Dubrovnik is proving a magnet for sportspeople this year. We have seen Premier League footballers, NBA basketball players and Olympians from all disciplines. And, as the cherry on the cake, one of the greatest ever handball players, Kiril Lazarov, stayed for an extended break, to both relax and prepare for another hard season. Lazarov is a key player in the best club handball team in the world, Barcelona, as well as being the captain of his national side Macedonia. There isn’t much he hasn’t won along the way in his rich career, from starting out in Croatia with Zagreb to stints at Atlético Madrid and finally since 2013 at Barcelona. Everywhere he has gone goals have followed, he has even scored an incredible 935 goals on national duty. We caught up with the “goal machine” during a break in the Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel where he was a guest. He is no stranger to Dubrovnik; in fact it’s almost like his second home, but who could blame him.
This is not your first time in Dubrovnik; in fact you are a regular visitor, how did you first “discover” the city?
I first came to Dubrovnik when I was playing in Zagreb, we played the cup semi-final here, in think that was around 2010. During the three days that I was here I simply fell in love with the city. Since then I come every year, not only is it a beautiful destination but it is also relatively close to Skopje where I live, driving distance. In my opinion the Adriatic Sea in Croatia is the cleanest sea in the world. You can’t compare it to other Mediterranean destinations; it’s just so clean and attractive, unparalleled.
How long do you think you will continue playing for Barcelona?
Professional sportspeople don’t know how long they will be at any club. I am extremely happy at the club, but the most important thing for me is to keep playing well and to keep winning. I am a world traveller and don’t know what will be around the corner, but for the moment I am more than happy, Barcelona is a great club, a great family.
Hanging out with Kiril in Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel
Would you like to play again in this region?
That’s a hard question to answer. I am an ambitious person, and an ambitious player. I would like to keep playing at the level I am now for a few years more yet. When I come to the day that I am not happy with the level I am playing at then I will think about my future. This region has a great history and tradition of handball. The leading clubs in this region can easily go toe-to-toe with the best clubs in Europe. I have played in Croatia, Macedonia and Spain, a total of seven clubs, and am more than happy with the course of my career.
You have already said that you are a “world traveller” how often do you visit Macedonia?
I was born in a small place called Sveti Nikole in Macedonia but now live in the capital Skopje. Yes, I don’t have much time to visit home. But whenever I have time I visit friends that I grew up with in Sveti Nikole, at least for a day or two. My mother still lives in Sveti Nikole.
How would you compare life in Barcelona and this region?
I have to say that the weather, the climate, is almost exactly the same, which suits me. Barcelona is a mega-city, with all of the contents that you would expect from such a city. The Spanish as a nation are relatively similar to this region; they are very energetic and communicative.
It seems that you already have a circle of friends in Dubrovnik?
Yes, people are very friendly here and I have been lucky to make quite a few friends. Even though Dubrovnik isn’t a handball city, this is a water-polo city; I think that Croatians love all types of sport.
How satisfied are you with the Valamar Dubrovnik President, I hear that you are a regular guest?
Yes, every time I come to Dubrovnik I stay in this group of hotels. I am not really on a classic “sun, sand and sea” holiday. I spend some time in Macedonia and whilst I am here in Dubrovnik I also train every day. I swim, run and use the gym every day. The facilities here are perfect for me and I almost feel like part of a family when I come back.