Anja Althaus: No one can stop us from dreaming!
A new exciting challenge is upon the three-time EHF Champions League winner as Anja Althaus has been appointed by the Macedonian Handball Federation to assist the head coach of the women's beach handball national team, Zlatko Mojsoski at the upcoming EHF Beach Handball EURO 2023 in Nazaré, Portugal.
She is fully aware of the difficulty of the task considering the modest experience of the young squad, among other factors, but if her distinguished career has taught us anything, it is the fact that Anja isn't afraid of taking on fresh challenges led by her impressive never-give-up attitude and dreamer mindset.
"Let's dream, I love to dream because no one knows what will happen at the tournament. We are going fully motivated and ready to compete in Portugal. Also, we aren't going with our heads down and as long as we play with pride and take something from it as experience, I don't care if we win or lose, because we can then use that lessons to develop further and win in the future.' said Althaus.
However, the retired Germany international admits that the tournament in Nazaré is going to be a learning curve for both herself and the squad, but they are motivated to play, learn and develop in hope of promoting the sport and inspiring new generations. Even though the preparations for the EURO 2023
have been turbulent due to the ongoing handball season with most of the selected players coming from the domestic league, the coaching staff is pleased with the development in such a short space of time.
"In the beginning, we struggled a little bit to get everyone involved, but once we started with the preparations, the girls developed pretty quickly and I really like their energy and desire to learn. I and Zlatko (Mojsoski) are really happy with their progress" she added.
The Lionesses last participated at the EHF Beach Handball EURO back in 2019 when the national team won the 'Fair Play' award, but none of the current players were part of the squad which featured at Stare Jabłonki in Poland. The newly-appointed Althaus points out the lack of confidence as the biggest challenge for them given the fact that the championship in Nazaré is going to be their first-ever major tournament in their careers, both in handball and in beach handball.
"The biggest challenge for me is to install a belief among the players about their qualities and built their confidence up because they have little to no experience in playing beach handball. We mustn't be afraid going to Portugal and my job is to create a competitive team in the short-term, but I am also thinking
about the long-term and the future."
North Macedonia are in group B alongside the hosts - Portugal, the bronze medallist from 2019 - Netherlands and the nation which won the very first edition of the championship back in 2000 - Ukraine, with the top two teams progressing to the main round and the bottom two dropping to the consolation
"We aren't putting any pressure on the girls to achieve a certain goal as it is already a big success that we are going to feature at the championship. We must soak up this experience and get the most out of it to grow as a team.
We are in a very difficult group and each and every of our opponents already has a more experience than us, but who knows, maybe some of them will underestimate us and we can hopefully use that moment to take them by surprise. I really hope and wish that we can make this happen to secure some points. If this happens, it will be an additional success!" said the former WHC Vardar star.
Althaus accepts the underdog status for her players, but they are looking
to deal a blow to the rivals and to surprise the strong opponents in group B.
"We accept the role of being underdogs as you never know what will happen at the tournament. Personally, I am a fan of being an underdog to be honest with you and although we are going to Nazaré for gaining experience and learning first, we have to be ready and I am really satisfied with the development of the squad."
If the 40-year-old successfully imposes her passionate approach and winning mentality on the girls then the North Macedonia women's beach handball national team will undoubtedly thrive and 'swim on a wave of adrenaline and enjoyment' in Portugal as she says. Also, Anja's immense creativity and innovative ideas
about promoting beach handball in the country she calls her own go way beyond this championship. Anja’s voice will for sure be heard across North Macedonia, as she and the team promote beach handball in the best possible light.