Moreno: “Benfica is one of the loves of my life”
Paulo Moreno helped Cape Verde reach the main round of an IHF Men’s World Championship for the first time at Poland-Sweden 2023. Now he hopes to carry the success to his club SL Benfica for the remainder of the group phase in the EHF European League Men 2022/23.
Paulo Moreno, SL Benfica’s line player, played for Cape Verde at last month’s World Championship, where the national team achieved an historic feat.
“Playing a World Championship is a huge feeling of accomplishment. In addition to being the second biggest competition, surpassed only by the Olympic Games in my opinion, playing against the best players and best coaches is the solution to continue to grow,” Moreno said.
“Representing a country is a feeling that cannot be taken away from anyone. It is an enormous pride to have a nation screaming for us.”
The African team also played at the World Championship two years ago, in Egypt, but had their campaign cut short to one game following an Covid-19 outbreak.
So, Cape Verde’s first win in the competition had to wit until 2023, when they defeated Uruguay 33:25 to open group C in Gothenburg. The triumph earned Cape Verde a place in the main round.
“A high-performance athlete is never satisfied. I always want more and to do better,” Moreno said. “I am proud of our journey. Our goal was to reach the main round, we had a great experience and we certainly did our best. However, many things have yet to be ironed out and we can always do better.”
We will only think about the next opponent. Step by step – with this mindset we won the competition last year.
Doing better – that is exactly what Moreno and his club SL Benfica are hoping for when the European League group phase resumes next week.
Moreno has been wearing the red-and-white outfit for almost two decades, only interrupted for a brief stint in Qatar last season. He spent all his youth at Benfica.
“SL Benfica is my home, one of the loves of my life,” he said. “It is an inexplicable feeling. I can’t find the ideal word to describe what it's like to play for SL Benfica. I can't imagine my life without handball and without SL Benfica. That's why I managed to combine two huge passions, it's an indescribable feeling of accomplishment. It's a lot of good things at the same time.”
Titleholders Benfica have not had the start to the group phase they wished for, ranked fourth in group A with two wins and four defeats.
“We have to stand up when things go well and when things go wrong. We wanted to have better results in some games, but we are aware that not everything is bad,” Moreno said.
“Apart from the game in Montpellier (33:27 defeat in the last game before the winter break), which was bad, all other games were very balanced. We fought a lot, wasted some opportunities and it was not possible to win.”
But team captain Moreno does not want the team to be stuck in the past and demonstrates a lot of ambition in his words.
“Let’s leave this behind and we are going to do our best in the remaining four games. We are only focused on us and the things we can improve,” he said.
“We know we have the quality to win the four remaining games in this group and that's why we are going to fight.”
According to Moreno, Benfica should now live from match to match.
“Like every year, our goal is to go as far as possible. And always think game by game. Our mind is on the game against Tatran Presov at home (next Tuesday at 18:45 CET, live on EHFTV), then we will think about the next opponent. Step by step – with this mindset we won the competition last year.”