In two weeks, it will be an exact decade since the last national title that Barcelona lost in handball: the 2013 Copa del Rey, in the semifinals against the extinct Atlético de Madrid. Since then, of the 286 matches for the Barça team only in the League, they have only given up two defeats, and one was due to improper alignment (in 2021 against Torrelavega). The other occurred in 2018, against Granollers, with the tournament already won.
These were the accounts (of always) that a majority did, those who disconnected from Asobal due to the great gap between the Catalans and the rest, and only look at this sport with the selection and Barça’s aspirations in the Champions League. Until last Tuesday, Granollers hit a big ball. And this time, without mitigating for the rival. The people from Valles qualified for the Final Four of the EHF European League, the second continental competition, after overwhelming Flensburg from Germany (27-35; they had lost 30-31 in the first leg), one of the roosters of the tournament, from one of the most powerful leagues, and with some players top world, like Jim Gottfridsson or Johannes Golla.
Granollers has already entered the same final phase as in 2016, although this time the ways to achieve it have greatly multiplied the impact. And also because since then years of drought have been accumulating in handball that lives far from the Palau after the real estate crash. A decade that swallowed up giants (San Antonio or Ciudad Real), and left all the clubs except Barça suffocated by the lack of structures and economic hardships.
Difficulties persist and no one within the walls has returned to address the Catalans on first-name terms, but the feat of this history represents the umpteenth vindication of the Spanish game model -despite the financial straits-, and another cry to try to recover part of the ground lost in the League. Even to wonder if it could be a sign that the rest of the platoon is advancing. What nobody doubts is that it should be an opportunity.
“Now the club must take advantage of it,” asks Antonio Rama, the coach of the Valles team
“I want to think that something is moving. The league is becoming more competitive and we are moving towards professionalization”, introduces Antonio Rama (Louro, A Coruña; 40 years old), the coach of the Valles team, overwhelmed by so many congratulations. “But the difficulties must not be denied either. In parallel, we see other news about the flight of players and the little economic injection ”, he adds.
Granollers is an example of the general virtues and difficulties. For the ability to train talent (half against Flensburg were homegrown players) and knowing how to manage it under the direction of a Spanish coach, one of the flags in the eyes of the world. But also because of the little margin in the treasury to retain what it produces. In January Pol Valera left for Barcelona (he gave them the emerging Bruno Reguard in exchange), in the summer the Márquez brothers left, and before that Ian Tarrafeta, Adrià Figueras and Mamadou Gassama did.
“When they take Pol away from you, you have to keep competing. Another thing is that we would have kept that excuse. That’s where we gave Reguard the opportunity, Jan Gurri has made the leap, and we’ve put other youngsters on the fore”, explains Rama, who is also enjoying Antonio García’s (39-year-old) third youth. “If we had more money, we wouldn’t see those below,” continues the Granollers coach, who does not hide the need for more resources to, at least, make the players doubt when they receive a foreign offer. “In the locker room we can’t do more to be seen and talked about. Now, the other levels of the club have to take advantage of it. It’s time ”, he launches as a challenge five weeks before F4, precisely in Flensburg (May 27-28, against Füsche, Göppingen and Montpellier).
The majority, over 1,500 euros per month
Manolo Cadenas, at 68, finds it difficult to guess a promising future. He directed two courses at Granollers (2010-12); His voice brightens when he remembers the feat of his ex – “a victory that he had never even dreamed of”, he says-; and he congratulates himself on the reinforcement that he has provided for the Spanish game; However, the coach of Ademar León describes it as an “isolated event”.
“Since I returned to Spain, four years ago, my feeling is that this is not progressing. The clubs are managed with the money they have, period. The players are leaving and we cannot bring in other high-quality players. We need more promotion and base teams, ”he recounts. “Now, the first one that should take advantage of this is Granollers, who let players out due to budget adjustments. If they can’t, the rest less”, concludes the coach, protagonist of the golden years, when for a quarter of a century, since 1990, Valladolid, León, Ciudad Real, San Antonio, won a title or reached a European final. Handball Aragon, Bidasoa and Granollers, as well as Barcelona.
Manolo Cadenas: “This feat is an isolated event, I see no progress”
A possible path of progress, at least symbolic, could be the recent cataloging of Asobal as a professional League by the Higher Sports Council. The president of the association, Servando Revuelta, explains that, although there is already a collective agreement, the new status requires “eliminating temporary contracts and that all entities are audited.” The ultimate goal will always be to provide itself with large structures, something in which pessimists and optimists agree.
At the employer’s headquarters, for example, eight people now work, between internal and external. “Two more than three months ago”, highlights Revuelta. At the foot of the track, in the Granollers locker room, Antonio Rama slips that salaries range between the minimum interprofessional salary (1,080 euros per month) and 3,000, approximately. Most are around 1,500 on average.
Asobal’s main common source of income is the television contract (over one million), which the employer hopes to renew, always on the condition of having a weekly game on Teledeporte (the rest goes through the LaLiga payment app, from short range). “And we have obtained a sponsor from a large international company (Plenitude) that gives us more money than the previous one (Sacyr). We have two years left on our contract”, underlines Servando Revuelta, for whom the success of Granollers is the endorsement of a “fun, even League, at the forefront by the coaches and with the showcase of Barcelona”. No one disputes the ultimate goal: that Granollers’ feat is worth something.
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