Get to know the SEHA - Gazprom League
How it all began, what particularly interesting events shaped the development of the League and the past results are just some of the exciting parts you'll be able to read in the upcoming text. SEHA League was formed in 2011, in a time when a lot of teams from the region supported the initiative to make a high-quality handball competition with the best teams in the area. The idea to 'erase' the national borders came to life after six national federations opened its doors to welcome the SEHA League. The League grows more and more each year, new strides are made every season. SEHA - Gazprom League is gaining popularity not just in countries that it is played in, but in the whole Europe and beyond. Thus, the League was described as a handball 'lighthouse' for other leagues, by the EHF President Michael Wiederer.
The first season consisted of 12 teams, including teams from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Slovakia. Many teams are still competing within the SEHA - Gazprom League; those clubs are: PPD Zagreb, Nexe, Metalurg, Skopje and Tatran Presov. After an exciting inaugural season of handball, Vardar finished as the champions of the 1st edition of SEHA League, beating Metalurg in the final. The Final 4 tournament was played in Zagreb, but the regular season champions and Champions League quarter-finalists CO Zagreb were unable to capitalize on the home court advantage. Still, they came third after winning the third place match against the Slovakian side Tatran Presov. Zagreb's very own Zlatko Horvat was named the MVP of the Final 4 tournament.
The League looked a bit different entering its 2nd season, Montenegrin side Sutjeska and two Serbian clubs - Crvena Zvezda and Metaloplastika left the SEHA League, but Meshkov Brest joined in from Belarus. The League then had 10 teams featuring in it; Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb, Nexe Nasice, Borac Banja Luka, Sloga Doboj, Izvidjac, Tatran Presov, Lovcen, Vardar, Metalurg and Meshkov Brest. The 2nd season had a spectacular ending: Zagreb came out on top after beating Vardar in the final of the Skopje Final 4 tournament. The match went to overtime, but Vardar, just like Zagreb the season before, could not win the title in front of their own fans. The season came to a disappointing end for the regular season champions Meshkov Brest who finished 4th, after losing the 3rd place match against the Champions League quarter-finalists Metalurg.
As SEHA League showed its potential to the handball world, a new partner had recognized the quality of the project and joined us before the 3rd season. Nowadays, that partner is still loyal to us, of course; its name is Gazprom! As we came to expect, a new season holds new changes. This time we lost two Bosnian teams: Sloga Doboj and Izvidjac, but we welcomed back the Serbian teams: this time it was Vojvodina from Novi Sad and Partizan Belgrade who entered the League! The 3rd season brought a lot of excitement, especially during the Final 4 tournament in Novi Sad. The thrilling semi-final match featuring Meshkov Brest and Tatran Presov went all the way to the 7m shootout after which the Belarusian team came out victorious. However, Champions League quarter-finalists Vardar led by the Final 4 MVP Timur Dibirov had the last laugh after beating Meshkov in the Final match to secure their 2nd SEHA League title. Once again, CO Zagreb came third defeating the regular season champions Tatran Prešov.
We entered the 4th season with an addition of MKB - MVM Veszprem, later proving to be a move that would improve the quality of the SEHA League even more. That same season we also welcomed Radnicki from Kragujevac to the League, which meant losing the only team from Montenegro - Lovcen. 2015 Final tournament in Veszprem had been played in a different format. Six teams fought hard to reach the finals match, but first we had to find out who was going to play in the semi-finals. It turned out Meshkov Brest and PPD Zagreb were too good for Nexe and Tatran Presov, so those two teams unfortunately had to pack their bags and head home. Two semi-final encounters were: MKB MVM Veszprem - PPD Zagreb and Vardar - Meshkov Brest. Afterwards, Veszprem were crowned champions in front of their own fans, comfortably winning against Meshkov. Third place was again secured for PPD Zagreb. That season, the Hungarian team also played in the Champions League finals, but failed to win the title losing to Barcelona.
The next season we were without Metalurg from Skopje and Partizan, but Serbian Spartak Vojput and Macedonian Maks Strumica were there to take their spots. There was still plenty of high-quality handball, especially knowing that three SEHA teams played in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Zagreb's and Vardar's journeys ended then, but Veszprem again lost in the final match in one of the most spectacular matches in recent memory. The SEHA - Gazprom League Final 4 tournament held in Varazdin was equally as brilliant. Veszprem successfully defended the title won the previous season, after wins against Meshkov Brest in the semi-finals and Vardar in the Final match. PPD Zagreb finished third for the third consecutive season. It is important to notice that the Final 4 in Varazdin was presented an award as the best regional sports event in 2016 at the RSVP festival. The tournament was attended by more than 20,000 people and was definitely more than just a great handball experience.
