LE BALLON – History can be rewritten after 29 years (Handball)

Red handball captain Adriana Lage was probably wearing diapers when Benfica’s women’s side were last crowned Division I national champions in the 1992/93 season. In fact, in addition to the 29-year-old anchor, only 36-year-old Ukrainian Viktoriya Borshchenko had already been born.

None of the team players were about to come into the world. Today, however, it is this group of women whose average age is below 24 who can rewrite history in Leiria – a draw against Juve Lis, in a match to be broadcast on A BOLA TV at 5:30 p.m. – enough to return to the Lisbon Emblem the title of national champion.

BOLA was in Luz to accompany one of the last training sessions of these girls who, even if they are far from being able to make a living from handball, carry the dream with the same professionalism and commitment that they dedicate to studies in most cases , but also to the world of work outside the pavilion, as with the captain, who is a physiotherapist.

However, the adrenaline of imminent success overcomes all fatigue and the confidence provided by 21 wins and a draw (27-27) since the worst result – in the 2nd round with ABC -, in 22 rounds, is the best concealer that a woman can ask for.

“We are calm and confident that it will be this weekend that we will win the victory and win our first title as a team. Of course there is always this nervousness, this angst, it feels like the game never starts again. Probably when we are there it will seem that it will never end, that the cup will never come back, above all I am very confident”, exults Adriana Lage, aware of the weight of the story of which she can be the protagonist four days from. the end of the championship.” It will be a tribute to the people who marked the history of the club at that time. If nowadays it is difficult to be an athlete in the world of handball and in the world of sport, 29 years ago it would have been even more difficult for them, so if they managed to enter the history at that time, we have a much easier life, with excellent conditions here at Benfica. We have an obligation to win and honor all the representatives of Benfica at that time,” argued the captain, who is in his third season with the Eagles.

Being one of the oldest, Lage divides her time between handball and physiotherapy, a “work with physical exhaustion”, as she describes it, although there are no regrets at international level. “With time, effort, commitment and dedication, anything is possible.

Before entering the field at N.º 2 da Luz and running like there was no tomorrow, following the instructions of coach João Alexandre Florêncio and assistant Carla Marina Teixeira, the Patrícia Rodrigues’ face was the mirror of the happiness of being able to be “60 minutes from the goal” to be champion. A determination for the 24-year-old team which broke a record for precocity ten years ago by being called up to the senior team. “I am confident because I know we have worked hard from the start and we are continuing to work. We still have one game to win and only then can we celebrate. Above all, I am calm, we have worked very well, very concentrated, despite the appearance of being able to be so close”, described Patrícia, who was an example of perseverance, after seeing her operation successively postponed left knee to overcome the sprain with rupture of the cruciate ligaments in the middle of a pandemic.

The business management student, however, finds his inspiration in the men’s handball team. “The fact that they went to the World Cups, the Europeans and the Olympics awakened the fans to the sport. Even those who don’t know us like to watch on television, come to the pavilions and we feel this huge difference too, we have more fans, even in the national team people already know us more and that’s very good, ”says he.

Without any kinship with the male captain, Paulo Moreno, despite the common surname, Débora Moreno, 24, of course has no memory either of the opening of the doors of Benfica to women’s handball in 1971/1972, with Pappoilas Rubras . this is how the pioneers who made their debut 50 years ago came to be known – neither the financial crisis and the restructuring which led to the extinction of the sport in 1993/1994, nor the brief comeback in 1996 /1997 with the rise in 1st Division without continuity. But he is part of the section which in 2018/2019 is reborn from its ashes in Division II and integrates, today, the potential conquest of the 8th trophy. “I still didn’t realize it was almost gone… It was a very long, hard and difficult time, because it’s not easy to be an athlete and to be a female athlete in Portugal, but the work is worth it and that’s good. There is not as much financial investment as in men, which complicates matters. Many athletes stop playing to work. I have the impression that Benfica has bet a lot on women’s teams, so much so that they are basketball and football champions. We train and study or we work and play, in men they can be handball professionals,” the hotel management student concluded, enthusiasm lighting up her face.

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