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04/12/2013 11:00
Getting to know: Brazil and Fenerbahce “iron man” Felipe Fonteles
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Istanbul, Turkey, December 4, 2013. Only four days after winning gold at the 2013 FIVB Men’s World Grand Champions Cup in Japan, Brazil’s Luis Felipe Fonteles was already back in action, this time wearing the jersey of Fenerbahce Grundig ISTANBUL in the second round of the 2014 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup – Men. Fonteles helped Turkey’s standout win their home match 3:1 thereby making it to the next round to play there Ukraine’s champions Lokomotiv KHARKIV.
“Of course I was a bit tired after traveling back from Japan, it is normal” Fonteles says about his personal “tour de force”. “Actually I was tired more mentally than physically. As I left the group to join Brazil’s national team for the World Grand Champions Cup, I already had close ties with the other players here at Fenerbahce so even after spending a few weeks away it was not that difficult to come back. At Fenerbahce we work more or less the same way as we do with the national team in Brazil, so this makes things easier for me and I can adjust quite quickly.”

As Brazil won the World Grand Champions Cup in Japan, the South Americans claimed the first title in a major competition since the 2010 World Championships. “The tournament in Japan was as tough as the World League Finals. It was very important for us to claim first place especially as we have started our program leading up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the best way. If you accomplish such a big goal like winning the World Grand Champions Cup as we did in Japan, this evidently motivates you to work even harder so as to make it to the top also in the next competitions you are going to enter. If you look ahead and you see that you may have the chance to win the Olympics at home, you certainly want to go for it and this is our main goal. In Japan the team played just great and I knew I was there to help if we were experiencing any problems. I was ready to take on this task and when that moment came, I simply did what the team was expecting from me! I think that I have done a good job there in Japan, as I fulfilled their expectations so I am happy with my performance and of course also with what the team has achieved.”

Though Brazil won gold in the end, once more – like at the Olympics – Russia came back from two sets down to beat the eventual winners of the competition. Does this defeat hurt even though you still could win gold? “Well, it does not really hurt; it actually motivates us to look at what we have done and take our lesson from this game” Fonteles says. “Similarly to the final match of the Olympics in London, we initially could control their key players but once these were substituted, others came in and they played a great game, thereby changing the course of the match. So there is a lesson to take from this experience so as to get ready for the next time where we get to play Russia.”

Felipe is one of only very few players from the Brazilian national team who is currently playing abroad. “I have spent most of my professional career abroad. I especially like to play in Europe and in my opinion the CEV Volleyball Champions League is the best club competition in the world. Though I like it here, of course sometimes I feel a little home sick being away from home. Last year, while playing in Poland for Zaksa, I found a coach, Daniel Castellani, who has helped me a lot stand the home sickness and the so-called saudade. So I have decided that if possible, I am going to follow him wherever he goes and so this summer I moved with him to Fenerbahce.”

Last year Fonteles made the Final Four of the CEV Volleyball Champions League with Zaksa KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE, won an individual award and finished in fourth place there in Omsk. What kind of memories can you recall from these days? “Zaksa is very dear to me. There is something special with that place, team, and the local guys. I spent an amazing season there and I hope that I’ll go back one day. Our results from the past season came from excellent team work and the great coach that was leading the group. They have been waiting for a European medal since many years but last year we eventually missed out on our chance. But I do hope that one day I will be given a second chance and will make people there happy.”

This season Fonteles is playing for Fenerbahce Grundig ISTANBUL; after a poor season last year, Turkey’s standout got the right to play in the European Cups only after winning the annual BVA Cup. “The CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup is a European Cup and surely it is one of our main goals for this season” Fonteles says. “We have a strong team which is ready to fight for the title and we will be aiming high as Fenerbahce always does. We have got our chances and we simply need to work hard in order to make it happen.”

Felipe has travelled the world playing in Brazil, Italy, Japan, Greece, Poland, and now Turkey. Is there any place he can call home? Which are the positives he can take from all these experiences and the life of a real globe-trotter? “Brazil is my home and I love being there but all the places I have been to have left some special marks on me. I have got special memories and feelings coming up in connection with each place I have been to. Italy is where everything got started; I spent four years there, got to meet and know a lot of people, even someone that I can call mom and dad! Japan was amazing because with the Panasonic Panthers we won the national league for the first time in 37 years. I got to learn a different culture and many things that you only can experience in that country and anywhere else in the world! There is no other place in the world like Japan! Their culture for respect and professional organization down to every detail are unique. Greece was a relatively short season because I was coming back from a knee surgery and the team had financial problems, so in the end I decided to quit to go back home and complete my recovery rather than to take additional risks that may have impacted on my career. However, I remember Greece as a beautiful country with many nice people. As for Poland, I think that everybody knows that this is my second home: I love the country, their people and also the fact that they are so passionate about Volleyball. In this sense Poland is also unique and amazing!”

“And now I am in Turkey playing for Fenerbahce: this is another chapter, a different one but as exciting as those before. A huge club, with fans from all over the world; when you go out to the streets, it does not matter if you play soccer, volleyball, basketball: they just love Fenerbahce! That is also amazing. So in the end, I can only say that I like the fact that I can learn things from different cultures; this makes me a better person.” And an outstanding player as well, we may add, with a sound mind in a sound body.

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