HVS monografija ENG

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CWF MANAGEMENT BOARD In the summer of 2010, at the time when the senior European Championships were being organised in Zagreb, at the time of the greatest ever international water polo competition in independent Croatia, and at the time when this sport was celebrating its 102nd anniversary in Croatia, the members of the Management Board of the Croatian Water Polo Federation, who supported this book and without whom it would not have been published, were: Perica Bukić (President), Goran Sukno (Vice-President), and members: Milivoj Bebić, Goran Prgin, Mladen Drnasin, Ante Jerković, Adrian Ježina, Tomislav Jukić, Predrag Sloboda, Ante Kulušić, Prof. dr. Boris Labar and Tomislav Paškvalin.


Foreword by atuhors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Introduction by Perica Bukić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Introduction by Zlatko Mateša . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11


1908-1945 The Beginnings of Water Polo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Story Began in Great Britain . . . . . . . . . . . From Polo in Water to Water Polo . . . . . . . . . . . First News, First Rules, First Match . . . . . . . . . . . New Rules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Water Polo Conquers the World . . . . . . . . . . . . Paulo Radmilovic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Welshman of Croatian Origin . . . . . . . . . . . . The Public Beach Bačvice in the History of Croatian Water Polo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bačvice 1908 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Development of Water Polo in Split . . . . . . . . . Conquering Bays and Founding “Republics” . . . . The Baluni Maritime Sports Club . . . . . . . . . . . The Yugoslav Sports Club Jadran . . . . . . . . . . . The Construction of the Pool at Zvončac . . . . . . Yugoslav-Italian Swimming League . . . . . . . . . Firule Maritime Sports Club . . . . . . . . . . . . . . POŠK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Founding of the Club . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Development of Water Polo in the Area of Rijeka The Foundation of the Croatian Sports Club Victoria, Swimming Section . . . . . . . . . . . Resumption of Club Activities . . . . . . . . . . . . . Football on Water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Invitation to Training in the Newspaper . . . . . . . Victoria’s Most Successful Year . . . . . . . . . . . . . Water Polo in the Shadow of Swimming. . . . . . . Ivica Jobo Curtini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Boom Period . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Foundation of Yugoslav Swimming Federation . Development of Water Polo in Dubrovnik . . . . . . . . Founding of the Sports Federation in 1923 . . . . . New Sections for Swimming and Water Polo . . . . Water Polo Players Were Also Swimmers . . . . . . Gruž Youth Sports Club – GOŠK . . . . . . . . . . . . Građanski Sports Club . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Penatur Maritime Sports Club . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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14 14 15 17 17 20 24 24

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34 35 36 37 38 39 42 43 45 46 46 47 48 48 49 49

The Beginnings of Water Polo in Zagreb . . . . . . . . . . . . “The Day Has Come” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “It Seems the Matches Will Be Hard” . . . . . . . . . . . . The First International Competition . . . . . . . . . . . . The Last Matches at Maksimir Lake . . . . . . . . . . . . . Promotional Water Polo Matches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Invitation to the Match in the Newspapers . . . . . . . . Poor HAŠK Placements at the National Championships . Football Players Formed the Water Polo Team . . . . . . City Beach Water Polo Team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Founding of the Zagreb Swimming Club . . . . . . . . . Zagreb Swimming Club Water Polo Team . . . . . . . . . The Appearance of Jug Water Polo Players on the Sava . The First Pool in Zagreb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Appearance of Zagreb Swimming Club in the Swimming League . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Opening of the Marathon Pool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Water Polo in Karlovac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Karlovac Sports Association . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Appearance of Yugoslav Team Between the Two Wars . With Macanović at the EC in Bologna . . . . . . . . . . . Ivo Dabrović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . European Championships in Magdeburg – First Success . At the Olympics in Berlin 1936 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Greatest Number of Appearances by Luka Ciganović Luka Ciganović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Miro Mihovilović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ivo Giovanelli . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Water Polo Rules Between the Wars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . After Three Heavy Fouls – Penalty Shot . . . . . . . . . . The Leather, Round, Hard and Waterproof Ball . . . . . Water Polo Arena . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Water Polo in the Banate of Croatia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Foundation of Croatian Sports Association . . . . . The First Appearance of Croatia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Water Polo During World War II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Water Polo in the Independent State of Croatia . . . . . Water Polo in WW II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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1945-1991 The Supremacy of Croatian Clubs and Players Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić . . . . . . . . . . . . . Zdravko Ježić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ivo Štakula . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lovro Radonić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . First Medal: Bronze in the European Championships in Vienna 1950 . . . . . . . . . Hrvoje Kačić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Toni Nardelli . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Veljko Bakašun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marko Brajnović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tomislav Franjković . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ivica Cipci Johan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Vinko Rosić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Zlatko Šimenc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Aleksandar Seifert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ozren Bonačić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mexico 1968: Olympic Gold! . . . . . . . . . . . Water Polo Leaves the Swimming Association Ronald Lopatny . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Miro Poljak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Zdravko Hebel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Zoran Janković . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Karlo Stipanić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ivo Trumbić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Falsely Accused of Doping. . . . . . . . . . . . . Damir Polić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Boško Lozica . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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84 86 87 88 89

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. 90 . 94 . 95 . 96 . 97 . 98 . 99 . 100 . 101 . 102 . 103 . 106 . 109 . 110 . 111 . 112 . 113 . 114 . 115 . 118 . 119 . 120

Belgrade and Rijeka: the Hosts of the 1st World Cup . . . . . Đuro Savinović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Luko Vezilić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Slobodan Trifunović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Siniša Belamarić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . European Championships in Split: “We’ve Had Enough of Silver, We Want Gold!”. . . . . . . . . Vlaho Orlić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ante Lambaša . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Double Olympic Winners with Rudić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tomislav Paškvalin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ratko Rudić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Božo Vuletić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Veselin Đuho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . On the World’s Throne after Eight Overtimes! . . . . . . . . Zoran Roje . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ante Nakić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . For Yugoslavia, the European Championships “Cursed” . Renco Posinković . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Great Success enhances the Reputation of Water Polo . . . Perth 1991: World Champions for the Second Time . . . . . Vitomir Padovan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mirko Vičević . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Athens and Barcelona 1991: Together for the Last Time . . Željko Klarić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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121 122 123 124 125