Season 6 of the SEHA - Gazprom League was also a great success. Even though the League endured heavy changes after Vojvodina, Spartak, Borac and MAKS Strumica all left the SEHA - Gazprom League, there were some amazing clubs eager to join us. That is why we greeted two Slovenian teams, Gorenje Velenje and Celje Pivovarna Lasko, to the League. Also, Metalurg and Izvidjac CO found their way back to the SEHA - Gazprom League. After some excellent handball action, we found out who the four teams heading to Brest for the Final 4 tournament are; Vardar, Veszprem, Meshkov Brest and PPD Zagreb all had a chance to become the champions of the SEHA - Gazprom League. Vardar proved to be far too much for PPD Zagreb in the semi-finals, but Veszprem and Meshkov Brest played the most thrilling match of the season. Veszprem won after penalty shootout, much to the delight of the visiting fans. Meshkov Brest managed to pick themselves up after a tough loss, securing the 3rd place in a match against PPD Zagreb. But, Vardar absolutely stole the show in Brest, beating Veszprem 26:21 meaning they have become the SEHA - Gazprom League champions for the record-breaking 3rd time. Season 16/17 was a dream come true for the Macedonian team. Apart from winning the SEHA - Gazprom League title, they also won the Champions League in the most spectacular way possible. A goal in the last few seconds of the match by Ivan Cupic against Paris Saint-Germain brought the Champions League title to Skopje. Like that was not enough, they also won the Macedonian Championship and the domestic Cup!
As usual, some changes took place before the season. Two of the best Serbian teams joined the SEHA – Gazprom League; Vojvodina and the debutants Dinamo from Pancevo. The season was definitely marked by the three-time champions Vardar. They recorded record-breaking 17 wins out of 18 matches, and easily occupied the first place in regular season standings. After careful consideration, Skopje was picked to host the Final 4 tournament, for the second time. Four teams that proved to be the best after 18 rounds were: Vardar, PPD Zagreb, Celje PL and Meshkov Brest. The Slovenian champions were set to make their first appearance, and deservedly so! But still, all signs were pointing to Skopje- Metalurg's Halil Jaganjac's 100 goals meant that the 19-year old won the top scorer award, the youngest ever player to do so. Luka Cindric won the MVP award in both the regular season and at the Final 4, just went to show how strong Vardar were! Ultimately they beat PPD Zagreb in the final; it was 26:24. Celje PL came third, defeating the injury-riddled Meshkov Brest, with another youngster Domen Makuc playing a key role in the final 2 matches. Brilliantly organised tournament in Skopje was on a similar level as the EHFCL Final 4, proving once again that the SEHA – Gazprom League set up the bar very high one more time.
SEHA - Gazprom League was a project carefully planned and executed in 2011. From that time, the League grew bigger and bigger, attracts more fans each year and is full of high quality handball teams. Apart from world-class handball that can be seen in every match, the League showcases terrific organizational skills, especially during Final 4 tournaments. Even though the clubs that participate change every year, SEHA - Gazprom League is successful in maintaining its stability and ability to showcase the best handball possible to its fans. TV broadcast quality is assured with a contract signed with a high-profile international media rights company based in London - MP & Silva. Overall, we believe that hard work, commitment and dedication by everyone involved in the SEHA - Gazprom League has put the League on the map, in not just the handball world, but in the world of sport in general.
The 2018/19 season was another season full of novelties for the SEHA - Gazprom League. Even though the Slovenian clubs departed from the League, some new clubs joined and re-joined the SEHA - Gazprom League. Steaua Bucuresti became the first Romanian club to play in the League, while Zeleznicar 1949 from Nis became another Serbian club to enter the competition. Izvidjac made their return, as the champions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. SEHA also made big steps forward as recognisable brand in European sports, as the TV rights were sold beyond the regional borders, to countries such as Iceland, Poland, Italy and Russia.
The competition was extremely interesting, as the Final 4 battle was in the air until the very last minutes of the regular season. Vardar, PPD Zagreb, Nexe and Meshkov Brest ultimately earned a place at the SEHA Final 4, held in Brest, Belarus for the second time. Vardar were the regular season champions, Nexe played their best regular season yet, and Milos Grozdanic finished the season as the TOP scorer, with 102 goals. The legendary Zlatko Horvat was crowned the regular season MVP, and it was Dainis Kristopans leading the way for Vardar to their fifth SEHA title with a spectacular Final 4 performance. Overall, a fantastic season was behind us, with many young players coming through the ranks to build their names in handball. The icing on the cake was the unbelievable title for Vardar in the EHF Champions League, as the golden generation from Skopje made history once again, and will enter the 2019/20 season as the European champions.
The ninth edition of the SEHA – Gazprom League was the most exciting season so far. Twelve clubs entered the competition and besides well-known SEHA faces, Telekom Veszprem and Metaloplastika came back and made this season even more interesting. Furthermore, we welcomed four completely new teams who brought a light of new handball tactics and incredible memories to our family.
Spartak became the first ever Russian club to compete in our League. With joining of the Chinese rookies, Beijing Sport University, a new era of our League started. Alongside them, Ukrainian Motor Zaporozhye and North Macedonian Eurofarm Pelister also made their first SEHA League steps. But, League's new era did not just starred some new clubs, but the completely new playing system. That way, 12 clubs started the ninth season's journey divided into two groups. After 76 matches (60 group matches and each eight play-off and quarter-final matches), the four participants of the SEHA - Gazprom League Final 4 2020 have been confirmed: Meshkov Brest, PPD Zagreb, Vardar 1961 and Telekom Veszprem.
