The Man Inside
Srdjan Miljanic, BA, MS

   

Half Season Report

We have now passed the half season in all European competitions. Most of the national championships are well under way. There is only one match in group stage left to be played in the Euroleague and the LEN Cup has reached the semifinal. This time I will try to make an overview of the games and results played until now.

Starting with the most important competition, the Euroleague, we can conclude that after 5 interesting rounds in the group stage, there are only few undecided places for the quarterfinal berths. We’ll start with the group A, with teams of Jadran, Barceloneta, Mladost and debutant Vojvodina from Novi Sad. 03After 5 games Jadran and Barceloneta are the two teams who managed to secure the place in the next round. But it wasn’t an easy walk for them. Jadran who leads the table at the moment with a 4-1 win/loss record, started with an away loss at Barceloneta (11-9), which was considered as a surprise at that moment, regarding all the superstars plying for the Montenegrin team. But after a bad start, they managed to find their form and continue the competition with 4 victories in a row (against Mladost and Vojvodina). This change of attitude and results might have come thanks to the changes in the team management. After the poor starting results (Jadran lost few games in the domestic Adriatic league competition as well), coach Zoran MUSTUR was sacked and the new one came on the “hot” bench of the European title favorite.02 It was Ivica TUCAK, a Croatian, ex coach of Sibenik.  So far he’s doing a good job, but, we’ll see is he going to fulfill the great ambitions of the team management and devoted fans. Barceloneta made to overcome Mladost in their clash for the second place. They drew 9-9 in Zagreb and won 8-7 in a deciding match in Barcelona in the fourth round. Barceloneta showed its great potential and a strong home performance beating favorites, but also some insecurity losing to Vojvodina in Novi Sad 11-9. The biggest surprise of the competition is definitively the young Serbian team of Vojvodina (team’s average age is just above 20). They were the debutants and the underdogs in a tough group, but they showed what passion, discipline and will means in sport. 01As a reward for courage they succeeded in winning the game against Barceloneta at home, on the delight of numerous fans and themselves.  The youngsters also put up a great fight against Jadran, both home and away, playing an tied match for three quarters, but not having the strength at the end to keep up with the far more experienced Montenegrin players. The last round brings the clash for the first place in the group between Jadran and Barceloneta in Herceg Novi. Vojvodina on the other hand will try to achieve the second triumph against the disappointed record European title holder in Zagreb. Here are some of the videos from the games from this group:

Jadran-Vojvodina 13-6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj3Zp3vktwc
Barceloneta-Jadran 11-8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t_lHQ0T8ic
Mladost-Jadran 6-9 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txGlWEBMyRI&feature=related

In group B we saw the matches between reining champion Primorac, Jug, Vasas and Panionios. The reining European champions, Primorac, demonstrated that they still, despite the internal problems with the player’s salaries, have an excellent and powerfull team. They won four, and drew on one of the toughest pools in Europe, against Jug in Dubrovnik. On the other hand, Jug facing some of the changes in the squad, had a slow start, and lost to Vasas in Budapest in the opener. But Vasas also didn’t keep up with the first round performance, and suffered a shock defeat in Athens, against the group underdog, Panionios. These results meant that the last round played on the third of march will decide in the direct duel of Jug and Vasas, who of these two top teams, will finish their European season and who will continue to dream of European title. Considering that the game is to be played on the boiling “Gruz” swimming pool in Dubrovnik, I believe that the Croats will be the ones to go through. Here are also two videos of the games from this group.

Jug-Primorac 9-9 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hs4DoxzJLg&feature=related
Primorac-Panionios 10-6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHR91P7vcI0

Group C with Partizan, Honved, Budva and Olympiacos, saw a complete domination of the Serbian champion Partizan.04 It is the team in Europe that has 5 wins out of five games. Igor MILANOVIC’s boys played some great water polo this season, showing a lot of discipline, dynamics and efficiency in attack as well as in defense. After five rounds yet another Montenegrin team is sure to go through to the quarters too. It is Budva M:tel, reaching their place among the 8 best after triumphs against Honved home and away and against Olympiacos at home. A little disappointing was the performance of the Greek team of Olympiacos, who did show some good resistance to Partizan in their games, but didn’t manage to find its way against other opponents. In the last round there will be games of the first two and the last two teams, but nothing could be changed significantly on the ranking.

Budva-Partizan 3-9 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMBvUhdrIpQ&feature=related

Group D with Pro Recco, Shturm, Sintez Kazan and Eger saw another dominant performance of the “dream team” from Italy. 05Pro Recco holds strongly the first place in the group with 4 wins and a draw. This draw may represent the biggest surprise in all of the matches played so far. Eger succeeded to get a play an 8-8 tie game away in Recco. This could prove important for the Hungarian side, because they are still in the position to make it to the next round. In the final match played at their pool, they face Russian Sintez Kazan in a direct head to head match for the quarter final place. He who wins goes through, but the draw is also good for the guest team. There will be some tough water polo in Eger at the beginning of March, that’s for sure. Shturm, unfortunately has no more chances, and he will play against Pro Recco for glory.  

Eger-Pro Recco 7-11 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRpVOP6bEQA

After final matches in the groups, there will be a draw for couples for the quarter final clashes. 4 first ranked teams will play 4 second placed ones. No matter what the draw is going to be, there will be some serious matches, because there are no more week opponents, everybody wants to be a champion!

LEN Cup Competition reached its semifinal. After close and tensed quarter final matches, the four best teams in this year LEN Cup edition are the two Italian Savona and Brixia Leonessa Nuoto, Montenegrin Cattaro and German Spandau 04. The first matches of the semifinals have been played already. In an all Italian duel Brixia Leonessa Nuoto gained an important 9-6 home victory against Savona. This could seem as a nice advantage, but the reality is that this clash is far from decided. Savona team plays excellent at home, and with star players like Mladjan JANOVIC, they will certainly try to achieve an overall victory and go to the finals. In the other semifinal match Cattaro gained a solid 8-4 victory at home, which might prove to be sufficient for the away match. Spandau 04 has most of the German national team players, but I still consider that Cattaro’s experienced players won’t waste this opportunity to enter to a first final in this young’s club history. Here are some of the videos from the quarter final matches:

Ferencvaros-Savona 8-7 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m60yQx-a7Q
Oradea-Spandau 04 8-6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBaUicoNs4Q
CN Marseille-Brixia Leonessa 11-7 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYH6g10CTKQ
Cattaro-Primorje 8-4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbZS-PARFXw

06Now we’ll take a brief look in the national and regional championships.
After 14 rounds in the ever strong Adriatic League with teams from Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia, the team confidently leading the way is Jug form Dubrovnik with 13 wins and 1 draw. Right on his tale are evenly balanced top three teams from Montenegro – Primorac, Jadran and Budva, as well as Mladost. There are still 10 rounds to be played, so there is a lot of time for changes, but the best teams should stay on top. For detailed results and statistics you can check out the official web site of this league at

http://www.jadranska-liga.com/index.php/component/joomleague/?func=showPlan&mode=1&p=2

Here are some of the many interesting games on line:

Jadran-Cattaro 11-8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suKV-sgHgtE
Jadran-Mladost 8-10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQQB4v_jcDc&feature=related
Primorac-Budva 8-3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASf4Gf7U2Fo
Cattaro-Jug 8-9 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX4RVFdQBAE
Jadran-Jug 10-10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCQrNFtq0sQ
Primorac-Jadran 11-10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBBgDbPCTYo

07In the other regional league, the EuroInterleague, Partizan from Belgrade is once again dominant with 14 wins out of 14. Vasas from hungary holds the second place with 8-2-3, and Vojvodina from Novi Sad is third with 8-0-5. Detailed table and statistics can be found at http://www.waterpoloserbia.org/index.php?id=796 . After winning the national Cup and securing the quarter final place in the Euroleague, Partizan was crowned the best team in the region of South East Europe 4 round before the end of the competition. Six time winner of the Euroleague won this competition in an impressive way 14 victories out of 14 with an goal difference 164-86.

Pro Recco, Savona and Brixia Leonessa Nuoto are head to head with only one point differing these three teams in the Italian championships. As expected these three teams will fight for the title, but it would be very hard to imagine that any team could claim the throne except the Recco “dream team”. Some of the games from the Italian Serie A:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAuVDG9x7aY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7xAqAQowmw&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrbqWqzMfiA&feature=related
 
08
Nothing new in the Spanish league too. After 15 rounds Barceloneta leads the way with 39 points, with CN Barcelona and Terassa trailing two points behind them. Can anyone jeopardize Barceloneta’s title ambition, is yet to be seen. Here is some of the action from the Spanish pools

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9V7RRb4lA8&feature=fvsr
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITGZvDFRHBI&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utqNcqr9HAw&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqVdItMOiRQ&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAkTh882vQs&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iCKnz_BghI&feature=related

 In the French championship, Marseille has a big lead, as usual, losing only one match in 13 encounters. The second in line is Montpellier which has 9-1-2 together with this years surprise Douai who has 9-1-3, but also one more match played.  

