By Xabi Gómez.
Most know you by those successes which gave the Spanish waterpolo in the nineties but also have a very important water polo player baggage.
I’m lucky. At 15 I was in Mexico 1968 Olympic and and that you mark. Later I also went to games Munich 1972 and was European Champion in 1981 with the CN Barcelona, the club of my life, in that final against German Spandau in which Manel Estiarte was a key player despite his youth. I have been Champion of Spain, numerous times selected as an international player, I participated in 4 World Championships … But obviously people remember most from my time as a coach.
By then the Spanish waterpolo be from another galaxy, much less professionalized …
We were in their underwear. It is from Moscow 1980 when there begins to emerge Spain, being among the top six. It is a stage that almost I have to remember black and white (laughs). I remember when I went to CN Barcelona in 1979, had a much Estiarte team worked with and incorporating Salvador Franch in goal. We were head high in Europe until the end that we could break the myth and were crowned champions in the pool of Sant Jordi.
How was the transition from player to coach?
It happened when I was in the CN Helios from 1975 to 1979. He acted as player and coach at a time. Something very hard to do and I swore it would not do. So much so that in 1983 the CN Terrace wanted to sign me with the same role and previous experience of Zaragoza had to refuse. I knew that it would only be a coach, so Terrace accepted my conditions and there began my coaching career.
In the last decade the polo has changed much looking back. What are in your opinion the factors that have influenced this change?
Definitely offensive game terms. I think what they want federations is to enhance this aspect. The fact that the coaches try to out of their boxes to the most offensive players in a clear example. Another aspect I think it was the physical preparation. I think in the preparation of a water polo player, hours of dry and then water, videos, lectures … an elite player devotes six hours a day training. We have come far. When I trained remember we trained three days a week, 1,500 meters and then spent the ball quickly because if we were bored. Has professionalized the game much.
Anyway, we are practically the only sport that periodically change of rules …
Totally. In Sydney 2000 I talked to several professional hockey or other sports like handball and told me that the water polo were about seven days mataos because we played the whole competition. I think I’m the precursor, and this’m proud to have achieved to make watch the Cardinals -as the name of cariñoso- mode, the International that was not feasible so many games in such a short time. In 2003 we did in the World Cup in Barcelona one day a game is played and the other rest. Returning to the subject of the rule change I do not agree that every little change. In football there have been no major changes since its inception and we, we have people that every little change rules. This creates confusion.
In 1994 raisins to be national coach. Why they trusted you?
My first experience as national coach was in 1994 and I remember RFEN president back then Rafael Blanco said after signing for a year this was like a melon, if left would mature green but if left outside. Once I’ve joked that the melon not go so bad. That year the team was a little canned by the previous stage of Dragan and went to Rome and got silver. From this year we link everything. I earned their respect and could make a good team.
Your name is inevitably linked to the generation that won practically everything. What factors are given for those wins?
In this I have always been sincere. We had a single generation. Shall soon to see a selection of this mood. We were near Rome 2009 obtained the silver but it is very difficult. To have the best goalkeeper in the world and the best player in history is something almost unique and current standards. There was an impressive seven holder, incredible talents.
What role does the coach with those stars?
I am proud to have contributed logic and common sense. That is, the coach of FC Barcelona not taught to play Messi. I’m more of Ancelotti Mou, knowing manage a wardrobe and not pretending to have invented the soup. It is my theory. Players who I met had a good work dynamic acquired Matutinovic stage. I continued working but respecting people. We looked a little CCOO, agreeing everything. With that team had to negotiate, negotiations were hard, believe me (laughs).
In 2004 you finish your time as coach and I was struck with statements made to EFE in which you mentioned that nobody bet for you after this and had to emigrate.
That is true. I have millions of defects but I have always been sincere and honest and I think if in Spain envious fly never see the sun. I’ve always been a bit redressed with some people of Spanish waterpolo. In the ten years I was coaching, I always wanted to involve other clubs successes. Because I thought it was a thing of all. I tried, perhaps so too altruistic. Now therefore no longer but eventually if you wanted something, you had to be a little ball and bowing to the presidents of clubs and federations. We must die with dignity. Nobody called me on the phone after my departure from the Spanish bench, except Valencia.
Tell me a little about your stage in Valencia …
I got there thanks to the work of Quim Colet and Chava Gómez. They were two wonderful years. We had a very modest budget but did things very well. The first year was great and the second on budget cuts just by established. Still it is a step which I am very proud.
In 2007 you receive an offer from China, the Big Red Dragon …
I got a call and within 24 hours I decided. It was very hard for me this time especially at first. The first month I remember I had open suitcase several times in case. Another culture, another language, different customs … very hard. Every Friday exam coaches and Chinese managers asking each of my decisions. From an outlet in Australia, I could have more autonomy. Anyway, the players know slaughtered in an exceptional way. 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When was the end of the romance between Joan Jané and China?
In the World Cup 2010 in New Zealand do bronze, playing very well. In 2011 in Shanghai do silver and the sequence in theory, it was gold in London but lost to Australia on penalties in 1/4 finals and this cost them digest. Magic then broke. The professionals need to understand that these things happen.
Now you’re in Colombia, Technical Director of Antioch …
Right. It is going well. This year we won all four categories and it seems that the dynamics is positive. In Colombia guys have some infrastructure but the female section is a pending issue. The selection for its part is in flux with Vladimir Lopez to the head. In Antioch is my second in command but in the national team is the one who holds the reins. Say in flux because at the beginning of my arrival I mentioned that depended in excess of 35 players and gave the opportunity to young people. This year we’ve got three kids of 19, one 17, one 20 and one 21.
In the Central Veracruz, Colombia looked like it could have given more …
We went to Veracruz with an almost junior team because I explained that we must go for the youth as is done in Spain. The goalkeeper for example is 17, almost two meters and is a real sick of waterpolo. In complicated games just playing with this guy despite his youth because the owner Elkin Buitrago not quite play as I expected, I’m very picky. In this sport the trademark tactics depending on the goalie.
How’s water polo in Latin America?
What little I’ve seen there are three teams that are well above the rest and can compete in any international tournament with high head that are USA, Canada and Brazil. The fourth would be Argentina but with the nationalization of Echenique lose much. The rest does what he can because there is no culture. Next year there Pan, see what happens.
Let’s talk about water polo in Spain. How do you see it from afar now?
I’ll be honest because I consider that a sport that has given me everything they deserve. In every sport there is, you have to give a generation to see results. I think the Spanish selection is good but compared to other generations has not been sufficiently extraordinary. You go to war sports very good selections. They have not had the fortune to find Pau Gasol or Manel Estiarte. This is what happened in the male. This is my perception but is making things pretty well. True to stay out of the World has been a disappointment but in European Budapest is lost to the hosts of Hungary. Something that you can not surprise anyone. That’s what we have to analyze.
Do we classify for Rio 2016?
It will be difficult because it coincided the Olympics in a continent outside Europe and Brazil for organizer if you are already classified and the United States win the Pan, and two more countries are leaving Europe with least squares. But this is high competition.
After introduce BIWPA what do you think?
I really love. Hopefully you may have all the luck in the world and engaging people to bring computers to Barcelona. Os I have admired for a project that is hard but nothing in life is easy. Your incentive is to put the willies, that are the ‘crazy little’ those who succeed.