|23.11.2016, 09:00||◄ last page|
AROUND THE WORLD: Born to a Nigerian father and a Bulgarian mother, Elizabeth Omoregie was just 17 when she made her Champions League debut for Krim. Two years later she is the driving force behind the Slovenian team’s convincing qualification for the main round.
Omoregie, a Bulgarian handball pearl shining for Krim
A lot of top players have been staying in Ljubljana during the years. Most of them were already important players when they arrived at RK Krim Mercator, the two-time Women's EHF Champions League winners in 2001 and 2003.
But it was totally different when a young girl from Bulgaria came to Slovenia.
Elizabeth Omoregie had not even finished high school when she found herself at the top club, waiting for her chance to start a promising handball career.
“I love it in Slovenia. Bulgaria is not far away. I hang out with the girls, I do miss my family, but handball helps to make it easier,” the 19-year-old Omoregie says with a smile.
Her Slovenian is already perfect – after she has settled so well on the court, too.
Born and raised in Athens
The life story of one of the dominating players in European handball this autumn initially did not lead to handball.
Omoregie was born and raised in Athens to a Nigerian father and Bulgarian mother. She was one of four children in the family, which moved to Pleven in Bulgaria, where she went to school.
“I trained track and field, and a handball coach invited me to try a different sport,” she says. “I was eight years old, and pretty soon I knew that handball would play an important role in my life.”
With her athletic skills and general sports talent, Omoregie improved in handball quickly. Everyone in Bulgaria expected her to leave someday, and when Krim called, she did not hesitate.
“Krim is a big club, and that was a big opportunity for me to show my handball,” Omoregie says. “I also think that they know how to work with young players. I can improve my game even more.”
This season she has been the leading force of the club on international level. Krim has entered the main round while being unbeaten on home court.
And with 34 goals in six matches, Omoregie shares fifth place on the list of best goal scorers of the Champions League season.
With the main round still coming up, Omoregie has already matched her tally from her stunning debut season two years ago, when she scored 34 goals for Krim in the entire Champions League season.
A dominant force on the court, Omoregie is still rather shy when talking to the media.
“To be able to play in the Champions League is really something special,” she says. “I’m very happy to play for Krim, a club that means something in Europe. I’m still very young and already I play more than 40 minutes on this level.”
“A treasure chest for Krim”
There are no guarantees when signing a young, promising Bulgarian player. But signing Omoregie has become maybe the best move so far in the history of the club.
“She is like a treasure chest for Krim,” head coach Uroš Bregar says. “We always had good scouting and she was a great pick.”
Because of some disputes with her former coach in Bulgaria, Omoregie did not play handball for almost two years before joining Krim.
She took care of her high school diploma when she had already become a professional player at Krim. Now she is determined to succeed at a ‘handball school.’
“I’m glad that she is now thinking more about the game, even off the court,” Bregar says.
“Handball is now her life but she still is in that category of talented players. She faces years of hard work, even though she already shines like a pearl. That can be positive but also dangerous for a player of her age.”
Omoregie, who turns 20 next month, is aware she still has a learning curve ahead of her.
“To play tough matches is the best school you can get,” she says. “Only in real situations you can learn the right lessons. Then you know how to react, and try not to make the same mistakes again.”
Bregar knows what kind of jewel he has on his team.
“I try to make her think more about the game, forcing her to play as a playmaker,” the Krim coach says.
“She still is a better left back then a middle back but she is improving fast in defence as well. She is becoming more determined. In the past she also was a line player, and that shows how comprehensive she is.”
Omoregie has settled well in the capitol of Slovenia. Her teammates accepted her like they had known her for whole their lives.
“She is an optimistic girl, always with a big smile on her face,” Krim goalkeeper Miša Marinček says. “She has improved so much in those three years here. She is a fast learner. In a way she has already grown up, she looks more mature, and you can see it on the handball court.”
"Try a huge step and go abroad"
Now the star player of Bulgaria, Omoregie encourages young talents in her home country to also join foreign clubs.
“There are some other good players in Bulgaria but they do not have a chance to shine at home. Maybe they should try to make a huge step and go abroad,” Omoregie says.
At 19, Omoregie is already close to making her own handball dreams come true.
“First of all no injuries, and then of course to play as good as possible and win a Champions League trophy.”
She certainly has the right winning spirit.
TEXT: Uros Volk / ew