Lesjak: "We deserve to be here and now we have to show what we're capable of against Veszprem!"

opening conference

Thursday afternoon in Zadar was reserved for opening press conferences ahead of semi-final clashes that are scheduled for tomorrow. In the first one, we've heard from coaches and players from PPD Zagreb and Nexe Nasice as well as from the SEHA - Gazprom League Managing Director – Sinisa Ostoic.

Sinisa Ostoic, SEHA - Gazprom League Managing Director:
I'm happy to welcome everyone to Zadar, especially the fans who will now finally be here to witness what we often like to call the best handball in the region and actually experience handball. The goal was once again to give our best when it comes to all organizational aspects of the tournament and I really hope everyone will enjoy these few days. It is never easy but when you see that moment when winners take their trophy and confetti start filling the air – you realize it was all worth it. SEHA League marches on!

Branko Tamse, Nexe coach:
After Celje and Zagreb, I am here now with Nexe and I have to say it feels really good. SEHA Final 4 once again looks incredible. The level of this tournament is really incredible. With all due respect to the EHF European League final tournament, this is really something special. The match against Vardar 1961 in the quarter-finals was hard, it is never easy to play them and win against them in Skopje, but we pulled it off and we are really happy and excited to be here. Tomorrow we are facing PPD Zagreb – a team we know everything about, in a match that will surely be far from easy and we’ll surely give our best to come out on top. Back in 2019, I was not far from going all the way with PPD Zagreb in Brest and now I’d like to move a step forward.

Ivica Obrvan, PPD Zagreb coach:
I remember that tournament. We looked really good in both matches coming extremely close to winning it all against Telekom Veszprem in the final. I have to say we are really looking forward to the tournament which, in my opinion, comes at the ideal moment for us with preparations ending soon and real challenges being right around the corner. Matches between these two opponents are usually a cherry on top of the cake of the season but despite that, we’ll surely both look to book a place in the final tomorrow. The goal is the same as always – leave everything out there and see where it brings us. 

Janko Kevic, Nexe player:
It’s a privilege and an honor to be here. I believe matches like these can help the team grow at a much faster pace and that’s what makes me happy. The team is ready, we have a much wider roster this season with some younger players that are eager to show everyone what they are capable of. Honestly, I’m really looking forward to this whole season. When it comes to this match – PPD Zagreb will surely have the favorite role but I assure you we won’t be out there with a white flag either.

Jakov Gojun, PPD Zagreb player:
As a captain, I can say we are ready. It will be a great test for us. We went through a good preparation period accomplishing our first goal of qualifying for the final tournament in Novi Sad versus Vojvodina. Past experiences are teaching me that there are never favorites when it comes to tournaments like this one. We know a lot about them, they know a lot about us and we’ll surely give our best to come out on top tomorrow and book a place in the grand final.

In the second semi-final on SEHA - Gazprom League Final 4 reigning champions – Hungarian Telekom Veszprem will face off against Macedonian Eurofarm Pelister. In what will be their first SEHA Final 4 appearance, Macedonians will try to stun favored Veszprem and reach the grand final.

Lars Walther, Eurofarm Pelister coach:
I was excited to come here to the team which was doing incredibly well all the way back when I was still a kid, learning about the handball game. Last few years the team has been aiming to make a step or even two forward result-wise and this is just another proof of that. I feel like this team surely has what it takes to achieve its goals. In the quarter-final against Meshkov Brest, it was far from easy but luckily we had Urban Lesjak between posts during that seven-meter shootout who helped us secure a ticket to Zadar. We are still under construction taking life match-by-match and when it comes to this one – I feel like we have nothing to lose. We have to be realistic and say Telekom Veszprem will have the favorite role tomorrow but we'll do our best to enjoy the game and mess up their plans.

Urban Lesjak, Eurofarm Pelister goalkeeper:
It's a pleasure to play in the handball city of Bitola. People here really love handball and understand the game which makes it an incredible experience. I have to say I agree with our coach – if we don't believe we can pull it off tomorrow, we don't even have to come to the game. We deserve to be here and now it is time to enjoy it and see how far we can go.

Momir Ilic, Telekom Veszprem coach:
We're in a good spot at the moment. The goal is obviously to defend the title here in Zadar but in matches like these – there are no favorites. There surely are aspects of the game we still have to work on but I believe we're on a good path. I'm happy and satisfied with all the newly-acquired players but it obviously takes some time for them to get used to everything, and get used to our system. We're playing a quality opponent tomorrow and the goal is to deliver the best possible performance.

Rasmus Lauge Schmidt, Telekom Veszprem player:
We're doing well at the moment but there is always room for improvement. I can say we are maybe in a better spot right now than we were exactly a year ago but in the end, it all comes down to proving it out there on the court. It's going to be a hard match against a quality opponent tomorrow. We maybe are favorites on paper but in sport, anything can happen and we'll have to be on the right level. It's going to be a great match.

Photo credit: kolektiffimages