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1991-2010 Duško Antunović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1991 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Break with the YWF and Independence . . . . . . . Duško Klisović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rich Club Activity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1992 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jadran Koteks – European Champions . . . . . . . . Mladost – the First Croatian Champions . . . . . . . Vlaho Asić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mislav Bezmalinović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Deni Lušić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Milivoj Bebić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1993 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The First European Medal was Won by the Cadets 1994 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . International Matches Outside Zagreb Too! . . . . Goran Sukno . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1995 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Supremacy of the Frogs, the National Team Fourth in the European Championship . . . . . . . Siniša Školneković. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1996 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mladost Wins the Champions Cup and Super Cup Silver Medal in Atlanta Olympic Games . . . . . . . Bruno Silić. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Perica Bukić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Maro Balić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Renato Vrbičić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tino Vegar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ognjen Kržić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joško Kreković . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1997 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Samir Barač . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Neven Kovačević . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1998 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Australian F in Maths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dragan Matutinović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1999 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Florence Silver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dubravko Šimenc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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2000 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Sidney Flu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2001 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jug on the Throne, but Croatia on her Knees . 2002 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Perica Bukić’s Farewell Match . . . . . . . . . . . 2003 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Another Final, but also Riots and a Penalty . . . Vjekoslav Kobešćak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Teo Đogaš . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Elvis Fatović . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2004 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Silić’s Death, Beaten and Humiliated in Athens Mile Smodlaka . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2005 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Step Away from the Throne . . . . . . . . . . . Ratko Štritof . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jug’s Victory and Problems in Belgrade . . . . . 2007 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . World Champions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Igor Hinić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Damir Burić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Miho Bošković . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Zdeslav Vrdoljak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Frano Vićan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Aljoša Kunac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pavo Marković . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Josip Pavić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Maro Joković . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Andro Bušlje . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2008 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Soaked Beijing Moustaches. . . . . . . . . . . . . 2009 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Triumphal Beginning of a New Century . . . . 2010 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Europe Has Come to Zagreb . . . . . . . . . . . . Renato Živković . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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CLUBS VK Jug . . . . . HAVK Mladost. VK Jadran . . . VK Mornar . . . POŠK . . . . . . VK Primorje . . VK Šibenik . . . VK Medveščak KPK . . . . . . .

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QUARTER . . . . . . . . .

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Adriatic Mermaids – Women’s Water Polo in Croatia Croatian Quartet in the Hall of Fame . . . . . . . . . . Laureats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Olympic Games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . World Championships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . European Championships. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . FINA Cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . World League . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Champions Cup / Euro League. . . . . . . . . . . . Cup Winners’ Cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LEN Cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . European Super Cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yugoslav Champions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yugoslav Winter Champions . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yugoslav Cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Croatian Champions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Croatian Cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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In Union With the Ardent Sun and Sea

“Our maritime sports clubs have introduced water polo into their program. The sport first appeared in Great Britain but now its spread is talked about all over the world, and has also come to the eastern Adriatic and is spreading among Croatia’s coastal population. I would like to be a good prophet and foretell that this sport, in union with the ardent sun and sea, will not remain a dead letter. I am hopeful that it will find enthusiastic devotees.” These lines were written by a journalist in Zagreb’s Illustrated Sports Magazine (Ilustrovana športska revija) on 13 November 1920. The journalist colleague was not a prophet. The colleague was just simply right. That “sport in union with the ardent sun and sea” did not remain a dead letter. Moreover, it has now moved into a new century of life among the Croats. In the past slightly over hundred years it has become one of the most popular, but also one of the most trophied sports in Croatia – a sport with which our homeland prides itself as one of the world superpowers. The club with the most trophies, the player with the most medals in the world of water polo, the world record holder for the number of goals in one match, the best coaches, players and

goalies in the world of a certain time period... They all come “from the country on the eastern Adriatic”, they all come from Croatia. Therefore, “A Century of Croatian Water Polo”, the book which you are holding in your hands right now, is not only a retrospective of a century of a sport in a country. Maybe it will sound pretentious, but these pages reflect a significant part of the entire history of water polo in Europe and the world. We, as the authors of this book, had no intention to create an encyclopedia, even less a bibliographic representation of the game of water polo and its participants. Our primary goal was to rescue from oblivion deserving individuals, significant moments of Croatian and a large portion of the world’s history of water polo, with interesting stories, well-known and less well-known details of the pool heroes and the masters who play ball in it. We leave it to you to decide how successful we have been, but if tomorrow we make swimming pools, water polo and sport in general attractive to only one person – we have succeeded! The authors of the book “A Century of Croatian Water Polo”


Years Fly, but Croatian Water Polo Remains Dear friends, Brothers in water and the yellow ball, Water polo amongst the Croats is officially a tradition. According to the strictest valuation or old Austrian customs. Namely, once upon a time in Vienna, at the time of their emperors and the Croatian-Hungarian kings, but also at the time of the birth of Croatian water polo, the attitude was that tradition could be mentioned only after an organization, occurrence, custom or manifestation turns 100 years old. By entering into its second century, Croatian water polo has gained the rare and thus more valuable privilege of becoming a tradition. It gives the Croatian water polo, its reputation, shine and strength additional patina which in this case, does not cover, but it additionally ennobles one of the most trophied sports in the history of our nation. Starting from that premise, we have not for one moment forgotten the old Latin saying: “Verba volant, scripta manent”, that is to say, “Words fly, and what is written stays“. In other words, you have in front of you a sublimation of a whole century of water polo among the Croats, all relevant events, players, coaches, referees, officials, the most important goals and matches, photographs, moments of unspeakable happiness and unquenchable sadness. Therefore, this book makes us proud to have tried to create a book covering one century of our sport. But, at the same time, the book “A Century of Croatian Water Polo”, which is now in your

hands, implies the obligation of historic argumentation, precise documentation, accuracy and comprehensiveness. How far we have succeeded in this, we leave it to you to judge. Maybe we have made a counter foul here and there, just like in a match, maybe the players’ realization is no longer exactly one hundred percent. However, like the Croatian water polo players of the past more than 100 years, we also played this “match” with our heart in it, with great investment, work and effort. If some, clearly unintended, mistake has crept in, we are comforted by the realization that in the next 100 years some other water polo chroniclers will be even better, but also that in the next 100 years Croatian water polo will spawn new great names, moments to remember, images to steal from oblivion. In honor and to the glory of the sport, and above all, of the Croatian water polo ship, whose crew has changed through the century, but the safety of the voyage has always remained steady, while our proud flag is always on the highest mast. Regarding that Latin saying we mentioned about “words flying and what is written remaining”, on this occasion it is more appropriate to say something different: “Years fly, but water polo, Croatian water polo, remains.”

