Handball players aim for world tournament
Belarus’ national handball team begins 2013 World Championship play-offs
After defeating teams from Romania and Luxembourg, Belarus must twice beat the strong Slovaks, to join the world’s top handball squads. Their first match was held in Kosice, while the return will be hosted by Belarus’ largest sports facility: Minsk-Arena. It is set to be a fateful time for Belarusian handball.
Belarusian handballers have twice performed at top level. In 2008, they reached the finals of the European Championship. However, they haven’t returned to the World Championship since 1995 — when Andrey Parashchenko and Mikhail Yakimovich brought Belarus to the play-offs.
According to the head coach of the Belarusian national handball team, Yuri Shevtsov, Slovakia is a serious opponent. “They have a very strong goal-keeper, alongside defence; every player is aggressive, powerful and flexible. Frantisek Sulc and Daniel Valo are key players. Fortunately, leader Peter Kukucka will be absent from one match, but we must defeat the Slovaks both with Kukucka and without him,” asserts Mr. Shevtsov, on the eve of their departure for Kosice.
The Belarusians do have their own trump card: the world’s handball star, Sergey Rutenko. The Champions League winner and five time champion of Spain (where he plays for Barcelona) changed his sporting citizenship four years ago to allow him to play for Belarus. Regardless of traditional ideas about a balanced team, the major hopes of Belarusian fans will be pinned on Rutenko in these forthcoming matches.