Interview with Martin Rajniak (22.09.2009)
Hi there, thanks for taking your time between practice sessions to talk to us.
Part of the job, I suppose – but glad to be of service
You really made a fantastic (in all modesty) debut with the club, how do you live your new fame, especially after the credits you got for your last game.
I don’t see it that way. We played good collective basketball, and it turned out that Tim drew a lot of their defence capacity, which left me ample room to play my basketball. We had a good team reaction after the Ettelbruck game, the will to win was definitely there. I think we regained confidence in our old assets. We mustn’t forget what’s at stake, the same applies to Saturday’s Racing game, every game is important now. Racing is not to be neglected, Steinsel and Bertrange may be easier to calibrate, but like I said
No need to ask for your or the team’s ambitions.
No, actually not. The play-off remains the only target we set ourselves, and we don’t want to wager for the results of other teams to play in our favour.
You know quite a few of the Luxembourg teams and their top players, so it might be easier for you to judge performances.
Well yes, but not more so than other top players in the country. I must say that with all my national and international experience I still value highly my contacts with the top Luxembourg players through the National Team, it has always allowed me to keep a close relationship. My formative years were spent in Walferdange, and I learnt my trade from the age of seven under close parental guidance and coaching by my father. When I left for Racing for the 1999-2000 season I could still profit from his coaching.
You then left for the US.
Yes, I spent some splendid four years in two American teams, one was the Cuesta College team, the second one was atBakersfield University . These are top ranking teams, and since there is little professional basketball in the immediate neighbourhood, they get a lot of attention from the local crowds and sponsors. Trials were tough and they only selected 10-14 players, so you really had to make the team. The university also allowed me to take the classes in physical education and sports management so that I believe I got a head start if ever I want to make a career in P.E. later on.
You then returned to Europe, still with international ambitions.
Yes, contacts were quite good with my agent here in Europe, and with a Spanish agent to help I got into contact with the Spanish 3rd division club of Caja Rioja in Logrono near the Basque border. Again selections were tough, since they allow 2 American and three EU players in their teams. On top of that they are hardly flexible; you have to learn Spanish in a jiffy, no concessions made. But it’s a worthwhile experience, a game a week and all over the place, you spend a lot of time travelling – by plane to the islands and all that. I must say that in 2004 the club did not have a very good season, and since I could not come to a proper agreement with them, I decided to give Luxembourg a try again.
That was the Musel Pikes episode.
It was a one season job with a similar contract and option as the one I have with T71 presently. There were tensions from the start, so I didn’t really feel at home – but it takes two to tango, so I do not only lay the blame on one side. Anyway, I decided to play abroad again, and my agent found me a team up north, inHarstad, Norway.
That must have made a big difference, from California and Spain to Norway.
Sure, but it’s not all darkness and gloom. I quite liked the proximity of the sea and the long winter periods with all the snow. You do adapt to their climate and lifestyle, and you become really dedicated to your sport. Practice during the darker periods and relaxation in town over the lunch (sunny) period. The team was really nice and we played the finals in both Cup and Championship. They also allow two Americans and the teams are open to Europeans, too. The only provision is that there must always be two Norwegians in the game.
But you didn’t stay on, did you?
No, actually. My agent made me an offer for a French team (Angers, Nationale I, 3rd division), which I accepted. We had a good season, but the French selection system is pretty tough, there are no play-offs and only two teams make it. We came 5th out of 18, but that’s the way it works with them. In France the pressure on foreign players is higher because their number is limited, a bit like in Luxemburg, actually. I enjoyed the club experience in France, it’s highly professional and you are really taken care of. My team would travel to distant away games a day in advance, so you had plenty of time to adjust and practice on the spot.
And now your return to Luxembourg and your stint with T71. We mentioned your ambitions with the club, do they also reflect your attitude to the game?
Yes, they do. This is a full-time job for me. I devote a lot of time to practice sessions and gladly add extras if need be. The facilities here in Dudelange allow me to do all that, and the coaching is also highly professional. My contacts with T71 had never broken off, and the club offered excellent opportunities for my return to Luxembourg. I have known most of the players of my age category for quite some time, in particular through our common experience in the National Team. I don’t like to barge into a club like that, so I asked for the team to be asked beforehand, and since there were no objections, here I am …
Still worth it then?
Yes, definitely. I have been fortunate enough to be spared any major injury, and so far my general health condition has been excellent. My brother was less fortunate, so I know about the possible downturns, fortunately he is on the way of recovery and we may be practicing together soon. T71 has a good mix of players of all relevant age groups and we get along quite well. Ambitions, like I said, are shared, we want to make the finals in both Cup and Championship, and definitely join the top four. All we have to do now is to remain concentrated on our game and not to repeat a couple of poor performances of late.
Sounds, like you and the team know what they want. – Well, I think we want to leave you to your next practice session and would like to thank you for your time.
My pleasure, enjoyed talking to you.