Vojvodina want to write history
Vojvodina are on a high after celebrating the Serbian title, only four days before the first leg of the EHF European Cup final. The team from Novi Sad become champions for the 10th time in a row, showing the progress they made in recent years and they wish to round it off with a European trophy.
Experienced faces like Barys Pukhouski and Milos Grozdanic, with young newcomers and domestic players, proved to be a perfect mix for Vojvodina this season. As well as the strong team on the court, a well-known name became a part of Vojvodina with a wish of building a European club - legendary Marko Vujin.
The outstanding shooter found a new role in Vojvodina after retiring as vice president, trying to transfer his rich knowledge to the players and the club. With clear goals for the future, Vujin is happy with the result the club made in their first year on the new path.
“You know how it is in sport. It's hard to plan anything but you never know if they will come true. This season for Vojvodina was really good when it comes to the European competition. We have an idea to go down the European path and European Cup was the first step. I am proud we reached the finals.”
“The whole mindset of players and coaching staff in changed and focused on playing in European competitions. I hope we will be part of the European League group phase and hopefully one day part of the Champions League,” says Vujin about his wishes for the club.
Vojvodina reached the finals after beating Alingsås HK 56:49 on aggregate in the semi-finals, securing themselves a battle for the trophy against defending champions Nærbø IL. The draw decided the first leg match will be played in Novi Sad on Sunday, 28 May, at 20:00 CEST.
“It will be extremely hard against Nærbø but it's two games and something special. That is the beauty of sport, where anything can happen, where underdogs can win against clear favourites. They are defending the title, have more experience but we will give our best to take the trophy,” adds Vujin.
The Croatian goalkeeper Fran Lucin joined Vojvodina in the summer of 2022 from Eisenach and has been an important part of Vojvodina's results this season. Fran, the younger brother of Croatian international and Orlen Wisla Plock player Tin, had a strong performance between the posts. In the two games against Alingsås he had 23 saves at 38 per cent efficiency.
“I am very satisfied with my first season in Vojvodina, with the city and the club. We reached our first goal, the Serbian title, and we have two more. Personally, I also had a good season and as a result, I got an invitation to the Croatia national team for the team gathering in June. I hope I will continue on the same path in these two last games against Nærbø,” says Lucin.
Vojvodina became the third Serbian club to reach a European final. The last time a Serbian club played in was in 2014 when Metaloplastika faced IK Sävehof but lost 26:37 after only one game played. The only Serbian club that has ever won a European competition was Jugovic from Kac. In 2001 they beat Pfadi Winterthur 53:49 on aggregate in the finals of the EHF Challenge Cup.
Winning the EHF European Cup against Nærbø would end a more than 20-year-long wait for Serbian handball.
“This is our first season since we embarked on the 'European journey' and we reached the final. It's a great step forward. It means a lot for Serbian handball, both clubs and the national team. Our domestic league has three or four clubs that are investing good money into handball. We have a few players on the national team's squad list. The key for every club should be playing in European competitions, for young players to make progress,” says Vujin.
Lucin, who started playing handball in his hometown Rijeka at Zamet, is playing his second-ever European season after a breakthrough in the 2016/17 season when Zamet reached the third qualification round after eliminating US Créteil and CSM Bucuresti only to be stopped by Melsungen.
“It means a lot to have an opportunity to fight for the European trophy and we will give everything that we will be the one celebrating after two games,” says Lucin.
The hype surrounding Vojvodina is outstanding in Novi Sad. After a sold-out venue for the semi-final game, it is no different for the game against Nærbø on Sunday. The club received about 6,000 requests for tickets while the famous Slana Bara can hold a maximum of 2,200 fans.
Having a packed stand is a great gift for the players who were giving their best performances on the court but also a good sign for sport in Novi Sad. A situation Vojvodina did not have until this historic 2022/23 season. Vujin hopes the interest will stay in the upcoming season while the club will give their efforts to bring fans even more exciting games.
“I am happy that fans recognised our success. Ahead of the finals, we have 6,000 inquiries for the tickets but only a maximum of 2,200 people can fit in the venue. It's a great thing for handball and I hope we will continue to have that next season also.”
“Fans in the Balkans are still connected to the club through results and strong opponents and I want us to bring them exactly that. I believe we are on a good path to bring people to the stands even for the games that are not semi-finals or finals,” says Vujin.
Young Lucin hopes Vojvodina will have the same fiery support which will be their additional power in their first ever encounter with the Norwegian side.
“It's a lot easier to play when you have full stands. The atmosphere against Alingsås in the semi-finals was amazing and slowly we have more and more fans in the stands. It's nice to see that progress compared to the star of the season. They are our eight players on the court and it means a lot to have such strong support. With them, I hope we will make an advantage ahead of the second leg in Norway,” concludes Lucin.