Roberto Parrondo: “Skopje remains in my heart“


He managed to get the maximum from the team, to overcome all problems and to lead Vardar to four trophies this season. They won their fifth SEHA - Gazprom League, the EHF Champions League, the Macedonian title and the Super Cup in Macedonia. Roberto Garcia Parrondo inherited a team in Vardar who was supposed to pass a bumpy and long road to reach the European peak. They reached the throne and succeeded again.

They were described as an outsider, but they did not care that they were written off. Vardar showed how to play with their heart despite many problems. Vardar broke down all the logical things in the sport, showing that team spirit, unity, is much more than money and the role of a favourite.

Another excellent season for you as a coach and for Vardar finishes. When have you become aware of the success that has been made in Cologne and winning the European title?
I think now everyone in club understands what we have done. When we won the finals, we were all happy, and when we came to Skopje, the welcome city made on the main square was incredible. It cannot be described in words. It is now more than two weeks after this match has ended, and we are becoming more aware of what we have achieved. We did something really big, in three seasons to be the European champion twice… Vardar is the best team in Europe. It's really great and just a few clubs can boast a similar result.

The welcome in Skopje was something new for you, although some of the players experienced something similar two seasons ago. Do you think it would be the same celebrating a title in your native Spain?
In Spain we do not live with the handball as here. Families and friends were happy, but only the closest ones. Fans that follow the match would be supportive and would be pleased at the end, but not ordinary people like here. Surely there would not be such an amazing welcome. Here, people felt with every goal. There's a big difference.

Let's go back nine months ago. If someone at the start of the preparations for the new season said you would play at the Final 4 what would you tell him?
That probably he is crazy. I wanted to be focused on each match separately and therefore we did not think far. The players told me that in an interview with the EHF we were not placed as favourites, and that was somehow odd to me. Many players left us, but we were a really good team. I trust these players. Even when they said that we would not be at the Final 4, we had faith in ourselves.

When have you realized that Vardar could reach the Final 4?
I started thinking about the Final 4 in Cologne when we defeated PPD Zagreb. We knew that in those matches with Pick Szeged we were close to the Final 4. Until then, we thought only of the next match. We played with Pick Szeged and those matches were crucial, because we knew we had something big and that should not be missed. And the season was great, we had a good start and that had a very positive impact on us.

Cologne comes, nobody believed in Vardar. You played with a big favourite like Barca Lassa, ​​you were down by seven goals. But then, everything changed in 15 minutes. What did you say to the players?
I believed we could go back to the match. We played well. We missed to score, and we had good opportunities, we just did not score. In several situations, Perez de Vargaz had good saves, but we knew we were playing well. We had to continue with the same pace, to believe in our game. When we arrived to minus four goals, we knew that we would return. But we never lost faith.

In the final Vardar played by the book. How difficult was it to play such a powerful match despite all the problems?
When you have a difficult season, with problems of different nature, you go step by step. We played against Pick Szeged in the worst period of time when we got information that it is unlikely to continue in the next season. Then we got Barcelona in the semi-finals. There was a tremendous struggle, winning and reaching the final. Then nothing matters. The players knew it. Everyone was focused and knew how important it was.

In the SEHA – Gazprom League, Vardar won the title and the league helped to maintain the quality of form during the season.
SEHA League is a great league for us, and at times we had to play two or three matches in a row and they were very important. We have 16-18 players, and we could try some new things in those SEHA matches for everyone to be in the rhythm. In some matches we had to combine the roster, and we lost two of them in the end but we already had a guaranteed place at the Final 4. I wanted to play all the players and be ready.

You are a coach who is very calm and you don’t show much emotion during a match. How do you manage it?
It's hard. But I always think of something. If you lose control and you are not calm you cannot analyse everything, so I try to remain calm. It looks like I'm calm, but it's hard. I know that if I become nervous I will lose a lot of things.

Four titles this season for Vardar in all competitions. Are you sorry about leaving?
We won both SEHA and the Champions League, and these are really important trophies. In the domestic championship, we knew that we had to win so that we could play in the Champions League a year later. I'm a bit sad I have to leave. I was thinking a lot about my decision, but I should leave. The players know what I mean and how I feel and that we had a decisive cooperation. I do not want to change that feeling.

After that, your stay in Vardar in several sentences.
Primarily thanks to everyone working in Vardar and all who supported me. We spent two great seasons. My family does not want to leave because they feel great here. Many thank me, but I also want to thank them. Skopje remains in my heart.