2022.03.17 22:19

Men’s Handball: Chema Rodríguez never neglects the national team

Chema Rodríguez, the Spanish former assistant coach appointed to replace István Gulyás, hopes that the European Championship in January was the worst international competition. Despite living a transnational life, he enjoys the challenge and goes everywhere with a big smile on his face.

Chema Rodríguez (Photos: MKSZ/Anikó Kovács)


Chema Rodríguez is the head coach of the Hungarian men's handball national team. Are you still getting used to it?
– It is already a huge honor for me that I was appointed the team's assistant coach alongside István Gulyás in July 2019 – said the former world-class Spanish center back, whose full name is José María Chema Rodríguez Vaquero (42), and who has been officially the head coach of the Hungarian men's handball team since Saturday. – I'm very proud that my name was even brought up for the position, and that I was chosen in the end. At the European Championship, with the 15th place, we disappointed everyone, including ourselves. Therefore, I see the coming period as a chance, an opportunity to improve because even though we worked well and hard in the two and a half years before the European Championship, when it would have been really important, on home ground, we weren't lucky.

– Have you ever had ambitions of becoming a head coach?
– I haven't thought about it, but I know what it means to fill such a position in Hungary. I know that from now on I have to give 100 percent in every training session and every game, and I understand that there are expectations for me. It is important to be successful.

– What's the mood in the dressing room like now? Have you discussed what happened in January?
– We did that right after the tournament. We were sad, but we agreed that we have to continue the work that we started because it is the right path which we have been taking together. We have to believe in ourselves. Hopefully, we have ended our bad world competition performance with the European Championship.

–  After the European Championship farewell, you said that it was necessary to examine whether the team could continue to improve with the then staff, István Gulyás, László Nagy, and you. With your appointment, we've partially received the answer...
 The investigation is ongoing on the federation's part, and not only of the decisive match against Iceland or relegation but also of the past years. The results will be reported by the officials. One thing is for sure: we, coaches, also made mistakes in some things. It's hard to talk about the relegation even now because nuances decided the match. We once won by a goal, another time we lost by one, while the Netherlands showed the world what a fantastic team they have. I'm trying to think of the positives such as us fighting to the very end. The guys gave their all, but this time it wasn't enough. Unfortunately, it happens in sports.

– If you could go back in time, what would you change?
 The results. I can only repeat myself: we trained with integrity, we worked hard, but we were not even lucky. Our work cannot be criticized because we had worked the same way before last year's World Championship, where we finished fifth. I don't want to blame it on the fact that we lost Bence Bánhidi during the first match, who played injured against Iceland, and that we had some minor problems because the others had even bigger ones. I was also too late to be smart about some things.


Chema Rodríguez, the new head coach, already cannot count on several of his key players before the double preparation match against Germany. In addition, in recent days, other core members fell out due to illness, so after Bence Bánhidi, Richárd Bodó, Bendegúz Bóka, Máté Lékai and Dominik Máthé, Mátyás Győri, Miklós Rosta and Stefan Sunajko will neither travel with the team to Gummersbach, then to Kassel. The Spanish professional, therefore, invited Szabolcs Szöllősi (Dabasi KC VSE) and Huba Vajda (Fejér-B.Á.L. Veszprém) to join the squad practicing in Budaörs. 33-year-old Szöllősi has been capped 76 times for Hungary, and he played his last national team match on January 17, 2018, at the European Championship against the Czech Republic.

– What about your transnational life? How can you manage the team when you're also training Portuguese club Benfica until the summer of 2023?
– I have gained a lot of experience in this field over the past two and a half years, and I promise that the distance will not come at the expense of quality in the future. I have a system that has worked well so far, and although I have daily tasks in Portugal, I never neglect the Hungarian national team. I watch the players, the youngsters' development, and I keep in touch with the federation. I enjoy the challenge, the job, I go everywhere with a big smile on my face.

– Do you know who you will work with?
– Everything will be revealed soon. The most important thing is to create a team of professionals that will suit the team. As soon as we have it, we'll announce it, but in the meantime, I'm asking for a little patience.

– For the two pre-season matches against Germany, you invited several experienced players who have not worn the national team jersey for quite some time. Does that mean the national team door is open to everyone?
– I know Zsolt Balogh, Ádám Juhász well, and the young Gergő Fazekas has been on my list for a long time. I have also seen Huba Vajda, and I know about Szabolcs Szöllősi's abilities. Because of illnesses, injuries, and other reasons, I can now try them out and give opportunities to players who have had less chance in the national team recently. However, I am very sorry that I cannot count on Dominik Máthé for a while. There are options to replace him, and we need to get to the point where there are more people in one position anyway.

Preparation matches

March 19, 4.15pm, Gummersbach: Germany – Hungary
March 20, 5.15pm, Kassel: Germany – Hungary

World Championship qualifiers

April 13: winner of the Lithuania–Israel pre-qualifier – Hungary
April 16: Hungary – winner of the Lithuania–Israel pre-qualifier
The winner of the match will qualify for the World Championship jointly held by Poland and Sweden in January 2023.

Goalkeepers: Ádám Borbély (Fejér-B.Á.L. Veszprém), Roland Mikler (Pick Szeged), Márton Székely (Eurofarm Pelister, North Macedonia)
Right wingers: Bendegúz Bujdosó (Ferencváros), Pedro Rodríguez (Balatonfüredi KSE)
Right backs: Gábor Ancsin (Grundfos Tatabánya), Zsolt Balogh (Grundfos Tatabánya), Csaba Leimeter (PPD Zagreb)
Center backs: 
Gergő Fazekas (Fejér-B.Á.L. Veszprém), Egon Hanusz (TVB Stuttgart, német), Ádám Juhász (Grundfos Tatabánya)
Line players: 
Adrián Sipos (Telekom Veszprém), Szabolcs Szöllősi (Dabas), Petar Topic (Balatonfüredi KSE), Huba Vajda (Fejér-B.Á.L. Veszprém)
Left backs:
 Bence Nagy (Ferencváros), Patrik Ligetvári (Telekom Veszprém), Zoltán Szita (Wisła Płock, Poland)
Left wingers: 
Péter Kovacsics (Ferencváros)

Translated by Vanda Orosz

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