Felipe Perrone: “Being part of this again makes me very happy”
He has played in three different leagues, in Croatia, Italy and Spain, and won each of them. He has also played for the national teams of Brazil and Spain, claiming a silver medal at the World Championships in 2009. Most importantly, he considers himself to be another member of Barceloneta, the neighbourhood were his second son, Nikola, was born a little more than a year ago.
“Perroninho”, whose grandmother Nuria migrated from Gironella to Brazil when she was young shortly after the Spanish Civil War, returns to the Spanish national team after leading the Brazilian team the past years and he is as excited as the first time that he got called up to the team. “I’m very happy, I don’t think this is a second chance for me, instead I think of it as the opportunity to relive all the emotions that I experienced throughout the first 10 years with the Spanish national team. It was a beautiful time and I was lucky to play many matches alongside players that have fought and are still fighting to take Spanish water polo to the top. I also had the opportunity of participating in the World Championships in Barcelona at the same pool that we will be competing in. For these reasons I am very excited to be a part of all this”.
At 32, Perrone is regarded as one of the best players in the world and he knows that there is a tough task ahead. “I know the water polo from here very well. A while back we took home the bronze from the World Championships in Melbourne and then a silver medal in Rome 2009 and we felt as if our progress was unstoppable, but elite international sports are very complex. There are many steps that have to be taken and we must not forget that our predecessors were very good and they set some standards that will be hard to match. They were the golden generation, a once in a lifetime kind of thing”.
The Spanish-Brazilian, who was recently cleared by FINA to be able to participate in Barcelona 2018 is proud of “having kept Spain amongst the best five teams in the world”. Now he knows that the team will have to be at the best level possible as they have the responsibility of participating in a major international event on home soil.
“Playing at home is tremendous. I have had the chance of doing so many times, but for some players it’ll be their first time. It is a unique experience. It leaves a mark on you and it stays with you for the rest of your life. It motivates you. You have to be fully prepared for the occasion. It’s not the same as playing away in a place where no one knows who you are; here all eyes will be on us and fans will be expecting a lot from us”.
For Perrone, it is clear that Serbia, Croatia and Hungary will be favourites to win at the Picornell Pools. “They are the best teams in the world, the teams with most talent. For us, if the game is intense, the water is hot and there is a lot of movement, things are in our favour, but if the game is static and physical it’s a different story. It would be bad for us because it would be very difficult to beat those teams because they are monstrous”.
Before potentially facing those teams though, the Spanish national team will have to overcome the group stage. Perrone admits that the draw has favoured them (“first we play Malta, then France, who sometimes are a complicated rival, and finally Montenegro to fight for the first place in the group”), but he is wary about the fact that they have to be at their best while also being consistent in the competition so that when the quarter finals come around they are ready. “We like that stage, but we have to see how we get to it. If we manage to be first in our group we would have an extra day of rest before the rest of the competition”.
Finally, he gets motivated by the fact that his teammates see him as a leader in the squad and he is delighted to be able to contribute with knowledge and experience to help out the younger players both inside and outside the pool. Perrone is a natural leader whom the national team has been waiting for impatiently the past couple of months. “We will be ready for the competition. The winter period was very good because of the number of matches played. Mainly because the young players were able to play in some high-calibre matches, those that require maximum concentration and are decided during the last minutes of action. We have four or five 20-year-old players, others that are 23 and this past season was great for them. Racking up a good amount of games before Barcelona 2018 is very important”.