The Man Inside
Srdjan Miljanic, BA, MS

   

Early Summer Water Polo Days

June represents the period in European water polo when the club go slowly out, and the national teams start their preparation period for the long and demanding summer actions. Most of the national championships got their new/old champions. Among the last to finish the play off were the Italians and the Croats. Italians, who sometimes consider the national Championship more important than the Euroleague saw the mighty Recco winning yet another title, this time the national one. They played against the neighboring team of Savona, who did manage to beat them two times during the regular league phase, but they suffered three loses in the final series (10-8, 10-9 and 7-4).

We can say that Recco is continuing it’s dominance, and although there will be some significant changes in their squad, they will continue to be the water polo dream team in the next season too, but we’ll deal with that a bit later. In the Croatian league, we were able to witness a great 5 games final series, where Jug at the end managed to use the home pool advantage and come out victorius against the highly motivated Mladost team.

These were the last championships to finish, and just after finishing the club competitions, most of those players joined they team mates in national teams. Serbian national team started trainings in the mid June, and they spent 10 days in Canada, training and playing matches against the Canadian team which is trained by the Serb Dragan Jovanovic. In the two official matches, Canadians showed some good resistance with both games finishing with a narrow score 10-9 and 10-8 for Serbia. It is obvious and highly positive that the Canadians are growing in team and play quality, which was shown also in their results in the last Olympics and World Championships. On the other hand, the Montenegrin team, also went overseas for the preparation, and they had some joined trainings and matches with the USA team and some universities. If we remember, last year it was the Serbian team that did the same thing, and I personally think that those kinds of exchanges are mutually beneficial for all, and especially because it gives a possibility for the youngsters and water polo workers in North America to see the best players of the world in person and close to them. Everybody must work together to promote our sport and to raise popularity, and it is definitively the star players, who should be used the most to attract spectators and why not, the sponsors too.

All the major teams are preparing firstly for the World League Final 8 tournament which will be held in mid July in Nis, Serbia. After that there will be the Fina Cup in Oradea, and at the end of summer, a cherry on the cake for the Europeans, the European championship in Zagreb. It will be interesting to see who of the teams will prepare it’s form the best for which competition, and who will favorize what. Montenegro players have a serious business, because they are defending both World League and European Championship titles, won in Podgorica and Malaga in the previous editions of those competitions. The only major team which will be missing once again in the World League competition will be the Hungarians who will certainly maximize their strengths in preparing for the EC in Zagreb. But even without the reigning Olympic champions, the competition in Nis will be fearce. The names of Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Spain, USA, Australia, China and South Africa are bound to produce many quality matches, and bring excitement to the spectators.

There have been two stories which shook a bit the European and especially Serbian water image1polo in the past few weeks. First one is the decision of the former Serbian power goalkeeper Denis Sefik to play for the national team of Montenegro. After a clash with Aleksandar Sapic in the 2008 Olympics, after the semifinal game, this goalkeeper decided not to play anymore for the Serbian national team. Under the Fina regulations, after a year without national team envolment, a player is allowed to change nationality and play for some other country. This is what Denis did, and after months of speculation, finally he announced that he will be playing for Montenegro in the next competition cycle. Generally there weren’t any bad words between two federations or players, but it was the fans, that see this as a disappointing act, and they feel that this is a just-for-money gig. Serbian water polo federation announced that it is aware of this decision but that it doesn’t change any of its plans for the future. They feel that it is his legitimate decision and that every player has the right to choose the team they want to play for.

image2Another story which was very noted in the public was the sacking of Vanja Udovicic from Pro Recco, when he refused the blackmailing offer from the Italian Champion. The thing is that Vanja Udovicic left the Italian club when they forced him to play for the Italian national team in the future. They wanted me to play for Italy, it was just simply yes or no. They explained that with the fact that they invested a lot in me getting the Italian passport, and that they believe that my place is in their national squad. When they proposed that to me, I just told them what I was telling them before – I don’t consider playing for any other national team other than Serbia! I am the captain of the World Champions and I could never play for an another national team. I know how we feel when we are together, playing for the country. It seems that they didn’t expect that and they decided to take this measure and to let me go. I never intended to change my stand. Said Udovicic.

This reaction of the national captain provoked an instant reaction of the public in Serbia, who were cheering this sport legend and commentated they they are proud of him, of his decision and of a fact that there are still such patriots and people who wouldn’t do everything just for the money. He was always, but we will definitively stay one of the most popular sportsmen in Serbia. Dejan Udovicic the national coach said Vanja’s decision wasn’t a surprise for me because he had the same or similar attacks before. We never influenced players decisions, and I hope that this gestures will be valued appropriately.

