This is Me: Anita Görbicz
Anita Görbicz. The Queen of Handball. Two decades. Five EHF Champions League medals. Last weekend the curtain came down on the careers of one of the most decorated handball players of all-time. An icon whose drive, passion and love knew no bounds. Prior to the DELO EHF FINAL4, Anita told us the story of her life on the court and what's in store now that she has worn the green of Győr for the last time.
This was written by Anita before the weekend's DELO EHF FINAL4.
This is Me: Anita Görbicz
A gift from the handball Gods
To be honest, I loved football in the beginning as my father used play on top level in Hungary and I enjoyed to watch him. Then handball oozed into my life through my sister’s practices which I attended as spectator and because of my elementary school.
I was 10 years old, when I started to play handball. My sister was already in the team of the school where pupils could choose between handball and jumping rope. I tried to stick to both of them first. I remember my ‘big debut’ and I liked it as it is a team sport and you can throw the ball. From that moment it was clearly that handball will have a huge part of my life.
Then, Kálmán Róth discovered me in the block flat area of the city of Győr, where we used to live and suggested to my parents to join a brand new class especially focusing on handball. With that changing I played handball almost every day, but on a concrete court. Naturally, as successes came quickly, it was easy to fall in love with handball even more.
As a parent, I see now my childhood a little bit differently. Around that age all I wanted to do is to play handball. Even though as a skinny child I had to spend plenty of time by getting muscles which I hated. However, with hard work I was able to transform my body and be strong enough for at least not to be demolished by others as everybody both in my team and in the opponents’ were usually bigger. Sometimes, after many hits, I was wondering if I really need this, not to mention that I also had to study for school and for that I really did not have any energy left. Yet, my heart always kept me there as I loved the atmosphere of the matches and my teammates.
We are talking about the early nineties here. It was not rare that we had training sessions on the concrete court in 30 to 35-degree heat or in rain and cold weather. On the side of one of the block flats, there was a huge – at least 20 metres tall – advertisement of a world-leader refreshment company that I will never forget. We always wanted to have just a sip of it during those summer sessions. Back then, our coaches and teachers took care of the mental health of the players. Nowadays, it is normal to have a sport psychologist around an athlete or a squad. I would still say that we did not need those specialists next to our coaches, our teachers.
I remember the moment when I really decided that I want to be a professional. Although I loved handball from the beginning, it was not clear that this sport offers me such possibilities. In the television, mostly football was shown, so the very first game of the “bigs”, the senior team, got me. Then, I knew, I want to experience this atmosphere in the fully packed arena with fans in Győr. This dream of mine pushed me to evolve and be the better.
However, without help both physically and mentally, it would have been a lot harder. Without my parents, I would not be the handball player that I am.
They were able to provide the conditions for travelling, to own equipment, and they always motivated me with kind words as well as we were able to sit down and talk about the toughest parts of my current life. They also praised me when I played well which is important to get positive feedback from your parents, but also showed me how to be better and not to settle.
Naturally, there were ups and downs through my adolescent years. I usually played with players five years old than me as I was told to skip Under-14-16 team as they were bigger and stronger. Also, it was hard that I never had holidays because of handball. Pressure was part of our life from the beginning as this especially put together class of the school meant to win any cup. After a while, the many hits, the stress made me thinking whether I want to continue or not. I even asked my parents to speak with the coach that I wanted to stop due to physical and mental fatigue. I really made my mind up to quit, but the coach asked for one more practice and at the end of I totally forget my idea of leaving as my teammates and the coach as well created such a good environment and atmosphere. If he had not invited me for one more practice, I may not write these words today.
As an addition to the many helps I got from my surroundings, I always wanted to learn and never stop. I understood that you only make mistakes when you try. Obviously, I hated and still hate to fail in something, so at the beginning I had sit down with myself and talk about what to do next time to be more successful in a situation. And yes, for that I had to be hard-headed to try to go through the wall again and again even when it hit back in the first 10 or 20 times.
I am glad when I hear or read from younger players that I am their role model in handball, but to be honest, unlike for others, I never had a role model for myself in handball. I admired Beatrix Kökény, Krisztina Pigniczki, Katalin Pálinger and many others, but I wanted to be better than them. For me one of the best player ever was the Montenegrin Bojana Popovic, however I also watched men’s handball and learned from them. If I saw a nice move or a dribble, I tried it at the next practice.
I only wanted to play handball at the start and when I turned professional I played in every position besides line player and goalkeeper. At the beginning, I was right wing as I am right handed and, as I was quick but small, wing positions and the centre back position seemed to be the right fit. My creativity, susceptibility and court vision told my coaches that we should stick with being a centre back.
When I look back on my career, I am very proud. As a kid I would have definitely accepted everything I went through my professional years. Of course, as we did not gather any medal at the Olympics, nor win world or the EHF EURO, I am a bit unsatisfied. However, there are many other successes to be happy about it. Not to mention that I know, how much work I put into it and I am pleased with it. I had steps in my career that led to the next one and to the next one. The first was to play in a jam packed arena. Then, to wear the jersey of the national team and sing the Hungarian national anthem.
Győr is the one and only in handball. The city, the club, and the fans are unique. I started my career here back then and never left. I always had great squads around me and although I received some invitations from sides from abroad, my heart constantly beats for ETO. Some say, that my name after so many years equals to the club, which I love to hear, but it is not that simple. Győri Audi ETO KC is for the supporters just as we, players. This is why I play, for the love of handball and for the fans.
Pressure is part of a professional athlete’s life. I have sung the Hungarian anthem plenty of times but I was still so nervous at the World Championships final in 2003 that I could barely remember the lines. There were around 8,000 people and we had the biggest chance as it turned out later, to be at the top of the world. In my opinion, it is normal that your feelings affect your performance. These senses drove me further and further.
I was always purposeful as I wanted to be a handball player since I was 10 years old. I knew, that injuries are part of this profession, but I never feared of them. You cannot play being worried all the time, in that case you will doubt yourself continuously. In the beginning I did not care about any fracture or scratch, I just wanted to play, then everything changed when I tore the ligament in my knee right before my very first finals of the EHF Champions League against the Danish Viborg HK in 2009. It took me almost a year to recover totally, despite I was told only half of it. The hardest part was to accept the doctor’s rules and wait.
Failure is also the element of sports and you have to overcome those even when you know that you will make mistakes. This is why I tried again and again and practice more and more. I was told many times by stronger defensive players not to pretend a fault, though I never did it, I was and still only smaller. Their answers were bigger hits and faults which motivated me to get more muscles. Adapt and overcome.
Only that way I could enjoy the first part of my professional career, the silver period. Back then, I almost believed that I will never ever win anything. The second part is all about triumphs. With that in my mind, I will try to do my best as sports director after this season.
Being a mother, a parent is tough. When you have to travel that much, it is even harder. However, when I come home my son, Boldizsár is there and gives so much joy and happiness. It also means that there is less time for regeneration, for myself and for my thoughts, but it does not matter when I am around him.
Before Boldizsár was born, we planned everything with my husband Ottó, who was a professional footballer, so understood my schedule as a professional athlete. Only with a healthy strategy, we decided to create a family. Yet, I am very lucky as our son understood very easily what my job means and he usually wants to come with me to my practices where he behaves well and plays some football. He only mentioned once that I spend too much time afar during a national team event, then I knew that this was my last time, so I retired from wearing the “red-white-green” shirt.
This is me. Anita Görbicz.