Victories give Pölva “pride and confidence”
Reaching the EHF European Cup Men quarter-finals is quite a milestone for Pölva Serviti. The 11-time Estonian champions have a vast experience of playing in continental club competitions, but they have not been this far before.
They reached the Last 16 of the EHF Cup in 2006/07 and of the Challenge Cup in 2014/15. But now the team are enjoying their best-ever European season, as they defeated HC Dukla Praha (37:18, 17:22) and SGAU-Saratov (28:28, 28:23) on their way to the quarter-final.
Head coach Kalmer Musting is obviously satisfied with the results.
“It is something special. We did a good job against Dukla and Saratov, and the victories give us pride and boost our confidence,” Musting told eurohandball.com.
The 56-year-old Musting, who has been working at Pölva since 2004, does not get carried away after his team’s successes and has moderate expectations.
“It will be a tough challenge, as Ystad have been doing well in their domestic league, and Sweden has a very big handball culture,” he said.
“But we will do our best and try to get a positive result on Saturday. After this game we will see if we still have a chance to reach the semi-final.”
Pölva is a small town in south-east Estonia with a population of just 6,000. Yet, there is a strong handball tradition.
The club has won the national championship each year since 2015 — except for last season, which was not played to a finish due to the Covid-19 situation.
It will be a tough challenge, as Ystad have been doing well in their domestic league, and Sweden has a very big handball culture. But we will do our best and try to get a positive result on Saturday.
This season, Musting’s team are top of the Estonian league again with a perfect record of 16 wins in as many matches. They have carried their good domestic form into the EHF European Cup.
Notably, Pölva’s backbone consists of homegrown players.
“We have two foreign players: Russian centre back Anatoliy Chezlov and Latvian line player Arturs Meiksans. Three players are from other Estonian towns, but the vast majority come from Pölva,” said Musting, who also works at the club’s academy.
About 10 years ago, Pölva were a fully professional club, but times have changed and the budget has been reduced, so now most of the team’s players have another occupation besides handball.
“Chezlov and Meiksans are professionals, and so is left back Andris Celmins, who returned to our team from Slovenia’s Velenje,” Musting said.
“But the rest of the players have another job, for example in the construction industry. Besides, a number of younger guys are students. That’s why we train only in the evenings, but every day.”
There are many young players in Pölva’s roster, yet the coach is sure that a team needs some experienced leaders to get good results, especially in international matches.
“We have a balanced squad, with two players in each position. But the 33-year-old Chezlov, who played for Russia’s Neva in the past, and the 36-year-old goalkeeper Eston Varusk are our key figures,” Musting said.
“Young guys lack stability, and in European matches, experience plays an important role.”
Musting thinks that Estonian handball in general has become a little stronger recently.
“Partly is because of the Covid-19 situation, as some players decided to return home from foreign clubs,” the coach said. “In any case, we are making some progress.”