Eric Gull – PanAmerica’s most ‘cosmopolitan’ player

Eric Gull is widely known, not just in PanAmerica but in most other continents. At age 37, he has played handball for 32 years, and he has been playing abroad for about 13 years now. He has been very ‘mobile’ as his affiliations cover almost a full dozen clubs in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. He has won numerous league championships, scoring titles, and above all the Champions League. (For a list of all Eric's clubs, see this )

Eric played for all the top Spanish clubs including Barcelona and most recently Ciudad Real. And of course he has participated in no less than six World Championships for his dear Argentina. I caught up with Eric after his return home to Argentina, where he will resume playing for the club where it all started, Quilmes.
CA: Eric, how come that you got started with handball rather than with one of the more traditional sports in Argentina?[/i]

EG: My father (ed.: who came over from Switzerland) played handball and so did my brother. I did try swimming, field hockey, tennis and volleyball, but in the end I decided to focus on our beloved handball.

[i]CA: What do you think are the main reasons for having had such a successful career?[/i]

EG: It has been a great advantage to be left-handed, in combination with my height (204 cm). But I have also had the luck of playing for great coaches, from my first one, Cacho Rothmund, through Enrique Menendez, Olle Olsson, Vladimir Maximov, Juan Carlos Pastor and Talant Dushebaev, just to mention a few.

[i]CA: Your first step towards becoming a professional player was a period in Brazil, but after that you have adapted to living in playing in a variety of very different places such as Russia, Sweden Tunisia, Qatar and of course Spain. How have you managed to adapt so well in so many different environments?[/i]

EG: I felt at home in all these places, and I believe I am basically a positive, happy person who is able to communicate and to establish new friendships everywhere.

[i]CA: Which locations or affiliations did you enjoy the most?[/i]

EG: I would probably mention Valladolid and Barcelona, simply because that’s where I had my biggest successes purely from a handball standpoint. But more generally I would not really want to mention one place ahead of the others; I enjoyed all of them.

[i]CA: You already participated in six World Championships; but what are your thoughts now about Sweden 2011? After all, this is one of the more ‘exotic’ countries you have lived in…[/i]

EG: Well, I hope I will be selected, because it would surely be something special to participate in one more Championship precisely in Sweden. Of course, Argentina’s preliminary group will be played in Goteborg, but it will give me an extra incentive to help the team qualify for the main round, as this might mean that I would get to play in Lund.

[i]CA: But how do you look at Argentina’s chances realistically?[/i]

EG: Of course, the dream would be to repeat the fantastic performance from the World Championship in Portugal 2003, when we defeated Croatia and tied Russia. But it will be tough to advance to the main round. Poland and Sweden are of course among the top teams, and we must focus on doing well against Korea and Slovakia.

[i]CA: Which teams do you see as the favorites this time?[/i]

EG: I would say France, Croatia, Spain, and then Sweden playing at home.

[i]CA: Beyond the World Championships, how do you view your continued career; how many years do you think you have left?[/i]

EG: I am back in Quilmes now partly to have a less demanding schedule so that I can build myself up in an optimal way for the World Championship. A near-term goal is then to play in the PanAmerican Games in Guadalajara in October 2011 and help Argentina qualify for the 2012 Olympics. So I can see myself as playing in Europe again in 2011. But at least we have decided that, in any case, our children will go to school here in Argentina.
CA: Your comment about the PanAmerican Games reminds me about the traditional Argentina-Brazil rivalry. We recently had the World Cup in football, although Argentina and Brazil did not get to play each other. But the rivalry is really a major one also in handball, is it not?[/i]

EG: It certainly is. There is the same passion when we meet in handball. I have many friends on the Brazilian team, but when our countries play each other, then there is no limit to our readiness to battle.

[i]CA: When your days as a player are over, do you see yourself continuing with handball in some other role, as a manager, coach, or even as a referee?[/i]

EG: As I see it right now, I am now anticipating such a new role; I would probably be more inclined to have a situation where I can finally spend the weekends with my family.

[i]CA: Finally, Erik, if you were asked to give some advice to a young talented Argentine handball player, what would you say?[/i]

EG: I would tell him or her to be humble but also to have the ‘hunger’ to be the very best; it is necessary to pursue your dreams with absolute determination, but you cannot ignore your studies as you must have something to fall back on if it turns out to be impossible to become a professional handball player.

With that we thank one of our continent’s foremost handball profiles and wish him good luck, first in Sweden in January and then in all his future endeavors on and off the court!