In Montenegro, the dream of winning the Women's Champions League in handball is decades old. Unfortunately, this year the players of the Budućnost women's handball team were denied it when they thought they almost had it in their grasp. In the semi-finals of this prestigious competition, their dreams were shattered in the two matches they played against the Norwegian team Larvik on 09 and 17 April.
During its existence, the women's handball team Budućnost from Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, has won all European club trophies, apart from the shiniest one. Captain Bojana Popović, who is currently considered to be one of the best handball players in the world, left the Danish club Viborg to join her former club Budućnost in July 2010 and she has had a striking impact on the team’s morale and performance. Everyone believed the time had come to win the Champions League.
Since the 1980s, Budućnost has been at the very top of women's handball. Last year they won the Women's EHF Cup Winners' Cup. They had won the same title back in 2006 and in 1985.
"The only thing missing in our trophy cupboard is the Champions League trophy! It is something I wake up with every morning. It is what I strive for," said team coach Dragan Adžić in an interview for South East Europe: People and Culture. He has spent more than a decade with Budućnost and has been training their first team for the past 14 months.
During the time Bojana Popović played for the Danish handball teams of Slagelse and Viborg these teams won the Champions League trophy a total of five times. This year, under her leadership, the players of Budućnost reached the semi-finals of the most important club championship – a feat they had not achieved in nine years.
Despite his disappointment, Adžić says he is nonetheless extremely happy with the results that have been achieved this season: "The way we play and the attitude we have towards games have resulted in 10 victories in the Champions League. Budućnost holds an undisputed position in the regional league, which gathers teams from former Yugoslavia and Austria, making it one of the teams in Europe with the largest number of trophies to their name.
"Our budget is the only thing that limits us and there are many clubs which, in that respect, are far ahead of us. However, the devotion of everyone involved with the team helps overcome that shortcoming," says Adžić. Women's handball has become more popular across Europe over the past few years and the pool of world class teams is increasing all the time. Adžić says that for this reason "it is extremely difficult to maintain a position at the very top of women's handball."
According to him, Budućnost draws its strength from its very own school of handball which has trained some of the best players in junior selections in World and European Championships. "We have managed to keep up with those who are much richer than we are and we hope to carry on in the same way in the times to come." Another source of strength for the team, according to the coach, is the team’s fan base, who can be relied upon to create an excellent atmosphere at every game and are Budućnost’s “eighth player”.
Adžić has already started making plans for the coming season and for another attempt to win the Champions League Cup. The media have already started speculating on new reinforcements but everyone knows that the key move will be to convince Bojana Popović not to retire from handball just yet and to play one more season together with the club where she started her career.