Young Velenje seek new experience
RK Gorenje Velenje returned to the domestic throne after eight years last season, beating Celje to the Slovenian league title for the first time since 2012/13.
It marked the finish to an already successful season, as they reached the semi-final of the EHF European Cup and only narrowly lost to eventual champions AEK Athens.
It has been four years since Velenje last played in the EHF Champions League and the club has gone through some changes since, now mainly relying on young talents who might have a lot to show in the upcoming EHF European League season.
- Velenje are back in Europe’s second-tier competition after one year in the European Cup
- reaching the final of the EHF Cup 2008/09 remains their biggest international success
- coach Zoran Jovičić is in his fourth season after taking over in 2018
- the team underwent only few changes to the squad over the summer
- team captain is experienced David Miklavčić, who joined in 2018/19 from HC PPD Zagreb
Most important question: Can the young team keep up with their opponents in the group phase?
Velenje topped the Slovenian league last season with 23 wins out of 26 matches, ending the seven-year dominance of Celje. The team has both experienced players and young talents and is led by captain David Miklavčić, who returned to the club three seasons ago after years abroad.
“Playing in the EHF European League is a reward for winning the title of national champion in Slovenia. We are aware that this is a high-quality competition and a great challenge for the club. We will do our best to represent Slovenian handball,” says club manager Janez Gams.
After their run to the EHF European Cup semi-final last season, the yellow-and-black team is looking forward to more exciting matches, which will be of great value to the young team.
“Appearances in European competitions are extremely important for our club. In addition to confirming our good work, it is a great opportunity to develop players who are, in our case, very young and largely educated in our own handball academy,” says Gams.
Under the spotlight: Aleks Kavčić
The 25-year-old centre back, a former youth international, arrived at Velenje in 2018 from Škofja Loka. He soon became one of the main goal scorers of the team, both in the domestic championship and in the EHF European Cup. He finished last European season with 58 goals and will be one of the most important assets for the team again in international matches.
How they rate themselves
Velenje are aware they cannot have a clear objective in their upcoming European season other than giving their maximum on the court. The 38-year-old team captain Miklavčić says: “Favorites are French and German clubs, definitely. We will try our best in every match and we will see where this will bring us. Our biggest motivation is that we are playing against some of the best clubs in Europe.”
What the numbers say
Four is the total number of foreign players in the squad: two from Croatia, two from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Velenje have been known for their good work in their handball academy, so most players are from Slovenia or even the Velenje region.
Did you know?
Velenje’s history reads like an who-is-who from European handball. Many big names of the sport wore the team jersey in the past, including Ivan Čupić, Jure Dolenec, Momir Ilić, Vid Kavtičnik, Siarhei Rutenka, goalkeepers Gorzad Škof and Primož Prošt, brothers Benjamin and Senjamin Burić, and late Iztok Puc.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Peter Šiško (MRK Ljubljana), Kristian Eskeričić (RD Riko Ribnica)
Departures: Miha Kavčić (RK Nexe)
EHF Champions League:
Last 16 (4): 2005/06, 2009/10, 2012/13, 2013/14
Main round (1): 2007/08
Group phase (2): 2004/05, 2017/18
EHF Cup: Final (1): 2008/09; Semi-final (2): 1994/95, 2014/15; Quarter-final (3): 1996/97, 2010/11, 2011/12; Group phase: (1): 2019/20
EHF European Cup: Semi-final (1): 2020/21
Cup Winners’ Cup: Semi-final (1): 2003/04; Quarter-final (1): 2004/05
Slovenian league: 4 titles (2009, 2012, 2013, 2021)
Slovenian cup: 2 titles (2003, 2019)