Bringing the name back to the forefront: Alicia Gogîrlă follows into her mother's footsteps

04 Dec. 2023

Bringing the name back to the forefront: Alicia Gogîrlă follows into her mother's footsteps

In 2005, when Romania sealed their best performance at the IHF Women’s World Championship, Alicia Gogîrlă was only on the cusp of turning three years old, while her mother, Simona, a towering left back, with a cannon of a shot, was one of the key players of the side which won the silver medal.

18 years later, the right back is the youngest player in the current Romania squad, making the cut after a strong display for club SCM Râmnicu Vâlcea over the last three months, coming of age at exactly the right time to be selected for the national team.

Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023 is the first edition of the IHF Women’s World Championship for Gogîrlă, who also represented Romania at the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, one week after coming back from a knee injury, which sidelined her for a few months.

But now, the 20-year-old right back is ready and has already scored five goals in Romania’s 44:19 win against Chile and the commanding 37:28 win against Serbia, which secured a main round berth for Florentin Pera’s side.

“When I was first called up for the senior national team, I could not believe it. I got the call from our coach and I immediately called my mum. She said she was expecting it, because I was playing well, but for me it was a shock and a huge surprise. I was so happy,” says Gogîrlă.

“I went to play in the friendly matches before the World Championship in the Carpathian Trophy, but I did not have the best games, because I was very, very nervous. But now here, in Herning, those nerves are gone and I just enjoyed being on the court against Chile and Serbia.”

Gogîrlă is a household name in Romanian handball, as Alicia’s mother, Simona, played 130 matches for the national team, scoring 465 goals, won the IHF Women’s Youth World Championship in 1995, and was the top scorer of the Women’s EHF EURO in 2000, hosted by Romania.

She was also part of three Romania teams at the IHF Women’s World Championship, in 2001, 2003 and 2005 and played a final in the EHF Champions League Women with Krim Mercator Ljubljana in 1998. Therefore, it was just normal that Alicia would follow into her footsteps, spending plenty of time with her mother.

At only two years old, Alicia was coming to her mother’s training sessions at Győri Audi ETO KC. A few years later, the right back started playing handball, after always dipping her toes into athletics and karate.

“My mother had another Romanian teammate, Aurelia Brădeanu, and we were always together. We also spent a lot of time with Anita Gőrbicz and her mother. I did not go to many of the matches when I was little, because the arena was so loud. But handball rubbed on me immediately, so I tried it. First, it was only a game, but now is more than that, it is my life,” says Romania’s right back.

At seven years old, Alicia was travelling over 100 kilometres by bus on given weekends to go and train at another club, during weekends, returning home for school for the next week. Her passion was infectious and it helped create a bond with handball which can clearly be seen now at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023.

When Simona (pictured above at the 2005 IHF Women's World Championship) retired in 2008 she became a coach and also helped Alicia develop as a young player, putting the correct touches and applying the perfect foundation for her daughter to become a better player.

Still, the 20-year-old right back did not have it easy, as two years ago she signed for CSM București, the Romanian champions, where the lack of playing time hampered her evolution. However, training with some of the best players in the world unlocked a trick or two upon Gogîrlă’s sleeve.

A move to SCM Râmnicu Vâlcea followed this summer, where the right back has been getting more and more playing time over the last few months. After German right back Julia Maidhof got injured, Gogîrlă became a key player and is the team’s second-best scorer, with 50 goals in the Romanian league, and a 61% shooting efficiency.

“Being here, at the World Championship, is a superb achievement for me. Especially the goals scored against Serbia made me think that yes, I am truly here and I did something good for the team. Of course, we need to believe in us and in the future, hopefully we can do something even bigger,” adds Romania’s youngest player of the squad.

Gogîrlă is not the first case of player following in the footsteps of her mother or father and probably will not be the last one. But automatically, the expectations are high and the pressure of the name can be hard at times, especially for younger players.

“I mean, of course, I get it. But everything comes from the outside, not from the inside. Even in the toughest moments, my family has been there for me, supporting me and telling me that I will achieve my objectives. Now that I am here, I want to play as much as I can for the national team, also here, but mainly in the future,” concludes Gogîrlă.