Lino Cervar returns to the Croatian national team bench
When men's head coach Zeljko Babic and the Croatian Handball Federation parted ways after the fourth place finish at the World Championship 2017, there were plenty of rumours who would take over the vacant seat. The name that was mentioned most often: Lino Cervar.
On Saturday it was eventually confirmed that 66-year-old Cervar, who already coached the team from 2002 to 2010 and guided Croatia to World Championship gold in 2003 and to Olympic gold one year later, would sign a one-year contract until April 2018.
"I'm back home. A coach's life is a journey - for some a short one, for some longer. For me it's been 40 years, 20 of them abroad," he said at a press conference on Saturday.
"And then came the moment when I wanted to come home, be with my family, play with my grandchildren. Leaving Macedonia is difficult but since I knew I'm going back home, it made it a lot easier."
Since 2009 Cervar has been training HC Metalurg - it remains to be seen whether he quits immediately or remains their coach until the end of the season - as well as the Macedonian national team since 2016.
Less than two weeks ago the Macedonian Handball Federation released him from his contract and opened the way for Cervar to start negotiating with the Croatian federation.
The ultimate goal? EHF EURO gold
No other name stands for success in Croatian handball as much as Cervar's. He led Croatia to the aforementioned golds as well as to two World Championship (2005 and 2009) and two EHF EURO (2008 and 2010) silver medals.
However, with less than 10 months until the Men's EHF EURO 2018 on home court, the challenge in front of him is arguably more daunting than many in his career. It is unlikely that anything else than gold will be expected of Cervar and his team.
"The common saying is that if you don't have a goal, you don't have a vision. The goal is known: return to the top of Europe," said Cervar, not forgetting to underline the difficulties that lie ahead.
"In a restaurant you first order your meal, then you pay. In sport it is the other way round - you first pay. I want to have players around me who believe in the ultimate goal as much as I do. I want players who are willing to give their best."
TEXT: EHF / ts