Slovenian international Sasa Barisic Jaman, born back in 1982, arrived to Nasice 13 years ago and except for those two and a half seasons he has spent in Leoben, he's been a vital part of the team from Slavonia and one of its most recognizable players. This season he’s once again performing on a high level despite of the fact Nexe have been struggling going through some problems and disappointments throughout the season. However, his ambitions remain high.
You’ve been a part of SEHA League from its very beginning. Can you compare the League now with what it looked like in the first few seasons?
League is growing in all segments – organization, quality, fans, media coverage. In the beginning there were only clubs from Balkan area, but now all these other teams have brought a significant amount of quality. Of course, it is not perfect but I still think each team would like to book a place for themselves on the final tournament. Last year it was in Brest and organization was great, it really seemed like we’re playing on Champions League Final 4 tournament.
Nexe will on Tuesday play one of this season’s rookie teams Motor Zaporozhye. You’ve already played in Ukraine so now it’s time for them to come to Nasice. Are they a team which has, in your opinion, raised the quality of the entire League?
Absolutely, they have a great team. They are competing in the Champions League as well where they’ve managed to grab a point in Germany against Kiel. We’ve had a good shot at defeating them in our first match this season in Ukraine but I feel like they underestimated us which is why I expect them to come to Nasice motivated to showcase their quality. It won’t be an easy match for us but we’re playing in front of our fans and we have to deliver the best possible outing.
Match against Motor will be the first one for you guys after that defeat in Lisbon which ended your EHF Cup journey for the season. Have you managed to recover from that?
I haven’t. It was a huge shock for all of us. Our fans are also not happy but I believe it’s the hardest for us players and the coach. We all wanted the best but made some mistakes in those final moments of the match. I missed a penalty as well. I mean, the defeat is definitely on us. I have already experienced a lot of disappointments in Nexe like against Magdeburg or Füchse Berlin and now Benfica. Of course it’s not easy but we have to understand that sport consists out of victories and losses. Handball will still live here in Nasice, the same way it still lives in Veszprem who have experienced even bigger disappointments than we have.
People say that you are like the ”old wine”. This season you have a very important role in your team and in some matches you’ve even played the middle back position.
It was not my first time but yeah, we’ve had some problems with injuries and a few teammates were ill and coach decided that would probably be the best option for the team. And I don’t mind at all honestly, if coach Horvat told me that today he needs me as a goalkeeper be sure I’d do that. It is a bit unusual though because my main duty used to be shooting and scoring goals and now it’s orchestrating the entire offense and passing the ball more but as I said, it is what it is.
You are 37. Do you have any plans on how long you want to keep on playing handball?
Many people asked me that but I really don’t have an answer. I have a contract here with Nexe until the summer of 2021 and I hope to really be here until then. However, I’m not sure whether I’ll play on after that. I mean, I am healthy not and I’m playing good but when I realize I can’t perform on that level any more I’ll call it a career. No one else will have to tell me that.
Where do you plan on living after your playing career?
Definitely in Nasice. My wife is from Nasice and my, now 7-year-old daughter was born here as well. I graduated from a coaching school which is why I think I’ll remain closely connected to handball. Of course, I realize that if you want to be a coach you also have to be ready to pack your bags and leave home at any given moment in case you get an opportunity.
You have 38 caps for the Slovenian national team. Slovenia went through a coaching change recently. Do you expect to be a part of the team in less than two months on a European championship which would be the first time for you to represent your country on such a big stage.
Playing for my national team is huge for me. I was very disappointed when I ended up being cut right before the 2018 EURO in Croatia. I have to be realistic and say I know I’m two years older now and we have some very good younger players which is why coach will probably look to build for the future. That’s why I feel like it’s not realistic from me to expect to get a call but you never know! I will be ready!