SEHA derby: European handball evergreenAuthor: SGL, Published: 18.09.2017.
Matches between Zagreb and Celje are European handball evergreen. Huge rivalry which often goes over the line.
Nowadays things are much steadier than back in the day when they were both a part of Europe’s top elite. Bigger stakes, higher tension. It is expected. Financial aspect of the game is quite more important now that it was in the past but finances can never turn off the rivalry. It was well visible last season when they met on SEHA courts for the first time and were simultaneously Champions League rivals. In both competitions Zagreb turned out to be more successful reaching two victories in SEHA League and catching a Final Four place leaving Celje a step away from Brest. Story was more-less the same in Champions League where Zagreb went through the group stage once again leaving Celje a step away with an exception of each team managing to catch a home-court win.
Player transfers between the two sides were also a big part of the history. History in which young goalie Urh Kastelic wrote the newest chapter this summer signing with Croatian champions after going through certain frustrations in his home club Celje. Slovenian champions even decided to spice things up writing to Vienna although history books show it’s always better to talk things out. However, without all these tensions it would not be the derby it now is.
There were of course names before him, more often going the other way like Jelcic, Nacinovic, Puc and even Sulic. Recently also Ivic, Sliskovic and Sarac from next year, decided to join the team from Zlatorog instead of Zagreb. Croatian experts like Bambir, Malic, Kostelic, Sojat and Zovko also used to lead Celje. Even Kasim Kamenica was a candidate to coach Celje back when he was Slovenian national team coach but Prule were his choice. Skok and Miklavcic also used to wear Celje jersey bringing all those years of rich history to life in this edition of one of Europe’s biggest rivalries.
Numbers are just an additional proof because they have 20 matches played against each other in Champions League and SEHA - Gazprom League so far with Zagreb reaching 12 wins, Celje 5 less along with a single draw back in CL in 2000 making it the only draw Celje recorded in Zagreb. All other matches were ended with defeats with combined goal difference of +30 for multiple Croatian champions.