We have to lose some respect for opponentsArticle
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INTERVIEW: As his first season in the VELUX EHF Champions League draws to a close, FC Porto goalkeeper Hugo Laurentino speaks about the experience and what his side needs to do to make a bigger impact in the future

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Men's News

We have to lose some respect for opponents

Southern Portuguese habitants are known for their slowness and laziness, well FC Porto’s goalkeeper Hugo Laurentino might have those characteristics, but he certainly does not show them on the handball court.

When he gets between the posts there is nothing else in his mind, that calm personality just goes away, nothing else exists but the handball match, this is how he describes the sensation.  

The 29-year-old is from Évora, loves to fish and go hunting and likes to take naps everyday, as he says it helps him restore his energy quickly, so he is ready to get back to one of the sport that matters most for him - handball.

When he began playing handball, his coach sent him in goal because he was too chubby and short. It was like destiny mixed with irony, as his father and brother were also goalkeepers. At the age of 16 he travelled to the north of the country to play in Porto, when he realised that he could really be a top class keeper and since then he never let his dreams run away, winning titles and reaching the highest level a Portuguese goalkeeper has achieved.

This season he accomplished one of them, which was to play in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but as we will see below, he still has some important goals to fight for.

As he meets ehfcl.com after practice, his serenity comes with him, yet not without the thrill of speaking about this years competition, a feeling which was well present throughout our interview, that even had an unexpected and curious guest, Mick Schubert.

ehfCL.com: Only two games left. What’s your mentality going into them?

Hugo Laurentino: We want to show everyone that we didn’t come here to be last, so we will give our best to do that. Also, there’s the extra motivation to play in Kiel’s arena, which is something I personally think every handball player wishes to do, this will certainly be a great experience for all of us.

ehfCL.com: Your participation is almost over this season, is there room to improve next year?

Hugo Laurentino: Of course there is. If we look at the age average of our team we only have three players over 25, so there is plenty of room for improvement. If we had started playing this competitions four or five years ago maybe things would be a lot different. I truly believe that next year we can do much better with the experience we gained with this seasons’ Champions League.

ehfCL.com: Looking at the stats now, in Group B FC Porto is the team which concedes the most goals, yet in any other group, would have at least three teams conceding more. What does this tell you?

Hugo Laurentino: Well, we have Kiel and Kielce in our group, who could win the title this season. I think we had a bit of bad luck in the draw by the way, playing Kiel and Kielce in the group phase. Maybe we are forced to open up our defence a bit more with these teams playing as fast as they do. For example, in our last match we scored 30 goals; we would never lose a match here in Portugal with these numbers.

ehfCL.com: What does FC Porto need to change to do better?

Hugo Laurentino: We are working in the right direction, maybe the crucial factor is to lose the respect we have for our opponents. We are used to see our adversaries on the internet and tv, so I think we have too much respect for them, if we do that and let the respect be mutual, we can do much more damage.

ehfCL.com: What about playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League, was is a dream for you?

Hugo Laurentino: It was one of my main objectives as a handball player of course, to play in this competition, one of the best in our sport’s world, and competing here with FC Porto where I spent my best days, my other family that helped me achive the level I have today. 

Another major goal is to play an EHF EURO or World Championship with my National team, something that we still have yet to achieve.

ehfCL.com: Was it a shock to face clubs at this level after so many years competing in the domestic competitions?

Hugo Laurentino: Not a shock in a bad way because it’s these kinds of big matches we want to play in our careers, nobody needs to motivate us to do that, as we play against our idols. The bigger contrast was definitely the physical one, once most of the teams are much heavier and taller, and despite having very competitive matches here in Portugal against Benfica and Sporting, it’s nothing compared to Kielce or Kiel for example. 

Then it’s difficult to get back to our reality in the domestic league, because  I would love to play all the matches with the same intensity as there is in the Champions League games.

ehfCL.com: Speaking about idols, who are yours?

Hugo Laurentino: I love to watchThierry Omeyer (Montpellier), he is definitely my favourite. We exchenged thoughts last summer in Croatia (training centre) and he helped me a lot. Lately also started to look into Saric (Barcelona) who plays differently to everybody else and has success.

ehfCL.com:  When did you realise you could be a good goalkeeper?

Hugo Laurentino: It started as a kid, when I was short and a bit too fat to play up front, so my coach sent me to the goal. I realised that I could be a decent keeper when I was invited to come to Porto and train here. Then I started to be called for the youth national teams, which made me see that I could build my life as a handball goalkeeper.

ehfCL.com: Every goalkeeper needs a string of madness, do you have it in you?

Hugo Laurentino: I guess  so. That and a lot of courage, which is something I’m sure all my goalkeeper colleagues share with me. In the games I don’t hide my head, in fact, I even try to get saves with it when I see that’s the only way to go, but not in practice, I’m not that crazy.

We cannot fear the shots, we always have to attack the ball and not the opposite. Against Wisla Plock, Marcín Wichary was hit in the face by Ferraz and he got up like it was nothing, rejoicing his team. Well the day before I was in the same situation and had to stop for a while.

ehfCL.com: Was there any player that you just could not handle?

Hugo Laurentino: So far the wingers from Kielce, Cupic and Strlek were the ones giving me more headaches, because I never knew what they were going to do.

ehfCL.com: Still, you were able to get into the top 5 saves of the round selection.

Hugo Laurentino: It’s true; at the time I didn’t think I was that fast with my leg, but when I woke up the next day and I had my wife telling me I got into the list, and everyone in the arena congratulating me it made me very proud to get there.

ehfCL.com: Do you feel better as a goalkeeper after this experience?

Hugo Laurentino: I do, and the main thing I’ve learned was that we can’t lower our arms, otherwise the other team wil punish us. Take our early second half’s performance as an example, when we concede a lot of goals in a short period of time. 

It’s also clear that the teams have a consistent style of play, they keep the same level of play; instead we have very good periods and very bad periods, that’s what we have to fix. 

TEXT: Carlos J. Santos / cor