David Lugg interviews Nuno Russo, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Lagoa Académico Clube, an institution that offers enormous benefits to the local community.
Lagoa Académico Clube is far more than just a sports club. Please explain the role that Lagoa AC provides?
Lagoa Académico Clube has been serving athletes for over 30 years. Throughout this time, a solid relationship has been developed with all those who compete and support the club in the promotion of sport and the development of its social aspect. We promote the development of the individual with values and principles that we believe are structural to any adult.
The club has a strong policy of promoting sport for all.
We have athletes from the age of five (with no upper age limit) distributed across three sports – handball, swimming and water polo. We do not impose any age restriction on our athletes and all are welcome.
At the same time, we have a team of Down syndrome swimming athletes who have brought us great joy and team spirit, with titles and presence in international championships. We are an inclusive club where equal opportunities are promoted to all, regardless of gender, social origin or age.
The men’s handball team is particularly strong and plays in the Andebol 2 National Championship. What are the goals for this season?
We have been competing for several years at second national level, which makes us very proud. Our athletes have the opportunity to compete with the best and we offer our fans very competitive matches at the Pavilhão Municipal de Lagoa. For the new season, we are going to add a senior women’s team to our ranks. This is a result of a great deal of effort by the technical team and in response to the request of many athletes who want to compete for Lagoa AC at this level.
Many of their away matches will be played in Lisbon. How much dedication does this take from the players and support team?
The structure of a handball team involves a great deal of organisation, as well as the availability and dedication of athletes, managers and coaches. We often have to travel to Lisbon (and the outskirts) to play matches with teams from this region, demanding a great level of commitment and sacrifice. Logistically it is a huge challenge and we count on the immeasurable support of the Municipality of Lagoa in the provision of transport for these games. The support of all those who love the club is fundamental, whether they are parents, supporters or club members.
You have two games against local rivals CV Tavira. You must be looking forward to these matches?
The healthy rivalry we have with Clube Vela de Tavira comes from way back. These are always exciting games that develop a lot of passion, both on and off the pitch. We have an enormous consideration for their institution and foster the greatest cordiality and friendship with this club.
If Lagoa AC were to achieve promotion to Handball League 1 could they compete with teams like Porto, Braga and Sporting?
Lagoa AC has a limited budget and cannot compete with teams with professional players and structures. Even so, as a result of our rigorous training work, we have already won many times in matches with these teams, having won several national titles at different levels and in both genders.
The focus of our club is ‘development’ and over the years, we have had numerous athletes achieve success both nationally and internationally. Two good examples of this are Soraia Lopes (currently playing in Sweden) and Gilberto Duarte (playing for Montpellier and the Portugal national team).
The pandemic was a difficult time for anyone involved in sport. How assured is the future of the club?
The emergence of COVID-19 caused serious disruptions in the physical activity of young people and Lagoa AC was not spared these problems. During this time, we promoted contact with our athletes so that the connection with the club was not lost and they maintained regular physical activity. The athletes of the three sports continued to develop isolated training sessions so that they would not lose their physical shape. We actually resumed competition with more athletes than we started with!
On the darker side, there was a drop in income where we stopped receiving monthly fees, getting support from sponsors or promoting activities that generated income. It has been a very complicated period, but we can be proud that our accounts are positive with no debts to any entities, partners or suppliers.
What would you say to someone looking to play handball for the first time?
I would say what I say to all parents and children who want to play handball – try it! Come to a training session and feel the sport. Have fun. I think sports agents have the duty to bring children to all sports, not only handball. It is essential to develop a physical activity that gives them pleasure and that they can practise safely.