Ivano Balić (born 1 April 1979) is a former Croatian professional handballer, World and Olympic champion. He was voted 5 times in a row as the most valuable player in major international competitions, and is one of only four male handball players who received the IHF World Player of the Year award on two occasions (2003, 2006). He was voted the best handball player in history in an online poll organised by the International Handball Federation.
Balić with HSG Wetzlar in 2014
|Full name||Ivano Balić|
1 April 1979|
Split, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia
|Height||1.89 m (6 ft 2 1⁄2 in)|
|Playing position||Center back|
|RK Brodomerkur Split|
|RK Metković Jambo|
|Portland San Antonio|
|RK CO Zagreb|
|National team 1|
|Coaching staff coordinator||Croatia|
1 National team caps and goals correct |
as of October 2016 (UTC)
Born in Split, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia he was the only child of handball players Žarko and Stjepanka Balić. After the first three months of his birth Balić moved with his parents to Italy because of his fathers professional career. During his time in Italy Balić lived in Rovereto, near Milan and in Prato. At the age of seven Balić and his mother returned to Split. When his father came back he played for RK Split in the Yugoslav second league, Balić would always love to watch his father play.
Balić started playing basketball in KK Split due to him being a big fan of the club who at the time was three time European champions. He played basketball until 1995 when Mate Bokan his fathers friend and coach of RK Split at the time suggested he should play handball.
Balić began his handball career with RK Brodomerkur Split who competed in the top tier Croatian First A League. In his first season Brodomerkur finished second in the league and got to the semi-finals of the EHF Cup where they lost to THW Kiel who won the cup. He played for Brodomerkur for three more seasons reaching top positions in the league and reaching the quarter-finals of the EHF Cup.
In 2001 Balić move to Metković Jambo. His first season started out with winning the Croatian Cup and league. Even though Metković won the league their title was stripped away administratively and given to Badel 1862 Zagreb. This season was also his first season playing the EHF Champions League. The next few seasons Balić spent perfecting his game which was mostly seen in 2003 when he became the first Croatian handballer to win the IHF World Player of the Year award and was voted Croatian handballer of the year in 2004.
Balić moved to Portland San Antonio in 2004. He chose San Antonio so he could play with his idol Jackson Richardson. During his first season he helped San Antonio win the league and reached quarter final of the EHF Champions League. The next season saw Balić in his first and only Champions League final. Unfortunately San Antonio lost to a very strong BM Ciudad Real in both final matches losing 19:25 in the first and 28:37 in the second. Although he didn't win the EHF Champions League he got his second IHF World Player of the Year award in 2006. In 2007 Balić was voted best Croatian athlete by Sportske novosti.
From 2008 to 2012 Balić played for Croatian powerhouse Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb. Winning the Premier League and Croatian Cup four times. In 2012 Balić returned to Spain to play for Atlético Madrid. He stayed for only a season because the club went through bankruptcy. At the club he had a fantastic season winning the IHF Super Globe and Copa del Rey while finishing second in the league.
In 2013 Balić signed for German club HSG Wetzlar. After two seasons at Wetzlar Balić announced his retirement from professional handball at the beginning of the 2014-15 season. On 5 June Balić played his last professional handball game in a 29:24 win against Göppingen in which he scored one goal and made five assists.
In 1998 Balić started playing for Croatia U-20 and Croatia U-21 at the same time. Next year he was called up to play for Croatia but he got pneumonia. He came to training and the physiotherapist noticed that he was sick so they gave him some antibiotics and sent him home. In December 2000 Balić was called up to train for the 2001 World Championship. In training Balić got injured by trying to catch a reflected ball to witch Petar Metličić fell on his foot and ruptured his ligaments. Because of this injury Balić had to rest for 20 days and missed the World Championship in France.
Balić finally made his debut for the national team at the 2001 Mediterranean Games in Tunisia where Croatia won first place. Next year Balić played at the 2002 European Championship in Sweden where Croatia finished in last place. Although they finished last in the European Championship they shocked the world a year later at the 2003 World Championship in Portugal where they won first place. After losing their first match against Argentina 29:30 they beat Saudi Arabia, Russia, France, Hungary, Egypt, Denmark, Spain and Germany in the final.
