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INTERVIEW: The upcoming Match of the Week will be a particularly special occasion for Montpellier's Gilberto Duarte, who faces a Porto side he represented for nine years
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Gilberto Duarte returns home

FC Porto Sofarma’s match against Montpellier HB on 2 November is set to be a special occasion as Match of the Week, but it will be even more special to the guest side’s left back Gilberto Duarte, who returns to face the club he played nine seasons with.

In his time with Porto, he achieved the historic mark of seven consecutive national championships, two super cups and one league cup.

“It was a good time with a lot of good memories.

“It will be something I can only feel when I enter the arena, but when the game begins, all these sensations will be put aside,” says Duarte.

When asked if Porto is a stronger team now than when he played there, Gil does not get drawn into making comparisons.

“The most important thing is that we will find a strong team, which at home have proven to be very competitive. But we will go with the aim of bringing a victory home.

“One of Porto's weapons is playing 7 vs 6 in attack, but they have proven that they can play 6 vs 6 at a great level."

How it all began

Duarte’s sporting journey began in Lagoa, in the Algarve. Karate was his first passion, but he soon realised that it was through handball he could make an impact.

However, it was not all a bed of roses in Duarte's career. If this were so, the brilliance of his journey and overcoming setbacks would be lost.

The first time the Portuguese international went to train for FC Porto they did not choose him. However, things changed on the following year and Gilberto began to represent the colours of a club where he spent a truly unforgettable decade. With his unmistakable style, his braids and many a goal from another galaxy, the 29-year-old left a sweeping legacy in the city of Porto.

Eventually, Portugal was too small for Gil's talent and Orlen Wisla Plock was the next stop. Despite not being able to win a Polish title, he displayed his talents on a European level and took the quality of Portuguese handball across borders.

Last season, the left back travelled to Barcelona to play in one of the biggest teams in the world, where they won all there was to achieve in Spain and reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

“Need to look forward”

Montpellier, his new home, is one of the great French teams and a club which shocked the handball world with their run to European glory in 2018.

“Moving to another country is never easy, but I am already used to the new routines and the game model,” explains Duarte.

At the back of his mind, alongside everyone in Portuguese handball, is the fact that Portugal will take part in EHF EURO 2020, ending a 15-year-spell without a presence at a major championship, another proof of the sport’s growth in the country.

“At an international level, Portuguese handball is growing. However, we need to look forward, you cannot just look at three clubs.”

Looking forward is something Duarte is clearly focused on as he aims to “continue winning titles and be present at more international competitions for Portugal.”

TEXT: Tiago Nogueira / cor