Modena, Italy, September 27, 2010 – Luis “Feñito” Rodríguez is not a regular guy with a 9-to-5 job in his native Puerto Rico because it happens that the 41-year-old employee of a pharmaceutical company combines his daily routine with another very demanding as one of the regular middle blockers for his country national Volleyball team.
The oldest man at this year's 2010 FIVB Men’s World Championship, at 41 years, 2 months and 14 days, Rodriguez is a revered figure in Puerto Rico and teammates look to him as a father-figure and a source of inspiration.
“He has been a great leader for all of us,” says Hector “Picky” Soto, the captain and star player of Puerto Rico who at 32 is also not a kid anymore. “To have him in our team give us a sense of tranquility and inspiration.”
“Feñito has made a lot of sacrifices to stay in shape and be part of our team in the past few years,” Soto adds. “Sometimes when we are playing certain matches we want to win badly not only for us but because of him.”
Argentinean Carlos Cardona, who has been coaching the Puerto Rican team since 2006, refers to Rodriguez as “an example of spiritual strength and a guy who has reinvented himself at this stage of his sport life while giving a lot to this team.”
A family man happily married to Ada Mercado, Rodriguez has three sons Marcos, Martin and Luis who are following his steps practicing sports with devotion.
“Marcos plays Volleyball, Martin likes basketball and Luis divides his preferences between volleyball and baseball,” Rodriguez commented.
After the conclusion of the match against Cameroon last Sunday we had the chance to have a chat with this model of perseverance and hard work.
What motivates you to stay playing at your age?
LR: “I have to say that it is because of the love I feel for this sport. I have been playing for 21 years in Puerto Rico with several stints in the national team. Being able to be part of the squad during this very successful stage makes me feel proud as also the chance to continue to help my team to get victories.”
Do you follow a particular regime of physical preparation?
LR: “I would not say something specific but what I can tell is that for a guy who works 8 hours daily at the office, and helps at home with picking up kids at school and help them with their homework, is pretty tough. But I go regularly to the gym to pull weights and comply also with practice time with the team. Believe me, it hasn’t been easy.”
What about your meals regime and diet?
LR: “I like sweet food and candies a lot but I have had to slow down on that. I have been taking care of my pretty good eating as healthy as possible. I have shed quite some pounds and today I can feel in a much better shape than in recent years.”
Which has been the biggest thrill in your very long career?
LR: I would have to say that the chance of playing in the FIVB 2006 World Championship and the good showing of our team that finished in the twelfth position. That’s my biggest moment. Also recently, just one month ago, we qualified for the first time to the FIVB World League and that has to be up there with the rest of many other joyful moments during all these years.”
How long you plan to continue playing?
LR: “At the international level, volleyball is very high so it is hard to say now. One of our goals was to reach the World League and our coach has told me he counts on me for that competition next summer. We have to wait and see, but after that I admit that I have to think about retirement.”
How do you feel being the oldest player of the World Championship?
LR: “Age is only a number and the most important thing is how you feel inside and right now I feel with plenty of life. I feel young and my teammates treat me like simply as another guy and we make jokes and everything. So I don’t feel like an old man in the locker room or in the playing court.”
Finally Rodriguez had one explosion of laugh when it was suggested to him that life starts at 40, but the real fun begins at 50.
“I like that one, for sure,” said a very happy, easy-going guy Feñito Rodriguez who looks to everyone as a big man of 41 years-young.
FIVB Press Department Director - Richard Baker
Mobile. +39 334 914 1332