Now let’s take a look at some of the transfers…

Pro Recco is buying once again – everybody!! Besides Vanja Udovicic, the Italian coach Pino Porzio doesn’t count on two centers, the experienced Alessandro Calcatera  and the Croat Daniel Premus. There are serious rumors that the Serbian top scorer Andrija Prlainovic  is close to sign the contract with them. They have already signed a Montenegrin duo Boris Zlokovic and Aleksandar Ivovic from Jadran Herceg Novi, as well as Spanish  Felipe Perrone from Barceloneta. They also purchased Italians Federico Lapenna and Nicollo Gitta. Unofficial information is that Recco will pay a 120.000 euros to Jadran just for transfer for Aleksandar Ivovic, which is 20.000 more than they payed last year for Serbian star Filip Filipovic.

 

The Serbian champion Partizan, solved a big issue for the next season. The legend of Serbian water polo – “The Great Vladimir” (Vujasinovic), will stay for another year in the team. Water polo is not considered as an expensive and huge spending sport, but in these critical times, it is normal that water polo clubs experience many problems. Although the Serbian team announced that they will cut the budget by 20-30%, one big concern is solved. Despite his 37 years Vujasinovic decided to keep playing and to try to help Partizan in a quest for a new European title. Head coach Igor Milanovic said that he had no doubts whether he wanted Vujasinovic to stay in the team. He stated that new contracts will be offered to Slavko Gak, Zivko Gocic and goalkeeper Slobodan Soro, who are basically free agents now. Our primary goal is to keep the players which were the foundation of the team in the last season. I hope that we will have successful negotiations which is the condition to have a good season. Partizan signed a young Montenegrin player Aleksandar Radovic, who is a talented national team player from Jadran Herceg Novi, but it is still to be seen, if they are going to hold od to their best scorer Prlainovic.

Image3Jug representatives are relatively quiet about the future transfer season, and they didn’t talk much about who’s going and who’s coming to Dubrovnik, especially because the recession is far the most mentioned word in this sport society. But what changed the posture of Jug authorities was a deal of the Hungarian brothers Varga (Denes and Daniel), former strongholds of the Hungarian champion TEVA Vasas Plaket to the club of Primorje from Croatian city of Rijeka. A lot of informal and informal information came out recently. One thing is certain - the captain Miho Boskovic is leaving! He will continue his career in the Vasas from Budapest. He signed a 2 year deal with the Hungarian champion. This is something new in the European water polo, because in the recent years, there were no many top class foreigners in the Hungarian squads, but it seems like the times are changing. I guess Vasas saw that they need to change an approach to get more competitible with the teams from the adriatic and italian leagues. Accoriding to Boskovic, the offer from Italian Savona was more tangible, but he judged that Vasas is a more prosperous team, and the team managment from Vasas was really fair and that’s why he decided to choose Hungary. Vasas will be a respecable team next year, because despite the leave of the Varga brothers, besides Boskovic, they returned Gergely Kiss from Primorac and Barnabas Steinmetz I needed to change the surrounding, mainly for the motivation. No matter how good you are you can always learn something new in Hungary and I’m sure that by playing in Vasas I will benefit greately as a player. Players like Hosznyansky and Varga brothers left the club, but Kiss, Steinmetz and me arrived. We expect a signing of a center also. Next season Adam Steinmetz will join us too, so that this team could make something for the clubs 100th anniversary.

There are also rumours that Vanja Udovicic will return to Partizan, but there are still no evidences about negotiations. Not Jug, nore Savona nore Posilipo, will be seing the Montenegri captain Nikola Janovic in their teams. He decided to stay for another year in the Montenegrin champion Jadran from Herceg Novi. This team decided to focus on domestic players for the upcoming season, but it is yet to be seen how are they going to replace stars like Ivovic and Zlokovic, who will lead Pro Recco next year.  European vice champion Primorac signed new contracts with Antonio Petrovic, Darko and Drasko Brguljan and Adam Steinmetz, and soon the same is expected from Filip Trajkovic, Dragan Draskovic and Tony Azevedo.

Predrag Jokic and Nikola Vukcevic, ex players of Jadran continue their career in Budva, which was maybe what this team needed to play a more important role in the national and European championships. They won’t prolong the cooperation with two Franicevic and Ivosevic, and negotiations are still under way with Sefik and Antonijevic.

One of the best defensive players of all time, Serbian Aleksandar Ciric signed a two year contract with Spanish champion Barceloneta, and he will probably be accompanied with the young Serbian center Petar Filipovic from Vojvodina.

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