A moment with…Albert Rocas ComasArticle
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INTERVIEW: KIF Kolding Kobenhavn's star summer signing speaks about his decision to leave Barcelona, life at his new home club and a new country and plans for the future

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

A moment with…Albert Rocas Comas

Two men, with the same haircut, sit in a store room deep in the bowels of the Brondby Hallen, erstwhile home of AG Copenhagen and now semi-home to KIF Kolding Kobenhavn. Albert has a big game today against Kiel, but still he meets for a heart to heart on moving from sunny climate to the cold and wet of Denmark. He apologises for his English, although why I can’t imagine, and asked me to speak slowly. I tell him that he will be doing all the talking and off we go.

“All my life I wanted to try something different”

In days gone by, it was quite common for handball players from the north of Europe to travel south, to a better league, better prospects and the better weather. Now, however, the trend is changing and Albert won’t be the last to leave Spain. “I always dreamed of playing abroad,” he says. And it wasn’t for him to sit on the bench at Barcelona and see out the rest of his days in relative comfort. He has always liked a challenge and at the age of 31, he felt the need for a new challenge.

“Barcelona was my home, the club that is in my heart”

He admits that Victor Tomas was number 1 in the right wing position and that he had a great relationship with the club. Xavi Pascual believed in him. He wasn’t pushed out, he says, he just needed to turn a page. He always admired the “Dream team” of Valero Rivera of the 90s and it was a wrench to leave. But sometimes you have to close the book.

“Kasper was on the phone every hour, every minute”

Kasper Hvidt was one of the main reasons why he moved north. He wanted a new experience. “You can love pizza, he says, (referring to Barca), but sometimes you just don’t want pizza anymore”. He is very funny. I have never heard anyone refer to Barca as pizza, but you get the meaning.

Kasper, whom he knew from their time in Pamplona and Barcelona, called him endlessly talking of the project in Denmark, a four-year contract beckoned, although he had chances to go to sunnier climes. He wasn’t guaranteed a starting place in the team; he argues that every top pro needs to prove himself in a new arena.

He is currently proving himself in two arenas. One in Kolding, the other in Copenhagen.

“I can’t understand how it works, it just does”

Each section of the team trains in either site depending on where they live and they train twice a week all together. He makes me laugh as he recounts how he has to mentally focus on a home game 240km from home. He lives in Copenhagen and some home matches are in Kolding. And when he shows his stiff legs after the long drive home after a “home” game, you just have to laugh. He really is a very funny guy, quite ironic and extremely witty.

He wonders sometimes what he is doing in Denmark, with its cold climate, expensive coffees and beers and early evenings.

“The worst thing is the light”

For a man, from an outdoor culture, he finds the early evenings and indoor activities quite difficult, but, he admits;

“It’s a good move”

He loves it here, in spite of being separated from family. (His wife and son are currently in Spain and his wife is expecting a second child) She has a big job in Spanish media, but he knows that stability in his sport is also important. He plans to play for his four-year contract and try to overcome the difficulties.

He compares and contrasts the different cultures of handball in various countries through Europe and admits that perhaps Denmark is closer to Spain than most others in terms of the style they play. Perhaps this is why he is fitting in so well. He admires the fans in Denmark who will applaud either team if they have produced some handball worthy of praise. It is very different to Spain he says, where winning is all important.

“It wasn’t just the win, but the kind of win”

He is slightly disillusioned with the situation in Spain, whereby, even after a tremendous World Championship victory on home soil, it still didn’t lead to anything in terms of development of the game at the top. A third place finish at the Euros is good, but nothing has changed in Spain. In fact, it is only when he visits schools in his home country, that his heart is lifted again when he sees the young handball talent and their appetite for the game. It is somewhere he sees himself when his career is over. He knows he will move back to Spain in the future, but in what capacity, it is difficult to say.

From not eating “pizza” anymore, to going to the beach as a pastime in Denmark, he has a wry smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He really is a great pro. There is no doubt in my mind that he finds the move difficult, but you wouldn’t know that watching him on the court. He gives it all for his new team and counts quite a few from among them as great friends. He is taking it all in his stride and working hard to help win medals, definitely in Denmark and maybe in the Champions League. And who knows what might happen. Even shorn of some of their players, they have been a match for all in their group.

He left Barcelona as one of the oldest players and is now in the middle age bracket at Kolding. He has played at the top for well over a decade and is still producing top performances. The top right wing from the Olympic Games in 2008 is still pushing himself to be the best he can be.

From his witty quips on life in Denmark and leaving Barcelona, to his pain at being apart from his family, Albert takes us through the highs and lows of being a pro player. He definitely is Kolding’s gain.

You can listen to the entire interview between Albert and Tom here.

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator