01/26/2014

Players come, players go, Vori stays

FEATURE: Croatian line player targets his next EHF EURO bronze medal and even more silverware in the future

When Croatia became world champions in Portugal in 2003 by beating Germany in the final, Igor Vori was on the court.

When the Croats fight for bronze on Sunday at the EHF EURO 2014 in Herning (15:30 hrs), eleven years later, the 33-year-old line player is still part of the squad – as the 'last survivor' of the 'golden generation'.

"Generations have changed, but Croatia are still world class," says Vori and adds: "If the coach is willing to have me in his squad, I will be there. I am fit, thank God I had no major injuries, and I still can play on an international level."

After gaining his personally biggest success on club level by winning the VELUX EHF Champions League in June 2013 with HSV Hamburg, Vori moved to his fifth handball country by transferring to French champions PSG Paris after he had played in Croatia (RK Zagreb), Italy (Conversano), Spain (FC Barcelona) and Germany (Hamburg) before.

And despite becoming world champions in 2003 and Olympic champions in 2004, Vori still misses one gold medal: the one from the European Championship.

"I hope that in the future I will be able to win this title," he says. "Croatia have the chance to win all tournaments until Rio 2016, European, world and Olympic gold."

Since 2004 in Slovenia, the Croats (including Vori) always qualified for the EHF EURO semi-finals, but never stood on the winners' podium.

But still Vori feels proud: "Just look at our small country. We are much smaller than Germany or Poland for example.

"And our small country is really successful in handball. To reach a semi-final is something extraordinary."

On Friday, the Croats lost their fifth semi-final in EHF EURO history, and for the third time (after 2004 in Slovenia and 2012 in Serbia) they were defeated by the hosting nation.

And Vori keeps his role as a true sportsman in terms of fair play.

"From the bottom of my heart I congratulate the Danish team for reaching the final.

"It really hurts to lose a semi-final, but the Danes were much luckier in the end. Now we go for winning our next bronze medal – the fourth one in three years.”

After the defeat against the Danes, Vori fully focuses on Spain: "Both teams have a huge experience in crucial matches, both sides represent world class on every position, but it would be a great honour for the whole Croatian nation to win a medal for our people."

By looking upon the long list of international medals Vori has in his cabinet, becoming world and Olympic champions is already a great merit, but he still looks ahead:

"I hope that I get asked by the coach for the upcoming competitions, as for me it is still the greatest honour to represent Croatia. I am ready, if they want me."

Despite big names like Ivano Balic have disappeared in the Croatian national team, he predicts a bright future: "We are building up the next golden generation. We have a young team, which is capable to win all medals in future."

written by Björn Pazen / ts