Marko Pavlovic has been playing beach handball for over 10 years for both his club team Leto 2002 and for the Serbian national team.
His first international experience was winning the European club championship in 2004, and as a specialist, he is one of the most important players for both his club and country – even winning the MVP award of the 2013 EHF European Beach Handball Championship.
During Budapest 2016, on the sidelines of the world championship, Pavlovic was coaching the Serbian U16 boys’ national team in a small, friendly tournament, looking at identifying starts of the future and he spoke to IHF.info, along with one of his players about their experiences in Hungary.
IHF.info: Why were you in Budapest 2016 with the Serbian U16 national team?
Marko Pavlovic: We had a call from Hungarian Handball Federation to come and join in a small exhibition tournament with Hungary, Croatia and Qatar. It was so important for us to come because we wanted to present this beautiful sport to our kids and to our youth teams.
This year they didn’t go to the 2016 Men's and Women's 16 Beach Handball Championships in Nazare, Portugal so we hope that next year we will make it to the EHF European Beach Handball Championship U17 in Umag, Croatia.
That’s why it was important for us to come to Budapest to try and show them how and help them to start learning this sport.
Every day we played some practise matches, and in the ‘official’ matches we played we didn’t have so much luck, we won just against the Croatia guys who finally won the tournament.
We had three matches, ending with losing a shootout and one where we lost 2-0, but it’s ok for us because everything is new for the boys, everything is OK and it is much better than we thought.
IHF.info: Off of the court, was it a success? The players were very happy.
Marko Pavlovic: That’s why we accepted this invitation as we wanted our young players to come to Hungary and see what kind of sport this is - they must see that they can play this sport.
It’s amusing, but with a lot of physically hard work. Of course, it’s nice to have the sun and the beach and everything and as older players we know that; we’ve been in lots of championships, but for the boys it was of big importance to see it for themselves and they were absolutely delighted.
They didn’t realise beach handball was so big; they just thought they would be playing and having fun in the sand but when they came to Budapest and saw all the stadium and the fans and the teams preparing, they saw how professional it was, how important it was and the high level of technique.
IHF.info: How do you identify boys for the team? Is it hard to pull them away from other sports in Serbia?
Marko Pavlovic: We are taking them from indoor handball but it’s very difficult for us to present this sport to them in Serbia because we don’t have as muchf support [compared to indoor handball].
All the time we are calling the kids because we know that when they come and experience it themselves all our talk stops because they can see how good it is. But, unfortunately to make them come, we have to talk, and talk and talk, it’s hard work.
Everything is new to the players; they have to get used to the rules. Their spin shots look good but of course with more training it will be great.
IHF.info: Update us on the Serbian men’s national beach handball team?
Marko Pavlovic: We are very sad we finished sixth at the last EHF European Championship against the Hungarian boys in a shootout, but we were the only team to beat the Croatian team who become champions.
They lost just one game, against us.
We are sure we have the right level but unfortunately we were not in Budapest to show it.
110% we will be at Umag next year at the European championship, and we will work really hard to be in the first three teams because we want a medal so match, in Randers, in 2013, we finished fourth.
Danilo Radovic, Specialist for the U16 Serbian boys team was also impressed with Budapest 2016, speaking to IHF.info, he said:
We didn’t expect this tournament to be so big. We’ve never played beach handball before when we came here, we just learnt how to play and see what the sport brings.
We have been progressing every day and we hoped we could win this tournament but we finished fourth. We beat the Hungary boys because we played very easily and had the most beautiful game with them.
Beach handball is great because it’s connected with the sun, beach and fun. It’s a very exciting game and I would suggest to everyone to watch or play it.
It’s quite different to indoor handball, it can be easy to transition but you have to get used to the rules quickly.
My favourite team at Budapest were the Brazilian men, they were so athletic, they are playing like a team, but each player plays spectacularly.