Perica Bukić, President of the Croatian Water Polo Association

The Place in Heart Dear friends from the swimming pool, This greeting is not just a mere decency written in a celebratory manner on this occasion. I have the privilege to be the first among equals in the Olympic family of the country which is rightfully proud of its athletes and their successes. This is a country which is known around the world for its soccer legends: Zvonimir Boban, Davor Šuker and Robert Prosinečki; basketball greats like Toni Kukoč, Dino Rađa and the late Krešo Ćosić and Dražen Petrović. The is the land of the tennis virtuoso Goran Ivanišević, ski queen Janica Kostelić, the athletic heroine Blanka Vlašić, not to enumerate further. However, one of the most long-lived trademarks of Croatian sport and of our country are undoubtedly, the water polo players! In the recent years, the most frequent Croatian fan prop on the stands, regardless of the type of sport, besides the familiar checkered jerseys, are nothing other than – water polo caps. Not by accident, not without a reason. At the top of the world for more than a century, you spread the glory of our homeland, as well as the glory of sport in its primeval core. This does not and could not go unnoticed. Namely, water polo has managed to preserve, cherish and further improve its image as a truly

academic sport, a chivalrous competition of spirit and body through all the historic and social changes of the past hundred years. I have been lucky to know “first hand” all the hardness and complexity of the skill necessary in this sport since I have been personally playing water polo on an amateur level with my friends once a week for several years. That makes my enthusiasm, joy in witnessing your successes, scoring, brilliant defenses, rises to the throne of clubs, especially of the national team, even greater. Therefore, this book just as the water polo cap, will hold a special place for me, and I believe, for all the country’s enthusiasts of this sport. But that place is not on a shelf. It is in the heart. It is harder to get there, but that place is forever. That place in Croatian society has been earned by this generation as well as all other generations of Croatian water polo players of the past more than a century. All those who are waiting between the covers of this book. A plethora of academics and top athletes. My friends from the swimming pool.

Zlatko Mateša, President of the Croatian Olympic Committee

01 1908-1945

The Beginnings of Water Polo The Story Began in Great Britain Little has been written about the beginnings of water polo. It is well-known that it started its formation as a separate sport in English and Scottish rivers and lakes in the middle of the 19th century, when swimmers tried in this way to break the relatively monotonous competition program. The game in the water with the ball, which the players were not allowed to catch or throw with both hands, carry under water or brace their feet against the bottom of the court, was named differently at first. Thus, for example, in 1869, it is mentioned as underwater football (as they played with a football ball). The new sport started spreading rather quickly. The need arose for consolidating the rules, the first official games were played, the first championships‌ By the end of the 19th century, it was adopted in Germany, Austria, Belgium, France and Hungary. It has been a part of the modern Olympic Games since 1900, and besides football, it has the status of the oldest Olympic team sport with a ball. The International Swimming Federation (Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur – FINA) took on responsibility for water polo in 1908, with the Water Polo Commission as part of it since 1928.


From Polo in Water to Water Polo The game which preceded today’s water polo, at first seemed more like rugby and was called water football, or water rugby. The goal was to place the ball on a raft on the opponents’ end of the area intended for the game. To be more specific, at that time there were no goals. In the beginning, players rarely passed the ball to one another or formed combinations, but each player tried to score by himself. There are several explanations for the name water polo. According to one, the name comes from the Tibetan word “pulu”, or in the English-Indian version “polo”, which means ball (while today it is the name for the sport with horses). According to another, it came from the game of polo in water, in which the players, instead on horses, “rode” on barrels and passed the ball with a club to their co-players and kicked it into the goal. In the end, both explanations come down to the same thing – as it was played in water, with a ball (polo), we got the logical name for the sport – water polo.

RUGBY ON WATER – in the beginning the game was similar to rugby, there were rafts instead of goals on opposite sides of the field, where the ball had to be placed to score “WATER SPECTACLE” IN BRIGHTON IN 1878 – the peak of the event was a match of polo in water POLO ON WATER – WATER POLO – According to one explanation the word “water polo” came from the game of polo in water, in which the players, instead on horses, “rode” on barrels and passed the ball with a club to their co-players and kicked it into the goal. < “PULU” – Tibetan word for ball



< TECHNIQUE – the technique of the game was as described in the rules CAPS – the players had to wear caps with their club insignia ON LAND – the goalkeeper defends the balls directed at the goal > Game in Crown Baths

William Willson

First News, First Rules, First Match On 12th July 1870, the London daily paper The Times published the following: “Late yesterday at West End two teams with seven players went into water to play a game of water football.” It was the first news in the public media which mentioned water polo. Four years later, the daily paper The Field published a news item about a match of water football held in the pool at Crystal Palace in London. The sport spread, but everyone played in their own way, so in time the need arose for some common rules. Thus, in 1870, the London Swimming Club developed some basic rules, and in 1876 these rules were issued by the Bournemouth Rowing Club (field size – 46 m, seven players in a team, one referee and two linesmen…) and William Wilson from Glasgow (the field borders were defined for the first time, the goalkeeper was the only one outside the water to guard the goal…). The first match played according to Wilson’s rules was held in the same year on the occasion of the opening of the Victoria Baths. It was played between the Victoria team and the selection from western Scotland. The goals were set and the players were not allowed to put the ball under water, brace their feet against the bottom, catch or throw the ball with both hands. Seven players played in each team, and the match was run by a referee. The score was acknowledged if the entire ball entered the goal. The first official match on a marked field in open water was played on the River Dee in Glasgow in 1877. The English and Scottish teams played for the first time in 1880, the match was played in Kensington Baths in London, and the Scots won (4:0). The first English championship was held in 1888.

New Rules As the London Swimming Club was not satisfied with the large number of rules for basically the same sport, in 1885 its members united and processed all the existing rules, which were accepted by the other water polo clubs and associations. The basic settings of the new rules were the following: – The match lasts 20 minutes; – At the beginning of the match, the team captains arrange the sides; – At the beginning of the game, the referee throws the ball into the middle of the game field. All players, except the goalkeeper, enter the water at the same time. The goalkeeper remains outside the water and defends the goal from there. – The ball is passed above or under the surface of the water to the rival’s goal. – It is not allowed to hold a rival player if he is not in possession of the ball. If somebody breaks that rule, a free kick will be called from the place of the foul. – Scoring is by placing the ball with both hands on the floating platform or a boat for that purpose. – If the ball is kicked out of the game field, the referee will call a free kick for the other team. If the ball flies over the floating platform or the boat, the free kick will be performed by the goalkeeper. – The referee will mark every score with the whistle and the match is interrupted for team reorganization. – After the first half-time, the teams change sides. – If a player does not present himself for the game, and he is registered, he cannot play after the beginning of the match and will not receive the award should his team win. – The referee has great authority. In case of doubt, he makes a decision on the basis of circumstances not anticipated by the rule book.




