Neptunes player Mark Castillo to join Italian giants
This week young Maltese waterpolo players have the opportunity to watch one of the greatest teams in the world as Champions League winners Pro Recco are currently in Malta for a short training camp at the Neptunes WPSC pool in St Julian’s.
Pro Recco are regarded as one of the best teams in the waterpolo scene with a staggering 48 titles won, which include nine Champions League titles and 33 Italian championship crowns.
They are the current European champions, after defeating Olympiacos in the final last June, and have some of the world’s best players such as Italy captain Pietro Figlioli, formerly on the books of Sliema ASC, Montenegrin scorer Aleksandar Ivovic and Francesco di Fulvio just to name a few.
Club president Maurizio Felugo said that he was delighted to have finally realised the idea of bringing the team to Malta and has no doubt that the camp will be the perfect preparation to launch their club’s assault for major honours this season.
“This was a great idea which we had shared with Karl Izzo for several years and it was realised thanks to the support of VisitMalta who brought us here and Neptunes WPSC who provided us with the facilities to train,” Felugo said.
“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase our sport in Malta, a country where waterpolo is already well followed and that has great desire to continue to grow in the sport. The fact that we have the chance to launch our season here is of great satisfaction for us.”
Pro Recco experienced mixed emotions last season as while they won a ninth Champions League title, they suffered an agonising defeat in the Serie A1 final at the hands of Brescia.
“At the start of every season our attitude is always the same, we reset from all that happened from the previous campaign and try to do better,” Felugio, a gold medallist for Italy in the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, said.
“Last season we lost the title for the first time in 15 years to Brescia and that hurt. We have great respect for Brescia but this season we will do everything in our power to win back the title.
“We also have an added stimulus to try and defend our Champions League title. That is the toughest tournament to play where all the best teams go against each other. Many teams have strengthened their ranks and we too have brought in some new players and we are looking forward to go back to Belgrade to try and return once more with the trophy in our hands.”
This season Pro Recco have a new coach in charge after they installed Croatian great Sandro Sukno as their new head coach following the departure of Gabriel Hernandez.
Asked on why he gave the reins of his team to a young coach like Sukno, who is only 31-years-old, Felugo said the fact that the Croatian has good knowledge of the club’s DNA was fundamental.
“After the Champions League triumph our coach Gabriel Hernandez decided to pursue his career in the US and we had to find a new coach,” Felugo said.
“Added to that we had some key players who received offers to return home, such as Serbian Dusan Mandic.
“It was here that we decided to bring in someone young and motivated who could lead our team forward.
“I believe that the fact that Sandro knows what it means to play for Pro Recco and that the only acceptable result at the club is to win it was easy to hand him the job.
“Sandro was a great player during his career and I’m sure that he will be a great leader for our team.
“He has a lot of belief in our players and he has great desire to help the team challenge for all the honours we are competing in.”
Felugo said that although Pro Recco bank their success on star players, the club gives a lot of importance to the club’s youth sector, and this summer they have decided to bring to the club three young foreign players to help them in their formation at the club.
One of these players is none other than Neptunes WPSC player Mark Castillo who next month will be joining the Italian giants for the rest of the season where he will have the chance to train with some of the best players in the world.
“Mark Castillo is a very young player but holds great potential and I am sure that this experience at Pro Recco will help him gain valuable knowledge to maximise his potential,” Felugo said.
“Castillo will be one of three young players who will be joining the club and will work with our youth coach Milos Ciric.
“For us it’s a great chance for us to offer these youngsters the opportunity to grow not only as waterpolo players but also from a humanistic point of view.
“I am sure that they will return home much better players and ready to give a bigger contribution to their national team.”