“Europe will see who Rapid really are”
This is the sixth article in our countdown series ahead of the EHF Champions League Women 2022/23 season. The series previews each of the 16 clubs in the group phase before the competition begins in September.
Seven seasons ago, a Romanian team was taking the EHF Champions League Women by storm, securing the trophy on their maiden participation in the European premium competition. Since that moment, CSM Bucuresti became a powerhouse in European handball — and another side from the Romanian capital are now aiming high.
Current Romanian champions Rapid Bucuresti have built an experienced team, have an experienced coach on the bench and EHF Champions League fans are about to learn just how loud their fans are.
- Rapid won the title in the Romanian league for the sixth time in history and for the first time in 19 years thanks to a one-point advantage over CSM Bucuresti-
- the Romanian champions will make their debut in the EHF Champions League Women, with their top performance in European handball the City Cup title in the 1999/00 season
- four seasons ago, Rapid were playing in the second Romanian league and have constantly improved, finishing 11th in the first league in the 2019/20 season, sixth in 2020/21 and then winning the title in 2021/22
- five different nationalities are represented in Rapid’s squad: Romanian, Spanish, French, Angolan and Croatian
- they will play their games in the Sala Polivalenta in Bucharest, but also in Mioveni, 120 kilometres away from the Romanian capital
Most important question: Who are Rapid Bucuresti?
Rapid are one of the oldest clubs in Romania, having been founded in 1923, which means they have entered their 99th year and will celebrate their centenary next year. It is a club that also boasts football, basketball, volleyball and water polo teams, all under the umbrella of the Ministry of Transport in Romania, hence their logo, which resembles a locomotive.
The team was one of the most successful in Romania some 60 years ago and had a golden generation at the end of the last century but fell into a state of oblivion until four years ago. Taking over the handball team, president Bogdan Vasiliu, who was also one of the architects of CSM’s amazing rise to power, transformed the team and created a true juggernaut, which, over the course of three years, rose from the depths of the second league to win their first title in 19 years.
The team took the Romanian league by storm, with an interesting mix of young Romanian players like Sorina Grozav, Diana Ciuca and Alexandra Badea, some well-established Romanian stars such as Eliza Buceschi and Oana Lefter, and three Spain national team players brought by coach Carlos Viver.
This mix became a team that gelled instantly, propelled by a hardcore fanbase that filled the arena at every home game, and took the competition by storm, conceding only three losses and boasting the most effective attack in the well-balanced Romanian league on the path to becoming champion.
They lost some players this summer but ushering in some new talent will help alleviate those losses. New captain Alexandra Lacrabere is a past European, Olympic and world champion. Orlane Kanor and Ivana Kapitanovic made it to the EHF FINAL4 last season with Metz Handball, while Jennifer Gutierrez has been one of the top left wings in the premium European competition. Make no mistake, line player Lorena Ostase is a star in the making on that position.
Under the spotlight: Sorina Grozav
Sorina Grozav (nee Tirca) is the daughter of one of the best players in Romania’s history, back Mariana Tirca, who won the EHF Champions League in 1996 with HC Podravka Vegeta. Touted as the next best thing in Romanian handball, the left back, who has amazing power in her shot despite her slender frame, was the top scorer at the W17 EHF EURO 2015 and the W19 EHF EURO 2017.
Caught in a doping scandal at her former side, Corona Brasov, and missing 16 months due to the suspension, Tirca returned to her former self and was nothing short of amazing last season, scoring 146 goals in the Romanian league to finish fourth in the top goal scorer standings.
Grozav already made her debut for Romania’s national team, but a lack of experience at the highest level will be a minus. However, this will be the real test to see if she has what it takes to succeed. The pedigree, the talent and the handball IQ are all there.
How they rate themselves:
Contending for the trophy? Surely, it must be a mistake, as there are several powerhouses with a lot of experience who form a big queue for the trophy. Yet Rapid know what makes them special. ‘Alone against everybody,’ was always their motto and this will surely apply for them in this season’s EHF Champions League Women.
“Rapid will fight for the Champions League trophy starting this season. Even if we are considered outsiders, we will be ready for any opponent we will meet. Europe will see who Rapid really are,” says the team’s president, Bogdan Vasiliu. While it may sound bold, Vasiliu knows a thing or two about winning the competition.
Did you know?
Rapid will not play in their own arena, which is located in the Giulești neighbourhood in the Romanian capital, as it can only hold 1,000 fans. Last season, on the last matchday of the Romanian league — which decided the champions — Rapid played at Ramnicu Valcea, while their rivals, CSM, played in Rapid’s arena, which is usually used for domestic league matches.
What the numbers say:
6 – Rapid are the sixth Romanian side to play in the EHF Champions League Women, after Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea, Silcotub Zalau, CSM Bucuresti, Universitatea Jolidon Cluj-Napoca and HCM Baia Mare
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Alexandra Lacrabere (Chambray Touraine), Orlane Kanor (Metz Handball), Ivana Kapitanovic (Metz Handball), Isabel Guialo (Fleury Loiret HB), Irene Espínola Pérez (Neckarsulmer SU), Jennifer Gutierrez Bermejo (BV Borussia 09 Dortmund), Lorena Ostase (CSM Slatina)
Departures: Julie Foggea (Brest Bretagne HB), Elena Voicu (Corona Brasov), Marina Ilie (CS Dacia Mioveni 2012), Laura Popa (CS Dacia Mioveni 2012), Claudia Constantinescu (CS Dacia Mioveni 2012), Azenaide Carlos (Kastamonu Bld. GSK), Florentina Craiu (CSM Slatina), Oana Lefter (retired)
EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2022/23 season): One
City Cup: winners (1999/2000)
Challenge Cup: semi-finals (2001/02)
Romanian League: Six titles (1961, 1962, 1963, 1967, 2003, 2022)
Romanian Cup: One title (2004)