Esbjerg’s Türkoglu hopes for Turkish history in Budapest

Fulya Öktem

A couple of weeks ago Antalya Konyaalti BSK became the first Turkish handball team to lift a European trophy after they triumphed in the EHF European Cup Women final against Club Balonmán Atlético Guardes.

Now, fellow Turk Beyza Irem Türkoglu is blazing new ground as she heads to her second EHF FINAL4 Women. The Team Esbjerg left wing is hoping to cap off her career in Denmark with yet more history.

eurohandball.com: Since the implementation of the EHF FINAL4 Women, you are the only Turkish player to ever take part. What has the reaction been like at home?

Beyza Irem Türkoglu: I’m thrilled that we’ve reached the EHF FINAL4. The EHF FINAL4 is the crème de la crème of handball. I wish more Turkish players would have the chance to experience that atmosphere. Last year, when we made it to the EHF FINAL4 for the first time, the Turkish handball community got too excited. I suppose, this year, all eyes are on Konyaalti BSK. And that’s a good thing.

eurohandball.com: Speaking of which, a few words about Konyaalti’s success?

Beyza Irem Türkoglu: I’m delighted about Konyaalti BSK’s European Cup title. This is our first European title and I hope we'll use this upward momentum well. For the improvement of handball in my country, to draw attention, we need more international titles.

eurohandball.com: Türkiye won a European title in club competitions, but national teams have not got past qualification rounds. As a member of the national team, why do you think this is?

Beyza Irem Türkoglu: Unfortunately we are not able to participate in the European and world championships, and this breaks my heart. The main reasons are sports policy, handball philosophy, lack of high-level competition experience and so on. We usually go head-to-head in matches to some extent, but at one point, our resistance is broken psychologically and physically.

eurohandball.com: There is some difference between Europe and Türkiye in the understanding of handball. But you succeeded in playing at the highest level. How did you achieve that?

Beyza Irem Türkoglu: European handball is different from the rest of the world, but there are differences in European handball as well. If I compare Scandinavian handball with Turkish handball, I might say the most significant difference is the working discipline and expectations of success. In Scandinavian countries, handball is a way of life for girls. Other than that, the clubs are more professional. They celebrate the wins, but also take lessons from the losses.

eurohandball.com: Team Esbjerg are in the EHF FINAL4 for the second time in a row. What can you say about the road to Budapest?

Beyza Irem Türkoglu: I think it's not as surprising as last season. Our roster is better, and we play more conformably than the previous season. Everyone acts like a champion. We targeted the EHF FINAL4; we’ve worked for it and achieved it.

eurohandball.com: Your semi-final opponents FTC qualified for the EHF FINAL4 for the first time. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage for you?

Beyza Irem Türkoglu: The EHF FINAL4 is a very different environment: glamorous but also stressful for players. Last season we had the disadvantage of participating in the EHF FINAL4 for the first time, apart from playing against Györ in the semi-final. Yes, it’s FTC’s maiden season in the EHF FINAL4, but they will also have the advantage of playing at home. They've already started training at the venue where the finals will be held. I can't say that it will be an easy match, but I think we have a more advantageous draw compared to last year.

eurohandball.com: You are leaving Team Esbjerg after the EHF FINAL4. What will you do next?

Beyza Irem Türkoglu: Playing in Europe is an excellent experience, but the experience comes with its challenges. I had beautiful days in Denmark, but there were also hard ones. There are two more games ahead of us. I’m feeling a bittersweet happiness. I hope we can finish the season with the biggest trophy. It would be a fantastic farewell for me if I can lift the Champions League trophy.

eurohandball.com: Any advice to young Turkish players?

Beyza Irem Türkoglu: Their priority should not be winning, but enjoying playing handball. Being open to criticism is essential. And finding a source of motivation will do them good.

Photos © nhcfoto.dk

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