In January 2004 Balić was called up to play at 2004 European Championship in Slovenia. Croatia had a good start in the group stage beating Spain and Denmark and conceding a draw against Portugal. Croatia came all the way to the semi-finals where they lost against hosts Slovenia and finished fourth losing to Denmark in third place match. Balić was included in the all star team, he was voted best player and best play maker at the tournament. In August of the same year Balić was selected to play at the 2004 Summer Olympics where Croatia won first place. Croatia went undefeated through the tournament and Balić was selected in the all star team and was the best play maker at the tournament. For winning the gold medal all player of the team were awarded the Franjo Bučar State Award for Sport yearly award. Balić won the award with the team and he also won another yearly award by himself.
At the 2005 World Championship in Tunisia Croatia finished in second place losing to Spain in the final. Balić was voted MVP of the tournament and best play maker. At the 2006 European Championship in Switzerland Croatia finished fourth again. Balić was once again MVP of the tournament and best play maker also being the fourth top goalscorer with 43 goals and top field goalscorer also 43 goals. The same year Balić was also part of the team that won the Stratoil World Cup in Sweden & Germany. During this tournament Balić invented the nickname of the Croatia national handball team kauboji (eng: Cowboys).
At the 2007 World Championship in Germany Croatia finished in fifth place. Balić was voted as MVP yet again. Balić played during the 2008 European Championship in Norway where Croatia suffered a defeat from Denmark in the final. That silver medal was the first European Championship medal Balić had won. Balić was also voted best centre back and was joint top goalscorer alongside Nikola Krabatić and Lars Christiansen with 44 goals.
In the 2008 European Men's Handball Championship he was the equal top scorer with 44 goals as he led Croatia to a silver medal and was also voted to the All-Star Team of the tournament. His playing position is centre back. That same year Balić was selected to be Croatia's Flagbearer at the 2008 Summer Olympic in Beijing. Unfortunately the tournament didn't go so well. Croatia finished in fourth place losing the third place for the bronze medal to Spain in an awful defeat of 35:29. Balić didn't play his best at the tournament failing to receive an award. The next national team challenge Balić faced was the 2009 World Championship in Croatia. Even thought Croatia went undefeated throughout the tournament France beat them in a painful final match. During the match a rivalry emerged between Balić and Nikola Karabatić witch the media named clash of the titans. At the 2010 European Championship Croatia won another silver medal losing to France in the final match.
Following 2011 World Championship finished in 5th place. In 2012 Balić won two bronze medals with Croatia at 2012 European Championship in Serbia and 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Prior to the 2013 World Championship in Spain Balić was dropped from the national team by head coach Slavko Goluža thus he retired from the national team. After the match there was a special ceremony dedicated to Balić. During the ceremony Jackson Richardson his handball idol came to congratulate him on his career.
After his retirement from professional handball Balić he joined the Croatia national team coaching staff of newly appointed coach Željko Babić alongside his old colleagues Petar Metličić and Valter Matošević. As part of coaching staff he won the bronze medal at 2016 European Championship in Poland with the rest of team and was also part of the 5th place placement at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
From 1999 to 2006 Balić was married to Ivana Balić. The couple had one son together Dino who was born 2000. In 2014 Balić had his second child, first with girlfriend Mirela Delić, a son named Vigo. In 2016 Balić became a father for the third time.
Balić enjoys watching basketball.
| IHF World Player of the Year
| IHF World Player of the Year
| Flagbearer for Croatia
- "World Handball Players of the Year 2006: Nadine Krause (GER) and Ivano Balic (CRO)". International Handball Federation. June 14, 2007. Retrieved 2010-05-13.
To make a long story short: an all-rounder you may not have seen before in handball. Balic is a real star. The handball director, who fully deserved the award as Most Valuable Player of the 2007 World Championship, knows that. He knows the ritual since 2003, at least every second year. Given these facts, it seems to be a little bit surprising that this is only the second time after 2003 that the exceptional player has been elected World Handball Player of the Year.
- "Ivano Balic, the MVP of all MVPs". European Handball Federation. November 6, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
No other handball player to date has been awarded 'Most Valuable Player' more often than Ivano Balic, making him - figuratively speaking - the MVP of all MVPs. The 34-year-old playmaker received the honour at five consecutive major events, first at the EHF EURO 2004 in Slovenia followed by the 2004 Olympic Games, the World Championship 2005, the EHF EURO 2006 and the World Championship 2007.
- "Ivano Balic voted best male player ever". ihf.info. August 12, 2010. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
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