“The most important thing is not to be afraid. We will be ready to fight and do our best,” says Magda Więckowska, captain of the Polish national team, just before the start of the IHF Youth U-18 Women’s World Championship 2018. For a native Kielce girl it will be an unique event, while played at the home place. “It’s an additional advantage for me, I will have great support,” she adds.

How big experience is the world championship tournament for an eighteen-year-old girl additionally hosted in your own town?

Magda Więckowska: It is a very big experience. I think that nobody playing regular league matches has had the chance to get even close to what we are going to experience here at the championships. We are ready for battles, because we have known for a long time what we were preparing for. It’s a big deal.

You can feel yourself almost like at the senior world championships, right? Behind you some meetings with journalists, open trainings for fans or an impressive presentation.

I think so. For us, this tournament is just as important as the senior championships. None of us has ever experienced so many interviews and media activities. When we had the first meeting with the media in the Legionow Hall, we had to stand in front of three cameras – it is an indescribable feeling. Stress was huge with so many people around. I’m stressed even now, it’s something new for us. But I think that it will not work for us badly and everyone will do as if we participated in normal matches and play our best.

On Tuesday you play the first match of World Cup against Angola in Legionow Hall. This is another of the great experiences, playing in the Polish champions’ hall – PGE VIVE Kielce.

We’ve played there with Korona Handball, but in the official match I have never done it yet. It’s a big hall, that’s where the highest-class players play on the daily basis. I think, however, that it will not make huge impression on us, we will not be stressed out due to it and everything will go well.

And older colleagues will be watching from the stands. There will be Polish champions from Kielce and ladies from Lublin.

I think that each of us is very happy about this fact, because support from such class players is important. We are very happy that they will come and cheer us on.

What are your goals for the tournament?

Everyone count on the highest – every competitor who is at the championships would like to play for medals. We will fight for it too and we will all leave our hearts on the pitch. Let’s hope that we can achieve a good result then.

You already attended one championship tournament – the European Division B Championship in Macedonia last year. Can you see the progress in your game?

Yes, we played at the big tournament in Macedonia. Everyone gained some experience then and it will bring great benefits during our home championships. I think that the progress is very big. We have very good players. Each of us has quality – both girls on the bench and the one on the pitch. None of us can manage to play whole matches, which is why it is so important that you have to change. The main thing is not to be afraid. We will go out fighting and give everything we can.

Any of the group stage matches seems to be particularly difficult?

Matches are not equal. We have already played with some of the opponents, but in fact this match, which will take place now at the championships, will not be the same game anymore. Teams will not play the same handball. That is why it is difficult to define something with certainty. Just every match is equaly important and we will come to each with the same attitude.

Do you feel like the leader of our team? Mrs. captain, native Kielce girl, player of the Korona Handball…

No, I do not feel like a leader. Each of us is just as important, playing on the same level, well prepared, so we all feel equal to each other.

If you had to compare the game in the national team and in Korona?

I got a little time in the season in the Korona, so I did not played too much. Maybe a little more at the end of the games. In the national team I play practically all matches, so for me it is an completely different experience than the one in Korona and it is very difficult to compare. But I hope that one day it will happen that I will play so much in the club too.

Who are you modeling your game on? From what you can read on the Internet, there are two names: Karol Bielecki and Michał Jurecki.

Karol Bielecki is a great man. Because after such an injury, play at such a level? I can only admire it. Michał Jurecki is though very brave and I like it a lot. I take him as a role model more. I like this bravery, that he is not afraid of anything. He enters every match with the same attitude and he does not look at his opponent whether it is a better or worse team, but he always plays his own.

You play in the same position as him. You can follow him?

I will try to! (laugh)

A great tournament is also a lot of pressure.

I hope that it will affect the team rather positively. We can not make it work bad, because then we will not play well. Everyone will think about something else than. If someone is stressed out or experiences something particularly hard, we sit in a room and talk. It helps.

With whom we would talk, he says that the most important player of this team is to be the team.

Yes, we support each other as much as we can. We, the players, each other, but also the training staff, which helps us a lot. That’s why I believe that everybody will cope.

You are in a special role during the championships. You are the only girl from Kielce, so the eyes of the Kielce supporters will be focused especially on you.

I try not to feel any additional pressure. The fact that I play in my hometown will be a plus for me. I will have great support from family and friends. I think that the fans will also help us and support us. I will feel the help of them all.

How do your teammates like the city? Was there time for sightseeing?

I think each girl feels like at home here. However, we did not have time to visit Kielce so well. We travel most often on the route: the hall – hotel. But still, girls like it here a lot.

And what would you say to the fans to encourage them to come to the hall?

There will be plenty of fighting on the pitch, each of us will leave a heart there and we would like you to come, support us, because it will be a great help for us.

BY KAROLINA ZIELONKA AND MACIEJ SZAREK