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“Only from the bench everything seems easy.” CSKA coach talks about winning the Russian Cup

Date: May 22, 2024 Time: 11:09:43

At the beginning of April 2024, the Russian Handball Cup was held between women’s teams. In the decisive match, the spectators saw the main national confrontation of recent years – CSKA against Rostov-Don. The military team did not perform well in the last few matches against its main rival, but this time it mustered its will and snatched the trophy.

CSKA coach Olga Akopyan spoke about her feelings during this reconnaissance match, about the condition of Elena Mikhailichenko and explained why the Russian handball team needs her under sanction conditions.

“I wanted to be a fist”

– This season, CSKA’s main team lost to Rostov in three meetings. Did this become an additional motivation for the girls before the final match? – I think so, definitely. It’s difficult compared to last season, when, on the contrary, we were almost undefeated. The girls, of course, wanted to show and prove that we are still the same, strong, the same CSKA in full preparation for combat.

The defeats paralyzed us a lot and for this match, especially because it was the final of the Russian Cup, we had considerable motivation and winning away from Rostov is doubly difficult. Therefore, the desire was as extreme as possible.

– Almost the entire match CSKA was losing, reaching, tying, and so on in a circle. How does the coach feel during such a valid match? – When I see it again, I get more excited than when the game itself takes place (smiles). It was very emotional, very nervous, but during the game you focus more on the players’ actions and think about how this can be corrected.

We lost twice: in the first half by three goals, and in the second by three, and only once did we get ahead, and then only slightly, with a minimal advantage. Therefore, of course, I wanted to minimize errors so that this difference in favor of Rostov did not increase, as it happened in the matches in which we lost. The concentration was not only on the scoreboard, I wanted to correct the mistakes and convey to the players that they should not get discouraged, but rather that they should continue playing for the 60 minutes, regardless of the result. I got the same attitude when we started to give in. Everyone understood that there was still time to fix everything, and that’s what we did.

More details about the final match:

Russia’s best teams staged a dramatic final. CSKA snatched victory from Rostov-Don

– Elena Mikhailichenko missed a significant part of the season, but it was her 7-meter shot that gave the team the victory, and overall, after her return, she played brilliantly. Are you surprised that her long downtime has had virtually no effect on her? – A three-month break is probably not critical. Considering there are important playoff games ahead, Lena returned just in time. Of course, she is the leader of the team, both in defense and attack, a lot depends on her, and she allows the players to feel that confidence that had been shaken somewhere before, because she is a system-building player.

After this downtime, you may feel even more eager, because you have partially rested and gained strength. But she feels that Lena is still not in the physical condition that she can be in, that she was in at the beginning of this season or in the past. Of course, three months still has an impact somewhere. I hope we still have a chance to regain her fitness, right in the short break before the start of the championship playoffs.

– When Elena was nominated for the final, didn’t this decision seem too responsible to you, given her pause in the game? – No, I didn’t think about that. Before we played with Lada and Kuban, and Elena was just starting the first matches after the break. And then she, yes, she worried that she was still out of shape, that her physical exhaustion was taking its toll. She was afraid of doing too much damage, of overloading something.

I ask the players all the time about their well-being and, of course, in the final they all told me in unison that they were not tired, that they were absolutely ready. And even if it is, in such an emotional, very dynamic and principled match, fatigue is not thought about. Unless you already understand that your legs don’t run and you don’t have enough breath. That is why in this match I absolutely trusted the well-being and state of mind of the players.

– During the penalty kick, you were in the same row as the team, while Irina Dibirova watched what was happening from the bench. Why was it important for you to be on set at that time? How does this affect the players? – I was with the team because it is a team and I do not separate myself from it, especially at such a crucial and very nervous moment.

The emotional support of the coach is really very important here, so that the players see that we are together. He really wanted to support them not to think about something else, but to tune in specifically to this challenge: it is one and it is very important, and there must be an emotional and psychological resistance to stress. I wanted to be a fist, an organism. Whoever received this penalty, we all gave impulses of a single body. We initially agreed that we would be together.

Olga Akopyan with the CSKA coaching staff

Photo: whccska.ru

“I dreamed that I myself played in the Russian Cup”

– How is Coach Olga Akopyan – 2024 different from Coach Olga Akopyan – 2021? – Of course, I have more confidence now. It’s like in a game: when you are a player, you gain experience over the years, with practice: the more you play, the more experience you have. It’s the same in any profession and coaching is no exception. When you are constantly in this area, preparing a team, training, of course, experience is accumulated, confidence is accumulated, you start to see the players in a different way.

At first, when I was named interim head coach in 2021, there was both stress and excitement. Perhaps it was precisely in the midst of the stress and the change of coach that we also obtained results. Now this is more of an everyday job, which does not remain without a trace, this is the work not only of me, but also of the entire coaching staff and the girls. Therefore, I just gained more experience and confidence. I hope to continue improving.

– What advice would you give yourself now? What mistakes could you have avoided in the last three years? – It hasn’t taken long for him to give me some concrete advice. It seems to me that at that time I did not make any serious mistakes, because at that time we reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League. It’s about results.

Probably the time has not yet come when he can give me concrete advice: yes, then you did something wrong (smiles). Maybe more arrogance at some points.

