Rodriguez: “I'm in the best moments of my career”
Rocasa Gran Canaria ACE look confidently forward to the second-leg final of the Women’s EHF Challenge Cup with a four-goal advantage after the first game against Kastamonu B. Genclik SK in Turkey.
Their 29:25 away win in the first-leg match means the Gran Canaria team are in a strong position to claim the title, which would be the first European trophy in the history of the club.
Almudena Rodriguez, a native of Gran Canaria born in Las Palmas in 1993, is Rocasa’s top scorer with 45 goals and may be the key player for her team if they are to win the Cup.
“In Europe, we did not imagine we could reach the final of the Challenge Cup, but we are very happy and very concentrated on Saturday's game,” says the line player.
Though she is only 22, on court Rodriguez looks very much the experienced player. In 2015 she was part of the team that won the Copa de la Reina de Balonmano (Queen’s Cup), but the Challenge Cup title would be the most important trophy she has ever won.
“We have a good advantage of four goals, but we must not trust too much and be sure to play a good game this Saturday,” says Rodriguez.
“We won the first game because we began very well, and we stayed ahead from the start to the end, always leading by four or five goals.”
Enjoying the moment
The players are conscious that they are close to winning the championship, but Rodriguez says they do not feel more pressure because of it – they are very happy living this important moment.
“The truth is that we were not nervous before playing the game in Turkey. We had great enthusiasm and desire, because these are the games we like to play. We were relaxed because we were confident we would be able to beat them.”
Rocasa’s home city of Telde offers great support to the team. The club has organised ‘supporters’ week’, during which they are selling scarves and t-shirts as souvenirs of the historical match, which will be streamed live on ehfTV, to be played on Saturday.
“People are giving us their support. They came to the airport to receive us and this is appreciated. We also know that people follow us because we received a lot of messages,” says Rodriguez.
Last season Rocasa claimed the Copa de la Reina de Balonmano, and this season they are fighting to win the Spanish league. The Gran Canaria side are currently in second position right behind Bera Bera four games before the end of the championship, but Rodríguez knows that winning the domestic title will be difficult:
“When something does not depend on you it is much more complicated. We have to win all the remaining league matches and Bera Bera have to lose a minimum of one point.”
Mixing handball and study
In Spain it is difficult to make a living only with income from handball, particularly for women.
“Handball is our profession but we need to have a degree or a job that gives economical support. Handball is only a little part of our lives,” says Rodriguez.
“I am studying a physical education degree, and although I’m playing an elite sport the university does not provide much assistance. It is difficult to carry, but you have to study and focus on what you like.”
Rodriguez is a key player in the Spanish league, but is not yet allowing herself to dream too high when it comes to the national team.
“I'm in the best moments of my career and I have to enjoy,” she says.
“I see the Olympic Games as far away and do not think I’m going to play it. I know I'm a young player and I do not see these Olympics, although I see myself in Tokyo 2020, but you never know.”