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Zoltan Perl: ''To play for Hungary in my hometown was an emotional night for me''
SZOMBATHELY (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - There is not a more captivating sight in international basketball than seeing Hungary's players sing their national anthem after games.
It's a demonstration of how meaningful it is to represent one's country. Zoltan Perl, a 22-year-old shooting guard who's blossomed for Hungary in the World Cup Qualifiers with a team-high efficiency (14.0epg) and top three team rankings in scoring, rebounding and assists, has spoken about the post-game anthem and more to FIBA.basketball.
When did Hungary's players start joining together after games to sing the national anthem?
We started a couple of years ago. We want to show with this that we are united, and that we are together with the fans, also, and to make them proud to be Hungarian. I think it was the idea of our coach, Stojan Ivkovic.
Ivkovic, his staff and players sing the anthem with the fans after games
How do you see the fans taking to the World Cup Qualifiers?
At the EuroBasket (2017), we had a lot of fans that came and supported us and also during this World Cup Qualification, we've played two games at home and both have been sold out. So we're very proud that people are interested in us.
What's the significance for you when it comes to playing in front of your countrymen?
For me it's really important, it gives me extra motivation. When we played against Poland the second time (February 26), it was a special night for me to wear the Hungarian colors because we played in my hometown, Szombathely, where I was born and grew up and won (64-57). It was an emotional night for me.
How do you view the opportunity to play for Hungary?
For me, it's the same as for all young players. The dream is to represent your country and to also play at a high level. When I hear our anthem before the game, it's something that gives you a special energy.
What's the difference between playing for Hungary and your club?
I have a lot of passion for both. I have the same motivation because I actually play for the club (Falco Vulcano) in my hometown. In every game, I try to do my best.
DURING THIS WORLD CUP QUALIFICATION, WE'VE PLAYED TWO GAMES AT HOME AND BOTH HAVE BEEN SOLD OUT. SO WE'RE VERY PROUD THAT PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN US. Zoltan Perl
Does playing for the national team make you a better player?
And joining Hungary during the club campaign to play the Qualifiers?
I think it's nice that we have an opportunity to play together during the season. In general, I like the system.
What about the shorter preparations?
We were accustomed to having the longer camps and getting better prepared but now you are in shape you don't have to start from the bottom (physical workouts) like usually in the summer, so in that respect it's better.
You've played a lot in the Qualifiers so clearly your role is growing in importance.
Yes, I'm feeling this. After the EuroBasket, we had a change in generation so a lot of players have retired from the national team and the young guys have come up to the first team but I've been in the national team for three or four years. I feel the confidence of the coaches and my teammates, so I always want to do my best and I'm happy that I can play a lot and represent my country. I'm not surprised I'm playing so much because I've worked hard for it but I have to thank the coach and my teammates for believing in me and I'm trying to repay the faith.
How big was that win over Poland for everyone's confidence?
Our goal is to go into the next round and so far, we've played a lot of great games, also in Poland where we led the whole game but lost in the fourth quarter, and also in Lithuania where we played a close game against one of the best national teams in Europe, so I think we're on the right track. We have to play a lot of games like this to get experience, get confidence.
Does playing for Hungary raise a player's profile in Europe?
I think we can say that, but in our team when we step on the court, we never think about the individual or the future. Maybe we can end up going to better teams or better leagues, but we're only thinking about giving 100 percent on the court. All we want to do is to win.
FOR ME, IT'S THE SAME AS FOR ALL YOUNG PLAYERS. THE DREAM IS TO REPRESENT YOUR COUNTRY AND TO ALSO PLAY AT A HIGH LEVEL. WHEN I HEAR OUR ANTHEM BEFORE THE GAME, IT'S SOMETHING THAT GIVES YOU A SPECIAL ENERGY. Zoltan Perl
What's the mindset looking ahead to the remaining First Round games against Kosovo and Lithuania?
We played against Kosovo already at home and it was a really close game so we have to go there with a serious preparation and a serious mind and show we are better. We know that will be a hard job, but we must win if we want to go to the next round. Against Lithuania, we can play without any pressure. We just have to enjoy the game, enjoy how we play and see what happens.
Zoltan, why did you choose to play basketball and not another sport?
I chose because my mother played basketball, and also my father. It wasn't because they told me I had to play it, but I was with them and I grew to like it. I enjoyed watching and thought it was so dynamic, so interesting.