Six Respect Your Talent alumni to feature at Poland/Sweden 2023
The ”Respect Your Talent” programme, launched by the European Handball Federation in 2019, has already been starting to yield excellent results, as its alumni have been getting more and more time on the court in major senior tournaments, in both the men’s and women’s competitions.
While 11 alumni of the programme - which promotes the holistic development of talented players, both on and off the handball court, addressing topics such as dual career, anti-doping, mental fitness, media and sports law - were on the court at the Women’s EHF EURO 2022, several are also on the court for the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship in Poland and Sweden.
In total, six ”Respect Your Talent” alumni will take to the court at Poland/Sweden 2023, with two players from Portugal and one each from Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia each featuring prominently for their squads during the competition.
Francisco Mota da Costa / Martim Mota da Costa (Portugal)
A few of them are already household names in handball, like the two Mota da Costa brothers, Francisco and Martin, who shined at the M20 EHF EURO 2022 last summer, both making the All-Star team, while the former was the top goal scorer of the tournament, with 58 goals.
The two brothers made their debut in the Portugal men's senior team last spring, when they helped their side qualify for the World Championship in a doubleheader against The Netherlands, and coach Paulo Pereira has been relying on them ever since.
Both made their debut in a major tournament at Poland/Sweden 2023 on Thursday, when the 17-year-old Francisco scored two goals and assisted four other goals, while Martim featured for six minutes on court, but failed to score a goal.
The two Portuguese talents have also been in fine form in the EHF European League in the past two seasons, with Francisco scoring 110 goals for Sporting CP, while his brother has 95 goals in the same time span.
Dominik Kuzmanovic (Croatia)
While goalkeepers are emerging as game-changing players as they get more and more experienced, Kuzmanovic has been earmarked as a top talent from an early age and has been excellent for his club, RK Nexe, both in the Croatian league and in the EHF European League, reaching the EHF Finals Men in the 2020/21 season.
With an aging goalkeeper department, Croatia will now rely on Kuzmanovic, who will make his debut at a major international tournament, after not being selected for the EHF EURO 2022. The shot stopper will enter the competition in good form, having saved 39 shots for a 32.2% saving efficiency at RK Nexe in the EHF European League this season.
Stefan Dodic (Serbia)
Highlighted as the next best thing in Serbian handball, 2022 has been a true whirlwind for Dodic, with the centre back leading his side to the bronze medal at the M20 EHF EURO 2022, where he was named the MVP of the competition, after a stellar performance throughout the whole tournament.
Snapped up by Industria Kielce, Dodic was loaned this season to HC PPD Zagreb, where he helped his side deliver good performances, entering the fray for a play-off berth in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, with 20 goals and 24 assists this season.
Like Kuzmanovic, Dodic, now 19 years old, will make his debut in a major international tournament, after convincing Serbia’s coach, Toni Gerona, of his huge potential and great upside in what can prove to be a launching pad for his international career.
Radojica Cepic (Montenegro)
A towering left back, Cepic made his mark at the M19 EHF EURO Championship 2021 in Latvia, where he has been nothing short of amazing, leading Montenegro to the trophy with a 34-goal performance in only five games. Despite being only 19 years old, he made the move to the German Bundesliga, where he scored 14 goals in the first part of the season for HSG Wetzlar.
Montenegro are a team on the rise, as highlighted by their 11th place at the EHF EURO 2022, where Cepic scored 19 goals and Poland/Sweden 2023 will be his second major tournament, having already scored once in the first game of the competition, lost by his side, 25:30, against Spain.
Zoran Ilic (Hungary)
The right back made his debut in the senior national team aged only 18, but he has constantly been one of the most interesting prospects from Hungary, who have been consistently pushing forward an immense amount of young talent in the senior side.
Ilic has represented his side at the M19 EHF EURO 2021 and at the M20 EHF EURO 2022 and has always been a player to watch, despite not putting up big numbers on the board. He played for over half an hour in Hungary's debut win against Korea, 35:27, scoring twice and dishing out four assists.