While most of his peers have typical worries for that age, Jovica Nikolic has been playing SEHA – Gazprom League for Vojvodina at an enviable level for the third season now. Young Serb turned 18 half a year ago and, metaphorically speaking, entered the world of adults. However, in the field of handball, he has been up to the task for a third year in a row, not allowing his age to dictate the quality of his handball skills.
We were talking to a boy who is the youngest player in the SEHA League to reach the number of 100 goals, who made his debut on the SEHA courts at the age of only 15, one of the most promising handball players in Europe. His modesty and way of looking at things surprises again and again. In the following lines, you have the opportunity to witness it and find out more about Nikolic, considering that his name will be around handball for a long time to come.
The whole handball world stopped for a month or two, but that can not erase the fact that Vojvodina have a great season behind and that you were the team's top scorer with 51 goals in 12 appearances. What do you think about this season and your achievements?
It is true, this season was interrupted in an unusual way, but as for the part of the season behind us, personally, I am satisfied with the way I was playing. Of course, it can always be better. Although a number of goals is not the only measure, these 51 goals speak for itself and confirm the fact that I played quite a good season. As for my team, we even achieved some results better than expected. All in all, I think this was one very good season for us.
Half a year ago, Jovica turned 18 - sounds impossible considering you played three successful seasons in the Vojvodina's jersey competing against the greatest in the SEHA – Gazprom League. How much playing in our League helps you improve as an athlete?
Undoubtedly, SEHA – Gazprom League has helped a lot in my development, considering it is one of the strongest leagues in Europe. It means a lot playing against such players, being a part of so many great matches. I gained a lot of experience through those matches, more than I would have gained if I had played our domestic league.
At the age of 15, you made your debut in SEHA against Meshkov Brest. Some players were more than twice as old and experienced than you. How were you feeling on that day?
I was nervous, it was my first big match and seeing all those high-quality and experienced players I've only watched on TV until then, players who played in the Champions League, was definitely something. On the Meshkov's side then were my current teammates Rastko Stojkovic and Rajko Prodanovic, those are all big names. Even though those first five or six minutes were stressful, after that I relaxed a bit and played a good match.
More than once you were in Best 7 of a particular month. Add to that the fact that you are the youngest player to reach 100 goals in the SEHA League. How much these recognitions mean to you?
I see it as a reward for my work and effort I am putting in this sport. These recognitions only push me forward, to work even harder and be even better. Most importantly, I am more self-confident.
You have mentioned several times a great connection you have with Vojvodina's head coach Boris Rojevic.
That coach-player relationship is very important. In our case, coach Rojevic trusts me and knows what I am capable of. We are together from the younger categories and he has made me the player I am today.
Is there a difference for you in playing for a club or for the national team?
It is not the same - every player's dream is to play for the national team, but from my personal standpoint any player should give 200 percent for both the club and the national team. Only that some players, unfortunately, never get to wear the national team's jersey.
There is no doubt that you have a brilliant career ahead of you. Is there any foreign club you dream about playing for?
Honestly, I haven't thought about it so much. There are clubs like Veszprem, Kiel, Barca or Paris Saint-Germain that every serious player wants to play for, but I am trying to think more in the direction of progressing, so that one day my career abroad can happen.
Which part of your personality is not so helpful for you when you step out on the court and vice versa?
I am a great fighter and I never give up, at the same time trying to learn from my mistakes. And a disadvantage would be that in some situations I get annoyed very easily, so it disturbs me a bit in the match. That is one thing I need to fix as I get older and more experienced.
Where do you find motivation for daily training, numerous efforts and sacrifices you make on a daily basis?
I've been dedicated to handball since I was little, playing it was my dream, so normally, I lean to achieve something. All those beautiful things I am experiencing and those successes, if I may call them that, even though they are not huge, make me work even harder, make me achieve as much as possible, the greatest possible result.