Parrondo: “We are a better team now than when we played Barça before”Article
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INTERVIEW: His task seemed everything but easy after his arrival at the start of the season, but coach Roberto Parrondo has led Vardar to their third straight appearance at the VELUX EHF FINAL4

Parrondo: “We are a better team now than when we played Barça before”

He succeeded Raul Gonzales on Vardar’s bench with plenty of changes in the roster and for many it seemed like a mission impossible for the Macedonian champions to keep their spot among Europe’s elite.

However, Roberto Garcia Parrondo, like a ‘magician,’ found a solution for every hurdle his team faced this season. The result? Vardar are playing at their consecutive VELUX EHF FINAL4 tournament this weekend.

No wonder that Parrondo has been nominated for coach of the VELUX EHF Champions League All-star Team 2018/19. Fans can vote for all him and all 50 nominated players and coaches exclusively in the relaunched VELUX EHF FINAL4 app, which is available to download for iOS and for Android devices.

Speaking with, Parrondo reveals the secrets behind his team’s success and why this time Vardar could be able to beat Barça Lassa in the semi-final. Last year as an assistant coach you were in Budapest, now as a head coach in Cologne. Can you compare the coaching of the women’s and the men’s team?

Roberto Parrondo: We had a very good season with Vardar’s women team last season. We missed luck in the final match and that is why we finished second in the Champions League. I must outline that the players are very professional in both teams and the differences between the teams are of physical nature. When you took over Vardar, they were no longer considered as favourites in the VELUX EHF Champions League. What do you think was crucial for Vardar to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 again?

Roberto Parrondo: The result that we achieved is thanks to the hard work that we put in every day and it is really good to see the level we have reached. At the beginning of the season a lot of players took new roles in the team and step by step the team was improving a lot in all aspects of handball. We have seen a big improvement from Gleb Kalarash, who signed for the club two or three weeks after the beginning of the training and who had difficulties to adapt to our game, but at this point he is a key player in our team. Dainis Kristopans and Daniil Shishkarev are both playing defence in central and back positions, and Igor Karacic and Stojanche Stoilov make an extra effort by playing in offence and defence. All the players in this team are playing a crucial role and I only have positive words for all of them. Vardar faced many injuries throughout the season. How hard was it for you to find the right tactics?

Roberto Parrondo: During the pre-season Sergei Gorbok tore his cruciate ligament and we lost him for more than six months. Rogerio Moraes and Vuko Borozan had problems from last season with their knees and they also underwent surgery. Unfortunately we couldn’t count on the full squad during the whole season, but the rest of the players realised they had to give their maximum in order to replace the injured players. We were preparing for all the matches with the players we had, trying to play in the best way so we could achieve victories. All teams at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 have Spanish coaches. What is so special about them?

Roberto Parrondo: I don't know. I use to say I have no problem in spending hours thinking about handball. Preparing trainings, videos, exercises, movements, etcetera. I think it is the most important to work constantly. Being coach of Vardar means feeling the pressure of getting good results from the ‘red-black army’ of fans. How do you handle this pressure?

Roberto Parrondo: Vardar’s supporters are incredible. The atmosphere in Jane Sandanski is amazing and they make everything easier when we play in Skopje. This country deserves to have a great Vardar team for many years. Recently you won the Macedonian championship but failed to win the cup. How could that happen?

Roberto Parrondo: The most important focus for the club is the Champions League and the Macedonian championship. We got news from the club that everybody had to search for a team for next season. We reached the EHF FINAL4 after defeating Szeged, but in the next week the players needed time to think about their future. We were not focused on the cup matches, and that is the reason why we lost. I cannot say anything bad about this, because the effort all players made during the last three weeks has been incredible. How does the uncertainty of the club’s future affects the team?

Roberto Parrondo: I could speak about a lot of things about that happened, but at the moment the most important thing is to emphasize our results. We are going to play in the EHF FINAL4, the tournament in which all the teams want to play, and that is the only thing that matters at this moment and we are all focused on this. During the group phase, Vardar lost twice against Barça Lassa. What should Vardar improve in order to go one step further?

Roberto Parrondo: We have to play good in offence and defence from the beginning until the end if we want to win. I like to think that we are a better team now than when we played against Barça before, so I hope we can show this in Cologne. Who do you think has the biggest chances to win the VELUX EHF Champions League this year?

Roberto Parrondo: Barça, Vardar, Kielce and Veszprém. All four teams! What about your personal goals this season?

Roberto Parrondo: The only thing that matter is that we are going to play at the EHF FINAL4 and I cannot think of something else. When the first match is over, I will focus on the next goal.

TEXT: Amina Idrizi / ew