Young guns flying on the wings of Lazarov's winning mentality
HC Alkaloid, a brand-new club, are rapidly rising on the Macedonian as well as European handball stage, making their EHF European League Men debut in 2023/24. A retired legendary player is leading the promising project, with the all-time top scorer in EHF Champions League history, Kiril Lazarov, at the helm of the Skopje-based club.
HC Alkaloid are a newly-formed club founded by the renowned pharmaceutical company called Alkaloid AD Skopje, with the ultimate goal of developing young and talented Macedonian players capable of playing for the Macedonian national team.
Even though the club was only founded a couple of years ago and started competing in the second division, HC Alkaloid exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. The youthful squad secured an instant promotion to the Macedonian Super League led by then-head coach Ljubomir Savevski in its first-ever season, and subsequently finished as runners-up in their impressive debut season in the top-tier led by the current head coach, Kiril Lazarov.
Two famous wins in the domestic league's play-off over the former two-time EHF Champions League winners, HC Vardar 1961, earned the team a place in the EHF European League's group stage.
The extremely young squad is placed in group F alongside Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, BM Logroño La Rioja and EHF European Cup Men winners HC Vojvodina, but Lazarov is motivated and hopeful ahead of their European debut next month.
"Featuring in the EHF European League is a new chapter and experience for us as a club. We are going to play against already well-established teams in EHF's club competitions. Our aim is to get ready and start every match with positive thoughts as well as a winning mentality because we also represent our country in Europe. Finally, we can't wait for the start of the EHF European League and we are going to try to present ourselves as a competitive team which never gives up," says Lazarov.
The passionate approach displayed by the 43-year-old on the sidelines and the vision for his team to adapt a direct and fast-paced style of play is defining the squad as talented, energetic and aggressive. One of the key players is centre back Igor Gjorgiev who is the squad's captain too. HC Alkaloid boast one of the youngest squads in the EHF European League Men’s group stage with an average age of only 24 years.
Our aim is to get ready and start every match with positive thoughts as well as a winning mentality, because we also represent our country in Europe. We are going to try to present ourselves as a competitive team which never gives up.
"We have big ambitions as a team and we are going to use each and every match to give our best and present ourselves in the best possible way. Our coach is a born winner and an undisputed legend," ," says Gjorgiev.
"We work great together as the coach actively tries to instill the winning mentality among us, and we are extremely happy that we have the opportunity to learn from his experience during the training sessions and the matches. Building trust between us, as players and as a coaching staff, is a process that we work on every day, and I am honoured and proud to be the captain of such a young team with great potential to grow."
However, even though the club's main aim is to develop talented domestic players, over the summer a couple of experienced foreign faces joined HC Alkaloid, with one of them being Arnaud Bingo. The soon-to-be 36-year-old played in multiple EHF club competitions wearing the shirt of a few French and Portuguese teams. The other international signing is Cuban goalkeeper Alejandro Romero Carreras who left Pauc Handball to help Blagojche Trajkoski and Ivan Galevski between the posts.
"HC Alkaloid is a team that has a lot of potential with very young players full of talent and professionalism, and they were able to prove it by finishing as runners-up in the Macedonian Super League in front of HC Vardar 1961. It was obvious for me to accept the offer to join the club, and from Kiril especially, since we know each other and played against each other in the French's Starligue multiple times. It is a pleasure for me today to wear this jersey and to defend the colours of the club," says Bingo.
HC Alkaloid thrived in the underdog role competing in the Macedonian Super League, and coach Lazarov hails the hard work and devotion present at the Skopje-based club over the past couple of years. In addition Lazarov, who is also the coach of the Macedonian national team, argues that the project HC Alkaloid is created for the well-being and long-term development of Macedonian handball.
"It is essential for a quality and competitive national team to have strong clubs in the domestic league where the Macedonian players will play a key role," Lazarov says.
Finally, Lazarov's winning mentality and leadership are driving the squad's ambitions high, and judging by his words, the ambitious HC Alkaloid is here to stay and patiently build on their successful start.
photos courtesy of HC Alkaloid