Much-changed Pelister ready for new beginning
Eurofarm Pelister enter the new EHF European League Men season with a widely changed squad and a new head coach. The Bitola-based team has clear goals and would like to progress further than the Last 16, a phase they were stopped two years in a row. Taking the Macedonian Super Cup trophy at the start of the season is a signal of their intent.
- Danish expert Lars Walther took over the team, replacing Zeljko Babic who had been at the helm since the beginning of 2020
- the team have a number of changes in the squad list: players like Marton Szekely, Stipe Mandalinic, Reinier Taboada and Josip Peric left
- in a thriller match, they defeated Vardar by one goal (23:22) in the domestic Super Cup
- their 2021/22 season in the EHF European League ended in the Last 16, losing to Nexe 51:47 on aggregate
- this is the third season under the name Eurofarm Pelister after the unification of two clubs
Most important question: How will changes affect the team?
It was a summer of change in Bitola and the team had a good start to the season, performing well in preparation matches and winning the Super Cup. It is their second season in a row to start the season this way.
The team was taken over by Lars Walther, who already has experience in working with Gorenje Velenje, Orlen Wisla Plock, Porto, Ribe-Esbjerg and Azoty-Pulawy among others. The Danish coach will have the task of remaining on the path set by Zeljko Babic and that is to progress further than the group phase, with eyes on the quarter-finals.
There is no doubt Pelister will have to take time to get the squad in order with many of the players never playing together before. Pelister’s top scorers Stipe Mandalinic, Filip Peric and Reinier Taboada Maras have left the club so it will be interesting to see how the newcomers will deal with their important roles, with many of them coming from the French league.
The experience of players like Zarko Peshevski and Wilsson Davyes can help Oussama Hosni and Mohamed Soussi to finally get in the spotlight, while the rest of the squad have their sights set on making an impact in the second-tier competition. The departure of Marton Székely was compensated with the signing of Slovenian national team goalkeeper Urban Lejsak, who will help talented Marko Kizic between the posts.
“It is very important for us to participate in the EHF European League. Eurofarm Pelister has invested a lot for this season. So, it is very important for us to wave our flag around Europe so the people can see that something good is happening here,” says head coach Lars Walther.
In the 2021/22 season, Eurofarm Pelister finished the group stage in second place behind USAM Nimes Gard with five wins, two draws and three defeats, but were sent home by Nexe in the Last 16. The year before, they were stopped at the same stage by eventual champions Magdeburg. We still have to see what the 2022/23 season will bring but no club coming to the Boro Chrulevski hall will have an easy time as Pelister has strong fan support.
New team captain Mirko Radovic knows that very well: "To play in a handball city like Bitola is always motivation for me. For the first season, I am team captain and I hope we can do something big in the domestic competition and also in the European League with the support of our fans."
Under the spotlight: Zarko Peshevski
Experienced line player, who joined Pelister this summer from TBV Stuttgart. The Macedonian international spent three years in the Bundesliga and previously played in the EHF Champions League with Metalurg and Motor Zaporozhye. He will be of great help to the team with his defensive skills but he is scoring goals with the same effort.
How they rate themselves
Pelister played the Last 16 two years in a row and with the current team, it will be no surprise to see them at the same phase. However, the club wishes to progress even further and take a chance against Europe’s top clubs.
“We have a new team but very strong and our ambition in this competition is always big. I hope we can progress further, to play knockout matches and make history in Europe. The big favourites in this competition are the German and French teams but we will do our best on the court,” says team captain Mirko Radovic.
To play in a handball city like Bitola is always motivation for me. For the first season, I am team captain and I hope we can do something big in the domestic competition and also in the European League with the support of our fans.
What the numbers say
18 years - the time Eurofarm Pelister have been waiting for the domestic title or cup trophy. The rivalry with Vardar has been strong in the last few years. It always comes down to one match, but they still haven’t been able to break the long wait. Two Super Cup trophies in a row are a good sign that nothing is impossible.
Did you know?
Arena Boro Churlevski is a real fortress for the team. In the 2021/22 group phase, they did not lose a match at home and Nexe won by only one goal in the Last 16, witnessing some hot atmosphere. The former Arena Mladost was renamed in 2018 in honour of the late legendary Bitola player who was a part of the golden era of the team from 1984 to 1990.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Mohamed Soussi (Tremblay), Oussama Hosni (Istres), Urban Lesjak (TSV Hannover-Burgdorf), Wilson Daviyes (US Ivry), Denis Vasillev (Motor Zaporozhye), Zarko Peshevski (TVB Stuttgart), Pavle Atanasijevic, Emilijan Gjorgovski, Cvetan Kuzmanoski (Eurofarm Pelister 2)
Departures: Mateo Maras, Marton Székely, Josip Peric, Nemanja Obradovic (MOL Tatabánya), Stipe Mandalinic (AEK Athens), Elmir Gradjan (Olympiacos HC), Nikola Markoski (Alkaloid), Josip Bozic Pavletic (Tremblay), Reinier Taboada Dranquet (Fredericia HK)
EHF European League
Last 16 (2): 2020/21, 2021/22
EHF Champions League
Group phase (1): 2019/20
Group Phase (1): 2018/19
Last 16 (1): 2017/18
Runner-up (1): 2001/02
Macedonian league (6): 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005
Macedonian cup (6): 1990, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 20005
Macedonian Super Cup (2): 2021, 2022