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Bernard Bakonji – “I got what I wanted in Spain“

by WoV

Croatian national team setter, until recently  Mladost volleyball player, Bernard Bakonji, who arrived from Sisak, in the month of his 25th birthday, started to build an international career. This summer he signed for the Spanish champions Unicaja Costa de Almeria, after a long international summer in which he and his teammates achieved great results. From gold at the Mediterranean Games and bronze in the Golden Group of the European League to the most important task, the placement at next year’s European Championship, which captures the continuity of performances of the best European selections.

Bernard Bakonji

There was not much rest for the two-meter-tall setter, but he immediately jumped into new club duties. New club, new environment, new language, but also – climate.

Everything was brand new, a total change. It’s still so warm here that we walk in short sleeves, and I’m still getting used to the new environment. The club was the champion last year. But we had a bad start this season”, admits Bernard, and continues:

After six rounds, we are in ninth place, out of twelve clubs. We lost three matches at the start that we had to win, but now everything has slowly stabilized, we won the last two and we have 9 points. There were some injuries at the start, we as team got together late, and it is a completely new team with only three players from last year. By the way, the league is very even, so for example, the third-placed Barcelona has only 3 points more than us. Due to some financing problems, the club did not decide to play in the Euro Cup this year.”

The league is obviously very high quality.

Extremely balanced and high-quality, much better than the Croatian Superliga, everyone can beat everyone here if they have their day. There are a lot of good players and from that point of view, I think I made the right decision to come to Spain. I am the first setter here, which was very important to me when I negotiated with them. Our goal is to reach the finals again, through the play-off in which 8 teams enter after a two-round system of 22 rounds.”

How satisfied is Bernard with his performances in the jersey of the club from Almeria?

I got what I wanted, a higher level of playing. I am satisfied, everything is going according to plan, although, of course, it can always be better. I am doing my best and I think they see that in the club as well. Now that we have started winning, it will be even better. In fact, the only problem here, for now, is communication. Only a few people here speak English, or very little, including the coach, so it takes a lot of time and effort to understand each other. And this is not only a problem in the club, but also anywhere else in the city, from restaurants to shops. That’s why I am  studying Spanish intensively, my teammates are helping me, but it doesn’t happen overnight, even though I already understand a lot.

Croatian national team with Bernard often met the Spaniards this summer.

Yes, I have three national team members in the club and every now and then I ‘remind’ them of our score this year with them, 4-0. We joke about that, even though they are not very happy every time. I can’t wait for summer reunion with the national team, we will play again in the Golden Group of the European League, but also in the European Championship, which I am immensely looking forward to and for which I am already preparing“, said the setter of our national team, Bernard Bakonji.

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