Marcel Gil sets the pace
Although just 24-years-old, Marcel has already over sixty caps with Portugal's men's team and is an important member of Head Coach Hugo Silva's team. Portugal won their first World League match on Saturday against the Czech Republic 3-1 (25-23, 19-25, 25-18, 25-20), before losing their second tie with the Czechs on Sunday in straight-sets 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-22). Portugal's next Pool E matches are away to the Netherlands in Almere on June 7 and 8.
Born in Lisbon on May 8, 1990, Marcel's childhood dreams were first geared towards becoming a musician. "I was always thinking about being a musician. I wanted to be a drummer. I love music. I remember that I was starting to take lessons, but then volleyball entered my life and eventually that changed my plans. The dream was only postponed. I still have time to return to music and I continue studying it now and then. Sometimes, when the opportunity presents itself, I still manage to play at bars in Lisbon, although I’ve never been in a band."
Marcel's passion for volleyball, however, soon grew. Like Portugal teammates Alexandre Ferreira and Ivo Casas, Marcel is a product of his country's national training centres. "I started to play volleyball at school. I was one of the best of my class and my coach took me to SL Benfica for the draft the club was holding in 2005. I eventually was selected and played there two seasons. Then the Portuguese Volleyball Federation called me to integrate the U-16 National Team, who trained at Carvalhos, Vila Nova de Gaia, and Resende, where I lived, studied and trained during the year. That was a reality different to the one I was used to. In that time, I played for the national team and SC Espinho, but not professionally. Afterwards, I moved to Associação Académica de São Mamede and then to Sporting Clube das Caldas, where I became a member of the senior team. It was a great season with a great coach."
As a senior player, Marcel soon moved to Spain, where he played for Club Voleibol Pòrtol in 2010/11. "My first international experience was good and important for me. I was very young at that time and I met players who helped me a lot, as well as the coach. It was very helpful to my future."
In 2011/12, Marcel returned to Portugal to play with SC Espinho, then coached by current Portugal Head Coach Hugo Silva. His contribution was a key ingredient in the club's success that season, when they were national champions.
"The championship won for Sporting Clube de Espinho, two years ago, was, without doubt, one of the most remarkable sporting moments for me. Each championship, each victory leaves its own mark, but this was very special in a very special season. We started as underdogs but, in the end, we proved that a young team could do more than the odds indicated. I had just arrived from Spain, didn’t know well what to do next, but that year ended very well for me."
The following season, Marcel, whose mother is German, played for RWE Volleys Bottrop, helping the club to a Bundesliga 2 title and promotion to the top division. There were difficulties ahead, however. "It was a complicated season. In Germany things didn’t go as expected, the club had some financial problems and I ended up without a club in the middle of the season. Luckily there were some proposals from Portugal and I joined Benfica, because it’s a magnificent club with a good project and with ambition to win the title, which we did. Nevertheless, the time in Germany was a great experience that I won’t forget."
Marcel is unsure what the future will bring, but hopes to play volleyball at one of the best clubs in the world. "I don’t know if I’m staying in Portugal next year. Right now I’m here, but I think the foreign opportunities are better at this moment, as the leagues are stronger and wealthier. I have the ambition to play for the world’s top teams but I’m not obsessed by that. I work hard every day to receive an invite from an Italian or Russian club someday."
Speaking about his style of play, Marcel also underlined the importance of playing for his country.
"I’m not really a highlight type of player, but I do my job both attacking and blocking. I like to be aware and focused on the block and I believe that I’m performing well. My mind is always set to be on final stages of the European and World Championships, and of course the Olympics. I believe that sooner rather than later our team will be at the top again and who knows, win a competition, like the 2010 CEV European League. Now I have a different opinion about what it is like to be part of the national team."
"When I was younger I saw the sport differently because I wasn’t called up to play very often. Now I’m an important member of the squad. Dedication, professionalism and reliability are essentials, as is maximum concentration. Sometimes it is not easy to practise and be here on a daily basis and practising two times a day, but that helps us to improve. The most important is to like being with the squad and to proudly represent our country."
Portugal's opponents in FIVB Volleyball World League Pool E are the Czech Republic, Korea and the Netherlands. "Luckily, our team has played many times in the World League. I believe that we are more experienced, tighter as a group and more confident to face this competition, which gathers the world’s best national teams and which implies having stressful travels. I believe that we can expect a little more every year. We will try to win many matches, as everything is possible. The fact that we start at home (against the Czech Republic on May 31 and June 1 at Póvoa de Varzim) could be very important if we win one or even two matches, which could lead us to the away matches with a lot more confidence."
Asked about his interests outside volleyball and music, Marcel admits resting and relaxation are very important to him, as they are to all high-level athletes, and says he is looking into massage and therapy as a possible career for the future. For the time being, however, Marcel is focused on his career as a player. "I have the privilege to be able to play volleyball everyday and I cannot imagine my life without it. Through volleyball, I had the opportunity to meet new people and new friends. Volleyball is an addiction and a passion!"
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