– Are there times when you yourself want to jump on the site and show how it’s done? Or have you repressed that desire in yourself over the years of training? – I recently dreamed that I myself was playing the Cup on the field (laughs), but it was only in a dream. There are moments, but, of course, there are no moments that you want to go out and show. Also, from the outside it seems that now I will go out and as if everything works out for me, I will show it to everyone. Of course, I will make mistakes too. When you’re in the process on set, there are many factors. Only from the bench everything seems easy. We were all players.

Now we do this in training, but not with full force, when we discuss some point, and not at full speed. But running out and showing it is no longer possible (laughs).

CSKA also took home the men’s Russian Cup:

CSKA took all the Chekhov Bears’ trophies. Has the time of the legendary Maximov really passed?

“We keep the Rostov-Don-CSKA final in mind”

– Olga, the most important part of the season has begun. You have already won a trophy. What can prevent CSKA from reaching the final of the Russian Championship? Do you expect Rostov-Don to be your opponent again? – We have already stumbled more than once this season, so we don’t want to look that far ahead. We have no right to be negligent in any way towards any opponent. First it will be “Estrella”, and then we’ll see.

Somewhere in our heads, of course, we keep in mind that there will be a final between Rostov-Don and CSKA. But, again, I don’t want to rule out other teams in any way. Therefore, let’s move on: first we will play all the stages of the playoffs, and then we will talk about the final.

– In the regular season, CSKA’s performance was mediocre compared to previous years for several reasons. What changed the arrival of Lyudmila Bodnieva and Anna Sedoykina to the coaching staff? How quickly did you work together? – The appearance of another coach is an important factor. It’s difficult to be alone on the bench, especially in games like this, when there are changes, when we are losing somewhere, when different situations happen during the game. Sometimes you don’t have time to put everything together, control it and change players. Somewhere you need advice, so this helps a lot now. Still, there must be a tandem of like-minded people and it seems to me that Lyudmila and I are very effective. We really think in the same direction. We do it well both in the training process and during the game.

Now Anna, due to circumstances, cannot go on trips with us, but we get along very well in the training process. We have a tandem. Yes, woman (laughs), but that’s probably why we feel and understand each other better. I also played a lot with Anna and we understand each other perfectly. Her work focuses on the goalkeeper position, but we always consult.

– Can you call this tandem a dream team? – I don’t know (laughs), maybe. Let’s see the results. Let’s wait for the final and then look at the result. Now everything is fine, I hope it stays that way.

– It’s not that you finished your career a long time ago. Are today’s handball players different from those of your time? – Probably different. Perhaps now the club is creating more conditions for the player to achieve his best form. Now everything is moving forward: the recovery, the training process, the attitude of the club and everything that surrounds it.

But because of the nature of the matches I think that, as before, everyone has an objective. And in this sense, all players are absolutely equal: everyone always wants to give their best and show 100 percent results.

Elena Mikhailichenko

Photo: rushandball.ru

— Olga, is it easy to work when a club can attract any handball player in Russia? Or on the contrary, is there more responsibility and more expectations on your part? —Who said we can afford any Russian handball player? This is not the case, it is all very complicated, it is a lot of work for the club in terms of agreements and transitions, and not everything always goes well. If we wanted it that way, there wouldn’t be as much competition as there is now.

“The Russian team exists, we are not going to give up”

– Russian sport is isolated from international tournaments. Do the athletes themselves talk about this? – It’s been so long… Both the coaches and the players understand that we are hostages in this situation and it does not depend on us in any way. We are waiting to be admitted.

– You lead the country’s youth women’s team. Last season, the team was only able to play against China and Belarus, and the same is true at senior level. Is it possible that the situation will change and at least there will be more friendly matches with different countries? – I would like to, of course. I know that the Russian Handball Federation is actively working on this issue. We are now trying to arrange a tournament in China in the summer, but China will host the World Championship for players of this age. For our team, any international match is important.

– Now that we are not allowed and there is no possibility to play in the Olympic Games and the World Championship, why does the national team exist? What does our handball live for, why do athletes go to the court and fight? – Well, there are no international games, what should we do now? Closing down and not progressing, not trying to continue training? One day we will return to the international arena. We cannot just rest if such a situation occurs.

Yes, there may not be obvious progress. Although I think Russia still has a very strong championship. Everyone saw how the “Final Four” of the Russian Cup was recently held in Rostov-on-Don. The Russian team exists and we are not going to give up.

Match with the participation of the Russian women’s handball team.

Photo: rushandball.ru

– The coach of the Russian national football team, Valery Karpin, advises players to go abroad if possible. Could you give the same advice? – Honestly no. I am a patriot of my country, but I don’t want to discuss this whole political situation. Therefore, I will definitely not recommend it. This is the decision of the athletes themselves.

– How then can we make our handball develop? When the Russian team won the Olympic Games, almost all participants represented our clubs. – I think that the Final Four of the Russian Cup will give a very good boost to development. The more games of this type there are, the more recognition handball will have. The fans, the spectators, the children see how interesting it is, how exciting it is. Emotionally, a tournament like that won’t go away, we were thinking about it for three days. This is really energizing.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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