Water Polo Conquers the World After Great Britain, in 1888 water polo began to be played in the USA as well. The English swimming coach John Robinson was the first to organize a water polo team within the Boston Athletic Association. Two years later, J. H. Smith and Arnold Heilban founded the Sydenham Swimmers’ Club team, and the New York Athletic Club was founded in 1890. The first water polo match in the USA was held in 1890 between the Sydenham Club and Boston Athletic, with the score 2:1. At the turn of the century, water polo became very popular in America; the matches at Madison Square Garden in New York and Mechanic’s Hall in Boston were seen by as many as ten thousand spectators. The Americans took over the English rules, but they played water polo with plenty of violent contact, so the new sport was quickly characterized as one of the most brutal sports. The ball could be kept under water with both hands, the players were allowed to hold or block a rival player in every possible way. A “dog eat dog” rule applied to the American game, so a player could be held under water until he lost consciousness. “We wanted a sport for men, not for little girls”, replied Rex Beach, the captain of the Chicago Athletic Association, to comments about the brutality of this sport, saying that the English water polo was too gentle in the opinion of Americans. As American pools were mostly indoor, even the smaller ones, water polo had different rules. One of the changes


BRUTAL OVER “THE POND” – the Americans took over English rules, but they played water polo with a great deal of violent contact, so the new sport was quickly characterized as one of the most brutal sports. “We wanted a sport for men, not for little girls”, said Rex Beach, the captain of the Chicago Athletic Association. OSBORNE SWIMMING CLUB – Arthur Robertson, Thomas Coe, Eric Robinson, Peter Kemp, George Wilkinson, John Henry Derbyshire and the unknown team leader (upper row), William Lister, William Henry, Robert Cranshaw (middle row), John Jarvis, F. Stapleton, Victor Lindberg (lower row) OLYMPIC GOLD FOR THE NEW YORK ATHLETIC CLUB – clubs competed at the Olympic Games in Saint Louis in 1904, but this time only American clubs > THE FINAL MATCH OF THE FIRST OLYMPIC TOURNAMENT IN PARIS (17th August 1900) – Osborne Swimming Club from Manchester beat the Belgian Swimming and Water polo Club from Brussels 7:2


was the replacement of the raft or floating platform with a painted goal. Water polo has been played in Germany since 1894, in France since 1895, in Hungary since 1889, in Belgium since 1900. The participants at the first Olympic tournament in 1900 in Paris were not national teams, but clubs, and thus the first winners were the members of the Osborne Swimming Club from Manchester, who beat the Belgian Swimming and Water Polo Club from Brussels in the finals, played on the 17th August 1900, with 7:2. The third-placed team was the French La Libelulle de Paris. The clubs competed again four years later, at the Olympic Games in the American Saint Louis, but this time there were only American clubs, and the members of the New York Athletic Club became Olympic champions, who first beat the third-placed Missouri Athletic Club, 5:0, and then the second-placed Chicago Athletic Club with 6:0. National teams tested their strength for the first time at the fourth Olympic Games in London, when the first place was won by the British national team after beating Belgium 9:2 in the finals. The Swedish water polo players won the third place. Women have been taking part in the Olympic Games since 2000. The International Swimming Federation (Federation International de Natation Amateur – FINA) was founded on 19th July 1908.


OLYMPIC GAMES 1908 IN LONDON – A water polo pool was built in the central stadium > Photograph of one of the first games played in England


Paulo Radmilovic A Welshman of Croatian Origin

The famous Welsh water polo player Paulo Radmilovic originated from Croatia. His father Antun moved from Dubrovnik to Cardiff, where Paulo was born on 3rd March 1886 (his mother was Irish and called Annie Dillon). When he was eight he became a member of the Principality Swimming Club in Cardiff. At the age of 12 and 13 he was the swimming champion of Wales, and he was very successful at the championship of Great Britain for boys under 16. When he participated for the first time in the senior championship of Wales, he won the 100 and 400-yard races. In 1901, at the age of 15, he entered the Welsh national water polo team as the youngest player ever. He started his water polo career in 1906 at the Intercalated Games in Athens. At the Olympic Games in London


in 1908, as a member of the British national team, he won two gold medals – as a member of the freestyle relay race 4x200 m and for water polo. At the Olympic Games in 1912 and 1920, he was the captain of the British water polo team and he won another two gold medals. He also played at the Olympics in 1924 and 1928 – so, he participated at the Olympics over a period of 20 years, the first time as a 22-year-old, and the last time as a 42-year-old and he won a total of four gold medals! He participated in swimming competitions from 1902 until 1931. At championships of Wales and the British Amateur Swimming Federation he won first place nine times, second place ten times and third place eleven times in the discipline of free style. He also competed in diving and at the international meeting in Paris he won first place. He practised swimming and played water polo in summer, while during the other months he played football and golf. In 1967 he was chosen for the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale (USA). He died in 1968 at the age of 82, in the town of Weston-super-Mare near Cardiff, where he spent most of his life. SOURCES 1. Petković, M. (1993). Tjelesno vježbanje i šport u Dubrovniku od 14. stoljeća do 1941. godine (Physical Training and Sport in Dubrovnik from the 14th century to 1941). Dubrovnik, Dubrovački športski savez. 2. Fisković, C. (1980). Tri doprinosa za povijest sporta 17. i 19. stoljeća u Dalmaciji (Three Contributions to the History of Sport in the 17th and 19th Centuries in Dalmatia). Povijest sporta (History of Sport) 42 (11), 19-30. 3. Petković, M. (1977). Prilog proučavanju uspjeha sportaša našeg porijekla koji su nastupili za strane zemlje (A Contribution to the Study of the Success of Sportsmen of Croatian Origin Performing for Foreign Countries). Povijest sporta (History of Sport) 30 (8), 2.617-2.624.

40th anniversary of winning the Olympic gold medal in London – Radmilovic is standing in the middle row, the first on the right. FOUR-TIME OLYMPIC CHAMPION – The British water polo team won its fourth gold medal in Antwerpen in 1920. Paulo Radmilovic (third on the left) was both a selector and a player at those Olympics. The other team members: Charles Bugbee, Noel Purcell, Christopher Jones, William Peacock and William Henry Dean.

The Public Beach Bačvice in the History of Croatian Water Polo Bačvice 1908 The first public beach in Split, under the name Bagno Polo, was opened in 1880. The public beach Bačvice opened a year later. Over the years, there, as well as in other bays in Split, unregistered clubs fostering water sports were founded. So in 1904, a student of the General-Program Secondary School Fabjan Kaliterna, who already showed organizational abilities as an 18-year-old, together with his brothers Luka and Anto and friends from local families (Ivan Šakić, Niko Kuzmanić, Jere Matošić, Umberto Fabris, Lucijan Stella, Mario Stella, Toni Brajević, Vjekoslav Luiđi Ivanišević, Jure Gašparini, Lovre Bilinić, Vlado Boschi, Šime Raunig, Duje Ivanišević and Vlado Matošić), founded the unregistered club Šator (Tent). Why was the club named that? Because during their foundation meeting they spread a tent to make shade! All this happened at Bačvice. Two years later, Fabjan went to study in Prague, which at the time was one of the European sports centres. The most famous club was Slavia, which had many sports sections.