09Turning over to some other topics, FINA has announced that Water Polo Federation of Serbia will be the host of this year’s final tournament of the World League. The city of Nis, located in the southern part of Serbia, will host the best 8 teams of 2009/10World League edition. Besides Nis, Belgrade was also the candidate for the organization, but thanks to the special agreement between the Nis local government and the domestic water polo federation, by which this city represents the new training and competition base for the national water polo team of Serbia, we are going to see the cream of world’s water polo in the third biggest Serbian city. Because of the decision, the Serbian team is automatically one of the participants of the finals, while the names of the rest of the teams will be known after the qualification round which are ongoing on all continents. Europe will have four representing nations, Asia and Oceania 2 while the Americas and Africa will give one team each. Current title holder is Montenegro.

International water polo stars who play in the Italian championship and the Italian national team joined the noble cause of helping the victims of the Haiti disaster. The match Italy vs Rest of the World was played on the 9th February in Sori, Italy. In the match with no result importance, the World Stars team won 16-11. The whole sum of money raised which was around €8,000 was given to the representatives of the UNICEF for the help of Haiti citizens. The team roosters were the following:

Italy: Tempesti (cap), Guidaldi, Luongo 3, Figlioli 2, Bertoli 1, Felugo 2, Giacoppo, Bini 1, Presciutti 2, Gitto, Aicardi, Deserti, Pastorino, Sadovy, Fiorentini D, Mirarchi. Coach Sandro Campagna

Resto of the world: Moses, Buric, Madaras 4, Fodor, Kasas, Varellas 1, Nossek 1, Camilleri 1, Benedek, Filipovic 4, Udovicic 3, Molina 1, Nikic 1, Premus, Powers, Nyeki. Coach Marco Risso and Riccardo Tempestini

Franco Cirio, provincial president of UNICEF said: "We told the children of Haiti that today the world water polo players are playing for them, and they smiled. 

Sandro Campagna, national coach, "I told the players that great champions never want to lose. Our opponents  played with a great momentum and we were a little 'softer, motivation was very high even for the game where there is no result importance. I've seen good things and some not very useful in view of the meeting of the World League that we it was an will play against Germany in 15 days. However interesting idea, even the negative must be in our favor.“

Marco Risso, with Richard Tempestini coach the Rest of the World: "It 'was a beautiful evening, great champions clearly not very cohesive and not very compact but they wanted to make a good impression. I think it was a good night for our sport. I saw Italy play well and with joy we see that young perspective Luongo is already included in the mechanisms. But to return to game action as it would be nice if they could go into the official calendar. Haiti is no longer the interesting issue, the tragedy has vanished from the newspapers and television news, but we still need to take care of them and I am sure that what we did tonight, could at least help somebody."

Here is also the link to the game recap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcQ8Ph5VI6o

Another interesting story which shook the water polo, especially in Croatia, 10seems to have reached it’s conclusion. The European championship, set to be played in Zagreb this summer, will not be without the Croatian star defender Damir BURIC,and the Croatian head coach Ratko RUDIC announced that he also counts on him to play for the national team until the London Olympics. The great defender, whose water polo potential was firstly recognized in the Primorje from Rijeka, followed by Mladost Zagreb and finally Pro Recco, will continue to play for the popular „Baracudas“. Two moths ago this player froze the local public announcing that he is taking the Italian citizenship in order to play for Pro Recco, and since that Italian federation recently adopted the regulation that players with Italian papers could not play for any other national team except Italian, he couldn’t play for the Croatian team anymore. Many people criticized this decision, calling him a traitor, other defended his right to chose his own way, but his national team retirement was a done deal. And then all of a sudden, a turn in the story! How come?

There is no change“ says BURIC, „My decision to play for Croatia has never been the issue, but there have been some things about which I didn’t want to speak in public then, and not now also, which caused mu decision to take the Italian passport and leave the national team.“
Your ambitions haven’t changed, nore did the regulations, but your decision have radically, why?

Certainly not because of the federation. Of all people, the one man who was correct with me was the coach RUDIC. I’m coming back to the team because I want to, and because he want’s me too. And I need to correct the information given to the Croatian public – the president of Pro Recco is not Croat, he is an Italian Gabriele Volpi.“

Actually it is one of the vicepresidents Mr. Predrag SLOBODA, who is Croatian, and in the same time the president of the Croatian team Primorje. Therefore BURIC’s decision is not 100% sure because the decision depends on Mr. Volpi also, and it will be known soon. BURIC’s salary in Pro Recco is for water polo standings is about enormous €170,000. Many consider that the money was the main reason why BURIC left the national team in the first place. All in all Mr. Volpi pays top money. No wonder it is his decision that it is on hold.

[Click the photo of Srdjan to learn more about his water polo experiences .]