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Felipe Perrone: "In water polo, camaraderie is a way of survival"


The oldest player of the Spanish national team reflects on the nature of his sport on the eve of the World Cup final that will face him this Sunday against Italy in Budapest

Felipe Perrone, during the World Cup semifinal, against Croatia. MARTON MONUS (REUTERS)

"People don't even imagine the underwater life that exists on the Barceloneta breakwater, in the very port of Barcelona, ​​or in front of Poble Nou, where I live," says Felipe Perrone Rocha, alias


, who was born in Rio de Janeiro a few years ago. 36 years old and living in Spain since he was a teenager.

“With age”, he warns, “it is costing me, because I come home very tired;

But whenever I can I go to the sea and make sure I eat!”.

The raucous laughter of the oldest player on the Spanish water polo team impregnates the surrounding atmosphere with a joyful aroma of saltpeter.

Perrone is the bosun on coach David Martín's ship.

This Sunday in Budapest (8:00 p.m., they will play their third Water Polo World Cup final against Italy.


When did she catch her first octopus?


She was about ten years old.

I grew up near Copacabana beach.

If there were waves, to surf, if there were no waves, to fish.

I had a little corner, next to a stone that is just behind the Sugar Loaf.

I got to know every stone and every octopus.


Do you feel like a fisherman rather than a water polo player?


That is the question.

What came first?

The ball or the octopus...?

To be in the water and be able to think and decide, you first have to be comfortable.

If you are not comfortable in that environment, you are more aware of coordinating and surviving than thinking.

And spearfishing also has a bit of this: it's almost like a meditation.

You are in a state of



You can't think about other things, about moves and problems.

If you learn to manage it, if you don't obsess over the mistakes you could have avoided or what you could have done but didn't, water polo is as absorbing as spearfishing.


Can there be


in 20 square meters of water where there are seven players who are trying to make the other seven sink?


The trick is learning to live with this.

Get that when the Serbian is fucking you, you can think.

Water polo has this very specific point.

In football you see Messi take the ball and decide a play with his actions.

In basketball it is the same.

But in water polo you constantly depend on someone to give you a pass.

This creates a stronger connection with your peers.

You end up building a friendship because in the water you depend a lot on the people around you.


After a training session, Roger Tahull, who was sunbathing in the water with his back against the edge of the pool, grabbed Granados by the arm to push him towards the ladder as if he were a child.

He must have sensed his partner's fatigue and helped him, without thinking or looking at him.


In the selection we have created this culture.

A way of living sport like this.

There is a capitalist discourse of individualism, that if you plug it in and score the goal you are the good one, and if not, no.

But this is not about everyone looking at their own company.

This is teamwork.

And it is a culture.

Then the results are something else.

But the water and the characteristics of the sport prevent you from being individualistic.

In a high-level match, the feeling of camaraderie is a form of survival because the rivals sink you.

David is a coach of this style.

I played with him when he was captain.

I'm short [1.83m] and he was even shorter [1.78m], and he had this way of seeing sport as something collective in which everyone should help each other.

In team sports in Spain there is a sense of defense and dynamic, fast play.

In football it's a bit the other way around because the regulations allow you to have possession indefinitely.

But in handball, basketball and water polo the high pace is set by defending.


Do you feel like a coach in the water?


I talk a lot.

Communication in the water is not easy because you cannot hear all the time.

But I have built a relationship of trust with my colleagues and also with David.

David creates the scenarios, the tools, and he gives us the information, and I try to apply it in the water.


Do you use any code to be more understandable in less time?


We use numbers, a bit like in basketball.

Each play has a number that we associate with the positioning of all the players.

They are scenarios that we have trained and apply at different times in the games.

Between David shouting outside and me shouting inside, we are situating ourselves.


One of the characteristics of your game is the defensive ability to close spaces to the opponent.

Do you feel safer when the rival corners you with the ball?


There is a common characteristic in Spanish sport: handball, basketball, hockey... They all have a dynamic game.

We use defense to go on the counter.

Since Rollán's generation we have seen a defensive intensity that allows us to go on the counterattack.

That's why we enjoy a lot without the ball: because we know that if we defend we'll make them swim.

We will tire them.

That is our style and it is very effective especially against Croatians, Serbs or Hungarians, who are taller, heavier and stronger.

When we take them to this horizontal and movement game we make them suffer, and all part of our defense.

We say: “Let them go to 200 keystrokes and see how they think now!”.


Spain specializes in closing around their goalkeeper, Unai Aguirre, in order to reduce the shooting angles of rivals and thus reduce the size of the goal.

Isn't this





This is a hallmark of Spanish sport.

When I watch a handball match and I see them defend, they know that this is what will allow them to be dynamic in attack, that the match doesn't stop, that the game is vertical.

I have been lucky enough to play in Croatia and Italy, and in Spain there is a sense of team around defense and dynamic, fast play.

In soccer it's a bit the other way around because the team that defends often does so to get behind and protect the legs of their players, so as not to get tired.

Because in soccer the regulations allow you to have possession indefinitely and not in water polo.

We, especially the Spaniards, are more of aerobic muscle fibers, than non-explosive ones.

That is why Spanish teams in all sports always try to keep up with the rhythm of the game.

What happens is that in water polo you set the pace defending as much as attacking.

When we defend we are more dynamic because we force the opponents to move to receive the ball, and that is where we start to dominate.

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Source: elparis

All sports articles on 2022-07-03

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