With a trophy cabinet bursting with medals from three FINA World Championships, two FINA World Cups, three FINA World Leagues, three European Championships, two Mediterranean Games and two Pan American Games, plus a host of European, Spanish, Croatian, Italian and Brazilian trophies, Felipe Perrone is the truest of professional stars, one many have compared to the incomparable Spaniard Manuel Estiarte.
When you are 36 years of age and playing alongside 21 and 22-year-olds, you could be excused for thinking you were a grandfather of the team.
This is the case with Spanish and former Brazilian men’s water polo star Felipe Perrone, who is still enjoying the practices, as well as the competition in what is definitely the twilight of his long and illustrious career.
The CN Barceloneta player, who inked a three-year deal in 2021, said it would be his last competitive water polo contract and the carrot of attaining his fifth consecutive Olympic Games at Paris 2024 was something he was contemplating on a day-by-day basis.
Scoring Goals caught up with Perrone at Barcelona Airport earlier this week before boarding a flight to Split, in Croatia to play the last Champions League encounter on Wednesday against Jadran, which it won 15-13, Perrone netting three goals.
“We reached our goal to win the Spanish League Cup and qualify to the (European) Final 8; the big goal for every team in Europe is to get there and we tried our best.
“We are maybe six-seven players from the national team playing at Barceloneta, so it is some kind of World Championship Spanish national team.”
The truncated season which sees Spanish and European competition; European World League qualifiers, Final 8, FINA World Championships, FINA World League Super Final and finally the European Championships, also in Split, makes for a year to remember.
That level of competition is something Perrone thrives on. “It’s a busy year and it’s the nice kind of events we enjoy to play.
“It’s not easy to prepare well for all those tournaments. However, there is joy because Covid did not allow us to play tin 2020. It will be good to play these beautiful tournaments in Strasbourg (Super Final), Budapest (Worlds) and Split (Europeans).”
Perrone said these World Championships will be different from others because of the earlier schedule. “This is high-level sport; you have many games. Many players will play the Final 8 and then a couple of weeks later the World Championships. Compared to a couple of years ago, we are lucky to be allowed to play these beautiful events.”
Getting into the swing of competition from club to national team is not the hardship that most teams encounter, Perrone says.
“We are lucky at Barceloneta as we are a team, and on the national team we changed only a couple of players from the last Olympic cycle. We are really used to playing together. We try to push each other and try to be a better team and I will try all I can.
“We play so many times together, sometimes I miss my wife and my kids, but it is part of the athlete’s high-level life.”
Looking back at Tokyo 2020 when Spain was the team to beat, Perrone lamented not making the medal dais, but said it was a great Olympics. “We finished first in our group and the semifinal (lost 10-9 after being a goal ahead inside the final two minutes) was an amazing game; everyone enjoyed a lot this game. It was a tough game, beautiful water polo, but too many exclusions; but anyway, everybody was able to see the quality of our players. We felt we could win, but Serbia had great players.
“A little bit of frustration. We had an amazing Olympic Games and we couldn’t reach the medal (dais) and lost to Hungary who claimed third. We tried our best and kept trying. We were playing beautiful water polo. I have a little bit of bias, but I think we were playing the most beautiful water polo.
“I think after the game against Serbia it was so hard emotionally. The Serbians were amazing — to beat them we needed to be 110 per cent. After that loss, we were not able to recover, and it was a medal. Unfortunately, we could not beat Hungary (for the bronze).
“We had this hurt, but looking back we played amazing water polo. Many things you can’t control, like life; results were that and we will look forward to a good showing in Budapest.”
At the recent FINA World League European Qualification Finals in Podgorica, Montenegro, Spain came away with the bronze medal, beating the home team 15-10.
“The most important thing is that we qualified for the World League Super Final.
”They were close matches, so we were happy. We know that we hadn’t beaten Hungary in a long time (won 10-9); Serbia was really close (11-10) and they played better and deserved to win.”
Perrone’s Olympic record speaks for itself with an incredible 49 goals among a career where scoring goals is his forte.
Perrone will now concentrate on closing a terrific chapter in Spanish men’s water polo when this warrior, with a bevy of medals and trophies to his name, will begin the final journey towards Paris 2024, with another FINA World Championships standout effort — an arena he has graced so many times and gone away with silver medals in 2009 and 2019, plus a bronze in 2007.