The 2019/2020 season was also memorable because of three new records. Unstoppable Meshkov Brest gem, Mikita Vailupau scored 20 goals against Eurofarm Rabotnik which was a new record for the most goals one player scored in a single fixture. The stars of other record were Vardar 1961 and Motor Zaporozhye who combined for 81 goals and broke the 6 years old record that was previous held by the match between Tatran Presov and Nexe. Sixteen years old right winger from Metaloplastika, Matea Dodic, stepped on the SEHA court as the youngest player this season which marked the third record of the Group phase.
SEHA – Gazprom League Final 4 2020 took place in Croatian Zadar for the first time in our history and was a special tournament held in very challenging times for the world of sport. We tried to be different, innovative, bring something new to handball, all in a safe and responsible manner. That is why our slogan was unique and powerful: #HANDBALLISBACK! And we did it. With thousands of golden confetti, Telekom Veszprem climbed the throne and the new and redesigned SEHA trophy. Veszprem's goalkeeper Rodrigo Corrales was awarded as the Final 4 MVP. With the Final 4 in Zadar, we concluded one more successful and magnificent SEHA chapter.
SEHA - Gazprom League tenth season threw-off on 17th December 2020, which was a bit later than usually. Also, two teams from Season 2019/2020 said goodbye for now - Beijing Sports University and Spartak Moscow. Therefore, this interesting jubilee season of SEHA League started with ten teams: Eurofarm Pelister, Meshkov Brest, Metaloplastika, Motor Zaporozhye, Nexe, PPD Zagreb, Tatran Presov, Telekom Veszprem, Vardar 1961 and Vojvodina. But, only eight of them participated in Group Phase, while Telekom Veszprem and Meshkov Brest entered only after the Eighth-Final matches and had to face their opponents in two-legged Quarter-Final clashes.
After the Group Phase, four Eighth-Final matches were played. Tatran Presov eliminated Vojvodina, while Vardar had no problems with Metaloplastika which meant Tatran were going to face Motor in the Quarter-Final and Vardar were about to play against Zagreb. Two remaining pairings included two matches between Veszprem and Nexe as well as two legs of Eurofarm Pelister versus Meshkov Brest.
There were only four teams in the aftermath of the Quarter-Final: Meshkov Brest, Motor Zaporozhye, PPD Zagreb and Telekom Veszprem. They all went to Zadar and given us an unforgetable Final 4 experience.
Telekom Veszprem were crowned for the fourth time in five SEHA seasons and Petar Nenadic won the Most Valuable Player award, because his game was unmatched at the final tournament. He ended up scoring 15 goals and handing out 13 assists. But most importantly, he took the responsibility of shooting the last penalty for Veszprem and did it in fine fashion, which concluded the first decade of SEHA - Gazprom League.
Season 2020/2021 included 40 matches, while only 38 of them were played and the remaining two ended in draws by league's decision.
The 11th season of the SEHA - Gazprom League started on Friday, 4 February in the Macedonian capital Skopje. The opening match of the new season was a real derby, five-times champion - Vardar 1961 faced the Croatian runners-up Nexe. In total, nine teams participated in the League - Eurofarm Pelister, Vardar 1961, Vojvodina, Partizan, PPD Zagreb, Nexe, Tatran Presov, Telekom Veszprem and Meshkov Brest. Metaloplastika left the League, but Serbian Partizan was the replacement.
The quarter-final matches were played in Veszprem, Novi Sad, Skopje and Bitola. Two matches ended with a penalty shootout. After the exciting quarter-final encounters, four SEHA Final 4 participants were known - Telekom Veszprem, PPD Zagreb, Nexe and Eurofarm Pelister. Telekom Veszprem won against Tatran Presov and PPD Zagreb eliminated Vojvodina. For the third time this season, Nexe celebrated over Vardar and Eurofarm Pelister shocked Meshkov Brest and for the first time in history, qualified for the final tournament.
For the third time in a row, the Croatian coast city Zadar hosted the SEHA Final 4 tournament. One Hungarian, one Macedonian and two Croatian teams played in the Kresimir Cosic Hall, giving their best to win the prestigious SEHA trophy.
Telekom Veszprem became old, new champion and Rasmus Lauge Schmidt was awarded as the MVP of the SEHA Final 4 2022 in Zadar as the fifth Veszprem player in history. PPD Zagreb finished second, debutants Eurofarm Pelister took the bronze medal, while Nexe finished fourth. Eight nations and three clubs were represented in this year's All-star team - Timur Dibirov (left wing), Mikita Vailupau (right wing), Zarko Peshevski (line player), Zvonimir Srna (left back), Oussama Hosni (right back), Kentin Mahe (centre back), Aljaz Panjtar (goalkeeper) and Jakov Gojun (defensive player).