Together with other students from Split he frequently visited that renowned club and became familiar with the work of its sections. There they saw and learned how to train and play football, how to row, swim and play water polo. In as early as 1908, during the summer holidays, Fabjan Kaliterna, together with his colleagues, organized the first water polo match in Split. This historic event took place at Bačvice in 1908, in an improvised pool, bordered with rope and buoys. The players had red and white caps, and they were mostly students, former members of Šator. The referee was Špiro Perišić, later a highly-esteemed lawyer. In order to referee, he had to learn all the rules, which were translated from Czech by Fabjan. He is said to be the first water polo referee in Croatia – despite the fact that he did not know how to swim! SOURCES: Gizdić, J. (2004). Fabjan Kaliterna otac splitskog športa (Fabjan Kaliterna the Father of Split Sport). Split: Splitski savez športova.


MEMBERS OF THE CLUB ŠATOR – members of the (unregistered) Sport Association Šator in 1904 on Bačvice: Ivan Šakić, Nikola Kuzmanić, Jerko Matošić, Humbert Fabis, Lucijan Stella, Toni Brajević, Vjekoslav Ivanišević, Jure Gašperini, Lovre Bilinić, Vlado Boschi and Fabjan Kaliterna (standing), Šime Raunig, Ante Kaliterna, Duje Ivanišević, Vlado Matošić, Luka Kaliterna, Mario Stella, Martin Stella (bottom line). The tent half used as sun shade can be seen in the background. BAČVICE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY – the public beach where the first water polo match was played in 1908. A few years later wooden pontoons were set up FABJAN KALITERNA (first on the right) – the father of Split sport and the founder of Croatian water polo < THE FIRST BALL – the first match on Bačvice was played with a leather ball brought from Prague by Fabjan Kaliterna


The Development of Water Polo in Split


Conquering Bays and Founding “Republics” In Split water sports started to develop in an organized way in the first years of the 20th century. The first competitions in swimming, water polo, platform diving and diving took place on public beaches. The first Split public beach Bagno Polo was made in the city harbour in 1880, the public beach Bačvice in 1891, and fans of water sports also gathered in the bays of Firule, Baluni and Zenta. This is where the unregistered clubs were founded. The first club was Šator in 1904 on Bačvice, and in time other bays, which had been deserted until then because of their distance from the city, came to life. On the eve of World War I, the bays Baluni on the west and Firule on the east side of the city became lively. The first visitors to Baluni Bay were the high-school students Roko Celegin, Armano Nikolić, Toni Šejbal, Marin Smoje, Niko Siriščević, Hrvoje Ljubić and Joško Miler. Ante Gabrić and the Bettini brothers are mentioned as the first swimmers. In those bays, the young founded what they called “republics”, where all their “inhabitants” enjoyed complete freedom. They made friends, developed different forms of healthy life on the coast, competitiveness and various skills – more diving and staying under water than competitive swimming. Besides water sports, they also did running and wrestling.

World War I interrupted their activities, however, at the end of the war, the “republics” flourished again and could be found in every Split bay or public beach. They were the initiators of almost all sports in Split. The activity of the “republics” has never been officially verified, but their existence represented the basis for the development of different Split clubs. The “republic” of Mali Puk from Firule Bay later gave rise to the swimming and water polo clubs Firule, Triton and POŠK. The bays of Bačvice and Baluni had “republics” with the same name, the “republic” Bagno Polo was in the city harbour, the “republic” of Sustipan in the bay Zvončac… The “republics” had a constitution, a flag, an admiral, a protocol and an emblem, and the members wore the same swimming caps. In order to become part of the association, one had to take a test. It consisted of a series of long dives and a fight with a battle-tested rival in deep water. Until 1921, the members of the “republics” did not only choose one sport or activity (swimming, sailing, rowing, excursions), but everybody participated in everything. In 1919 and 1920, the “republics” ceased to exist, and simultaneously the organized development of swimming and other sports began in Split.


The Baluni Maritime Sports Club The first swimming club in Split and Dalmatia was founded on the basis of the “republic” Baluni on the west side of the port of Split. The founding meeting of the Baluni Maritime Sports Association was held at the Sokolski Dom in the rooms of the Olympic sub-committee on the 23rd September 1920. The foundation of the club was instigated by the brothers Paško, Frano, Ivo, Oskar and Milan Bettini, Joško Miler, Danilo Majić, Petar Šerić, Ante Gabrić, Ante Raić, Gjerman Gjadrov, Bogumil Doležal, Fabjan Kaliterna, Rudi Bičanić... The first president was Frane Aljinović. On 24th July 1921 the club opened its rooms in Baluni Bay, built from donations by its members. The pool was 100 m long from north to south, with a starting wall and a turning point. Many decorated boats arrived at the opening ceremony, while the rooms were blessed by Father Ivan Delale. The first public water polo match after World War I was played on 30th July 1922 in Split in the first sub-federal championships in swimming and water polo. The match between Baluni and Firule ended 5:1. At the first national

MEMBERS OF THE “REPUBLIC” BALUNI 1917 – founded the first swimming club in Split and Dalmatia THE WATER POLO PLAYERS BALUNI PLAY THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL MATCH with the team from the British ship Brionny. INSCRIPTION OF THE BALUNI CLUB FLAG 1921 THE MATCH IN BALUNI BAY (the first recorded photograph)


championship, held on the 6th August 1922 in Belgrade, they were extremely successful: Baluni Maritime Sports Club, consisting of Ante Pilić, Oskar Bettini, Hrvoje Macanović, Duško Žeželj, Milan Bettini, Nenad Ožanić and Danilo Majić, won second place. After returning from the championships, the Baluni water polo players met with the team from the British ship Brionny and achieved a high score of 9:0. In 1923, the Baluni participated at an international water polo tournament in Zagreb, organized by the club HAŠK at the Maksimir Lake on the occasion of the club’s twentieth anniversary. In the finals, Baluni played their first official international match, their rival being the team Hakoah from Vienna. The match ended with a tie, 3:3, while the guests were superior in extra time: 5:3. At the second national championships, held on 2nd and 3rd September 1923 in Sušak, Baluni won their first title of national champions in water polo. This was achieved by: Ante Pilić, Andro Kuljiš, Mirko i Duško Žeželj, Ante Roje, Zlatko Mirković and Nenad Ožanić.

