in Karlovac. In 2013 I joined Metalurg and that’s when a real adventure began. I don’t like to talk about the bad times, only good ones. In 2015 I stayed in Skopje but joined Vardar. After three years I moved to Kielce for a year and now I’m in Barcelona.

Vardar was something different and I spent one of the most beautiful days of my career there. Those three years were really unbelievable. The highlight of those days was winning the EHF Champions League in 2017. Nobody expected that – but our team spirit was special.

Our energy mixed with the amazing fans wrote history. Being a part of that is something you treasure all your life. When you break it down, I was lucky that every club I played for had great fans. Supporters who would push you and were additional wind in the wings.

Winning the EHF Champions League is something unbelievable. I never thought we could win it when you look at what teams were at the EHF FINAL4 but I believed in my teammates. I will never forget the day we came back to Skopje. All the fans were cheering for us in the streets, having a big reception. When I returned home it was the same – you see those people proud of you, happy for you, then you know you did an outstanding job.

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I already said coach Danković had a huge influence on me, but another person that was crucial for my development was Raul Gonzalez. He changed my view of handball, corrected my mistakes and was analysing everything to the smallest details. Those details brought us great results. It would be unfair not to mention all other coaches I have worked with, they all improved me in a way.

Of course a little percentage of everything lies in role models. You absorb their style of play, their behavior, trying their best moves by yourself and I had one that was biggest of all. Ivano Balić.

I loved his simplicity in playing, his moves, the way he thought about handball and how he moved on the court. He enjoyed the games and when you were watching him play, it looked so easy and beautiful. I learned a lot from him. And I was happy that in one part of my career he was part of the national team so I could learn firsthand from him. His advice is always important.

I did not have an easy path in handball, even though it might not seem like that. I was always a great player, but some people used to say I was too short to play centre back and that I will not make it to the top in handball. Then I had a period without matches for six months. All that made me stronger and pushed me forward. Gave me motivation to work harder.

All that led me to where I am today. And that’s Barça. When I was younger I always wanted to play for Barça, it was a dream of mine. And I achieved it. My parents taught me when I was young just to believe in myself and that nothing is unreachable. Of course I put a lot of effort and sacrifice into living my dreams now.

I was part of the Croatian youth and junior national team. The first invitation for the senior national team I received in 2014 and with that I knew I was doing a good job. I won two medals with Croatia and I’m always eager for more. I just want to enjoy myself in the Croatian jersey and play as best as I can. I believe more success will come. My next dream is to win an Olympic medal.

I still don’t think about what will come. As well as I don’t think what I would do if I wasn’t a player. Maybe something connected with people. At the moment, I love to play handball and that is my life. What I’m sure of, when I leave the court one day as a player I will not leave sport. Handball is my life.

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