7m | Urban Lesjak: "I like pressure, it brings the best out of me!"

Urban Lesjak

Urban Lesjak opened a new chapter in his career joining Eurofarm Pelister and started it really well by winning the best goalkeeper award at the international tournament in Struga where Macedonian runners-up finished second.

We do not often see players moving from Germany to North Macedonia but Urban Lesjak did it after spending four seasons in Hannover joining the team from Bitola as one of the most experienced players and a big reinforcement for the title race in North Macedonia – a race they haven’t managed to win for 17 years now.

During the summer transfer window, Eurofarm Pelister managed to acquire some quality reinforcements and a new coach. SEHA - Gazprom League quarter-final encounter versus Meshkov Brest at home will be the first real test for them to see where their form is at the moment.

We don’t often see players deciding to move to North Macedonia from Germany. What made you accept the offer from Bitola?
I’d say their ambition to win titles was crucial. I remember that feeling from Celje where we were aiming for all the titles every single season. In Germany everything started also well – we managed to reach Cup Final 4 and finished fourth in the league but then the club decided to reduce the budget which resulted with some of our players deciding to leave and us battling for eighth place. I just simply lost interest in that. I wanted to play competitive handball once again and Eurofarm Pelister simply checked all boxes for me.

Eurofarm Pelister is only the third club in your career after Celje and Hannover. Do you plan on staying in Bitola for a longer period as well?
Right now – I would say yes. Looking at the vision people have here and that they don’t want it to be a short-term project, I feel like I could stay here for a longer time.

Did you get used to Bitola already?
It was easy to get used to everything. Language is quite important when it comes to that and here we can all understand each other easily. I was far from being fluent in German once I arrived in Hannover. Here I don’t have that problem. I feel like it is important that your family likes the place as well, that matters a lot in the whole "getting used to everything" process.

You played with Filip Kuzmanovski, a former Eurofarm player, in Hannover. Did you ask him for advice before eventually accepting Eurofarm’s offer?
He was actually responsible for the beginning of this whole story with the club showing interest and him sending them my phone number. I’m always open to talk to people, we discussed a few things and that was it.

In addition to North Macedonia and EHF European League, Eurofarm Pelister will also play in SEHA - Gazprom League. This will however not be your first contact with the League.
I played in the SEHA - Gazprom League back when I was still in Celje. We even managed to reach the SEHA Final 4 tournament in Skopje, eventually finishing third. I’d say I know what awaits me, I know what the organization is like about the teams and everything else.

Eurofarm is going through now a 17-year-long title drought in North Macedonia. Do you feel pressured by that?
If you are an athlete and you don’t feel pressure or don’t know how to deal with it, then you are probably doing something wrong. I like pressure, it brings the best out of me. It’s hard to talk about it now, at the beginning of the season. We have a renewed roster and it will surely take some time to get things going in the right direction. I feel like we have a roster that is a well-balanced mix of experience and potential, and that is always good.

Do you think you have what it takes to book a place in Zadar on Thursday?
We respect Meshkov Brest, first of all. We are also well aware of what our strengths and weaknesses are. It’s hard to say anything but what I feel like is that we can do it but we have to perform to the best of our capabilities.

You’ve probably already heard a lot about the fans here in Bitola.
I’ve heard a lot about them and I’ve also watched some of their matches. I’ve even played here with Hannover but at the time the sports hall was not packed. Once again, you have to know how to deal with pressure. I believe the fact that fans are here again boosts quality and adds that special something to the match. I honestly can’t wait to experience it.

Photo credit: Eurofarm Pelister