Jerábková: “We have only done half the job”
When Vipers Kristiansand surprisingly won the EHF FINAL4 in 2021, Merkéta Jerábková was still with Thüringer HC in Germany but already knew she would join the Norwegian team for the 2021/22 season.
“I was really proud to see them claiming the trophy,” the Czech left back says.
Now a Vipers player, Jerábková has an excellent chance to reach her first EHF FINAL4, after the titleholders won the first leg of the EHF Champions League Women quarter-final at Krim Mercator Ljubljana by seven goals (32:25) last week.
Jerábková is looking forward to the second leg at home on Saturday (live on EHFTV at 18:00 CEST), but she does not want to get ahead of things.
“We really want to reach the EHF FINAL4, this is our biggest goal for the season. The game in Ljubljana was good for us, but we have only done half the job, and we still have to make the most important step,” Jerábková tells eurohandball.com.
And can Vipers eventually win the continental top flight for the second straight time?
“There is always a chance. We are in a good mood and have the right attitude, so we can do it if we are at 100 percent,” the 26-year-old left back says.
While many of her teammates already won the trophy last year, Jerábková – previously playing for DHK Baník Most, Érd NK, and THC – is enjoying her debut season in the competition.
“Of course, it is something special, competing at this level was my dream. I enjoy playing at Vipers with these world-class players and learning from them,” she says.
However, the start of the new season was not easy for the Norwegian side, who lost three of their first five matches in the European competition. But then Vipers improved a lot to earn nine victories in the next 10 games, including the first leg of the quarter-final.
“We had a lot of new foreign players early in the season, including myself, so we used September and October to find our game step by step, but now we are much better,” Jerábková says.
“I also needed some time to find my role and position in the team, but now it works well. The win against Györ in the last group game has been our highlight of the season so far, as we climbed to the second position and earned a direct quarter-final spot.”
Overall, she is quite happy with Vipers’ season so far.
“We have done well, but the crucial games are coming,” she says. “On Tuesday, we progressed to the Norwegian league semi-final and next week we will play the decisive games of the Norwegian Cup – and of course there is the Champions League.”
After her stints in Czech Republic, Hungary, and Germany, Jerábková is living in Norway and seems to have adjusted well.
“Actually, I like the local mentality. It is not just about drill and training, but you can speak about anything. People in the club can talk to you about your personal life, they really care if you feel happy and comfortable outside the court. And there is more freedom – for example, if you are not ready for a gym training, you can openly say that,” Jerábková explains.
I like the local mentality in Norway. It is not just about drill and training, but you can speak about anything. People in the club can talk to you about your personal life, they really care if you feel happy and comfortable outside the court.
Coming from a family where sports have always been important – her father was a football player, her mother competed in athletics, and her brother Jakub Jerabek plays hockey at a high level – Markéta was the only one to focus on handball.
“In fact, it was my mom who helped me to choose this sport. She had some good connections in our hometown and once she sent me to a handball training. I was only six then, so I started playing at the same age as I went to a regular school," Jerábková recalls.
After changing clubs in 2020 and again in 2021, Jerábková plans to stay with Vipers for at least another season, with her contract expiring in 2023.
“I like the life in Norway. Kristiansand is not a big city, but I am not a person who needs to live in a huge capital,” Jerábková says.
“But, of course, I also miss my home in the Czech Republic.”