An amazing journey it was. The 2016 Rio Olympics could be an excellent opportunity to promote the sport of water polo in Brazil, Felipe Perrone thought upon making the difficult decision to leave Spain and return to the Brazilian water polo national team. On August 10, 2016, after a sensation 6-5 win over later Olympic champions Serbia in round 3 of the prelims, the table of group A of the 2016 Olympic Games displayed a memorable picture: Brazil in the first place. Leading. It probably best marked the transition of a team that lost to Argentina in the South American Games in 2012 and in 2013 failed to qualify for the World Championships that year in Barcelona. One of the biggest pieces of that puzzle, even before coach Ratko Rudic came into the picture, was Felipe Perrone. One of the best players in the world, currently playing for Jug Dubrovnik in Croatia, decided to move back to his native national team and sparked the transformation of the national team into an Olympic contender it became in 2016.
Perrone recalls his ‘Rio 2016’ experience:
”It was amazing. When I made the difficult decision to move from Spain to Brazil I thought the Olympics in Rio could be a unique opportunity to promote the sport in the country. Now I really have a feeling that my mission was achieved. Water polo was a completely unknown sport in Brazil, but during the Olympic Games people start to know the sport and support the team. In 2012 Brazil lost the South American Games against Argentina, in 2013 it didn´t qualify for the World Championships in Barcelona…. In just 3 years Brazil improved to a point of being able to compete with any team in the tournament, even achieving a historic result against Serbia. So if we consider the investments and traditions of other countries I think what we did at the Olympics was a real miracle”
With that sudden rise, drove by the organisation of the Olympics, the sport is at a turning point now that the tournament is over. Spearheaded by investments, strong players with professional experience gained overseas recently and foreigners such as Slobodan Soro and Josip Vrlic, together with the most decorated coach of all time, Ratko Rudic, Brazil made it to the 2016 Olympic Games quarterfinals. But now what happens? Reportedly Rudic, as well as standouts Soro and Vrlic are to leave the team that is now questioning what the next Olympic cycle will look like in terms of financing and, subsequently, its programme. The uncertain future is worrying Perrone: ”Unfortunately, the country is in a difficult political and economic moment so these are really uncertain times right now. Of course, I will try to do everything to help, my Brazilian team-mates made an amazing effort to be prepared for the Olympics leaving university, work… everything for this dream, so I hope it´s a starting point instead of an end, but it is out of our hands.”