If we can talk about a meteoric rise in someone's career, then it has to be a professional journey of Telekom Veszprem's and Serbian national team goalkeeper Vladimir Cupara. 25-year old goalie of the two-time SEHA – Gazprom League champions started playing handball when he was 16 years old! After many years in rowing, it took him a very short period of time from handball school SC Vozdovac, to reach world-class heights. This season, the Belgrade-born, former Crvena Zvezda, Ademar Leon and PGE Vive Kielce goalkeeper, will have a chance to go for the SEHA – Gazprom League trophy. In our 7M interview, Cupara talks about ambitions of his club and growing up to become a top goalkeeper.
In SEHA – Gazprom League you started with six wins and one surprising loss in Bitola. What are your ambitions going into the decisive part of the competition?
As in every competition, the goal is to be the champions, so the same thing applies to SEHA – Gazprom League. We played really well so far, and our youngsters played some great matches, helped by some usual starters. We played well, the only time our form slipped was against Eurofarm Rabotnik away. Generally, it is going well, we are satisfied. We will play three more matches in a short period, we are aiming for three wins, of course, as in every match. Veszprem always aim for the victory. As I said, our ambitions include winning the trophy, and we believe it will be like that.
This is your first season in SEHA – Gazprom League. Do you like the project and everything it brings?
About the competition, SEHA – Gazprom League is really well organised, everything works well, statistics, good media coverage. It's really good. Even though I haven't played in SEHA before, I like the playing system with two groups, then, Play off, Quarter finals and Final 4. It gives a chance to each team, and once again, I am glad that Telekom Veszprem are in this project again.
We all know Veszprem fans have been waiting for the VELUX EHF Champions League trophy. Do you feel the pressure in Veszprem Arena?
Of course there is pressure. Pressure to win the Champions League, we all talk about it, but our first step is to make it to the Final 4. After that, we will see, things become easier. Veszprem never won the Champions League, which means that represents some sort of pressure. Four times in the final there was no luck, but one day that will be over, and I hope that moment comes this season. Of course, as every member of Veszprem, I believe it will be like that, but we need to go one step at a time. We had a bad spell of matches in Champions League, with two consecutive losses, and then a loss to Kielce. But for now, things are looking good, we are in second place, and we can even aim for the first place, which is our goal. Maybe we feel even more pressure about winning the title in Hungary, Pick Szeged have a great team.
You defeated MOL-Pick Szeged 29:28 in the Hungarian derby, and you made a save in the last attack. So far, you are perfect in the national championship, in SEHA – Gazprom League, Telekom Veszprem are leaders in the group, and even the first position in the Champions League group is not impossible. Everything is going according to plan?
We will play many more matches against Pick Szeged, 3 or 4 including the Cup, and this was one of the most important matches this season. I am very happy because we won, on our court, everything apart from a victory would have been a bad result. The atmosphere in the hall is always fantastic, Veszprem Arena is full, and it's beautiful to play here.
Did you ever think you would play in one of the best handball clubs and share the locker-room with Arpad Sterbik?
When I started to play handball in Vozdovac at 16 years old, I didn't ever dream of playing with Arpad Sterbik 10 years later. I had a tough path, from Vozdovac I went to Zvezda but everything ended nicely there. After that I went to Ademar Leon, a Spanish giant who faced a lot of problems the season before I joined. But, when I came there coach Raphael Gijosa compiled a fantastic young team who immediately achieved success that same season, and it was 3rd place. The next two seasons we secured 2nd places and managed to return the club where it belongs. After that I signed with Polish giant, Kielce where I played in a stronger Champions League group for the first time. Alongside my fantastic teammates, some of the Balkan guys like Cindric, Mamic, Ivic, Janc and Zorman, we managed to secure Champions League Final 4 which was considered as a great success for the club. It was really a season to remember because we won both the title and the Cup. I only remember nice things from Kielce.
And now you are playing in famous Veszprem Arena...
Without a doubt, Veszprem are one of the biggest handball clubs and of course, they can equally stand beside Barcelona or Kiel. I am really happy to be here and I enjoy it every day. Each match in Veszprem Arena makes me proud, not only because of my success, but because of all the people that helped me get to where I am now. However, I know that I still have a lot to learn and to give. The first part of the season is almost over and I am satisfied with results we achieved so far. On the contrary, I am not so satisfied with my personal performance, but that's normal for the period of adjustment. Veszprem Arena, our fans, expert staff, the players... I wake up every day happy and go to bed happy because I know that tomorrow I will have the chance to train and play with some of the best players and that the best coaches are training me.
Another big competition with the Serbian national team, EHF EURO 2020, is in front of you this winter. What are your ambitions in the group where you were placed alongside Croatia, Belarus and Montenegro?
We will have a tough job getting to the second part of the competition because Belarus and Montenegro have very good teams. And what can I say about Croatia, they have a medal team for the past 20 years. Belarus consists of players who play all 60 minutes in the Champions League matches. Montenegro has a lot of quality youngsters, just like we do. It will be difficult for us and I don't want to predict anything. Chances are not too great, but it's all on us. Everything is in our hands as the competition hasn't started yet. It's up to us to prepare well, to be smart, committed and to play offensive against our opponents. With all that being said, a long winter is ahead of us.