Albert Español: “We’ve still got a thorn in our side about Budapest last year”

Albert Español has travelled more than anyone else in Spanish water polo this past season. Joining the ranks of the Chinese national team in a unique experience to help the squad improve their level, the 32-year-old Catalan player lived a different and exciting season which bring him back to Atlètic Barceloneta and the Spanish national team with renewed thrill.

“I’ve just finished my project with the Chinese national team – he explains – and I’ll be joining my club for the rest of the season and the national team to prepare for the 33rd LEN European Water Polo Championships Barcelona 2018. If I play or not in the Genoa Final Eight it’s not up to me, but I’ll be there if they need me.”

He considers his Chinese experience to be “extremely productive and rewarding.” Español has spent all of last year with his Chinese teammates, expect on official matches. This adventure has also given him the opportunity to learn from head coach Petar Porovic, the mind behind Montenegro’s continental gold in 2008.

“As a life experience this has been fantastic – he explains with great enthusiasm – I was the only foreigner in the group, although there was a Greek player in the first couple of months. We were in Greece for two months, then one in China, one in Montenegro, two weeks in Barcelona and then back to China. This year my home has literally been my suitcase. I’m always on a plane somewhere.”

Español recommends his experience although “it really depends on everyone’s personal situation and level of adaptability.” He admits he has no trouble adapting and explains that from a sporting point of view it fit with the Olympic cycle: “Getting out and trying new things has always worked for me [he has played in Italy and Greece]. There are people who leave claiming they only do it for the money, as if it was something negative. I believe the opposite way. In addition to the sporting and financial perspectives, which tend to be better, I take into account what I gain from living and knowing other countries and cultures.”

Regarding Chinese water polo, he believes “their level is lower than that of top water polo countries, but they work on a long-term plan, and when they are determined to do something, they do it.” Español adds that this is project has been implemented on a national scale to get results in 10 to 15 years.

Now that his contract with the Chinese federation is over, the Catalan player has not made any decisions regarding his future and believes going back to China “is an option” but nothing else. Now his mind is on the national team and getting ready for Barcelona 2018. “Right now my priority is the national team. I’ve always been there for my team and I was with them in the Europa Cup in Rijeka”, he claims.

He is very excited to play in front of a home crowd: “It’s always better to play at home and in front of your crowd than in another country. Barcelona is a great place to live and we’re all very motivated. We’re looking forward to it. The team went through a dramatic change in 2017. The manager was very brave. We believed in that team I and admit we were not at the level we thought we were. We’ve still got a thorn in our side about Budapest last year and these European Championships are a great opportunity to start over.”

Regarding the tournament in July he declares “there are no easy rivals in Group B and France is proof of that. They have defeated us on several occasions, but our gpal is to claim the top stop and keep fighting.”

Español, supports the future changes in this sport, “which aim to make games more spectacular, appealing and fast”, but doubts these changes will make water polo gain popularity: “There are sports which are not too appealing but that are still wildly popular. These are two different concepts. It would be a mistake to believe than by making water polo more appealing it will become more popular. This has to do with marketing, but it’s clear we need to keep working to improve water polo.”