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10/03/2021 15:01
Playing for Montenegro was a great honour and privilege - Gojko Ćuk
News from the National Federations

Podgorica, Montenegro, March 10, 2021. The long and very successful journey of Gojko Ćuk with the national team of Montenegro lasted for as many as 14 years and ended with a historic participation and two victories in the pool stage of EuroVolley 2019. Gojko eventually fulfilled his own dream as well as the dream of all Montenegrin fans – and the two wins at EuroVolley 2019 were the most beautiful gift for Gojko’s goodbye to the national team jersey.

The performance in the Netherlands was historic, emotional, and in the end more successful than expected. “I have been in the national team from the very beginning, from 2007. During all those years, one of our main goals was to qualify for the EuroVolley. By achieving that goal, one of my greatest wishes came true - to play in a big competition. I have been in the national team for 14 years and I decided to retire from the national team after EuroVolley 2019. I wanted to leave the place to the young forces, which certainly exist in Montenegro. In the Netherlands, all members of the national team signed my jersey, it was the most beautiful farewell gift I could ask,” he says. It was an almost ideal end to his national team career.

“At the EuroVolley 2019, we did a great job for someone who was competing in such a big tournament for the first time. We recorded two big victories, and it was a great success. With a little luck, we could even have reached the next round. If I had planned how to say goodbye, I could not have imagined it better – with a victory at a major competition. The stars coincided - my plan to retire and the victory over the Czech Republic, which ended my national team career,” he continues.

Gojko played for the national team of Montenegro for as many as 14 years before bidding farewell after completion of EuroVolley 2019

Apart from Gojko, his younger brother Božidar also plays for Team Montenegro, although they were both born in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “I was born in Trebinje, my brother in Ljubinje, but it is almost the same area. The destiny brought us to Montenegro. First, I went to Budva, where I continued to play Volleyball and the opportunity to play for Montenegro opened up. After that, my younger brother came after me, and later he joined the national team as well. It was a great honour and privilege to play for Montenegro, because playing for the national team has a special charm. There were good and bad results, but playing for the club and the national team is not the same, because in the national team, you play with friends and it is something special.”

Gojko has been enjoying the privilege of playing and living in one of the most beautiful European cities for a long time. “I have been in Nice for five years, and a total of seven in France. In those five years, there were good and not so good moments, from playing in the semi-finals to the fight for survival in the first league. I cannot forget that we had the opportunity to make the finals, and we almost achieved that goal. I am very satisfied with my personal performance, since I have been the best blocker in the French league for the last two years. Nice is perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the climate is ideal for living, especially now with a wife and a small child. We really enjoy it, as there are over 300 sunny days a year here. Especially in the period of isolation and quarantine, the sun comes as a great relief, and a walk along the Promenade brings a good mood with it.”

At the age of 32, the middle blocker still has a lot to say on the court. “The season is still in progress, so I have not made any decision as to where I will continue my career. There is interest from certain clubs here in France, but I will see what I want to do at the end of the season. Now I have only one wish - to help the team stay in the first league. This year, there were problems with the virus and injuries in the team, so we are fighting to stay in the first division and it is my biggest goal for now,” Gojko admits.

His Volleyball journey started in Ljubinje. “I started playing Volleyball relatively late, in the first grade of high school. It was thanks to the coach at the Ljubinje Volleyball Club, Milorad Krunić, who saw me and invited me to trainings. Primarily because of him, I started playing volleyball.”

Primarily because of his older brother, Božidar, who is three years and eight months younger, started with Volleyball as well. “Like always, the older brother starts, so the younger one looks up to him a bit and we pushed each other. It was definitely a great thing to play with my brother. First, we played together in Budva in the club, and later in the national team. It is a great experience and a special pleasure. We even played against each other, for example here in France when Božo played in Poitiers. It was not that strange for us, and we were even glad because we knew that we would see each other and hang out after the game. It was a positive experience.”

Gojko Cuk portrayed together with his younger brother Božidar

After playing in Montenegro, the older of the Ćuk brothers continued his career in Romania and France. “These are all different stages in my career. In Budva, I developed myself as a player and learned Volleyball, starting from the school of Vladimir Strugar, to the Budvanska Rivijera, where we played major competitions such as the Champions League, reaching the playoffs. Many top players passed through the team, from Slobodan Boškan to Bulgarian Stefanov and many others. Budva is definitely a very important step in my career. However, Romania was a key step as well, considering that this was my first international experience. I think that Montenegro and Budva is my home, because I played Volleyball there, but also finished high school, and later continued college. Romania was a transitional step for me, the league was not at the same level of the French league, but it meant a lot to me for the first experience abroad. There were certain pressures, as a foreigner I had to prove myself. France is among the better leagues in Europe, you have to prove yourself and prove your quality there every year.”

In his career, he has worked with many coaches, starting with Milorad Krunić. He does not forget the others that decisively influenced his development. “I am here thanks to Vladimir Strugar. He came to a friendly match in Ljubinje and took me to OK Budva. He set my direction. I went to Montenegro, if I had stayed in Ljubinje, I would probably have taken a different path. Vesko Vukovic took me to the senior national team, even at a time I was still a junior. From those days until the EuroVolley 2019, I have always been in the national team. It was also a special pleasure for me to work with such a name as the Italian Silvano Prandi. He is currently the coach in Chaumont, here in France, and he is the national coach of Bulgaria too.”

Gojko is not yet considering retiring from competitive sport. “I still do not have any concrete plans. I graduated from the Faculty of Law in Podgorica, but I still do not know in which direction my life will go after the end of my career. As an athlete, I would certainly love to stay in Volleyball.”

Finally, a short message for the end of 14 great years with the national team of Montenegro: “I want to thank the Volleyball Federation of Montenegro, we had a fair and correct cooperation, and I wish the national team luck and good results!”

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