Crina Pintea: Golden soul on the court
CSM Bucuresti had their best start in five years in the DELO EHF Champions League, winning their first two games against Metz Handball and Team Esbjerg.
The Romanian side will face Rostov-Don on Sunday in a crunch test (live on EHFTV at 16:00 CEST).
While Cristina Neagu is the top goal scorer of the competition, putting 22 goals past CSM’s opponents, Crina Pintea has quietly earned plaudits for her work in attack and especially in defence.
The 30-year-old line player, who has already won the EHF Champions League with Györ two seasons ago, has impressed both on and off the court.
While her handball is top notch, her soul is also golden. With the Covid-19 pandemic still wreaking havoc in Romania, Pintea used her passion, sewing, to produce face masks, with all the proceedings donated to charity, helping children in underdeveloped parts of Romania to live a better life and to have an improved education.
eurohandball.com: CSM have started brilliantly in the DELO EHF Champions League. How did you improve from losing the domestic season-opener in Romania?
Crina Pintea: I am glad that we earned two wins in the first two games. I think there were not a lot of changes from our loss to SCM Ramnicu Valcea in the Romanian Super Cup, but we must not dwell in the past. It was our plan to be aggressive from the throw-off in defence and to be more efficient in attack. And we executed that, not to perfection, but very efficiently.
eurohandball.com: The opponents were not easy, you lost both against Metz and Esbjerg last season. There was no coaching change this summer at CSM; did the team improve from last season?
Crina Pintea: Regarding our game against Metz, I think they still have an experienced team, albeit with quite a lot of players younger than us. However, they have a very good coach, who could have turned the game in their favour. What I am truly happy about in both games is that we played our game, we know what to do on court and how to win. And yes, it is very important to have a core that played together for some time, because it is difficult to undergo roster and coaching changes all time, needing to adapt all the time to qualities of new players and ideas from new coaches.
eurohandball.com: CSM had a tough time with consistency in the previous season, do you think it could be smoother this time around?
Crina Pintea: Last year, it was very difficult, but I think we were on track to have a great quarter-final against Györ, we were very focused and we were hopeful to upset the title holders. This season, I really like how the team gelled and how we approach games. We are good now and I hope to continue to play like this and have this vibe in the team.
It is of the utmost importance to stay firm with both feet on the ground, we won only two games.
eurohandball.com: The format of the competition changed, there are now eight teams in the group. Do you think it is harder or easier for all the teams involved?
Crina Pintea: It is way harder than in the previous years and we must tread carefully, because we need to adapt quickly and swiftly to it. Moreover, we still have a bit of uncertainty in the domestic league, about the way it is going to be played. We also must be careful to avoid injuries, but I think no player will give less on the court, you cannot live with the fear to be injured during games.
eurohandball.com: In the last seconds of the game against Esbjerg, your coach called a time-out and asked Cristina Neagu where would she like you to play in the last attack. How does your partnership with her work?
Crina Pintea: She is the best, period. To score so many goals in difficult situations, this oozes class. Our partnership still works like a charm and I hope to continue for a long time.
eurohandball.com: Can CSM go for the title this season?
Crina Pintea: I do not want to say how far we can go into this competition, but we all want to win and go to the DELO EHF FINAL 4 in Budapest. Yet there is a very long way to go, we still have to play 12 games in this group phase. From my point of view, it is of the utmost importance to stay firm with both feet on the ground, we won only two games.
eurohandball.com: Is it difficult to play in this situation? In Romania, it is mandatory for reserve players to wear a face mask when they are replaced.
Crina Pintea: It is the new normal and we must adapt to the current situation. I remember that in the game against Metz, their coach helped a player take her mask off just before she entered the court. We could have seen her play with a face mask.
eurohandball.com: Talking about face masks, I saw some of your teammates wearing personalised ones with your name on it…
Crina Pintea: I took up tailoring in my spare time, because this helps me relax a lot. So, when I sit down and work with my sewing machine, I immerse myself into it and forget about everything else. I started sewing bed linens and I ended up with too many, gifting some of them to my family and my friends. So when the lockdown period ended, I met with some friends and they asked me why I did not start sewing face masks. It looked like a very good idea, I learnt it on the fly via several YouTube tutorials and in two weeks’ time, I had already done 150 face masks.
eurohandball.com: What did you do with 150 face masks?
Crina Pintea: Well, that is exactly what they said! The plan was to make 20-30 face masks, but I ended up with seven times that number. I gifted some of them to my friends, several teammates also used them in games, yet there were still a lot remaining. Therefore, I teamed up with an NGO that helps children from underdeveloped regions of Romania. I donated the face masks and all the proceedings went to this organisation that, I think, represents myself as a person and what I am trying to do to see this world get better.