Memories of a superb men’s EHF EURO 2012 are still fresh in the minds of many handball fans in Serbia and they now have more to cheer about: the Balkan country has also been entrusted with organising the women’s European Championship in December after the original hosts Netherlands had pulled out.
Having hosted the men’s event in January, the Serbian Handball Federation has gained plenty of experience in hosting a major handball event. The women’s event will also be held in the same venues as the Men’s EHF EURO across the country.
Serbian Handball Federation, President Velimir Marjanovic, national team coach Sasha Boskovic and star player Andrea Lekic were all elated after learning the good news that their country will have staged three major tournaments in just two years, having also been elected to host the women’s IHF World Championship in 2013.
Serbia ready to host event
“We are overjoyed to have been entrusted with hosting the Women’s EHF EURO 2012 in December because a myriad of powerful handball nations were in the reckoning after the Netherlands announced they would not be able to organise the tournament,” Marjanovic told a news conference in Belgrade with a broad smile on his face.
“Serbia will only benefit from this event and having hosted the Men’s EHF EURO 2012 in January, we are ready to roll because the entire infrastructure is in place.
"A highly successful men’s tournament, watched by thousands of fans in a great atmosphere, is the principal reason why we came out on top in our bid to hosts the European Championship for women,” he added.
“We reacted swiftly after learning that the Dutch would be unable to host the event and we always had plenty of faith in our bid although we faced stiff competition from the likes of Denmark, Russia, Croatia, Norway and other leading handball nations which were also keen to organise the tournament.
We are grateful to the European Handball Federation for their faith in us and we will do our very best not just to match the memorable experience from the men’s EHF EURO 2012 but to surpass it if we can,” Marjanovic underscored.
Serbian hopes of success
Serbia came through in a competitive qualifying group steered by coach Boskovic, who acknowledged that staging the finals has changed the perspective and the team’s ambitions.
While he initially expected his team to be little more than dark horses on neutral territory in the Netherlands, Boskovic now hopes Serbia can punch above their weight in front of passionate home fans and at least reach the Main Round.
“This is really great news as none of us expected this to happen and we now have an extra incentive to do well in front of our home fans. It also means the girls and the coaching staff will have additional pressure to bear on their shoulders but we will do our best to get a result we can be proud of,” Boskovic told reporters.
“Our initial ambition was to use EHF EURO 2012 as a springboard for next year’s IHF World Championship, also to be held here in Serbia, as well as for our bid to reach the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
“However, being named the tournament’s hosts changes everything because we have an obligation to play well on home soil and live up to fans’ expectations.
“We hope that some of the passion the men’s team showed en route to winning the silver medal in January will rub on to us. We can’t wait for the tournament to begin,” he said.
A 'positive shock'
Serbia’s hopes of doing well will largely rest on the broad shoulders of middle back Andrea Lekic, the team’s leading player who reached this year’s EHF Champions League final with her Hungarian club Gyori ETO.
Lekic’s ability to score and assist will be crucial for Serbia’s bid to do well in what is bound to be a fiercely competitive tournament, but her initial thoughts focused solely on what she called a great privilege for her country to host the prestigious event.
“This is a positive shock for all of us because none of the girls expected Serbia to be named the EHF EURO 2012 hosts,” she told Belgrade media upon learning the news.
“This generation has been given a unique privilege to play two major events in a row on home soil and we are really looking forward to it.
“Our mentality is such that it doesn’t take much for our appetite to grow but we have to be realistic and concede that we will be up against a plethora of world class teams here.
"Personally, I see this as a monumental motive to work even harder next year so that we can play our best handball and represent our country in the best possible way,” she said.