David Mandic is one of the best things that has happened to Croatian handball so far this season. Amazing outings for both PPD Zagreb and national team proved David is someone poised to bring joy to Croatian handball fans for many years to come. It all started with high-quality performances back when he played for Izvidjac, then there was gold medal from Tarragona Mediterranean Games as well as EHF Champions League with PPD Zagreb, SEHA - Gazprom League and World Championship with Croatian national team. He literally made a great use of every opportunity he was given.
Do you think Mediterranean Games have given you this big boost?
Honestly, I wasn't expecting to make the final cut since I was at the moment Izvidjac' player and we weren't really playing any international games, not even SEHA League... It is true that I went through all the younger selections and that we were good but never managed to go all the way. I'm really delighted with the fact I was a part of the Tarragona roster, that coach believed in me and that I didn't disappoint him.
They say defense is the biggest asset to your game.
That's usually the thing with guys from Herzegovina. We're used to showing what we're made of. I feel like that's what matters the most although I want to excel on the offensive side of the court as well. I'm satisfied when I go 5/5 and add a defensively dominant performance on top of that. And speaking of positions I can play – I'd say I can do almost everything but am most comfortable with defending the back shooter in 6-0 defensive schemes as well as being the forward one in 5-1.
Who taught you to play so good in defense?
I had an opportunity to work with a lot of great coaches – Zdenko Grbavac, Dario Mikulic, Slaven Tomic and Silvio Ivandija. They all used to primarily focus on defense which is why I progressed quite fast in that aspect of the game.
Are there any past or present players you see as a role model and want to build your game after?
People sometimes say I remind them of Patrik Cavar. Honestly, I would really love to grow into a player of that caliber one day. I haven’t really had a chance to watch him play live since I was still a kid back then but I can says I watched a lot of his highlight videos on YouTube and I noticed he used to play hard on both sides of the ball.
Zagreb was a big step forward in your career?
I needed an additional motive, something I couldn’t really find in Bosnia and Herzegovina any more.
Did you ever try yourself in some other sport apart from handball?
Never. I used to walk from home to the gym and facilities we used to train in coming early and having an hour-long workouts by myself prior to the training session. Ever since I have a car it became a lot easier and I’m really happy I made it. However, I don’t intend to stop now because I have quite high ambitions. I’ve never been injured seriously, I’m young and I already went through a lot. I can say I’m looking forward to everything that’s ahead.
WCh in Germany and Denmark was also a big experience?It really was. I mean, it was amazing to play alongside Strlek who is really European royalty. Coach trusted in me and I feel like we’ve all given our best. This time it wasn’t enough but we’re still young enough and have a lot of quality which is why I believe we’ll make a big push on the next tournament as well.
Zagreb surprised everyone in EHF Champions League as well.
We managed to achieve our goal but that doesn’t mean the story must end here. We never surrender – this team is young and ambitious. We lost some matches we should have won maybe but also achieved some things which we were unlikely to achieve considering the fact we were dealing with a lot of injuries. In case we manage to improve on the defensive side of the court, and I believe we can, we’ll be even better. This is my first season and I’m satisfied. Vardar is a new big challenge for us. We see our chance despite of the fact we’re clearly underdogs in this one considering everything Vardar did in the last few years.
SEHA - Gazprom League might have the same matchup in store for everyone?
Maybe, final tournament can go either way. Four great teams are participating and I don’t feel like there are favorites in those 60 minutes. This season proved everyone there are no impossible things and I think it would be great to put a strong finish to the season. Season has been really successful for us so far but it can get even better.
And a funny story to sum everything up – a few weeks ago he suffered a cut eyebrow during one training session. There was a lot of blood but his teammates saw it as a confirmation ‘Manda’ is not a machine but a normal human being which sometimes can be difficult to tell by only watching him play. Half-man half-amazing with a great future ahead of him.