Despite the fact that the 2013 World Handball Players of the Year, Andrea Lekic, has won almost every major competition in her professional career, the 27-years old playmaker from Belgrade is still hungry for success with both the national team and WHC Vardar SCBT.
Some big challenges lie ahead of her this season – the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 in December and the Women’s EHF Champions League 2014/15 – and the pressure is already on. In the interview for ehfCL.com Lekic speaks about mounting expectations before the European top flight starts next week.
ehfCL.com: Everyone in Skopje thinks Vardar have an unbeatable roster for the upcoming season – would you agree?
Andrea Lekic: Oh, yes, it’s true. We have an outstanding roster and the whole of Macedonia – fans and media – are expecting us to win the Champions League. We are trying to decrease the pressure.
Teams like Györ were in the semi-finals seven or eight times before raising the trophy. There is no rule in the crucial matches – you don’t have favourites in the FINAL4 format. Look at Flensburg in Cologne! You can’t predict those kind of matches.
You have to reach the highest form in the best possible moment, for only a two-day event. All the people here are saying the trophy is ours, but I know it isn’t yet. I have won and lost big matches. We are better in comparison with last season for sure, and our duty is to go one step forward from when we won third place last May.
ehfCL.com: What about the experience from the first FINAL4 in Budapest last May?
Andrea Lekic: I was thrilled. I feel that women’s handball lags behind men’s – that is the situation with all women’s sports in Europe. It is very nice to see all the teams in one place. I would like the event to last for three days, because it is really hard to stay fit, mentally and physically, for two matches in 24 hours.
We can’t show the highest level of handball – the pressure is huge, but still I am very happy that we are doing the same as men’s handball. I would like to see the FINAL4 outside Hungary in the near future. That is important for our sport. Unfortunately, Skopje doesn’t have a hall with 10,000 seats.
ehfCL.com: Who will be the biggest favourites in the race for Budapest 2015?
Andrea Lekic: Györ have changed their system and style of play. They have also changed some important players, like their goalkeeper – Grubisic has a different style to Lunde. If they reach the FINAL4, the Hungarians will show enormous support. Larvik will attack the FINAL4 after they missed the first one last season.
They are capable of qualifying and a place in the Papp Laszlo Budapest Sportarena is the highest priority for them. Buducnost are also very strong with the return of Katarina Bulatovic. They will have an enormous number of options in attack. They are a huge candidate for the trophy, but you never know how it will be at the end – we have the example of FC Midtjylland last season.
ehfCL.com: Vardar’s family got a new home last week – the SC Jane Sandanski sports hall with 5,500 seats, all the necessary equipment and a hotel. How does it feel to be part of the ‘red-black’ army?
Andrea Lekic: I can’t stop talking to anyone that will listen about that. It is a privilege to be a handball player in Skopje. I play in a country where handball is the national sport. The hall is impressive and it was built in less than 12 months.
It is a real privilege to play in a team like Vardar. There were skeptics at the start of the whole project, but Vardar is becoming a European handball brand. The hall will have a wellness center and modern gym very soon. That will be a real home for us.