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INTERVIEW: Irena Anđušić and Anja Pantić

Below we bring the interview with the official referees of the ninth edition of the Jarun cup. Girls, welcome once again.

1. Hi girls! Please introduces yourselves and tell us something about yourselves.

 I: Irena Anđušić, 31. Master professor of physical education, certified handball trainer, living and working in Novi Sad. I am a referee at the premiere league of handball in Serbia and EHF beach handball referee. I also run my own restaurant which you will hopefully visit when you come to Serbia 🙂 .

A: Anja Pantić, 27, living and working in Novi Sad. My carrier is similar to Irena’s, apart from working at the City handball union and the Handball union of Vojvodina.

2. What was the first time that handball “stole” your hearts?

I: I have been doing sports from the age of six. Ever since elementary school I have fallen in love with handball during PE. As a little girl, I never missed a single TV transmission of a handball game. One of my biggest life goals was to play handball and be as successful as Sandra Kolaković who was my idol at the time, and one of the best European players.

A: I have fall in in love with handball by watching my older sister play and practicing who was, at that time, obligated to take me everywhere. Since I was very little, even for little school of handball, I had to wait some time in order to start practicing it. My wish is to firstly and fore mostly play besides my sister.


3. You were both training indoor handball so we would like to ask you about your beginnings and first successes.

A: I spent my childhood in a small town on the East of Serbia, in Požarevac. Even though it was a small community, handball was quite well developed. In 2000 in Požarevac there were two clubs: men’s competing in 1st league, and women’s competing in the highest league called Super league. The club where I got to know the basics of handball was ORK 9. MAJ (ORK 9th May), then I changed clubs several times: ŽRK Babmi Mladi Radnik, ŽRK Vojvodina, ŽRK Petrovaradin, and in 2003 I finished my career as a handballer and started one as a referee together with Irena. I would like to mention that we’d played together almost 5 years, and till now we’ve worked together as referees for about 7.

I: I was born in a small town on the North of Montenegro (Pljevlja) where till 1999 there were no women’s handball club. Till then I had been training karate for 8 years. When I reached the black belt – the title of the master of karate I thought I have achieved everything in that sport, and that it’s time to take up something more „specific“. Finally, the women’s club was founded and my dream came true. I had played in the club for 4 years, then  I had to continue my studies in Novi Sad. I continued training handball in Novi Sad, in Petrovaradin club until I was 23 and I decided to become handball referee. I was playing in the club together with Anja with whom I’ve reffed indoor since 2009 and now beach handball as well. We had played together 5 handball seasons from which I would highlight 2007/2008 season when we were the champions of 2nd league without losing any single match.


4. Where did you hear about beach handball for the first time?

A,I : The first beach handball tournament in Serbia was organized in 2004 in Novi Sad. As an active players we were interested in this incredible sport. We gathered the team and signed up for the tournament. We learned the rules about 2 hours before the event, whilst solutions in the attack we sneaked from foreign teams that were more experienced in beach handball. It was great fun and in some situations very, very funny like e.g. our spin shots J Anyway, we looked forward next summer and a new tournament because it was an unforgettable attraction for us.

5.You ref also indoor handball so we would like to ask you about the differences between reffing indoor and beach handball.

This is very complicated question J opinions between referees are divided – for some of them beach handball is not interesting at all, but for us it’s a great pleasure. In fact, we enjoy reffing in general because we love what we are doing. There are differences in particular rules but the most important is the sense of the game and fair-play principles. The feeling when reffing beach handball matches is far different than when reffing indoor ones. The marvelous part of reffing beach handball are the players themselves who, with their performances, make your work easier. There are much less unsportsmanlike behaviors, everything is based on fair-play principles the same for all participants of the game, all the rules are interpreted in the right way. In indoor handball you always expect something unexpected J

A: I would add also that the amount of tension in indoor handball is immeasurable. Beach handball has its charms and one of them is definitely an atmosphere that prevails among all participants. With such an atmosphere it is far less stressful for the referees to make their substantial decisions.

6. How is it, that you immediately decided to be referees without trying playing beach handball in some beach handball club?

I,A: In Serbia, beach handball clubs doesn’t exist yet. In your country it is much better organized, and we are trying to take the example of Croatian clubs and make the system for our BH competition. We have interested clubs, but there are legal reasons why there are no registered BH clubs in Serbia. I have already said that we were playing BH on one of our tournaments just for fun. When we were invited in 2014. from our Handball Federation and asked if we want to take the course for BH referees , we were surprised. However, this was reward for refereeing, because from 2010 to 2014, we were referreing tournaments in Novi Sad and Bačka Palanka when nobody wanted to referee beach handball.  We had the support of our colleagues from Belgrade, Vanja Antić and Jelena Jakovljević, as well as our “sand buddy” Bane Radišić to continue refereeing beach handball.