The Yugoslav Sports Club Jadran In the middle of June 1924 Baluni Maritime Sports Club changed its name to the Yugoslav Sports Club Jadran, with Pavao Britvić as president. At the national championships on 9th and 10th August 1924, the Jadran water polo players won second place. After the match with Victoria (2:2), Jadran complained about some irregularities and the match was annulled. However, Jadran did not want to appear, because they were not allowed to enter a few new players, so the match was registered to Victoria and Jadran lost its title of champion. In the night of 18th April 1925, the entire Jadran headquarters burnt down. As the barrack was insured for 200,000 dinars, the club started to build a new structure in the bay of what is today the sports harbour of the Sailing Club Labud. A new Olympic-size pool was built standing from east to west. Despite difficulties, the national swimming and water polo championships were held in the Jadran pool at the beginning

of September 1925. During the match between Jadran and Jug, with the result at 2:0 for the Dubrovnik team, the referee Malešević was thrown into the sea. The match was interrupted and a new match should have been held in Dubrovnik. However, the Split team did not go to that match, so the title went to Jug. In 1926 the financial state of the club was so bad that the swimmers and water polo players did not appear at the national championships. In mid-April 1928, Jadran and Triton from Firule joined the club. However, most members of Triton returned to their first club Firule and only a few went to Jadran, so that the merger did not strengthen Jadran much. At the national championships in 1929 in Ljubljana they won second place. The following players appeared: Zlatko Mirković, Srećeko Čulić, Andro Kuljiš, Ante Roje, Zdravko Birimiša, Mirko Mirković and Kruno Bešker. They beat Victoria 6:1, Primorje from Ljubljana 14:0, Bob from Belgrade 3:2 and they lost to Jug 0:3.

BALUNI – vice-champions of the state in 1922 BALUNI – national champions in 1923: Ožanić, Roje, Mirković, Pilić, M. Žezej, D. Žezej and Kuljiš


The Construction of the Pool at Zvončac From 1930 to 1936 the national championships were held in the senior and junior competitions. A sporting event dating from 1931 was long remembered in Split. Jadran and the Hungarian national B team met on the initiative of the former Jadran swimming coach, the Hungarian Nandos Nandor. It was the first swimming and water polo match in Split held under floodlights. The guests were superior and won 4:2. The season of 1932 began with an important international match: Jadran hosted the famous Ferencvaros Torna Club from Budapest. The Split team won one match (3:2) and lost the other (2:1). At the national championship in 1933 Jadran’s juniors won the championship. The following players appeared, under the leadership of the coach Zdravko Birimiša: Mihovilović, Zabukovšek, Pavičić, Cviličević, Čičin Šain and Marović. They beat Jug 4:2, Ilirija 2:1 and Victoria 4:1. In 1934 the club was in a terrible financial situation, so they

YUGOSLAV SPORTS CLUB JADRAN SPLIT 1929: Roje, Čulić, Kuljiš, Katuranić, Bonačić, Mirković, Birmiša (from left to right) JADRAN 1928 JADRAN SPLIT 1934: Miro Mihovilović, Filip Bonačić, Branko Petrone, Vojko Pavičić (standing), Ivo Giovanelli, Krsto Pasinović, Nino Nonković (sitting) JADRAN 1929 HEADQUARTERS OF JADRAN (burnt down in 1925) MATCH in the bay Baluni in 1934


did not participate at the national championship in Ljubljana. The following players appeared at the national championship in Maribor in 1935: Miro Mihovilović, Filip Bonačić, Branko Petrone, Vojko Pavičić, Ivo Giovanelli, Krsto Pasinović and Niko Nonković. In the night between 20th and 21st April 1935 the Jadran headquarters burnt down again. They decided to build a new one in the bay in neighbouring Zvončac. The work was carried out in 1936, and the seventh national junior championship was held there in the same year. The Jadran team players, who distinguished themselves in winning the junior championship title, were Ivo Giovanelli, Franceschi and Brajnović. At the Olympics in 1936 in Berlin, the Yugoslav water polo team consisted of Jadran players Miro Mihovilović, Filip Bonačić and Ivo Giovanelli.

Yugoslav-Italian Swimming League By an agreement between Jadran, Victoria (Sušak), Ilirija (Ljubljana) and Triestina (Trieste), the Yugoslav-Italian Swimming League was founded in 1937. At the first competition, Jadran won first place in water polo. That same year, 1937, the Jadran junior team won first place in the national championship. As that was the third time they had won it, they were awarded the Novosti newspaper cup as their permanent possession. In 1938, the team Fiumana from Rijeka joined the YugoslavItalian League. Split water polo players won first place again. In the competition for the Adriatic Cup in 1938, Jadran water polo players came second, while they did not participate at the national championships that year. The competitions in the Yugoslav-Italian Swimming League were interrupted in 1939, when the national water polo league was founded, in which three of the best Croatian clubs participated, Jadran from Split, Jug from Dubrovnik and Victoria from Sušak. After sixteen years of domination by Jug from Dubrovnik, Jadran water polo players won first place for the first time since 1923. The title of champion was won by: Miro Mihovilović, Ivo Giovanelli, Birimiša, Filip Bonačić, Branko Petrone, Vojko Pavičić and Marko Brajnović.

On 23rd August 1939 the Czech Swimming Club was the guest at the pool in Zvončac. The guests were better swimmers, while the hosts won in water polo (3:1). On 19th September 1939 the club was named Croatian Swimming Club Jadran. During 1940 Jadran built concrete stands with the financial assistance of the Ministry of Physical Education. In 1940 the national swimming and water polo championships were held according to a league competition system, with Jadran, Jug, Victoria and Zagreb Swimming Club taking part. The match between the national water polo teams of Croatia and Hungary (3:3), held on 15th September 1940 was the last sporting event in Zvončac before World War II. Miro Mihovilović and Ivo Giovanelly, both Jadran members, participated in it. By order of the authorities, the Croatian Jadran Swimming Club was dissolved on 19th July 1941. From April 1941 until the end of 1944 almost all activities of the club ceased, although at the beginning of summer 1941 the Italian occupying authorities tried to establish a new club with the participation of all earlier active Jadran members. However, the Jadran members refused to join.

