DOMESTIC LEAGUES: Besiktas Mogaz continue their dominance in the Turkish league, while Greek and Georgian sides Xini DIKEAS and Telavi claim their maiden trophies.
National champions 2016/17 – Men Part Six: South-east
The final focus of the six-part national champions 2016/17 series is on south-east Europe, where VELUX EHF Champions League side Besiktas Mogaz won their 37th Turkish trophy, Maccabi Rishon Lezion caused a big upset in the Israeli league, IEK Xini DIKEAS won their first-ever Greek title.
Maiden title for IEK Xini DIKEAS
IEK Xini DIKEAS claimed the Greek championship for the first time in club history after winning the final series against A.S.E. Doukas.
The newly-crowned champions secured their title following three victories in the finals – 25:21, 27:26 and 22:19, while AEK won the 2016/17 bronze medal.
It was not a perfect season for IEK Xini DIKEAS however, as they failed to win the Greek Cup, which this year belongs to PAOK.
Sixth title for European University Cyprus
Once again, European University Cyprus are the Cypriot champions. The team from the capital of Nicosia also raised the trophy in 2015 and 2016.
European University Cyprus won the last game 36:18 against Parnassos to claim the title in the six-team league. This season the champions had a superb record with 21 victories.
European University Cyprus also won the Cyprus Final Four Cup edition.
Besiktas claim 13th league trophy
Besiktas Mogaz HT won their 13th national league title – and ninth in a row – at the end of April. With 50 points earned in 26 games, the black eagles outscored their closest rivals by 12 points.
Earlier in April, Besiktas won the Turkish Cup against Tasova YİBO SK.
The record-breaking team have now reached 37 national titles – 13 in the Super League, 12 in the Turkish Cup, and 12 in the Super Cup.
Besiktas said farewell to four top players this season. Croatian star Ivan Nincevic retired from handball, while Serbian left back Predrag Dacevic and goalkeeper Yunus Özmusul departed. One of the most successful players in Turkish handball history, team captain Ibrahim Demir, left the club after 11 years and 26 cups.
In 2016/17 however, there was something much more important for Besiktas than the titles. Young right wing Kubilay Yılmaz had a tragic car accident prior to the season and spent time in intensive care before recovering to celebrate the title with his teammates.
Sensational Telavi win first trophy
HC “Telavi” became Georgian champions for the first time in history. The club from a small town with a population of 20,000 people was founded just four years ago and had never finished higher than fifth place, but in 2016/17 they produced a small miracle.
Telavi ranked fourth after the round robin competition, 12 points behind the leaders and last year’s champions Batumi, yet the semi-final game between these two teams brought a sensation as Telavi won 23:21.
In the final match, they faced another tough opponent: 22-time national champions Georgian Tech University from Tbilisi. And once again, the young team from Telavi were stronger with a final score of 25:23.
Rishon Lezion shock Tel Aviv to reclaim title
This season saw a huge upset in the Israeli premier league: Maccabi Rishon Lezion beat Maccabi CASTRO Tel Aviv 3-0 in the final play-off series and won their first title since 2012.
As Maccabi Tel Aviv won the FA cup and finished the regular season at the top of the table with 21 wins and one draw from 22 games, few would have predicted they would not raise the trophy. The strength of Dragan Djukic’s team was underlined by two sweeps in the quarter-finals against Ironi Rehovot and the semi-finals versus Hapoel Rishon Lezion.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion finished the regular season in second place with 10 points fewer than Maccabi Tel Aviv and won four of their play-off matches by only one goal. Moreover, Maccabi Tel Aviv were victorious in all three meetings between these two teams this season.
In the first match of the play-off series, in Tel Aviv, Maccabi Rishon Lezion won 32:24 thanks to 13 goals from their foreign shooters: Ivan Karacic and Robert Markotic. Rishon Lezion hosted the second match and recorded a 30:25 victory.
The series returned to Maccabi Tel Aviv’s arena but once again the visitors surprised with a 23:22 win. Their goalkeeper Yulian Strat was voted MVP of the final series as Rishon Lezion won what was their 14th championship title.
FIMA defend their title
The Armenian national championship took place in early May and lasted just five days. Six teams played each other once in a round robin format, and FIMA Yerevan defended their title after winning every game.
Vanadzor Lori lost to FIMA (30:22), but beat all other opponents and finished second, while Artsakh claimed third place.
Mahsul the best again
Mahsul-Tasimi became national champions for the second successive year. Just like a year ago, the team from Baku beat Tahsil in the decisive match, this time with a final score of 42:29. The bronze medal was won by Nasimi.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / Amina Idrizi / Fulya Oktem / Ron Barabasch / cg