Finally I had the chance to talk to Sanja again. We first met two years ago during Agata Mroz Memorial in Katowice. I really didn’t expect that she’d remember, but guess what: she did! Anyways, this season she’s playing for on of the best Polish volleyball teams, Muszynianka Fakro Muszyna, last year’s vice champion. Today Muszynianka came for a game to Lodz and won against Budowlani in straight sets. After the match I had a little chat with the captain of Croatian volleyball team and here’s what she told me:
JN: First of all, congratulations on the win and the MVP award. After hard times your team is coming back to the game with last week’s and today’s wins. What will, in your opinion, be crucial to maintain good form?
Sanja Popović: You know, we had a really, really hard period of travelling. You know how far Muszyna is… [laughs] And when we played against Piła, then Lokomotiv Baku and then travelled back to Poland… It was so hard! I didn’t feel good in this period and honestly, nobody did. Now we have these breaks, so we can relax a little bit, because the coach gave us a couple of mornings off. I still think we’re not playing our best, but we’re getting there and I’m happy about it. We always get motivation from each game, because we’re getting better and better. It’s very important for us.
We are in the exact middle of the season and it’s still very close in the league table.
It’s so interesting, right? I’m so happy that I came to Poland to play, because here you can’t predict anything. With almost every team it’s like: you see the players “on paper” and they may seem theoretically better or worse than your team, but you never know what will happen during the game. Like our loss against Piła (Muszyna lost in three sets — editorial note). In Italy it also used to be like this. You are never sure.
What about your injury, because I gather you’re still powering through it?
It’s okay. I just wait for the day, when I have to have surgery.
Till the end of the season?
Hopefully. It’s so bad, because you never know when it will start to hurt. It’s an old injury, so sometimes when we start practice it does start to hurt, but you know… [knocks on the table]
And even if you last till the end of the season, which I really hope you do, what then? Because, you know, European Championships are next year.
Exactly. But the doctor told me that recovery from this surgery is like six weeks, so it would be possible for me to play in the ECh. Although I’m really hoping that I won’t have to do the surgery. I want to get more opinions, because it was only one. I mean, the doctor is very good and everything, but it’s always good to get second opinion. I’m staying positive that I won’t have to have the surgery, because I really don’t want it! [laughs]
And European Championships next year will be very important for the Croatian team, because for the last couple of years you have had more downs than ups.
Yeah. It’s because we are never complete, always somebody’s missing. You know, during the qualification tournament I was the oldest player on the team. From the “old” team only I was there.
Maybe next year you’ll have more luck. Let’s change the subject now to a more pleasant one. Christmas are coming up, do you have any plans?
Well, hopefully we will get some days off for Christmas and my plans depend on how many of those we get. I will definitely go home and it will be good to have a change of scenery for a little bit.
So you plan to spend some quiet, peaceful time with your family and without this travelling-a-lot thing.
Yes. Last year when I was in Czech Republic, cities where close to each other and so was in Korea, so I’m really not used to travelling that much.
I always see you having something pink on you during the games. Like hairband or hairclips. And today you had pink shoes. Is this color some kind of a lucky charm for you?
You know, I’m a big and strong woman, so… [laughs]. No, but really, you will not believe the size of my shoes, it’s 45. Have you ever seen shoes this big AND pink?
Uhm, no, I haven’t.
Okay, so imagine that. Last year I got one pair of those Kobe Bryant shoes, limited edition, in pink. And then I had a good season, so I thought “Okay, maybe I’ll try to find them again”. And you know, I have some connections in States, so… [laughs]. But seriously: I don’t like to wear a lot of pink, but I like to accessorize. And today, I forgot my hairclips!
Yeah, but the shoes were more than enough, believe me [laughs]. One more question. There are a lot of foreign players in the Polish league and some of them even write blogs about living in Poland. I know you don’t do that, but let’s say you do — what would you write about? Is there something interesting you noticed about Poland, that you’d like to comment on?
Honestly, I’ve never read anything like this or any blog for that matter. I’m not so much into spending my time reading that sort of things.
Last year I lived in Czech Republic, so the food and the culture are pretty much similar to Polish. But what I like the most about Poland is that it’s a catholic country and there are a lot of very nice churches, just like in my country. I noticed that people are very religious and that’s what I like about this culture. I think that lately people are not raising babies in fear of the Lord. I also like the holidays, because we have the same in Croatia. What else can I say? There really is nothing that could shock me.
That’s probably because you lived in some many places around the world.
Yeah, and everything here is very similar to what we have and do in Croatia. The only difference is that in my country it’s warmer [laughs]. And you know, I haven’t seen so much of Poland so far. I saw Cracow this summer, such a beautiful city. Even our languages are similar. I understand a lot of Polish. Sometimes I speak my Czecho-Polish-Croatian [laughs], so we can understand each other in the team. But of course we mostly speak English, because it’s faster. I really don’t feel like I’m very far from home and that’s a good feeling.