POOL at Zvončac


Firule Maritime Sports Club Owing to its distance from the center of Split, the first visitors to Firule bay are not mentioned until the eve of World War I. Ivo Mrkonjić, Ivo Jedrinić, Drago Merčep and Ivo Juras are mentioned as the first swimmers at Firule. Those young men had the idea of proclaiming that area the “republic” of Pušipalte. At the end of World War I activities in the bay became livelier, and competitions in diving, swimming and “igra na balun” (playing with a ball) began to be organized. Later on in Firule Bay, the “republic” of Mali Puk was founded, which yielded the swimming clubs Firule, Triton and POŠK. The rules of behavior were prescribed by the “republics’” articles. The “republics” visited each other and organized various competitions, but the foundation of the Baluni Maritime Sports Club marked the end of all the “republics”. Thus on 13th October 1920, the “republic” Mali Princ was transformed into the Firule Maritime Sports Club, which had swimming, rowing, water polo, field athletic and cultural sections. The club emblem was a blue six-pointed sea star. Firule water polo players appeared for the first time on 30th July 1922, in a match organized by the Split Swimming Sub-Federation, where they were beaten by Balun (5:1). It was the first public water polo match after World War I, and it was played in front of the Port Authorities quay. On 23rd July 1923 Firule water polo players played a match with the members of the Gusar Rowing Club (2:3), and on 1st August they lost another match to Baluni

THE HOME OF POŠK (Plivački športski klub, Swimming Sport Club) Firule – 1925 FIRULE BAY – July 1923, Firule – Baluni game POŠK (Plivački športski klub, Swimming Sport Club) Firule – 1920 POŠK announcement to Jadran colleagues about founding the club


(8:1). On 26th August 1923, at the Split Swimming Sub-Federation championships, Firule swimmers and water polo players came second. At the end of the same year, the members of the club built the club headquarters by themselves and with their own financial means. In 1924, there was an underlying conflict between the old and the young, and at the beginning of 1925 some of the younger members transferred to the opposite coast of Firule Bay, where they founded the Triton Youth Sports and Swimming Club on 25th February. In August, Triton water polo players were guests in Dubrovnik, where they lost to Jug 8:1. At the national championships in Dubrovnik on 12th August 1926, Firule water polo players won third place. As Triton did not have proper conditions to function, in April 1928 the club management decided to join together with Jadran, however, most of the members transferred/returned to Firule. SOURCES 1. Jadran Swimming Club 1921-1951. (1951). Jadran Swimming Club Split, NIP Slobodna Dalmacija 2. Jadran Swimming Club 1920-1960. (1960). Jadran Swimming Club Split, NIP Slobodna Dalmacija. 3. Franceschi, M. (1970). Plivački klub Jadran (Swimming Club Jadran). Split, Vojna štamparija. 4. Petrić, T.; Copič, M.; Marković, B. (1990). PK Jadran-Koteks (Swimming Club jadranKoteks). Split, Vojna štamparija. 5. Krstinić, V. (1963). POŠK od zone do lige (Maritime Sports Club from Zone to League). Split, NIP Slobodna Dalmacija. 6. Marović, D.; Bradarić, S.; Vukičević, S. (1977). POŠK. Omiš, Tiskara Franjo Kluz.


The Founding of the Club

Another unregistered club, the Maritime Youth Sports Club, POŠK, was operating in Firule Bay from 1927, and it participated in various promotional competitions and championships between Split bays, organized by the Split Swimming Sub-Federation and Jadran. The Firule management managed to persuade POŠK members to join them, but despite this Firule did not participate in the national championships in Belgrade on 25th August 1928. This exasperated the newly-arrived POŠK members so much that they decided to leave Firule, which closed down in 1929, and from that moment on POŠK again acted as an unregistered club. Within the club there were several groups organized on their own self-initiative, which competed against each other in swimming, water polo, athletics, football, gondola racing and stunt diving. Every year POŠK organized the Day of POŠK and the POŠK Olympics, in which various sports associations from the city took part, particularly Jadran, with whom they kept a special friendly relationship. At the time when it was still a non-public club, POŠK yielded numerous swimmers and water polo players. A Split newspaper reported the appearance of POŠK at the championship of Split bays in the 1934 season. Then POŠK beat the club Volak (also non-public) at water polo.

At the end of 1936, an initiative was launched to legalize the club. This was prompted by: Petar Šerić, Nenad Ožanić, Darko Prvan, Tonko Gazzari, Đuro Bjedov, Franko Katavić, Vice Viličić, Vinko Ružić... They founded a Preparatory Committee for the foundation of the club, they wrote the club rules and made plans for the construction of a club barracks and pool. Their flag was white and blue with the initial letters of the club’s name. The inaugural meeting, which was opened by Petar Pjerin Šerić, was held on 11th April 1937. He talked about the tradition of water sports in the area of Bačvice and Firule. Đuro Bjedov, the father of the famous swimmer Đurđica, talked about the work of the former clubs Firule and Triton. After accepting the rules, Jerko Čulić was elected as the president of the club and Petar Pjerin Šerić and Josip Košćina as vice-presidents. They also elected the secretary, Frano Samardžić, treasurer Nenad Ožanić and technical officer Đuro Bjedov. The first members of the board were Tonko Bibić, Toma Bradarić, Franko Katavić, Seka Kuzmanić, Bruno Mandić, Mate Palavršić, Žarko Radovčić and Ante Šarić. The members of the club participated in various local championships and promotional competitions right up until the beginning of World War II. When the association of the Adriatic Guard, a social organization with the goal of cultural, economic and general promotion of the Adriatic, was allowed the use of the headquarters of the former Firule Maritime Sports Club, the social life in the club developed rapidly. A Club Open Day was organized every swimming season. The program consisted of various swimming and water polo competitions and stunt diving, and in the evenings there were social events and dancing. The last meeting of the Maritime Sports Club Assembly before World War II was held on 29th January 1939 when the duty of the president was taken over by Vinko Ružić.

Pool construction in Firule Bay A group of Firule and POŠK players, pictured beneath the northern wall in Firule in 1935


The Development of Water Polo in the Area of Rijeka The Foundation of the Croatian Sports Club Victoria, Swimming Section The Croatian Sports Club Victoria, Swimming Section was founded on 1st July 1914. The first section officer was Đorđe Banjanin, and the first coach Rudolf Reš. Ten days later the first public training-competition was held. The program consisted of several swimming disciplines and water polo. Owing to mobilization, all activities of the Croatian Sports Club Victoria ceased on 26th July 1914.

