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The fall into hell of Jesús Rollán, the laughter of Spanish water polo

BarcelonaOn the same day that Jesús Rollán decided to become a water polo player, a letter arrived at his house inviting him to take a test to play for Real Madrid football. “He could have been the best in different sports,” said journalist Francisco Avila. “But he ended up being the best goalkeeper in history and one of the leaders of the best generation of Spanish water polo,” adds Alberto Martínez. The two have had enough of covering the Olympic, World and European Games in half-planet pools. And they both felt that “there was not enough talk of that generation.” “Maybe because of how they lived, at the limit; maybe because one of their most magnetic players, Rollán, died the way he died,” says Ávila. Jesús Rollán, always laughing in the photos, committed suicide in 2006 at the La Garriga detox center where he was struggling to find meaning in life. “I’ve been through it all,” Martinez said.

The two journalists have conducted more than 50 interviews in order to reconstruct the life and death of a Madrid native who took root in Catalonia, where he won titles with both clubs – such as CN Catalunya – and with the Spanish national team that remained. a handful of glory in the 1992 Olympic final, and that could be thorned out in 1996 in Atlanta. The result is a major journalistic work, the book Eternal Jesus Rollan (Corner), built like a house of cards thanks to witnesses who sometimes remain anonymous to explain sincerely what those years were like. “That team competed to the limit and lived to the limit,” admits Ávila, who thanks to theoff the record he has achieved the complicity of old friends who at first did not see clearly whether it was worth scratching into a painful past. Between suicide, drugs and the fact that he was the one who introduced Iñaki Urdangarin and Princess Cristina and was left with a runny nose when he was not invited to his wedding, for which he had bought a dress, there were those who feared it would be a morbid story. That is not the case. Quite the opposite.

The book was born out of conversations after the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. “After so much time covering water polo, we noticed that there was a gap around the figure of Jesus. It was necessary to explain his career and his life “, explains Ávila. The two journalists were clear that everything had to be explained, but fleeing from sensationalism. “We are at a time when there is more and more talk of mental health in sport. So we had to talk about the fall and the end. And have the complicity of the family to be able to pay tribute to him,” says Martinez. . Initially, Rollán’s mother and widow received the proposal coldly. But in the end they helped to complete a book where each chapter begins with a sentence from a witness, without quoting who it is. “It’s a kind of game between us and the author of the quote, the only one who really knows who he is,” explains Ávila. A book that is born in the sea and ends in the sea, in the water, of course. To pay tribute to a goalkeeper who became one of the most popular images in state sports in the 1990s, raising his finger after every major stop. Kissing the ball as he prevented it from ending up in the back of the net.

At the 1996 Atlanta Games, that generation led by Rollán and Manel Estiarte had promised that if they won gold they would end up spending the night at an American police station. They were like that. In the nightclubs of Barcelona in the early 90’s they burned the rage they sometimes carried inside after a defeat or a hard training with the coach Dragan Matutinovic, who took them to the limit preparing for the 1992 Games. he explained that if he made the players work so hard it was to leave them without “will”. He wanted them to be his soldiers, but they were free souls. And in fact, they won the gold four years later, when they could be freer with coach Joan Jané.

Icones pop

“Those players who looked like pop icons, many of them unrepeatable athletes with problems out of the water, are the result of a way of doing things that luckily has come to a better life,” says Avila. El waterpolo espanyol, sempre dominat pels catalans, va rebre el reforç d’una fornada guanyadora de madrilenys, liderada per Rollán, just quan es vivia la febre olímpica. The goal was to win, without thinking about the future. Without being aware of whether athletes were studying or caring. Rollán, who would also play in Italy and retire at CN Sabadell, was left empty-handed after retiring. “I don’t know how to do anything else,” said the Madrid native at the time. He had no education, although jokingly with a journalist he said he had studied agricultural engineering. Many believed it, but it was not true. Because he only knew how to live the day, he was awarded the 1996 Gold Medal for a charitable cause on a television show.

The water polo goalkeeper Jesús Rollan

Rollán, privileged for his physique and for his competitive nature, won two European Cups, one with CN Catalunya and one with Italian Pro Recco. But since he had arrived in Barcelona, ​​when he was going up Vila de Gràcia with a motorbike called to the CN Catalunya facilities, he liked to play hard outside the swimming pool. From a very young age he had already had a car accident returning from a party. And after the 1996 Games, when the gold medal finally arrived, he began to fall into the hell of drugs. He couldn’t get out. And he left a memory that still hurts his teammates, like a Manel Estiarte who was never forgiven for not making peace, after Rollán got angry with him for a comment about whether he had much left. rope as a professional. One of those comments that is forgotten with dinner. But Rollán said enough before.

The book, turned into a tribute, is also a warning about the need to care for mental health in a top-notch sport in which pursuing glory many people sacrifice too much. And by the way, it serves to talk about a generation that inspired a lot of people in the pool. At the presentation of the book, in fact, Ávila and Martínez invited a lot of current state water polo goalkeepers. And they were asked to imitate the gesture with which Rollán celebrated the stops, when in the water everything made sense. Outside he stopped having them.

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