Maxim Babichev, 34-year-old line player is playing his third season in Motor Zaporozhye and is one of the key factors for their strong performances in both SEHA and Champions League.
Before signing with Motor Zaporozhye, Babichev spent the first part of his long career in Belarus playing for Arkatron Minsk, Dinamo Minsk and finally Meshkov Brest who he will on Thursday fight for a SEHA semi-final ticket. In the first leg Meshkov managed to defeat Motor with only 30:28 at home which means everything is still pretty much open. We’ve used the opportunity to ask Maxim about his thoughts of the second leg, Motor’s chances in that match as well as overall experience of SEHA – Gazprom League and his life away from handball courts.
Result of the first leg against Meshkov suggests everything is still quite open. What do you expect from the second leg and how do you see your chances to book a place in Zadar?
First match was very tough. It's a shame we eventually ended up losing it but what matters the most is that the deal is far from sealed. We are really glad we’ll play the rematch at home and we’ll do everything we can to book a place in Zadar.
What do you think might turn out to be your biggest advantage over Meshkov in the second leg?
I think the most important will be the fact that we’re playing at home. We’ve spent some time analyzing the first leg and we’ll do our best in the second.
Brest has also been home for you in the past. How was it to play against your former team?
It was very nice to return to Brest, I’ve spent a lot of time there. Funny thing is it was my birthday on that day and I was welcomed nicely before the match. It was quite overwhelming and I really wanted to deliver my best out there.
What do you think about Motor’s season so far? Do you feel like you’ve managed to achieve goals you’ve set for yourself prior to the season?
Honestly, we all expected more. Unfortunately, we failed to get through to EHF Champions League knock-out stage. However, we’re in SEHA Quarter finals now and the main goal is to book a place on Final 4.
Joining Motor was the first time in your career you’ve signed with non-Belarusian club. Can you compare Ukrainian and Belarusian clubs and handball in general?
Championships are very similar, there are teams that are big favorites to go all the way and they are both trying to perform at the highest possible level whenever they’re out there.
You have a lot of SEHA experience. What are your thoughts about the league and its development?
If we compare SEHA League now to what it used to be we see two completely different leagues. Quality level is rising from year to year in all aspects - marketing, advertising and so on. SEHA - Gazprom League is not inferior to Champions League and it is really nice to play in this league.
Given everything you’ve seen so far this season who do you think will take the MVP title and which team do you see going all the way?
I don’t know about the player yet, I feel like it is maybe too early for that. And considering teams - it is hard to say anything right now because we still don’t know which four teams will eventually reach the final tournament so let’s wait a bit longer and then we can make predictions.
What makes handball so special for you, what do you like the most about it?
I started playing handball as a kid and that makes it so special for me. It has definitely become a part of me. I’ve been connected to it my whole life and that’s why it will always have a special place in my heart.
Do you have any hobbies? How do you spend your free time?
I don’t have a hobby actually. During the season we have training sessions all the time but when I’m not in the gym I like to spend time with my family. They are not here in Zaporozhye with me which is why I’m trying to visit them as often as possible, they are my ‘hobby’.