Iranian coach Borut Macek – a well-known face in Arab handball

Our series profiling coaches who will be leading participants at the 24th Men’s Handball World Championship continues with a look at Borut Macek of Slovenia, a man who has been an integral part of Arab handball for the past decade.

After finishing his active career with clubs in Slovenia, the former Yugoslavia, Portugal and Austria, Macek began his coaching career on home ground in 1996. After a three year intermezzo with Austrian sides Macek returned to Slovenia and coached Trebnje and Gorica, two first league clubs.

Then in 2004, his life changed dramatically when he received his first offer to coach an Arab team. He took over Kazam Sport Club in Kuwait where success was immediate. In his first (and last) season there he led the club to the Kuwait Cup final.

After one season at Italian record champions Conversano, Macek finally made the decision to fully settle down in the Arab world. He returned to Kuwait, coached “Kuwait club” for one season, before he was selected to take over a national team for the first time in his career. For two years Macek was at the helm of Bahrain’s national team leading the squad to a sixth place showing at the 2008 Asian championships and to victory at the Arabian Gulf Cup in 2009.

Macek was a big name now in Manama, Bahrain, so he switched from the national team to club side Al-Ahly, which he guided to a triple strike domestically, winning the championship, the cup and the Super Cup in 2009. After those victories he returned to the bench of the national squad until 2010, followed by a six month intermezzo with Iran, the team he is now coaching again. There he delivered the country’s biggest-ever success up until that time when the squad won the silver medal at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

But it still took four years before he returned to the Iranian bench. First Macek had to accomplish a mission as head coach for 2015 World Championship hosts Qatar. From 2010 until 2013 he won silver at the 2012 Asian championships, finished second at both the Arab Games and the Gulf Championship and qualified for the 2013 World Championship in Spain.

At the same time he also coached top Qatari club side El-Jaish to victory at the prestigious Emir’s Cup in 2012.

When world champion coach Valero Rivera took over Qatar team coach duties in summer 2013, the field was already prepared by his predecessor. And after Iran won the bronze medal at the 2014 Asian championships in Bahrain and clinched their first-ever World Championship berth, their Spanish-born coach Rafael Guijosa had to quit his position. Iranian rules don’t allow the same coach at the helm of a national and a club team; Guijosa is coach of top club Samen, so the Iran Handball Federation had a position to fill. They didn’t forget the success Macek delivered four years ago and came calling.

Macek now lives in the capital Tehran and in addition to his job as the men’s national team coach he is also the director of all national teams.

“We have a great base in Iran with more than 75 clubs,” Macek said. “We will do our best in Qatar 2015.” Some of his players are already contracted at European clubs to gain international experience.

The next stop on the road to Qatar will be the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea in September and October.

“Currently our focus is only on this competition. We want to go for a medal in Korea. And when we have finished this event we will analyse and then start preparing for the World Championship. But we can name a goal only after the draw. When we know our opponents in the first stage, we’ll know if we can talk about the knock-out stage.”