Written by Zika Bogdanovic
January 2018 was a highlight of the Spanish domination in world of handball. Three Spanish coaches on three continents won the continental champions to, once again, show quality of school built on the expansion of ASOBAL in 90’s and 2000’s. One of them, Tunisian national team coach Toni Gerona, in talk for Handball-Planet.com, speaks about goals of the TOP African nation with him on the helm until Tokyo 2020, “secret of Spanish coaches”, handball rules which would like to change and many other things…
Toni, part of your deal with Tunisian handball Federation is that you work with players who are in domestic clubs…
- We decided to work more with players based in Tunisia in preparation for African Championship 2018 last January. For this reason, we worked every week on Monday and Tuesday morning. One week was in the capital, next to South in Sus, where we have a lot of players. We were working with 36 players here in Tunisia and 5-6 who are playing outside. This season there are much more players abroad – 13,14. We keep the same. I work with the clubs, make some programme, but it is different as we have more players outside. Nowadays, conditions in Tunisian clubs are not very good, so we can expect more players to go abroad to play. For the moment, I am here, working with them, following trainings, watching videos, following players all around Europe.
Is it better to work with them in Tunisia or to get them from European clubs with some new experience?
- This is a little bit weird, but the good point in Tunisia is that national team is very important. Domestic competitions will end in November, so that means with local players I can work whole December. We have one month to work. Quality and especially a load of training is not on the same level as in Europe. Players coming in better psychical condition and with better tactical understandings in the national team, but we don’t have time to work with them. With domestic players you have three weeks more, you can only adjust things and make them ready for the competition, but you can’t change a lot of things. To make a change, you need daily work. I miss that here. Clubs in Tunisia need to work more especially in psychical part. Tunisian U18 have five players taller than 200cm and less than 85 kilos. Can you imagine? They don’t work enough in their clubs. However, we have to deal with that.
“I NEED A DAILY WORK”
After you won all trophies with Qatari El Jaish Sports Club (2015-2017), you began your next journey in the Arab world with gold at African Championship and silver at Mediterranean Games. Tonis “the specialst” for Arab mentality, which is tough issue for many European coaches…
- For that I need a daily work. The beginning in Doha was hard, difficult, to push them, but we made it. That was the reason to win everything in Qatar, especially in the first year when we played without NT players, Markovic, Stojanovic, Cappote, Malash. Different situation is in Tunisia. We won the African Championship. In this point, Egypt have better players than us, but we played much better like a team. We managed to make very good team with 16 players. All of them have their roles, so that gave us chance to arrive in the final of the Championship in better psychical condition than rival. We lost first half with two goals at the final against Egypt, but in second we were more fresh, we attacked with more power…
You played also Final at Mediterranean Games against Croatia…
- It was a good experience for us. Good chance to play with team like Croatia, good knowledge what we have to do, to make steps forward.
Milestone is Tunisia 2020, when you want to beat (probably) Egypt in the final and qualify directly to Tokyo 2020…
- I signed three-years contract in 2017. My goal was to change psychology of the team, to replace some players and arrive in 2020 with some solid group, knowledge and competence. We had 8 new players at African Championship. The Group is almost done. Good point is that we don’t have 14,15 players, but group of 30 who can play on similar quality. It’s a big group, so we can change players and react in case of injuries. Every player in Tunisia knows that he can be a part of this group if he deserved. Our goal is to be ready for 2020.
EGYPT WILL BE STRONGER WITH DAVIS
Egypt with David Davis could be much danger than before…
- They will improve a lot with him. He has four or five players outside of the country, so most of the team is at home which means that he will have all the facilities to work. I am sure that Egypt will be stronger with him. We spoke, we will try to help each other to improve. Rivality between two nations is very big. Always is a lot of pressure. We won 2018 African Championship, people expect to repeat it in front of home crowd in 2020, but I am completely sure that Egypt won’t be on level before Davis. We will be stronger also.
I attended one press-conference during Qatar 2015 with Sead Hasanefendic, the most successful coach of Tunisian NT (4th place at WCh 2015), and witnessed tremendous pressure on coach from media. Tunisian journalists screaming on him, it was total madness. Do you feel the pressure?
