Stories from Belgrade 11 January
Goalies are the "Oldies"
Belgrade (LEN) It seems that goalkeepers can play longer on a high level than field-players. At the 32nd European Water Polo Championships in the men’s event three of the four oldest participants are goalies. The oldest of them is Atilla Sezer from Turkey. He was born at 13 September 1975 in the city of Charkiv which belonged to the Soviet Union at that time and today located in Ukraine.
He is followed by the Romanian keeper Dragos Stonescu, who was born on 30 May 1979 and the Italian legend, Stefano Tempesti (9 June 1979), who led the Settebello to the world title in Shanghai 2011 and to the Olympic silver in London 2012. The fourth one from the seventies is Slovakias Tomas Bruder (7 September 1979), he is the lonely exception as he is a defender.
The youngest player is almost 25 years younger than Sezer. When the Maltese Ben Plumpton was born on 16 February 1998, the four oldest players were already made their marks in the pools, a year later Tempesti made his international debut at the 1999 World Cup in Shanghai. Four players in the men’s event are born in 1997: Revaz Imnashvili from Georgia (9 August), Roger Tahull from Spain (11 May), Nicholas Bugelli from Malta (11 February), Krisztian Manhercz from Hungary (6 February) and Nikola Jaksic from Serbia (17 January).
In the women’s tournament Lara Luka from the host Serbia is the youngest player with the age of 15. The local hero from Red Star Belgrade was born on 25 November 2000. But there are three other players, also born in 2000: goalkeeper Alexandra Ratkovic from Croatia (22 August), her teammate Domina Butic (10 August) and the Turkish Dilara Burali (27 March).
Italian hero Tania di Mario is the oldest player in the women’s tournament. The attacker was born on 4 May 1979 and won her first European gold in 1999 in front of a home crowd in the city of Prato, close to Florence. The three-time European champion (also won in Kranj 2003 and in Eindhoven 2012) and Olympic champion (2004) is followed by the Greek captain Antigoni Roumpesi (19 July 1983).
Malta’s Prime Minister cheers for the team
Belgrade (LEN) At their first match at Euorepan Water Polo Championships on the top level the team of Malta was supported by a great fan from the stands in the Kombank Arena. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat followed the match of his compatriots against France (the Gauls won 17-7) on site. Beside cheering for the players, the head of the Maltese Government also had talks with Serbian leaders, including Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.
Dutch trust in the Kazan team
Belgrade (LEN) The team of Netherlands maintained their great recent run in Kazan, after a silver from the 2014 Europeans they went on clinching another silver in the 2015 World Championships. For Belgrade head coach Arno Havenga trusts in the same 13 players who did the job in Kazan. Our main goal is to qualify for the Olympics, he stated. In Belgrade only the champion will earn a spot at the Games in Rio, the next four sides could join the field of the Olympic Qualification tournament. There the Dutch have a granted berth as they will be the host between 21 and 28 March in Gouda (in case they win here, their place goes to the 6th placed team in Belgrade). In Gouda the first four ranked sides will book their tickets to Rio.