This generation can give us back the dream

The first participation of the Cuban men’s handball team in the Emerging Nations World Cup began and ended in Ecuador in 2019. Then in Georgia they failed to beat the host team in the final. The island team finished the group stage unbeaten in five matches before beating Bulgaria in the semi-finals. The debut was marked by the famous silver medal.

Recently, another duel took place on Bulgarian soil. The Antilles team did not plan to interfere until one day an invitation came. Soon, the players and coaching staff began a competition that was supposed to serve as a test before the Central American and Caribbean Games in San Salvador, held from June to July.

Cuba, without a doubt, was the best team among the twelve participants. Successive victories over Great Britain, Guatemala, Bulgaria and Cyprus in the struggle for the scepter made it possible to achieve each of the goals set. This second experience brought as a prize a title that ranks among the most significant sporting achievements on the island in the first five months of 2023.

Hover Hernandez of Havana (January 13, 1984), technical director of the defending champions, spoke with rebellious youth and noted that it was very pleasant to take first place. “As I said, this performance motivated us a lot and at the same time gave us confidence for the upcoming Central American and Caribbean Games, a fundamental event. Players believe in the planned strategy, which means that we are on the right track. We will continue to work on this direction in order to maintain good results and empathy that exists in the group.

– Jover, honestly and without downplaying the opposite, after the victory over Bulgaria, you almost didn’t feel like you had gold in your pocket, whether it was Cyprus or India as a contender for the title?

Without detracting from the work of India and Cyprus, after defeating Bulgaria we knew that the crown was almost in our hands, since neither of the two opponents, according to the analysis, had the weapons, strategy and players to defeat us. All this a priori. However, the athletes were told that there can be no self-confidence and that they must demonstrate on the court, in a 40 x 20 format, as we always say, the reasons why they called us favorites.

“In the first 10 minutes, the Cypriots put up a great fight, perhaps because the Cubans came out a little confident. For this reason, we asked for a timeout, talked, and from that moment on, the expected result gradually manifested itself. In the end, we beat them with a difference of 10 goals. I think the grouping was not the best because it was almost certain that we would face the host team in the semi-finals, which could very well be a title game. This would make the event more visible, especially the decisive stage.

– The composition of the team showed that Cuba could and won the competition without any problems. The mixture of players included in foreign leagues with the rest, all with outstanding skills, has become an explosive and successful mixture …

We have been working with many of them since 2021. Players like Magnol Suarez and Franck Cordies, who are older and hired by foreign clubs, fit in very well with the dynamics of the squad. There was something that flowed wonderfully and that was the finding of centre-back Christopher Selles, who was the harmony for every match. We’ve had difficulties with centre-backs who get frustrated and sometimes don’t know how to carry themselves, but with Christopher. We have that athlete who provided peace of mind and knew how to run the game from minute zero to minute 60. These are players with physical, psychological and tactical abilities, and each of them was supplemented to receive a scepter.

“Despite every player contributing to the crown, Havana’s Hanser Rodriguez won the cake by being named to the AllStar and becoming the MVP of the championship. Hanser, who was in the 2019 version, has become almost a mature athlete, leader and capable of great things, don’t you think?

– He, no doubt, although a young athlete, but a leader. Of course, he has his own things, sometimes he wants to show a little more than necessary, but yes, he is a leader and for us it is a blessing that he is part of the group. I have been working with him since EIDE and fortunately have seen his entire career up until today. The entire coaching staff is pleased with the development of Hanser at his young age. He is not a team captain, but he is a very charismatic, motivating person with exceptional talent.

– Not so long ago, fans of men’s handball again dreamed of a team that, it would seem, was striving for important results even all over the world. However, happiness was short-lived, and these dreams almost collapsed. What’s happened?

– Around 2017, we had a lot of uncertainty, we had contract athletes, but we did not know if they could play with the national team. As a result, they were with us at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla 2018, where gold was won. However, it was not a very cohesive team, the tournament was easily won, but there was no group cohesion. And this, unfortunately, was noticed at the Pan American Games in Lima in 2019. There, at a higher level than the rest of the team, shortcomings of a collective nature were revealed and the goal of discussing a bronze medal was not achieved. We took fifth place.

“Some of the players who were in Lima after the tournament decided to take a break because they had been in professional leagues for too long and were veteran athletes. Others have decided not to represent Cuba anymore, and all this has led to the fact that today we are building a team that will make you dream again. This generation has all the parameters to do so, as it has already demonstrated at the 2021 Pan American Youth Games in Cali and recently at the U24 Developing Nations World Championship.

“These are young athletes with somatotypical diseases, and some of them are hired in European leagues, and we must clearly understand that tournaments are not won only due to this. Championships are also won because we can meet between courses where our handball players are involved, and because boys can often play together in competitions. This contributes to the maturity that teams need, which can take several years to achieve. Actors such as Brazil, Chile and Argentina have long been featured in the area together.

“It also lets coaches know who they can count on when planning strategies. I repeat, this generation of Cuban handball players has great potential, even to return to our country for the absolute world championship, which is not so easy, but we are working on this basis.

Source: Juventud Rebelde


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