MEET KIRIL LAZAROV
Kiril Lazarov is a true pro.
He knows handball. Inside out.
We met him for a talk.
Why did you start playing handball?
I played handball because my father was a good handball player. He played when I was small. He always took me with him to his matches. And when he had training I always went with him. Little by little, I fell in love with the sport. Since then, I’ve always loved the sport. It’s in my heart.
When did you begin to play handball?
I began to play handball in my village, Sveti Nikole. There’s a club there called Ovče Pole, which was where I began to play with my father. Later on, as I was gifted and left-handed - there weren’t many left-handers, and everyone wanted a left-hander - I moved to the city. I must have been about 10 or 11 years old.
What were conditions like when you began playing?
If I compare conditions then and now, there’s a huge difference. Back then there was no indoor court, so we played on an outdoor court. There was no stadium, which hardens you up because you learn how to play in the rain and in bad weather.
Did you imagine yourself here in Nantes 25 years later? And how do you feel when you look back at your career?
When I was a small child, I had my icons and I wanted to achieve a very high level, but I never really imagined I’d be here today. The fact is that I’ve played in several European top clubs and I’ve achieved quite a few titles. I’ve also been named Europe’s top scorer in the world championship and Champions League. I’m very proud and very happy about this.
Who are your idols?
When I began playing handball, my idol was a basketball player, because I preferred basketball to handball when I started out. His name was Toni Kukoč. He played for ex-Yugoslavia and later on in the NBA and for Chicago Bulls. He was number 7. And he was left-handed too. I watched how he played. I liked him a lot. He had a very different style. When people see me playing on the court today, they ask me if I began with basketball or handball because some of my game is more like basketball than handball.
You had to go abroad at a very early age to go to Zagreb in Croatia. How was this experience for you?
I had to decide to leave my country very early on. It was very hard, it wasn’t easy. I had to leave behind my family, my mother, my father and my brother, but if you want to fulfil your dreams you have to make a decision and make the big move. I had a few other offers from different countries, but I decided to go to Croatia because it wasn’t too far from Macedonia and also the language is very similar. Back then I didn’t speak any other language, so I decided to go there and then Zagreb was, and still is, a top level club with a great tradition and a long history. There were major players there who achieved major titles with this club, so I decided to go there and I think I made the right choice. I was happy there and I stayed there for many years. That’s where I started my international career.
I suppose you’ve also experienced difficult moments during your career?
All sportsmen go through difficult moments at some point in their career and all the big stars - not just in handball, football and basketball - have had these moments. I think that when this happens to you, you have to be strong. If you’re strong, you’ll get back on your feet. It’s not only when things are going well and everyone’s thanking you. You also have to know how to get back up again when you fall. Those who are able to do this are strong and that’s why they’re the best. I’ve had many such moments. Luckily, I’ve always been able to get back up on my feet.
You play in hummel’s AeroCharge shoes that you yourself helped design. Tell us about them.
I’ve been playing in hummel shoes for a long time and I’m really happy with them. I’ve been wearing them since 2008/2009. I’ve tried out many different models of shoe, but I can also say that over time that hummel has managed to grow and always brings out new shoes. One of these is Aerocharge, and I’m really happy with them. Before they release them, as hummel agents, we tell them how we feel as players in hummel shoes. And they constantly improve them. For example, as players we tell them what we like and don’t like, how they could improve them for us to jump better. This model is the best they’ve ever released.
What are your future career ambitions? Something you have yet to achieve?
I’ve got a dream I’d still like to fulfil. I’ve already fulfilled many dreams. Every player’s got dreams. And I’m not sure whether I should say this publicly or not, but the truth is that I’d really like to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020 with the Macedonian team. It’s perhaps easier said than done, especially for a national team representing a country with just 2 million inhabitants. We’ll do our best, it would be so rewarding if we did. Perhaps that’s the ultimate dream which I’ve not yet fulfilled, but if we did I’d be so happy.
Talking about Macedonia - What does playing for Macedonia mean for you?
Playing for your country’s national team - not just Macedonia but wherever you’re from - is a great feeling. I've been playing for Macedonia for many years with a great deal of illusion and passion. It’s not a feeling which can be described. More than anything, it’s a feeling which even money can’t buy.
Imagine if we went back to Macedonia when you were still only 20 years old. What advice would you give yourself?
If I went back in time 20 years, I think I’d tell me to do better. You can always do things better. Perhaps I’d train more seriously. When you’re young, you don’t take things as seriously as when you’re older. This happens to everyone. If I went back in time 20 years, I’d be more professional than now.
Let’s talk about the future. How do you see yourself in a few years’ time?
I like to take things as they come: day by day, step by step, week by week, year by year. I see myself in sport. I haven’t decided yet what to do after my career. I’ve got a few ideas. Before, I mentioned the Olympic Games, but I don’t want to say anything yet because I haven’t made any decisions yet. I’ll almost certainly stay in sport, but doing what, we’ll have to wait and see.
As a trainer?
We’ll see. I really don’t know.