Debelic: “These two years have been the best in my career”
The Match of the Week for round 12 of the DELO EHF Champions League will see Vipers and Metz in a battle for second spot in group B.
The Norwegian team features plenty of well-known names in handball, with players like Nora Mørk, Heidi Løke, Katrine Lunde, Isabelle Gulden — and the list goes on. Among them is a new face at Vipers this season: 28-year-old Ana Debelic.
The Croatian international line player joined the club from Astrakhanochka.
“I play with many great players at Vipers and enjoy that. It’s great to have teammates like them. We all have important roles on the court and we want to win,” says Debelic. “I’m happy, proud and fulfilled. My career was going slowly but on the upward path and I think God is putting in my way what is best for me at that moment. When I look at where I am today and what I have done, I am proud.”
Debelic started playing handball at the age of six and has since played for Opatija, Zamet, Zelina, Lokomotiva, Podravka and Astrakhanochka before moving to the Norwegian powerhouse. She has developed each season and was part of the Croatia national team at the EHF EURO events in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
The EHF EURO 2020 was a turning point in her career. With a bronze medal from the European championship and an All-star Team spot, her first international breakthrough came. And only two years later she is playing for a top-level club — the defending Champions League title holders no less.
“The last two years are really the best ones in my whole career. Astrakhanochka was nice. It was my first time moving away and I gained a lot of experience. I became a better person there,” reflects Debelic. “Coming to Vipers was something amazing. They are a famous club, Champions League winners, and it was an honour to get their call. On the other hand, I was afraid if I would be able to fit and if that was the right decision for me. It turned out great.”
New club, new teammates, new town. It’s not always easy to change everything, but that is the life of a player.
“Every beginning is hard, as it always is. Everyone welcomed me and accepted me from the start — that’s why I’m very happy here. We maybe had some problems on the court as we were still getting to know each other. As time passed, we met very well and I think we are progressing with each match.”
Vipers had clear goals ahead of the 2021/22 season. After raising the DELO EHF Champions League trophy, the team still have lofty dreams — but also a clear vision and the patience to go step by step.
“Our primary goals are winning the Norwegian league and Cup. When it comes to Champions League, at the beginning of the season, it was said that our goal was to go to the next round and then prepare for each match as they come,” explains Debelic.
In the first part of the season, the current title holders lost to Györ, Metz and CSKA. They won the other eight matches and want to stay on that path. Debelic was given an important role and has netted 40 times in the top-tier-competition.
“We started to play much better lately. We maybe had some problems and injuries at the beginning — that’s why we lost those three matches, especially that one against CSKA at home. I believe we can perform even better. After injuries I was the only line player left and I took that important role. Lysa Tchaptchet Defo also joined us and I know we will be a great duo. My teammates are giving me a lot of chances for goals and I take them,” says Debelic.
The Match of the Week is scheduled for Saturday 5 February at 18:00 CET and will be streamed live on EHFTV. This rematch will be a good opportunity for the Norwegian team to exact their revenge after Metz upset the title holders in round 3 with a 23:18 win.
“The match against Metz is really important for us. We lost the first match by five goals so this rematch is important for us and for the battle for that second spot in the group. We hope we will get two new points. One thing is sure, we will give our best on the court on Saturday,” says Debelic.
“We go step by step, preparing for each match. We will analyse them and welcome them ready. They have strong names in the team and are an offensive team. Therefore, our main goal is to find a solution for their attack.”
And there is one bonus for Debelic regarding the match against Metz: “I’m glad I will get to spend some time after the match with Cami [Camila Micijevic] and Kapi [Ivana Kapitanovic], my national team friends. Both are great players — Micijevic is playing in both directions and is very good defensively. Kapitanovic is between the posts and we will see who will come out as winner.”