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15.04.2014, 12:28
Dynamic duo the future for Portugal
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INTERVIEW: Part 8 of the "rising star" series focuses on two players who shone at last summer's Women's 17 EHF EURO and set to lead their nation to the next level
 

Dynamic duo the future for Portugal

The Portuguese national team has a bright vision ahead with two players in particular set to be regulars in the squad for a long time to come.

Sandra Santiago (left and right back) and Patrícia Rodrigues (right wing and right back) may be young in age (17 and 16 respectively) but they are certainly adults when it comes to handball. 

For starters, it is already abnormal to have such young blood in a national team, and when you do, even more out of the ordinary to be as used much as these two great prospects are.

The players share their history, opinions, tastes and dreams in an interview which started with a timidity that quickly developed into sympathy and some laughs.



Getting to know them

Both have a similar background on how they started to play handball. Both liked unusual sports for girls as Patrícia explains: “Well, I was a very good football player, better than many of the boys of my class. One day in a mini street football tournament, two handball youth coaches from Alcanena saw my sporty side between all the boys and asked my parents if I wanted to try handball, and that’s how it started.” 

Sandra, who is orginally from Águeda, had another kind of push: “My sister played handball, and she was even a part of the national team as well.”

Boys don’t bother them because they have much else to think about, like school and handball. Their respective parents hate them being on the computer or the phone instead of studying. 

Sandra is a bit lazy and hates having someone messing with her hair, while Patrícia is stubborn and hates that people make fun of her for whatever reason (especially her eyes). 

The Águeda girl loves to eat, even more when we are talking about “Pork Alentejo style” but hates piglet, on the other hand Alcanena’s homegrown could eat duck rice every day but cannot stand chestnuts. 

But hold on, they do have something in common when it comes to tastes - massages. Both sighed when referring to them, and being athletes who train practically every day, why could they not like a good massage?

With a massive capacity for progression, they are already aware of what they can improve in their game: “Improve in one-on-ones, and also place my shots better, yet it’s funny because my shot is also my strongest weapon due to the power,” says Sandra. 

“I have to gain some shooting strength, but I’m very quick and can place the ball very well, plus, I think I have good game vision,” explains Patrícia. 

Both like players from the men’s domestic league, in fact both like FC Porto’s Gilberto Duarte, Wilson Davies, Pedro Spínola (this one specifically Patrícia, who is also a lefty), and even more intriguing due to Sandra’s position, Hugo Laurentino (Goalkeeper).



“Club is great, Portugal is pride”

At the moment Patrícia plays for Alcanena and Sandra came from Valongo do Vouga to play in Colégio de Gaia. Curiously, they are going to compete in the play offs of the domestic competition against each other, and during ehf-euro.com’s conversation with the girls, the 17-year-old showed her competitive side with a friendly smile and naughty comment towards her national team colleague: “We are going to make it quick, we won’t even need to get to game three.”

Opponents in the Portuguese league but friends and normally roommates in the national team competitions, they cannot hide the pride to be representing their country, “club handball is our routine, but playing for Portugal is an incredible feeling, playing against the best out there gives us another kind of motivation,” added Sandra Santiago. 

This is completely understandable, and these two players were a crucial part of the youth team that was ranked fourth in last summer’s Women’s 17 EHF EURO, when Portugal was beaten to bronze by Denmark, with the pair scoring an average of over ten goals per game between them. 

João Florêncio is their current national coach, and he knows the potential the girls have.

“They are at a high level for their age and that’s why they are here. Plus, they did fantastically well last summer, in a competition that proved we have talent in our country,” says Florêncio.

“Here (in Portugal) you can only evolve so much, and the truth is that you have to leave the country in order to become a better player, like Vera Lopes and Telma Amado for example, who are playing in Iceland. 

“It’s incredible to see them live and breathe handball, it’s my dream to do it!” said Patrícia, who is already sponsored by Kempa. With their performances in the EHF EURO 2014 Qualification, it would not be a surprise to see both girls playing abroad in the future. 

However, this would mean they would have to change country and start a life elsewhere very young. Are they ready? 

“I would make handball my life, and if that required changing country, of course I would leave. However, I would always keep coming back to play for Portugal, that I would never say no to,” concludes Santiago. 


This is the seventh part of a new series powered by eurohandball.com and ehf-euro.com. In the weeks to come we will throw the spotlight on the many young female handball talents all around Europe that are likely to make an impact on the international stage in the months and years to come.

Part 1: Sweden's Maria Adler: "My time will come"

Part 2: Austria's Sonja Frey: A pair of coaching brothers paved her way to handball

Part 3: Shenia Minevskaja: Handball in her genes

Part 4: Koumba Cissé jumping into the spotlight

Part 5: Aniko Kovacsics: Step by step towards her dreams

Part 6: Kinga Byzdra: From pram to profession


Part 7: Veronica Kristiansen: "I want to be a key player"


TEXT: Carlos J. Santos / cor
 
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