Buenos Aires, Argentina, February 23, 2009 – A few years ago, it was decided the Argentine Men’s national team was in need of an overhaul if it was to hit the heights of times gone by on the international stage.
The transition from old to new has been a slow and sometimes painful one, with some of the new generation taking time to find the rhythm needed at the highest level. Slowly, but surely, though, they are getting there.
One of the new kids on the block is 19-year-old Facundo Conte, son of Argentine Volleyball legend Hugo Conte, a mainstay of many of Argentina’s finest moments – moments this new generation hope to emulate.
With an aggressive style, outstanding serving and dynamite spiking, Conte Junior characterizes all the attributes of the team picked by new Argentine head coach Javier Weber ahead of the 2009 FIVB World League.
The young spiker has, of course, Volleyball in his veins. Hugo was part of the “82” generation, the team which won bronze at the FIVB Men’s World Championship on home turf in 1982 and at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The FIVB chose him as one of the best eight players in the history of the sport.
Father now coaches son at Italian League A2 club Catania.
"It is very hard to have my father as coach, but our relationship is great,” says Facundo. “He helps me a lot to improve my technical, tactical and mental level. The important fact of this experience is that I learn a lot playing at good level and being, luckily, one of the stars of the team. It makes me make more effort. I am extremely happy being here and very satisfied.”
Before Catania, they played together on-court for Gimnasia y Esgrima de Buenos Aires, taking them to the ACLAV A1 Men’s League of Argentina.
Facundo, who won the South American Junior title with Argentina in 2008 – the third time they had won it after triumphs in 1980 and 1982 when Hugo was part of the team – plays with the same intensity as his father in light blue and white jersey and it is clear when he speaks how much following in his father’s footsteps means to him.
"I feel honoured. To be in the roster of this new process makes me have a lot of expectations and feel satisfied because my job last year was, not only in Italy but also with the Argentine National Junior Men Team, to grow as Volleyball player. I am going to give all what I can to the utmost of my abilities, as I have always done.”
Facundo played for the senior national team at both the 2008 American Cup and during a friendly series of matches against Croatia in 2006 throughout Argentina. Nevertheless, these were experimental games, with his first real test coming with the 2009 FIVB World League. The young Conte is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming tournament which Argentina returns to after a year away.
“We cannot do any speculation,” says Conte. “This is a completely new working team, and even though we know each other among the players, I hope the team and the coaching team will be able to take Argentine to the highest level, as happened years ago.”
The sport lineage of the Contes is not unique in the current Argentine Men’s national team. There is Nicolás Uriarte, son of Jon, another of the most famous Argentine players and coaches. The younger Uriarte is a setter of great potential.
Then there is Rodrigo Quiroga, nephew of 1988 Olympic bronze medallist Raúl, who will be the captain of the Argentine team during the 2009 FIVB World League.
There’s also Iván Castellani, son of Daniel, captain of the 82 generation. Iván is currently showing his great potential in the Argentine Youth Boys team.
For all of them, they hope to someday emulate the achievements of their fathers.
"The comparison was, is and will always be, but I, really, never think of comparing myself with my father,” says Facundo. “I am very proud of what my father represents and I learn from him but I hope one day to be as he was, but I do not make any competition with that fact, I only use it to learn every day a little bit more.”