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Doris Zeljak: “Best things always happen out of love!”

Doris Zeljak and Zlatko Horvat in Varazdin in 2016

Doris Zeljak is a true handball fan whom you may remember from our 2016 Best Handball Fan Contest. It was our first encounter with Doris, but definitely not the last. She fell in love with handball at a young age and somehow she always crossed paths with handball during her life. In 2018 she volunteered at EHF EURO 2018, and in 2021 she became a mobile reporter for the SEHA – Gazprom League. Working in a handball world is like a dream come true, and what it is like for Doris, find out in an interview we did with her and within our Community stories segment. Enjoy and don’t forget, dream big, work hard!

You are a big handball fan, and you follow PPD Zagreb and the Croatian handball national team. Where did the love for handball come from?

My mom played volleyball and my dad was always into sports. My whole family follows sports in general, such as volleyball, football, skiing and of course handball. When it comes to handball, my dad took me to my first PPD Zagreb match when I was a little girl. During that time, Zagreb played in “Dom sportova” playing hall and I remember the atmosphere was great. It was fascinating for me. But a turning point was the IHF World Championship in Zagreb in 2009 because for the first time I had a chance to watch our national team live and there was all this great euphoria and rush. My mum used to say, this love for handball will pass, but it didn’t pass. For the first time my mom was wrong, ha-ha.

Describe your first match experience as a fan?

PPD Zagreb match my dad took me was actually my first one that I watched live. From that match until now we always go to matches together and my dad gets angry if I go with my friends, without him. During that time Domagoj Duvnjak was still very young, Ivano Balic played for Portland San Antonio. I actually think that my first match was PPD Zagreb against Portland San Antonio. I will always remember the atmosphere in “Dom sportova, it felt like home. I was fascinated about all that.

Do you still go to the handball matches?

Before Covid-19 I went to the matches regularly. When I was in elementary and high school, I went to every match, sometimes I also skipped classes. But when I started college and was working at the same time, I needed to adjust my obligations. The match Croatia vs Denmark at EHF EURO 2022 in Hungary and Slovakia was my first post-covid match I went on and it felt like it was my first match ever. I was so excited.

In addition to cheering, you also love collecting handball souvenirs. Can you describe your collection for us?

I really like to collect memories. At the beginning it was all about collecting tickets from the matches. After that I started collecting jerseys and T-shirts – PPD Zagreb and Be8player T-shirts. All that I attached when I applied for the Best Handball Fan Contest. My first jersey was from Domagoj Duvanjak. I also have one from Zlatko Horvat, two from Ivan Cupic and one from Domagoj Pavlovic.

In 2016, you participated in the first Be8player Handball Fan Contest. Although you did not win the main prize, all-inclusive tickets for the SEHA Final 4 in Brest in 2017, however, you were not left empty-handed. Zlatko Horvat’s jersey and a photo with the former PPD Zagreb star is valuable handball memory. Can you describe what that felt like?

I was very happy about the prize. The main task was to post a picture proving that you are the biggest handball fan. I made it to the second round where the players decided whose picture was the best and they actually chose me. The prize was Zlatko Horvat’s jersey and I collected it in Varazdin where we also took a picture together. Then the interview with Be8player team followed, it was all very exciting for me. I never expected to be in the spotlight, but it was a great experience. Although I didn’t win the main prize, I am still in contact with the winner that year, a Vardar 1961 fan. That’s how I actually found a friend and handball helped me with that.

In addition to participating in the Be8player competition, in 2018 you volunteered at EHF EURO 2018. How was that experience for you?

That was the best experience in my life. Firstly, I was in charge of handing out promotional flyers at the beginning of the match, at the half-time and between matches. Later, in the main round I was transferred to the VIP sector where I had to guide the VIP guests and help them in the hall. The latter was better for me because I could watch matches while working. That whole experience was unforgettable because I met a lot of great people with whom I can go to matches now. The experience and the memories I gained, I will remember for a lifetime.

Although you are a big handball and sport fan, you study at Faculty of Management in Tourism and Hospitality. How come you decided to go for tourism and not sport?

Although I wanted to enroll in journalism or some sports management faculty, I changed my mind and in the end went with tourism. I attended the same high school because then, and even now everything revolves around tourism. I’m also interested in languages and I love to travel so I decided to go in that direction. Although I study tourism, I still have a connection with sports through some courses. Most of my seminar papers or electives are related to sports, and I am generally a person who loves organization, so I thought about how to connect my love for sports and tourism in the future. I came up with the idea to start my own business one day, an agency that will organize trips to sporting events, matches, big competitions, whether it is football, handball or some other sport. I also have some marketing courses in my graduate year, so I think that can be related to sports as well.

You were and still are a handball fan, you participated in Be8player Best Handball Fan Contest in 2016, you volunteered at EHF EURO 2018, and now you are working as a mobile reporter for the regional handball league. How did you become a mobile reporter for the SEHA – Gazprom League?

At the time I saw the ad on the student service I was in Saudi Arabia, and I came across the job ad by accident. I knew right away that this was something I wanted at the time, so I immediately looked up my CV and decided to apply. I did not know when the ad was placed and whether the place was filled or not. I was invited for an interview, the interview was online and now I’m where I am. I’ve been working for about a month, but for me personally, it’s a great experience. As much as it sounds like an easy job and maybe on paper it is, in reality, it is not. In addition to knowledge of social networks and handball, it takes a lot of concentration and inspiration. I am still learning, but it’s great so far. Although the work is mostly office-related, there are also trips involved, which again is somehow related to my studies and tourism.

What are your tasks as a mobile reporter?

The mobile reporter creates and publishes content on the social networks of the SEHA – Gazprom League before the match, during the match, and after the match. I am posting content (graphics and videos) on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, together with my other colleagues deciding which actions from the match will be published, engaging with the audiences via comments and messages, etc.

What sports do you follow except handball?

I follow football, mostly with my dad. I also watch hockey, skiing. I trained volleyball when I was younger and now I am working in a sports camp on the island of Pag periodically, so I’m always surrounded by sports.

Do you have any message for fans who have the intention of working in handball or in sports in general?

First of all, always support your club or country, and then later you never know where it may take you, just like it happened to me. The best things always happen out of love. I’ve worked a lot in my life, but sometimes if you don’t care enough about it it can all go in vain. It’s different when you do a job that interests you, then it’s always easier. I always thought sport brought something beautiful and useful to me.