The story of Federico Fernández, the worker who is going to compete in his fourth Olympic Games :: Olé

The story of Federico Fernández, the worker who is going to compete in his fourth Olympic Games :: Olé
The story of Federico Fernández, the worker who is going to compete in his fourth Olympic Games :: Olé

10/07/2024 19:08hs.

The Argentine handball team is ready for the Olympic Gameswho will travel with the dream of winning a medal. Guillermo Milano’s team has, within a consolidated group, some strong names that guide the team and are going for their fourth consecutive Olympic appointment. One of them is Federico Fernandezwho did more than tell Olé on his preparation for Paris 2024: the business that opens every morning, the fanaticism that invaded his body when he ran into Kobe Bryant at an Olympic parade and much more.

Fernández’s life is closely linked to The Gladiators. (Maxi Failla)

-How are you preparing for the Olympic Games?

-We are in the last phase of training, mainly preparing everything tactically. I am very excited, This is my fourth Olympic Games and I understand that it will be the taking it with great maturity and with a great desire for things to turn out well for us.

-There are few who have four. Pizarro, a companion in a thousand battles, and no one else…

-And Diego (Simonet) was injured in Rio, he was with us but he didn’t play. We are the only ones who have four Games. Our age also gives us away a little, we are already old.But I think it is the fruit of our work, of what we gave for this sport. I take it with joy and knowing that all the effort I made throughout my life, a lot of things I left aside for handball, paid off. So I am eternally grateful to this sport.

-What makes these Games special compared to others?

-It’s difficult because when we qualified for the first time in Guadalajara it wasn’t our idea, but today, 13 years later, I tell you that we weren’t focused at all on competing, it was more of a prize for the kids who were there at the time. From then on, I think that changed: in Rio it was different, when the team played better, and in Tokyo there was the pandemic, so we didn’t arrive completely well, since the preparation was not good and everything was very difficult. Now, the team arrives with a very high maturity, playing very good handball and We have to go, at least, to advance to the group stage, that is what we are focused on. The coaching staff and we as players set out to do 100% planning, I think it is the best in history.

Fede Fernández is one of the players who marked the golden generation of Argentine handballor, and that contributed to sustaining the nickname of The Gladiators. Active participant since 2010, going through championships and Pan American and South American Games with multiple medals (14 exactly), at 34 years old he will seek to put the icing on the cake of an extensive career that saw him pass through Europe, with his fourth participation in the Olympic Games, a mark that only he and Federico Pizarro can claim in the national history of sport.

With their four Olympic participations, Fernández and Pizarro will be record holders. (Maxi Failla)

-Back in Medellín 2010, did you think you would be playing your fourth Olympic Games in 2024?

-I never thought about playing for the national team, imagine being in your fourth Olympic Games and having played in a lot of World Cups and important tournaments… It’s something that never crossed my mind even in my dreams.Now that I’m older, I realize that the effort was worth it. I obviously worked hard. It didn’t just happen because “I’m a good handball player.” I did a lot of things in my life to get to this point and I take it with a lot of pride, knowing that I’m in the final stages as a player.

-What is your role within the group at present?

-The older players try to set the guidelines that we want for the National Team. Respect, work and effort so that the younger players take on what they will transmit later. As for the role, since I started in 2010 with Dady (Gallardo) until the first era of Manolo Cadenas, I hardly appeared in the games. That changed and young players joined, to the point that Nacho Pizarro is in my position. I don’t have as many minutes as before, but I still feel current And if I’m there it’s because the coach believes I’m useful on the field, not just for what I do off it. I feel that I can contribute as much as possible to the team, whether I play one minute or 60.

-How do you combine handball with other jobs?

-In Argentina it is very complicated. I have my wife, Milena, with whom I have been for 20 years and she lived through all of that with me. Now I have two children, I have to take care of my children and my job at the same time, it is a bit exhausting.I don’t want to weigh up whether it’s easier here or in Europe. The big difference is that when you’re there you focus 100% on the sport, you train a little more, you have more pressure because the teams are professional. That’s not the case here, but you have to deal with other things that are difficult. Today I got up, I had to go work at my business, come here (to the national team training) and go back to work. For me it’s more of a lifestyle, almost my whole life was like that so I have it incorporated. The things I can reproach handball for are erased the moment I think that I played in four Olympic Games, four Pan American Games, a lot of World Cups, I got to know a lot of places, a lot of cultures… I have to be grateful.

Outside of handball, Fernandez has a business. (Maxi Failla)

-Do you have any anecdotes from the Olympic parades?

I’m not very fanatic, I’m embarrassedYes, in London, when we went to the parade, we were with Fede Pizarro and once we paraded we spent five hours walking around the entire field taking photos. Some of the photos I most wanted to take at that moment were with Manu Ginobili, with Scola and Kobe Bryant, and then I lost them.But I’m not one of those. When you’re representing your country at the opening ceremony, you think back to the journey you’ve made, your family and the people who were with you. You also know that the number of athletes who make it to the Olympic Games is very small. We are privileged.

-How would you describe The Gladiators?

-I think we are the most important generation in the history of handball. We are a team that, with its good and bad things, always gave 100%. The most important thing was always to give everything, the culture of effort and knowing that as Argentines everything always costs a little more, We have worse infrastructure than the powers, less money, and we always try to give our best. In the 14 years I’ve played, we’ve rarely been criticized. I understand that people feel a sense of belonging to the team.

-Do you have in mind what you are going to do in the future when you no longer play?

I’m sure I’ll stay here, I have my business here, I’m very family-oriented… Afterwards everything can change, but in principle I have my job here, my business here, and I think that my life will continue to be here. I have been a coach at the club where I play for a year and a half, in San Fernando, so I am trying to contribute from that side. I understand that this will be my last Olympic Games, I don’t know if it will be my last tournament with the National Team. I am definitely closer to quitting than to starting.I’m going to see how everything goes, how I see myself, how much desire I have and obviously, if I decide to continue, if the coach wants me to continue, which is the most important thing.

The Gladiators will look to take a step forward in Paris. (Maxi Failla)

The Gladiators group and the fixture

The 16 players called up by Milan will begin their activity at the Arena Paris Sud 6 on July 27 and will seek to reach the grand final on August 11. But first they will have to get through a difficult group stage. Argentina is in Group B along with Denmark, Norway, Hungary, France and EgyptGroup A includes Spain, Croatia, Germany, Slovenia, Sweden and Japan.

The official debut for The Gladiators It will be against Norway on Saturday, July 27 at 11then they will face Hungary on Monday 29th at 4pm, Denmark on Wednesday 31st at 4pm, the locals and last champions on Friday 2nd August from 6am and they will close against Egypt on Sunday 4th from 6am.

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