“In Brazil, progress has been eliminated”

Felipe Perrone is an institution in aquatic sports. Member since this summer of Committee of Athletes of the International Swimming Federation (FINA), captain of Atlètic-Barceloneta and the Spanish National Team, has finally tasted success after losing up to four international finals. A dream summer with a world gold and a bronze in the European Championships in Split, a darker November with the first defeat of the Atlètic-Barceloneta in Spain since 2017. And an uncertain future for his country of birth, Brazil, after the elections and the social division.

-119 games later, Atlètic-Barceloneta lost in the League. What reflections do you make of this streak and the defeat against CN Sabadell?

-We always want to win, but it can’t be. The first thing is to congratulate CN Sabadell for how well they are doing. Last year he won the LEN Cup, this year he competed until the end in the Super Cup and now he has beaten us. It is good for Spanish water polo. On the other hand, we already have two notices. We are in a period of reflection and we have to improve to continue winning in Spain.

-In the League they had been intractable, but in Europe they have been trying to win another Champions League for years and they are resisting. What do you expect this year?

-There are athletes who win and do not know why they have won. We have lost a lot and we are aware of why. There is no pride and arrogance. We spent many years living with defeat, both in the club and in the National Team. We are aware of the importance of work. Even if we win, we won’t change. Winning or losing on penalties is a detail. That’s why we continue training one hundred percent every day at Barceloneta to win the Champions League.

-Would you have signed a summer with a world gold, a European bronze and another in the World League?

-I would have signed it, yes, but the idea was to win it all. We started the summer thinking we had a team for everything. It could not be, but our mentality was that.

-You had already lost three finals on penalties. What did you think when they reached that outcome against Italy?

I remember the silence. I don’t know if it was positive or negative, I don’t know if it was courage or fear of losing. But I remember the silence. The concentration was total and extreme. There was no tension, no revolutions. David told us: ‘do it as you know how’. We were serene.

-What do the other Spanish teams say?

-Many people had the point of believing that we deserved it. For me it is curious. People told us that it was our turn, but we were only champions twice! The other selections are aware of our quality. We have a way of playing as a team, noble and clean. I think people see that.

-Now is the time to play with the club, but then comes another year full of adrenaline with two World Cups and the Games in just one year. Too?

-As an athlete you enjoy playing big championships. There is a current discussion. Athletes complain about the excess of matches; I think different. I prefer a thousand times to play matches of interest than to train. Having so many tournaments is a great opportunity. We have to look back and see that in the pandemic we couldn’t play. The pandemic made me change my perspective.

-Water polo is always changing rules. An area two meters from the post has now been created in attacks, so the teams gained depth. How does that affect you?

-They have brought the rules closer to those of handball and hockey. The field will grow, we gain two meters on each side, it is 10% of the total. That allows you to give the game more speed, but the question is the superiorities, if the depth will change the game.


Felipe and Kiko Perrone.Charles MiraJOURNAL AS

-Why does the Spanish player adapt before the regulation changes?

-I heard this in an interview that AS did with David Martín, Adrian Lock and Jordi Ribera, three coaches. They talked about the intelligence of the Spanish player with the tactical aspects. And that adaptability is something that is in the DNA of Spanish sport.

-This summer there has been a proper name, that of Unai Aguirre. Barely 20 years old and world champion. How does the goalkeeper digest it?

Unai is great. We have him in the club and in the National Team. What he did was a show. This boy was born to be world champion. He has a lot of courage. He has many stages left, he has a passion for this sport. He has a positive impact on us by wanting him, and we help him to be serene too. The bastard is crazy! It is appreciated to have a person with this drive.

-The goalkeeper and the buoy are the most differential players. Roger Tahull has now returned to Barceloneta. What does he give you when he is at his highest level?

-He’s a boy from the club, from Atlètic-Barceloneta. In 2014 we won the Champions League and he was in the stands celebrating it, he was still a kid. He has a lot of quality and sensitivity in the brutal game. He has set the trend. The buoy is like the pivot in basketball. We owe him the evolution of the results. Between him and Miguel de Toro they allow us to play at high speed.

-You debuted this summer as a representative of athletes in FINA. What does it intend to help?

-It is an important step for the sport. Athletes are the ones who have the sensation of sport closest to hand. The decisions that are made benefit or harm us. I am happy to be able to pass on the opinion. It is an important challenge, which I feel responsibility for. For each federation, athletes are key.

European Belgrade 2006 Bronze
World Cup Melbourne 2007 Bronze
World Cup Rome 2009 Silver
European Barcelona 2018 Silver
Gwangju World Cup 2019 Silver
European Budapest 2020 Silver
World Cup Budapest 2022 Prayed
European Split 2022 Bronze

-What should water polo do to grow socially?

-As an athlete I must achieve success. And we have achieved it. It’s not my specialty, I can’t be 100% sure. But we are guilty of promoting sport, it is essential to grow. It is clear that water polo does not generate benefits, but it does create them in an intangible way, such as promoting the practice of sport. It could be exploited much more.

-On a social level, your country of birth is now on everyone’s lips. When did she go to Brazil for the last time?

-I was there after the World Cup for two or three weeks.

-How did you experience the elections from a distance?

-It was a hot and very controversial issue in Brazil. The elections were 50% against 50%, there was less than a 1% difference. There is a lot of polarization. The feeling I had is that there has been a positive economic part with Bolsonaro. Before there was corruption associated with a very strong public power from the time of Lula and Michel Temer. There were related companies that lost privileges. The Bolsonaro government broke those structures. But, on the other hand, that conservative discourse and the destruction of the Amazon have grown. Brazil is now different.

Felipe Perrone and Jair Bolsonaro.


Felipe Perrone and Jair Bolsonaro.

-What do you understand by different?

-Conservative thought has been promoted more, it has emerged in aspects such as religion. Let’s say that positive discrimination has ended, steps have been taken backwards in terms of dealing with minorities, with racial quotas… Progress has been eliminated.

– And what about the Amazon?

-I know people who work there with NGOs. I was talking to them this summer and it’s dramatic. There has been a beastly change, it has gotten worse.

-Are you afraid of what may happen in the country?

-The press is not giving everything that is happening, I am worried. There are protesters who have blocked highways and streets, asking the army to intervene. They ask for military intervention. Let’s see what will happen. Everything was tight and extreme. Both parties have shock and aggressive thoughts towards each other.

-And what do you think that high-level athletes, icons such as Ronaldinho and Neymar at the time, publicly support such extremist characters?

-The athlete has the right to express himself. In my case, I don’t like it because things are neither black nor white. Taking advantage of your position as a media athlete to get votes… It doesn’t seem right to me, but if the athlete is sure, go ahead. Bolsonaro is different from Lula but neither of them hosts a sports program. It is a country that has not developed sportingly.

-The Games were not a change for the better?

-They did not represent a structural change as had been discussed.

“In Brazil, progress has been eliminated”