7. How long are you refereeing beach handball? Tell us a little more about it. Where have you been? What are your experiences in the championships?

A, I: Since 2014, we have the title of EHF referees. For the course which was organized at the Masters tournament in Greece we were preparing from the moment of receiving invitation until the departure on the course. We didn’t know what to expect and that we will referee to the best European teams. After successfully passing the course and obtaining a certificate EHF we got nominated for the final Masters tournament in women’s competition. Then we were even more motivated and in the same year we went to the tournaments in Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Hungary. Season 2014/2015 we completed by refereeing finals on Champions Cup on the Canary Islands. At the beginning of 2015 we have received a nomination for the Masters tournament in Hungary and European Championship in Spain for juniors and seniors that we have finished by refereeing match for the 3rd place in the category of juniors and semi-final in the category of seniors. Last year we were also refereeing tournaments in the Netherlands, Hungary and Bulgaria, and last week we received a nomination for the European Championship U16  in Portugal.


8. Approximately how many tournaments a year do you referee and do you have any special preparations or rituals that you are usually performing before the tournament?

A: Easier question would be how much break of refereeing we have during the year. J Already in February and March are usually tournament nominations. Indoor handball league begins in September and lasts until beginning of June when the beach handball season starts. Last year we had only one month break for the entire year. We had spent the whole summer on beach handball tournaments and when we came back to Serbia handball referees camp was about to start, which marked the beginning of new indoor season. To be able physically withstand this continuous refereeing we are, of course, practicing every day to stay in shape.


 I: We certainly have our rituals and preparations before the matches, which are the same for both indoor and beach handball. We always come to the changing rooms 45 mins before the match. You can hear the music coming from our changing room that just two of us know, like “Stoja kraljica, Viki ili Jami” J. Well ok, sometimes some famous hit can also be heard. J If we have a chance to choose, we usually spend at least 5 minutes debating about the color of the referee uniform. J  When we are entering the court Anja is always standing to my right and it must always be so. J


9. Which tournament, according to you, was the best one that you have participated and why? Also, which tournament you have the worst experience with?

 I: That is hard to answer because we have been to so many tournaments and each of them is a different story and leaves a good impression on us. But if I would have to pick one out it would be the tournament in Bačka Palanka. J The tournament was organized with a very low budget, but great atmosphere and fun time we had stands it out from the others.


A: I agree with Irena that Bačka Palanka is a very special place for us. A great time is guaranteed. I would also like to highlight tournament in Bulgaria which has a beautiful sea ambient.


10.   Have you turned a deaf ear to the comments of the audience and the players when they find something to fuss about? How do you perceive it?

I: I: If I hear interesting or funny comment, I mainly laugh and nod to make it clear that I received it and that I know it was told to me. J I usually get hair style comments like „Your hair is great but you do not know how to judge“ or „Your decisions are like your hair“ J J J. To me it is funny and cute. At the swearing I do not react in any way, but if someone from the audience cross the line, I usually ask the main duty to take care of problematic viewer. When we judge men’s matches most things resolve explaining the decision with a smile and some compliments. Girls are much less demanding so we can clarify a decision with one sentence. If you want to be a judge you have to be mentally strong and sometimes enduring comments that should not be addressed to women. We try to be pleasant with everyone and not to resort to final solutions such as disqualification or the application. Basically, we everything try first to resolve the situation with pleasant dialogue, and if it does not give a result sanctions are on our side. J


A: I would just add that the Irena often complains that her red card is like new, because she is slower then me to show it to someone. J


11.  Are you  looking forward to our tournament?

I, A: Considering that we will be the first time in Zagreb on your tournament, we can not wait to visit “Jarun Cup”. Also, it is an opportunity to see and hang out with you because you promised us a memorable weekend. J Personally, it will be a little difficult because at time the tournament is our biggest religious holiday and we will miss visit family, but I am a professional who is in the service of our calling. I know that this will be one of the best European tournament and we want to be ready to go to the European Championship in Portugal.


12.   And finally, tell me how you see the progress of beach handball in future? Do you think that even now some things have to change and what?

A: Beach Handball definitely has a bright future. It is already included in the program Youth Olympic Games, and I’m sure will soon become an Olympic sport. I n this way, everyone will be much more interested in engaging in beach handball. All of us who have connections with this attractive sport we need to do more to promote it. You’re doing it very well which is commendable. For now, there is nothing that I would change in beach handball, but what we are doing in our country is an ongoing discussion with coaches which we try to put to knowledge that beach handball can not hurt their players, but on the contrary.