The facilities of the Higher Sports Council, located near the Complutense University of Madrid, have been converted into a bunker. The center of high performance, which houses dozens of the most promising athletes in the country, has been the operations center of the Spanish handball team since Monday, as the group prepares its imminent landing in the European Championship, to be held in Hungary and Slovakia since January 13. Spain arrives at the appointment with significant casualties and a major task, that of obtaining its third consecutive continental trophy, something that only Sweden has achieved, and that of validating a generational change that has been announced for a long time. The days pass between a suffocating intensity on the track and long video sessions in the rooms, while the Covid generates a calm tense by the fear that a positive generates.
“You run out of European”, wielded some players. Despite the tension, there is also time for advertising commitments. To warm up the atmosphere, yesterday the players left the balls and the resin to wrap themselves in ancient armor, swords and battle paintings. Years pass, but the most dominant team on the continent does not reject the call of the war horns.
As they tell from the core of the team, the coach Jordi Ribera has designed an express plan to put his pupils in tune, since some of them come from a vacation period. “They are squeezing us,” laughs one of the most veteran of the group. Time runs against the national team, since the call for 18 players (half European clubs, half national), who may suffer some discard after the change of year, has brought many news: only eight repeat with respect to the expedition that traveled to Tokyo in August to play the Olympic Games . Some changes that have upset a practically unchanging block in the last decade. Even players, both veterans and youngsters, watch videos of their teammates to try to compensate for the lack of minutes shared on the court and thus generate sporting affinity. However, from the team they are clear that this connection will end up bearing fruit thanks to the main weapon of the national team: the collective.
“With Spain it is counted, but they never give us as favorites despite being champions. We are ambitious and we play to compete. We do not have any superstars, but with the results in hand it has been shown that this group can beat anyone », assures Antonio García , Granollers left-back and one of the most recognizable faces on the team. The player attends ABC after a training session and quickly sets Spain's immediate goal. «Reach the semifinals, then we'll see. The Europeans are the most difficult tournament, even more so than the World Cup. There are no affordable matches and in this edition we have been paired in the group with one of the favorites (Sweden, in addition to the Czech Republic and Bosnia). That is why this preparation is important ”, says the player. The veteran is one of the least common, the also left-back Chema Márquez . “We are not the strongest, but we are the smartest. We have players who can generate leadership despite the losses. If we play as we know we will be there », explains the full back.
Both García and Márquez share a club, position and now selection (even room in concentration), an example that shows that the future is in good hands. Garcia says he is simply trying to replicate what the veterans did with him when he came to the national team more than a decade ago. «Make them feel loved, explain technical doubts … Sometimes harassing is not productive. This generational change must be normalized ». Chema, for his part, conveys a lot of security with his words when he talks about the renewal of the squad. “It is a very united group, playing and living with them is very easy.”
The team will have its first set-up in a friendly tournament where it will face Japan, Iran and Poland (from January 6 to 8 in Cuenca). Then they will travel to the East with the idea of continuing to normalize the success
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