We interviewed the star of CN Atlètic-Barceloneta, one of the most talented players in the world, Felipe Perrone. The Spanish-Brazilian participated in the first campus of BIWPA back in 2014, at the high performance center CAR Sant Cugat. Now, some weeks before the 5th anniversary, he talks about the evolution of BIWPA and goes over some of the current issues.
In 2014 we had the pleasure of having you on our first-ever camp, the Easter camp at the high performance center CAR Sant Cugat. What are your memories?
My memories are from a group of people who were very excited to launch a new project called Barcelona International Water Polo Academy (BIWPA). It was the first year and I think I have to make special reference to Cristina here, who was clearly very motivated with the whole project. And all the kids were crazy about the experience they were about to live. To define it well, I think it was water polo in its essence. The children were very excited about the camp, and they had by their side a group of professionals who were really enjoying what they did.
At that time you saw the start of BIWPA and, of course, nobody knew how far it could go. Did you ever thing that BIWPA could grow so much?
From the beginning I saw that BIWPA would go beyond that first Easter Camp, especially after talking to the people who were behind the initiative: Quim, Cristina, Yuri… Additionally, having played in many places in the world, I always saw a demand of people who wanted to improve their level of play, improve as water polo players, and were in love with Barcelona. And that is a perfect combination.
I think the first camp was more than just desire and enthusiasm. I could also see that the organization and the staff were great. And this is something that we often lack in our sport. We always ask for better organization, more developed projects in terms of marketing, etc. From the beginning it was clear that the BIWPA proposal was different than what we were seeing in our sport.
What are your thoughts on BIWPA’s development and what do you think is the best service?
Back in the first Beach Water Polo tournament in Palamós in August 2017 I spoke with the organizers and I told them that this type of events and initiatives are the step forward that our sport was asking for. I think this is the first thing that stands out at BIWPA. The athletes taking part in the BIWPA events know for a fact that there will be a high-quality staff, quality teaching and, above all, an organization that works perfectly.
This is something that all parents in the world seek out. Having their children somewhere they are able to live the dream of learning water polo with other children from different parts of the world, living a unique experience. Besides, they also have the guarantee that BIWPA is a top-tier company and will take care of their children.
At the global level, what do you think about the role of private companies in the water polo world, besides federations and clubs?
I see it as fundamental and I think this has been a very important step in our sport, in which BIWPA has played a very important role. The federations and clubs have seen that structurally they are not able to manage the organization of certain events. And here is where private companies have an important role, they have the necessary structure, the know-how and the expertise to carry out this type of events.
We have always said that the problem with water polo is not the rules, but the presence of an organization, a way of doing events, a marketing project… I think private companies are proving that they can take care of events as huge as the Barcelona European Championships or the events that BIWPA leads.
What can these private companies offer that clubs and federations cannot?
First, the creation and development of events. Planning events of the highest quality, with a more complete structure and organization. Second, the camps. Private companies have a structure and more resources, such as BIWPA and other companies, while federations are involved in many other things.
Finally, I think the Academy is great and very unique. In many clubs, they have children that would love to have more practices, but they cannot because they don’t have the space or enough coaches. And that’s why I think the Academy is offering something incredible. Not only at a Spanish level, worldwide, in all the places I’ve lived, Brazil, the United States, etc. there are always these athletes who dream of being able to devote more to water polo and cannot because there is no structure for this. But the BIWPA Academy offers them a solution.
How important do you think is Barcelona for water polo worldwide?
Barcelona is one of the world’s water polo capitals. And this type of initiatives and events emphasizes Barcelona as a city of water polo. Also, I think events are very important for the popularization of our sport, especially among kids. The first edition of the HaBaWaBa Spain, together with the Europeans, was something that left its mark. And the players saw how people were following the Europeans. We noticed this passion even on the streets. I think this is great news for the growth of water polo. And the fact that it happened in Barcelona make me feel proud.
You have played in many other places in the world: Croatia, Italy … What can Barcelona offer that you have not seen in other places?
Barcelona, perhaps Budapest, Belgrade … Few cities have so many pools and a structure that offers so many possibilities to a team or a player. It happens to me very often when there are teams from Brazil who ask, “where are we going to train?”, “Where can I develop as a player?”. In Barcelona there are plenty of clubs, a great education system, and it is a very appealing city culturally and with a good standard of living. All these together make Barcelona one of the best options for water polo.
We are recently seeing important changes in the way of understanding water polo, as is the case of Pro Recco, with its tour in the Champions League, or the Spanish Swimming Federation: Do you think that there is a revolution in the world of water polo?
I think so. The truth is that we are always very critical with water polo, but it is true that steps are being taken and we are starting to see the outcomes. However, I think we are a little late and we have to run against time, but very important steps have been taken. We can talk about the agreement with Premaat of the Spanish Federation, the live broadcasts and the league being shown as a product. Also LEN and FINA are working in this direction. I think there is a tendency in all structures to develop the marketing part and offer water polo as a product and not simply as a sport.
The new rules are already a reality. Do you think they will work out?
Honestly I haven’t played with the new rules yet and it’s hard for me to give an opinion… But from what I’ve talked to some people, they say that it does not change water polo so much, but it makes it more dynamic and faster. Players who have played under the new regulations have good impressions so far.
The only negative part that I see is that we are asking for a more dynamic and more intense sport and the breaks have been reduced a lot. And I think that will punish a lot of players, especially in long competitions, such as Europeans or World Cups, and especially the Olympic Games, where teams have only 11 players. Fewer players, more dynamic, less rest. Maybe that’s the only comment I have.
Is there a change that you think can benefit you for your game?
I believe that the foul in six meters will be the biggest change. Many players will find it more difficult to score goals, but on the other hand the fact that they can get the ball and continue attacking will imply a completely different gameplay. We’ll have to make a change of mindset, both the players and the goalkeeper.
As for the national team, how is the team after the success of Barcelona?
Spanish men’s water polo needed such success. It was a dream come true in Barcelona, an unforgettable memory, the Bernat Picornell swimming pools full of people, our fans cheering up and shouting… Almost all of us talk about one of the most beautiful moments of our sports career. But now, after this success comes the most difficult thing, which is to stay up there. We have the advantage of having many players who play many high level matches during the season, we are a young team and we live it all with great enthusiasm, without putting too much pressure on us. When you live things like Barcelona every day that you train you remember this and you work hard to achieve this feeling again.