“Por Portugal, Por Ti” (For Portugal, for you).
It is with this message that the Portuguese Federation communicated the twenty players summoned for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (TQO), with the photo of Alfredo Quintana in black and white.
Emerging nation of world handball in recent years (6th at Euro 2020, beating France in the process), Portugal imagined approaching their TQO in the position of an extremely dangerous outsider to obtain one of the two tickets for Tokyo. distributed in Montpellier from Friday to Sunday, against France, Croatia and Tunisia.
But everything changed on February 22 ...
An emotion rising to the top of the Portuguese state
Before starting the warm-up with FC Porto, Alfredo Quintana, 32, suffered a cardiac arrest.
Transferred to a hospital in Porto, he died four days later, plunging all handball fans, in Portugal and far beyond, in sadness.
"I want to think that all together we will succeed in reacting to what is, with certainty and for all of us, the worst defeat that we have had in our life in sport," said coach Paulo on the day of his death. Pereira, in an interview with Portuguese radio
“He will be missed a lot.
We must accept it and have sufficient strength to continue, ”he continued at the microphone of
The emotion rose to the top of the State, since on the site of the Presidency of the Republic, the President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa greeted a sportsman who "won a rare respect and admiration among his peers. "
“I remembered the moments of joy he conveyed on the pitch. It was a good example for young people. ”
“I remembered the moments of joy he conveyed on the pitch.
It was a good example for young people. ”
Luc Abalo, too, was moved when talking about a player he had met several times on a field: “Even if I only knew him as an opponent, it touched me a lot when I learned of his disappearance.
It made me think a lot, especially on the fact that handball is a big family.
I respected him a lot, for his level of performance but also for the humanity he gave off on the pitch.
Quintana showed a lot of motivation.
I remembered the moments of joy he conveyed on the field.
It was a good example for young people. ”
In the group of twenty Portuguese players selected by Pereira to go to Montpellier, half play at FC Porto, club where Quintana has played since 2010. He had gradually raised the team to the highest European level by participating in the Champions League for several seasons.
Of Cuban origin, like other “Heroes of the sea” (nickname of the Portuguese selection) such as Alexis Borges, Daymaro Salina or Victor Iturriza, Quintana was naturalized in 2014. By his incredible flexibility and his reflexes, he fueled compilations of the most spectacular saves and had become one of the best goalies on the planet.
"You can be sure that here we will continue to honor your memory.
You will live forever in each person who has had the privilege of having you in their life.
I am sure that you will always watch over us and be our guardian angel, ”Iturriza, FC Porto pivot, wrote on his Instagram account.
“The whole group feels the lack of Alfredo Quintana” but “all the players are mentally ready to qualify,” said Tremblay's right winger, Pedro Portela.
“The game against Portugal worries me a bit, to be honest. I would not like to play our qualification on this last match. "
“The game against Portugal worries me a bit, to be honest.
I would not like to play our qualification on this last match. "
It remains to be seen how the Portuguese will react on the ground to this tragedy.
A first element of response came from the FC Porto match won (38-31) a week ago against the Norwegians of Elverum in the Champions League.
An "exceptional response", according to coach Paulo Pereira, who hopes for "something identical" during the TQO, placing "total confidence" in the goalkeepers - yet inexperienced at high international level - called to replace Quintana in the Portuguese cages .
Abalo hopes in any case that Portugal will be able, in Montpellier to show their best face: “It's a very hard test for them, even if it can also motivate them, push them to surpass themselves.
We must not take into account their emotion, however legitimate it may be.
We have to play our handball and ignore it.
Now, I hope that on this TQO, this drama will motivate them more than the other way around.
Because even for us to face a team that would be dejected after such a loss, it would not be very fair.
So I wish them to qualify with us. ”
For his part, the other French right winger, Valentin Porte, wants to be suspicious: “The match against Portugal (Sunday) worries me a bit, to be honest.
I would not like to play our qualification on this last match.
They lost Alfredo, which made me very sad, like everyone who knew him.
Afterwards, you know, when something so dramatic happens, often behind you play with extra soul, at a level that you don't expect.
Suddenly, I do not believe that Portugal will appear diminished, but on the contrary I see this team using - in quotes - this pain to be even better. ”
Beginning of response this Friday with a first match that promises to be decisive for the Portuguese against Tunisia, a priori the most affordable opponent for them.
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