It’s any given Thursday. The cars are piled up on the outskirts of the Palau d’Esports de Granollers while the parents snort and hundreds of children take the opportunity to devour the sandwich and, on the run, enter the changing rooms to change. They are in a hurry because they can watch the training of the first men’s handball team for a while, a squad that has done a lot with very little, second in the League in the previous year as well as in this one, devastating in its stadium — it has only lost twice this season and one against Barça that, they say, does not count because it is not from the same league—, in addition to being in the round of 16 of the EHF European League and in the Asobal Cup, which is taking place this weekend in León. The success of Fraikin Granollers is not by chance; handball is breathed in the industrial city of 70,000 inhabitants.
“You always see children with handballs on the street. People have sucked it since they were children and they pass it on to the next generations. He is in our DNA, ”explains Antonio Rama, Fraikin’s coach, who came to the club at the age of 11 and went through all the teams except the professional one. “It is a tradition here that the first sport in schools is handball,” adds Antonio García, the team captain. “It is that Granollers is not understood without handball and vice versa. We have been champions of Spain, the first to win a European Cup (’76 Cup Winners’ Cup) and also the only ones with the men’s and women’s teams in the Division of Honor”, Alfred Serra, president of Fraikin, proudly resolves. Behind them, there are 35 teams and 500 players, a structure that is becoming professional again after years of hardship in which it entered into bankruptcy. “Since we entered, a year and a half ago, there has not been a single month that the players did not get paid. Our motto is that the viability of the club must be prioritized above all else”, points out Serra; “But we need help from companies and institutions, even though we have two great sponsors who are very loyal, since Fraikin has been with us for 18 years and KH-7 has been with us for 23. That and the fact that the City Council subsidizes us [y le deja el pabellón para su uso y disfrute], together with something from the Higher Sports Council (CSD) and the minimum television rights…, makes us maintain the structure”. Thus, the club’s budget is 1.7 million and the salaries of the men’s first team reach 520,000 euros, compared to 300,000 for the girls. Insufficient to retain or renew players.
The example has been given in this winter market, when Barcelona signed the star Pol Valera. “They play in the Champions League and offer much more money. We cannot reproach him for anything ”, accepts Rama. “Barça changes his life economically and in sports. We all would have done the same. Of course, perhaps Barça could have saved buying it in the middle of the season; They don’t get as much benefit until the end of the course as the damage they do to us”, laments García. “But let them sign him”, they agree; “It means we’re doing it right.” Especially the quarry work.
There are plenty of trainers for all the teams and each one of them is sponsored by a professional player from the male or female squad, who comes by once every two weeks to lead the training. “If we continue at the top, it’s thanks to the quarry,” says García, who when he leaves handball – he is 38 years old – longs to continue as a coach at the club. “We are the best academy in Spain,” adds Serra emphatically, recalling that in the last World Cup six Spanish players passed through the club, while delving into the values of the entity, as it reaches agreements with companies so that they grant scholarships to those guys who want to play and can’t afford it. “Our base is the youth academy and we compete because we have guys who in their final years of contract end up performing well above the value they have, than what they are being paid,” says Rama, who has been in charge of the club for five years in a row. more than any other technician in the category.
The mess comes with the signings. “We have to reinvent ourselves every year because of the leaks we have. And I already know that the first response is that it is very expensive, although I also know how the club works and where we can get to”, agrees Rama, who points to those players in his agenda who aspire to reach a Champions League team or the national team, who understand Granollers as a springboard. “This way they will give their best during the time they are here,” he clarifies. Like Yusuf, on loan from the German Kielce, who is shining in the season despite his 18 years.
Although there is another underlying problem. “When I started playing, everything was much more professional. The players were exclusively handball players, ”complains García, who is a sports councilor for Llagosta. Rama, for example, is head of the City Council’s sports facilities services, and the player Oriol Rey is a doctor and Joan Amigó is a consultant. The rest study. “But this team is very professional,” remarks García; “With my example they see that you can get a nice career. And they have the humility to see that if I do it, so do they. He trains long and hard. In addition, the coach is demanding and has a winning character”. He picks up the witness Rama: “The mantra we transmit is discipline. In matches you have to do what must be done, I don’t want anyone to go off script. And sacrifice ourselves for the team. Because what I don’t tolerate is a player who puts his role before that of the team”. And those who do not comply, pay a fine —also for being late or seeing cardboard for protesting—, which will be used to celebrate a dinner at the end of the year.
But the team responds wonderfully. “It is a miracle because we are the shortest squad, since we only have 13 professional players. But it is no longer just the classification, but how we play, better and better and with many alternatives, ”García slides. “In attack I want us to be very organized, not to be anarchy, although there must be a point of creativity and genius. And in defense we have to be very intense, I like to steal the ball, go on the counterattack”, explains Rama, who always does video sessions two days before the games. One to see how they should defend and another for how to attack.
Now it’s time for Ademar Abanca in the semifinals of the Asobal Cup and, if they win, surely Barça, who will face Cuenca. But before the game, surely Esteban Salinas will find the moment for him to crack the cork with his jokes and that the music will be played by Yusuf (African, French and rap) and Sergi Franco (reggaeton). And then, all together, they will make a melee to sing the anthem of the cheering stands —Granollerí Pride— as a spur More than anything because they know that there is no other, because there is no money for premiums. And the next day, after training, there will be queues of cars again at the exit of the Palau d’Esports, the children happy to play handball.
The Asobal Cup
Saturday March 18. semifinals
FC Barcelona- REBI Handball Cuenca (6:00 p.m.)
ABANCA Ademar León – Fraikin Granollers (8:30 p.m.)
Sunday March 19. Final
The winners of each semifinal (7:30 p.m.).
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