Two teammates, two friends, two rivals. Nikola Karabatic and Rodrigo Corrales play for the same handball club, Paris Saint-Germain. Karabatic is a member of the French national team while Corrales is Spain's goalkeeper. If France qualify, both may well be rivals next year in Tokyo, but that won’t stop them from being friends.
Tokyo 2020 spoke with the pair about their friendship and next year’s Olympic Games. Karabatic and Corrales also showed how much they knew about each other via a very special quiz.
Friendship and respect
Corrales transferred from Poland’s Orlen Wisla Plock to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, joining Karabatic who had moved from Barcelona to PSG in 2015. And while it may be true that the two players don’t have the same prominence in the game (Karabatic has been a handball megastar for over 15 years) or play in the same position, they still have the utmost respect for one another.
“Nikola is a legend in our sport. Just training with him makes you better, because you pay attention to what he does, you want to be like him,” explained Corrales.
“In my opinion, he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, if not the best right now,” Karabatic added.
Together, they have won three French league titles with PSG (2018, 2019 and 2020), in addition to two French League Cups (2018 and 2019) and one French Cup (2018). But 36-year-old Karabatic has a long list of trophies won at club and national team level, as well as a slew of individual rewards.
He is one of the best handball players in history, something that Corrales who is seven years younger than him, is well aware of.
"He is the player who has taken our sport to another dimension. An athlete respected by other athletes. He generates admiration. When we started, everyone wanted to be like him. He is a decisive player, who has made history and won many trophies.”
Joie de vivre and Las Ketchup
Corrales is not exactly a novice either, having won two European Championships on the trot with Spain (2018 and 2020) and played a major role in both title wins.
“He isn’t a typical goalkeeper,” said Karabatic. “He’s very tall [2.03m] and has a very different style to other French or Spanish keepers. Despite his height, he's got spectacular moves.”
But the main quality both of them found in each other was a human one.
“He's very close to his teammates. He helps people around him to improve. He's always trying to lead by example, but he's also a tremendously kind person. He’s not your typical star. You can talk to him about everything and he always tries to push you to improve. He is one of the leaders that I love and it’s a pleasure to work with him,” Corrales said of Karabatic.
It’s a pure pleasure to have Rodri as a teammate
because he always brings some joie de vivre.
Karabatic sees exactly the same qualities in Corrales.
“Beyond his sporting skill, he's a very positive human being: always smiling, always motivated, always happy in training, very involved in all the matches and the trips. It’s a pure pleasure to have Rodri as a teammate, because he always brings some joie de vivre.”
But if the respect between the two players is obvious, take a look at the quiz to see how well they know each other and where their tastes differ… Did you mention Las Ketchup, Karabatic?