Jaukovic: “I only dreamed that one day I would play with them”
Djurdjina Jaukovic is the top scorer for both her EHF Champions League club and her national team at the EHF EURO 2018, with 36 goals for Buducnost this season and a tally of 24 in four matches at the EURO now underway in France.
The fact that she is just 21 years of age makes Jaukovic’s individual achievements even more impressive. But like many top scorers, Jaukovic credits her teammates for her statistics.
“It’s because all my players and coach and staff, they help me for that. They do those actions for me,” says Jaukovic from France, where Montenegro are currently contesting the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Main Round. “For us it’s important to win. It’s not important who scores 10 goals. I will be happy if I score one and we win.”
Read more about the EHF EURO 2018 on the tournament's hompage www.ehf-euro.com
Despite already being a very well-known name in handball and an undeniable individual star – particularly considering how many years on court she has ahead of her – Jaukovic is extraordinarily down to earth and humble. For her, simply being at the EHF EURO is special.
“We are so happy to play the European Championship. It’s one more experience for all of us,” says Jaukovic, before commenting on the calibre of Montenegro’s preliminary round group, where her team took one win and two defeats. “Russia are Olympic champions, France were world champions last year. It was such a good experience and you know that if you score a goal against them, if you stop those players who are the best in the world, then you are really on a good level.”
“It was a dream for me. I had only watched them on TV”
The Women’s EHF EURO 2018 is already Jaukovic’s third, after she made her major international debut at the event in Hungary and Croatia in 2014. She also played both World Championships since 2015 as well as the 2016 Olympic Games.
The young left back has therefore been on the radar as a player to watch for the future for several years – but she was not yet part of the team when they raised the EHF EURO trophy in 2012 and claimed the Olympic silver medal earlier that year.
“When they won that European Championship, it was 2012, I was home and I watched. I wasn’t in the national team. I was so happy and I only dreamed about that, that one day I would play with them. Two years after that I went with them to a championship and it was a dream for me. I had only watched them on TV,” says Jaukovic, who is now good friends with the same players she looked up to.
As a fellow back-court player, four-time Champions League winner Katarina Bulatovic was a special inspiration for Jaukovic.
“For me she is, what is most important, such a good person, and after that the best right back. It was so funny because when they were at that championship, I sent her a message,” recalls Jaukovic. “I wrote ‘good luck’ or something like that and she answered me ‘thank you’ and a kiss. I was so happy she answered me I posted it on Facebook and I didn’t believe it!”
A special feeling in the national team
Jaukovic is thoroughly enjoying playing alongside many of the squad members who were part of Montenegro’s biggest successes – but she is even more complimentary of who they are off the court. “They took a silver medal at the Olympic Games, they won the European championship. They are first really good people and after that really good sportswomen.”
Montenegro are the national team with the highest number of Champions League players competing at the EURO, with a total of 13 – most of whom play for Buducnost. Jaukovic is well used to playing alongside her national teammates in her club’s leagues, but says there is something special about taking the court for Montenegro.
“When you play for the national team, you play for your country. You have the flag on your chest,” she says. “In Buducnost, there are a lot of these players and we really want to give our maximum and everything, but I think in the national team it’s a special feeling when you play.”