From Cuba to Europe’s top tableArticle
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FEATURE: Two of FC Porto's Cuban contingent speak about the massive differences in handball culture and their development as player's in the VELUX EHF Champions League

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Men's News

From Cuba to Europe’s top table

Cuba is not known as a force in world handball, but the nation is second only to Portugal in the number of representatives (four) in the Futebol Clube do Porto squad this season.

Alfredo Quintana and Yoel Cuni Morales moved to Portugal in 2011 to join the club and both are enjoying the sport and a social reality very different from the one they left behind in Cuba.

In addition to the cultural differences, Cuban handball is also very different from what is common in Portugal and Europe. The FC Porto players tell that they trained six to seven hours a day, but were playing a “very old, like in the 80s and much slower" handball, just one of many gaps.

"In Cuba we only have the national team and we don't have the opportunity to represent a club and play in a championship," explains Cuni Morales.

Alfredo Quintana, who obtained Portuguese nationality last year "to be able to play in the Portuguese national team,” highlights the lack of "recovery conditions between workouts" and says he is very happy with the current training conditions.

For these reasons, both agree that other Cuban players who want to improve their handball feel comfortable coming to Portugal or to other European countries.

"It helped a lot to get to Porto with other Cubans. When I arrived in Portugal everything was new and they helped to overcome the adjustment period,” said the right back.

Growing in the Champions League

For both athletes, coming to Portugal was crucial to have the opportunity to play in the VELUX EHF Champions League and both believe that getting to this level wouldn't be possible if they had not integrated the ‘Dragons’.

"In America, people don't generally follow the VELUX EHF Champions League, only those who know and play the game do. In Europe, it's the opposite and you can watch the matches on television and experience handball at the highest level,” explains Alfredo Quintana.

The goalkeeper and the right back say that because Cuba is such a closed country, European handball isn't watched by the public, adding: "Some friends or family know only because we mentioned it to them.”

Four years after their arrival, the two players have added four national titles with FC Porto and play with European handball's elite. The impact they have made is very positive and both admit that the presence in the competition is helping them grow.

As for the future, they don't exclude the possibility of playing handball in Cuba again. However, there is still the dream of following the example of former FC Porto's players like Tiago Rocha (Wisla Plock), Wilson Davyes (Montpellier) and Joao Ferraz (Wetzlar) and reach even higher on the European stage.

For now, Alfredo Quintana wants to continue to make a difference in goal and Yoel Cuni Morales wants to continue his fine scoring run after finding the net 23 times already this season.

Getting to the next stage of the competition is the main goal for the Cubans and with that may come more interest from family and friends in Cuba.

TEXT: Filipa Sousa / cor