Your browser is not currently set up to accept cookies or check to see if you have another program set to block cookies?
Raúl Entrerríos is one of the best players in the history of handball. Now at 40 years old, he still manages to stay on top. After winning la Copa del Rey and bringing home a bronze medal during the 2021 Handball World Cup, he is enjoying his remaining months as a professional athlete. We interviewed Raúl regarding his career, the relationship he has had with Mizuno and the challenges he still has to face before his brilliant sports journey comes to an end.
Congratulations on your title, it has been your eighth consecutive win in la Copa.
Thank you very much, it’s a very important title for the team. At the beginning of the season we set the goal of trying to win each competition and competing in a special event such as the Copa del Rey and closing it with a new title is very rewarding.
You were also named MVP of the finals.
Raúl: Yes, it was my last participation in the Copa del Rey and playing for Madrid, with the presence of some public, has made it an unforgettable event. Regarding the MVP title, it is something that I value and appreciate, as I have always made this my priority. Handball is a team sport, and I try to do my best for the team and to win as a team.
This title comes just a month after winning the bronze medal in Egypt.
Being among the top three national teams in the world is something very important, especially considering the performance we had in recent years. After being European champions, achieving the podium in the next World Cup is very valuable for the team and for Spanish handball players.
Was it bittersweet, considering you lost in the semi-finals, during the final game?
It's hard to stay out of the fight for gold, especially because of how the game was. We even had the possibility to draw on the last seconds, but not the fortune that you sometimes need in sports. But understanding the value of winning the bronze medal was something the team assimilated from the first moment and it was really important.
“Revenge” can come in Tokyo, the only big competition you have left to conquer.
It is an extraordinary event for any athlete and winning a medal would be something unique. Personally it would be my last competition as an active player and, if I have the privilege of attending, it would be very special to say goodbye with a medal.
Considering the results of the past World Cup, Spain must be one of the favourites.
There is no doubt that Spain will be a competitive team. But we are humble and we understand that all teams want the same thing we do. We have had very good results in recent years and that makes us one of the favourites, but in every tournament, we had to work hard in order to achieve any victory, so you have to understand that negative results can occur. And that makes us understand that if we want to go far in the Olympic Games, we have to work from day one.
“I want to be a competitive player until the last day”
If you don’t have any injury, you’ll become the athlete who has played the longest for the Spanish National Handball team.
It is a privilege and I’m very proud to have participated so many times with the national team. It’s difficult to imagine that you will reach such a figure when you start as a professional, when you think about enjoying your first championship, your second… and so on. Time goes by and you don't realize it because you are involved in the dynamics of competition in a very intense way. I have always thought that maybe I will give it much more value when I close this stage, when I finish my career and look back.
Will the Olympics be your last tournament? Is it a final decision?
Yes, yes, it is decided. The idea was to retire in the previous season, but the situation generated by Covid and the postponement of the Olympics made me reconsider my decision and try to be in Tokyo. And here I am, playing a season that was not planned, a last world championship that was not on paper either and trying to be a competitive player in order to be with the national team again this summer.
It may be difficult to retire when you are at the highest level. What were the factors you considered when making such a decision?
You have to evaluate many things, be prepared for it. I am a veteran player who has been assimilating and understanding for a long time that this moment is going to come, but it is complicated because you close a very important stage in your life. There has been 20 years as a player doing practically the same thing in your daily life, with many routines, living experiences that are repeated season after season and now I have to change and do something different. But at the same time I want to be a competitive player until the last day.
The best is yet to come: Champions League, the final games of la Liga and the Olympics.
Yes, we still have very important goals to come. We are in the Champions League and we hope to be in the Final Four and close la Liga well. At the national team level, the previous EHF Cup competitions we have and of course if I can be in the Olympic Games, it would be something very special that I really want to do.
““I just turned 40 years old and I’m still learning during each game””
It’s a shame that your last season is unpredictable, with all the restrictions caused by Covid.
It’s strange to play in empty arenas, without fans, playing as locals without our people. It is a very unusual year and you have to adapt because there is no other option. People are suffering and we are given the privilege to do our job, so we have to value the opportunity to compete. And personally, this being my last season, encourages me to enjoy it to the fullest. I can not complain.
How do you maintain such a high level at 40 years old?
There are numerous factors. I think the main reason is that I’m still hungry and excited to compete in every game and, above all, the continuous lessons. I have always considered myself a team player, capable of adapting to what my teammates and my coach need. That has led me to have a long career in clubs and in the national team. I just turned 40 and I keep learning in every game and in every training session. There are always little details that you can add to your game and that is essential.
In the last 20 years you have had the time to compete with two generations of players, how has handball evolved?
Now it is much more physical, like all team sports. But at the same time in Spain there is a philosophy and an essence of the game that has been maintained throughout these years which is evident in the national team, the fact of always knowing the value of the group above everything else. That hasn’t changed and it has allowed us to maintain our success.
And what remains of the Raúl Entrerríos who made his debut two decades ago?
For me it has been a constant adaptation, starting with Ademar and Valladolid, two teams with different styles of play. And then I have been in Barcelona for eleven seasons where the system has evolved towards a more athletic model, with more physical and agile players. And I have always tried to adapt, that has been fundamental to have that continuity.
With your club you have won the last 10 leagues and the last 8 Cups, a unique case in any professional sport. What have been the key factors to stay at the top for so long?
We are in a club in which it’s not beneficial to be at second place, you have to aspire to win all tournaments. It has not always been easy at the European level, but during domestic competitions we exceed our expectations. Regardless of whether or not we won the title in the previous season, the team always maintains the ambition.
You have been the captain of both your club and the national team in an absolutely successful period, how would you define your leadership style?
There are different types of leaders. I am a player who likes to work hard, show commitment and be an example on a day-to-day basis. It’s my way of showing younger players that involvement with the team must be consistant both during training and in the games, on and off the court.
“Of all the sports brands I have worked with, I definitely prefer Mizuno”
How important is a captain for the team’s success?
Above all, you must try to ensure that the group has the right chemistry and working environment, this is essential. It’s not enough to have good players that play well, it is about forming a human group capable of overcoming difficulties, of working together, understanding the role of one another to achieve a common goal.
Your career has been linked to Mizuno for many years, how has the collaboration been with the brand?
The best. Of all the sports brands I have worked with, I definitely prefer Mizuno. What I am looking for as an athlete, is a good product that allows me to do my job in the best way possible. In addition to this, Mizuno has always treated me in an exceptional way.
This collaboration has also covered the workshop for children that you organize every year.
Yes, I love having a brand like Mizuno linked to this project. It’s a handball workshop in which we also work on many other aspects such as anti-bullying programs and the promotion of values associated with sports. We want the boys and girls to have a good time in addition to working on handball. But also be responsible citizens within society.
You are currently playing with the Wave Stealth Neo. What details can you share about the shoe?
Because of my position I do a lot of explosive lateral movements, so I need maximum stability and the Wave Stealth Neo guarantees it. In addition, I have always played with the Stealth and it is a model that has been constantly improving, it has become much lighter and it is something that I value very much. There comes a time when you forget about the shoe and that is what all athletes look for, to not worry about the comfort or a possible flaw of the shoe, but to play with full concentration.