Luka Cindric: My childhood dreams were fulfilled

When the attack has problems with scoring, then Luka Cindric takes the initiative, and the team knows that they will almost certainly score a goal. For him it is easy to get through the opponent's defence, it is even easier to shoot and score, but he also wants to assist. These two seasons he is one of the main stars of his team. With Vardar winning five trophies last year, he was elected as the best handball player of the year in Croatia. A similar recognition came from fans in the EHF pools for the best player of the EHF Champions League.
This season, he is also among the best ones, as part of Vardar's line up in every match. Vardar have an impressive record of 17 wins in 18 matches this season, and Cindric scored 55 goals in the SEHA - Gazprom league. He is the second best scorer in the current European and SEHA champion.
After three seasons in Skopje, he leaves for Kielce this summer, the former European champion. Skopje will remain in his memories as the place from which his stellar rise in handball began, where everyone learned about Cindric. But the true catapulting on the top was last year in Cologne at the F4 Tournament of the EHF Champions League.

You achieved world stardom last year in Cologne with a goal in the last second of the EHF Champions League semi-final against Barcelona. Did that goal influence your life?
Some of my childhood dreams came to life with the goal that decided the score against the great rival. I'm very happy that everything played out the way it did. Then again, it made me a more valuable player for my national team, as well as, for the club, the coach, and the teammates. It also meant bigger confidence.

Last year and this season are the most impressive in your career so far. You won lots of trophies and individual awards, which is not as easy as it seems.
It was a year of my dreams. In short period I won lots of awards, and additionally, as a player, I'm getting better with every new season. All of these trophies and individual awards are a great incentive for further growth.

The big question is can Vardar defend all last season titles, including the one from Brest in the SEHA – Gazprom League?
Of course, we can. That is our goal since the beginning of the season. There is no reason for us not to behave accordingly. We were first in our group in the EHF Champions League, and also after regular part of the SEHA – Gazprom League. I believe that we will accomplish at least half of last season – win the SEHA - Gazprom League and the EHF Champions League titles. Of course, the titles might be a bit more difficult to win this season because the rivals now know that we are a very serious opponent, while last season we were outsiders. But meanwhile, we showed them how serious we are, that we are worth the effort and that we know how.

Skopje will host the SEHA – Gazprom League Final 4. The pressure builds up and everybody expects the new trophy.
We are glad to play such important matches in front of the home fans. Everyone expects us to win the title, and it will be exciting. Final 4 is always tense, but it's a great overture for the upcoming matches in the EHF Champions League.

Only Meshkov Brest managed to get points from Vardar this season. They are always a strong and unpredictable rival, and you play with them in the semi-final.
It's a well-known rival, and it won't be easy because they are a great team. We have time to prepare, to go over some mistakes and to bring the game level up. I know that coach Raul will do well.

Vardar showed its ability to play under pressure. There is no way back now. Every match is history.
We have a reputation now. We simply came to a level where every match is important, and we respect every opponent. This is a team sport, and only the team wins. We reached the level for which we have been preparing. This has been our goal since the very beginning. We are here now, and there is no way back. The atmosphere is great, and we have nothing to worry about.

This season, Vardar set many records. Is there an end? Are there any new records that could be set?
Of course, there are. We will be the first team to defend the title in the Champions' League. I will give another answer when we win the title again (laugh).

You have been in Vardar for several seasons, including its most successful period. What is the secret for achieving such results?
I will not reveal the main secret. I will keep it for us. However, I will reveal one of the secrets. The truth. You cannot make such team in one year. We needed several years to reach this level. We all know each other well. We are friends, and the atmosphere is always good in the restroom. That is our biggest strength.

We all know your story, that you were equally good in football, but handball became your profession. Have you ever had any second thoughts?
I have always been an athlete. I played football for 8 years, but my father was a handball coach and I started playing handball for fun. As all children do, I also wanted to try all sports. I liked handball. The youth national team called me to play and I did not go back to playing football. I continued to play handball with dedication.

What helped you in becoming a good handball player?
My parents and friends have always been beside me. Their trust and support they have given me in life and handball contributed the most.

Why did you choose Vardar?

I liked Skopje from before, when I played for Metalurg. I did not think a lot about Vardar's offer. I believed it was the right choice. I have already heard good things about Raul and Sergei and I decided to accept the offer.

How would you shortly describe Vardar and your teammates?
Vardar is a team of very clever people who I guarantee are ready to help anyone anytime. We are true friends.

You are an idol to many youngsters, but do you have a handball or sport idol?
Of course. I have always watched Ivano Balic and I admire him. He was my childhood role model, and he still is. As a child, I often watched him playing, and in the national team we worked together. For me, he is a unique person and a handball star.

You will leave Skopje this summer. What will you miss the most?
Many things. I must admit that I had a great time here. I got used to the life in Skopje and I really enjoy spending the last moments with Vardar. I will miss the team and the life here. It was not an easy decision, but you have to make changes in life. I will move to a new club and I will certainly miss Skopje, but I hope I will come back one day.

A moment that you will always remember from Skopje?
Definitely the welcome when we won the Champions' League. It is once in a lifetime thing. We were not even aware of our success. Even now, when I talk I get goose bumps. It was a wonderful feeling, and a lifetime memory.

All people think that athletes spend all their time in the hall, training. What do you do in your free time? Do you have a hobby?
I do not have a hobby, but even when I am free, I am engaged with sports. I like to play tennis and basketball. Sport is part of my everyday life.

You spend a lot of time traveling. How do you "kill" time?
I play PlayStation and watch movies.

Who is the best in PlayStation in Vardar?
- Maqueda.

Everyone likes going out in Macedonia. Do you have a favourite place in Skopje, or favourite people you like to hang out with?
I like changes and I want to visit different places. However, I live in Aerodrom, and I often go out in the neighbourhood. If I have to choose a place, it would be DejaVu. However, I like other places too.

How do you succeed to "defend" yourself from the girls that constantly want to take photos with you after matches?
It is nice, and we have normal communication. I have never had unpleasant situations.

What will you take from here to Kielce?
Ajvar and pindjur.

 

Tuesday, 10 April 2018 - 15:06