- I agree with you, they lost a little bit reality about situation in handball. You need to check how many players playing at high-level clubs. Maybe they are there, but not with big roles which had Hmam or Tej for example. Some of them are in France, some players in Romania, Jallouz who is starting in Berlin. It’s not the same generation, but true is that media pressure is very high. I will always remember Press conference before African Championship when some journalists asked me “am I ready as I have never lead NT on big competition?”. I told them that I am working for many years in handball (16 years at FC Barcelona) and that I am sure that we can do. Pressure is huge also on players. You know, Islamic revolution is done via social media, all people are always searching on Facebook, all of them have their opinion. After success at African and Medditeranean, I always trying to calm down and say “look, our level now is still far, far away from European level. It is like this. We are far from them psychically and technically..
Wael Jallouz began well in Barcelona, but then he went in series of injuries…
- He was injured after WCh 2017 in France, it was two-three times, it wasn’t fixed, he couldn’t jump and run, so he went down. After that he had problem with eye infection. He playing in defense, improving as he was in Barcelona. He never was in national team since I came here. Of course, if player is injured and not in the playing form, we must take another one. I hope in next EHF week we will have him to see and put him in group. He will be very useful if he would be ready for World Championship 2019.
Tunisia had always that kind of strong personalities like Tej or Meganem. Is Jallouz has that personality to be a leader of the team…
- I want to have few leaders in few different players. Jallouz can help us a lot, but there are also some players which can take this role like Tej, Meganem, had it before.
WE WANT MAIN ROUND AT WCH 2019
What is your ambition at World Championship 2019 in group with Norway, Denmark, Austria, Chile and Saudi Arabia?
- Target must be to progress to the Main Round. It will be really hard. We have to beat Chile with Matteo Garalda and Saudia Arabia with Marian Ortega. Austria beat Tunisia last time, Norway and Denmark are much much better than us, but we have to try to find our chances. We must try to beat Norway at the start, first match is tough for anyone, but reality is different, our feet have to be on the ground. If we beat Austria, Chile and Saudi Arabia it will be a big, big success for us.
At the end of your journey, hopefully in Tokyo 2020, what will be the results which would make you totally satisfied?
- Uh, to get Main Round 2019 and win African Championship at home. After that, we could improve result with NT in Rio, where they ended last. That would be nice, with gold from African 2018 and Meditteranean silver medal.
TACTICS THE STRONGEST PART OF SPANISH SCHOOL
Spanish coaches making tremendous successes all around the world. Where is the secret of Spanish coaching school?
- We are good cooks. We are able to arrive at different places, to check which kind of ingredients we have and with this we are able to cook something good. It’s a huge difference between, for example, Manolo Cadenas and Valero Rivera styles. They are not the same. Each coach has his own personality. He gave his torch in different teams where he is working. Spanish coaches are generally good in tactical thing, how to play in each moment, to adjust on different task in defense. I am watching a lot of videos of national team and clubs. Where is Spanish coach, there is more order. You can recognize that this team playing on this way in attack and defense. In the same time, there is ability to change some things quickly. Some older schools are orientated to individuals. For example, skills of Danish players are amazing, no one passing better than them, or shooting. They made a lot, but we are giving tactical touch to each team. We are managed to lead teams with ingredients which we have.
Where is born school of Spanish coaches?
- One is from Catalonian coaches, Rivera, Pascual, Sabate, and other from Cental Spain, Manolo Cadenas, Jota, Raul Gonzales, Juan Carlos Pastor. If you check how playing Szeged or La Rioja or Raul with Vardar, it’s similar, of course, with different players, but you can find many similar things.
7TH PLAYER OUT – SHOT CLOCK “IN”
What makes you nervous nowadays, what you would like to change in handball rules?
- To remove this seventh player, for sure. It is so boring to see so many goals without goalkeepers. We don’t play basketball, our goal is bigger, I don’t like that shooting without defense. It is like this in the moment and we have to use it, but I don’t really like that. Also, time in attack, we need a shot clock, we have to have 24,30 seconds, I don’t know how much, but it will be very good for handball that is not just criteria of referees. Now, we have six passes, but everything is based on their subjective opinion. Clock will be much better.
Where you want to see yourself in five years?
- I had very good time in Qatar, it is OK in Tunisia, I will try to be a good place and work a lot. I will try to return back to some club, I miss daily work, I miss more competition. I had enough time to learn, see a lot of matches and trainings of other coaches, but I would like to work more, to be in good project where I can make something good – concluded Toni Gerona for Handball-Planet.com.