RIJEKA 1908 THE WORKERS OF THE SCHWARTZ & GREGERSON FACTORY in 1908, when a football field was built next to their quarry VICTORIA FOOTBALL PLAYER 1910 PETITION – to the headmaster’s office of Sušak high school in 1908, asking for permission to found a sports club Minutes of HŠK Victoria committee’s first session


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Resumption of Club Activities At the end of 1917, the students from Sušak who were not old enough for military service revived Victoria. They called it the Young Victoria. Their new kits were black. At the beginning of 1918, there were three teams, which achieved modest results. They played their matches on the Gimnazijski Trg square in Sušak, as the coastline was proclaimed “a restricted war area”, so Kantrida was out of bounds. After World War I, a temporary board was formed, with the goal of organizing the internal situation within the club as quickly as possible and gathering as many members as possible. On 6th April 1919 it was decided at the Club Assembly that the club name would be changed to the Yugoslav Sports Club Victoria. Article 29 of Victoria’s rules, about “forming sections”, did not mention water polo, but swimming, football, field athletics, hazena (a forerunner of handball), lawn-tennis, and “other types of sports when necessary”. Dr Vinko Mikuličić was elected president. The first swimming-water polo competition in the postwar period was

held on 3rd August 1919 on the Klotilda beach. The crossbars for water polo, which was played with a football ball, were made of floating boards, two vertical lattices and a transversal rope which represented a crossbar. The field was not bordered, so out was called when the ball hit the rocks or the concrete quay, or on the other hand when it was lost among the boats from where an ecstatic audience followed the match and cheered loudly. The following players participated in this historic match: Rade, Drago and Stanko Krišković, Radović, Jovo Esapović, Vitomir Vranić, Neven Mohović, Rudi i Julije Reš, Tone Grubiša, Slavko Banić, Slavko Mićo Blažina, Marijan Pospek and Marijan Kovačević. As the Italian players took over the field on Kantrida and football players did not have anywhere to play, the work of the club became more and more oriented towards swimming and water polo. At the first national championships in swimming, water polo and diving, held in Karlovac, Victoria won first place.


Football on Water In 1921, the Yugoslav Swimming Federation was founded on the initiative of Victoria. In time sub-federations were registered in Belgrade, Dubrovnik, Ljubljana, Split, Sušak and Zagreb. The first match between Croatian clubs was played in 1921, between HAŠK and a combined Baluni and Victoria team in Maksimir lake (4:2). At the first national championship in swimming, water polo and diving, held in 1921 on Lake Bled, the Victoria team won first place in swimming, while the technically unprepared water polo team from Rijeka lost to Sombor sports association, 6:1. At the second national championships in Belgrade in 1922, water polo was advertised on posters on Belgrade streets as football in water. As the water polo court had not been set up, the members of Victoria, under the leadership of Nino Chytka, managed to make it relatively acceptable for playing. After that Victoria organized a competition on Sušak, inviting swimmers from Zagreb, Karlovac, Ljubljana and Sombor, while the Victoria team beat the Slovenian national team 4:0. In 1923, the third swimming and water polo championships


of Yugoslavia were held in front of the Sušak Jadran Hotel. Again Victoria swimmers won an overwhelming victory and the title of the best. Shortly after that, the championships of the Zagreb Swimming Sub-Federation were held at the same place. At this competition Victoria water polo players roused themselves: they beat Olimpija from Karlovac 6:0 and HAŠK 5:0 and won the championships. The following players participated: Prebil, Chytka, Radović, Vranić, Halavanja, Reš and Margreiter. Rudi Reš, one of the founders, left the Sušak club in 1923, because as an employee of the First Croatian Savings Bank he was transferred to Dubrovnik. The management and coaching of the section was taken over by Chytka and Radović. The fourth national championships were held at the newly built swimming pool in front of the Jadran Hotel in 1924. Sombor Sports Association, which beat Victoria in the finals 5:1, won first place. The swimming pool in front of the Jadran Hotel, where the third Yugoslav swimming and water polo championships were held in 1923

< THE SWIMMING ARENA IN FRONT OF HOTEL JADRAN where the 3rd Yugoslav Swimming and Water Polo Championships took place in 1923 SWIMMING POOL IN 1926 > THE BEST SWIMMERS IN RIJEKA 1926 – Golob, Stocker, Smokvina, Matković A GROUP OF YOUNG VICTORIA MEMBERS

Invitation to Training in the Newspaper Today it would be incredible to find an article in a newspaper in which the players of a club were invited to training. However, at that time, it was nothing unusual. The article in Novi List published on 30th May 1925 was: “The Yugoslav Sports Club Victoria Swimming Section. All players are invited to participate in water polo training, which will be held today, Saturday, at the city swimming pool, at 6 p.m., including: Katnić, Radović, Smokvina Ante, Tilko, Margreiter Milan, Chytka, Halavanja, Vazmislav Pavešić, Krišković Rade and Hrvoje, Vranić, Matković Janko, Krašević Vlado. Besides that, all other swimmers are invited to attend the meeting of the section, which will be held at the same time, in order to arrange a swimming competition which will be held on the 28th of this month, so everyone please attend. The Officer” The invitation of 24th June 1925 says: “Our five-year national swimming champion, the local Victoria, is organizing the first swimming competition on Sunday, at half past four in the afternoon at the Jadran swimming pool. Members and leaders have been training hard, as they are facing a tough fight during the year at sub-federal and federal competitions, which will probably be held outside the city.” Already on the next day, they published: “As the program has been carefully chosen, and it consists of 17 items of swimming, diving and water polo, although it

might be too demanding for one afternoon, I hope that our champions will surprise us in this healthy and beautiful sport on their first public appearance and keep going until the final item of the program. All past events involving our swimming champion have been a great success, so it is expected that this time the citizens from our city and its surroundings will again give our swimmers both financial and moral support, if we want those swimmers to represent us honorably at home, as well as abroad.” As about thirty competitors had to go to Split to the national championships in 1925, and the club did not have that kind of money, they collected voluntary contributions. Victoria swimmers again won a major victory. They broke nine records and won 12 first places, 13 second places, eight third places and seven fourth places. They were given a significant discount byJadranska Plovidba, but that solved only part of the problem. The then president of the club, Justin Cuculić, otherwise financial advisor of the Sušak district, organized the collection of voluntary contributions on Sušak. The people of Sušak proved themselves and gathered more money than was needed. The water polo players, unfortunately, did not make it. Jug became the champion, Jadran came in second, and Victoria was third.


Victoria’s Most Successful Year On the eve of the national swimming championships in Dubrovnik in 1926, Victoria organized a play-off competition. Novi List reported: “As for the better swimmers, some of them should keep the straight line, like Ljubo Smokvina, who cut his brother’s line, Pavešić too, as he cut Bakarčić’s line, including those juniors, all five of whom swam free-style in a bundle. The water polo players are not coordinated enough, and they should drop the shouting and rough play, which nobody likes.”



VICTORIA IN PESARO – one of the numerous tournaments, 1937 Before the game at the Pesaro tournament in Italy < National Swimming and Water Polo Championships, Sušak 1927: in the 1927 National Swimming and Water Polo Championships; Victoria was third, playing at home, after Jadran and Jug

Water Polo in the Shadow of Swimming Between the two wars water polo was in the shadow of swimming, matches were held as part of swimming competitions, therefore, water polo was not considered to be a separate branch of sport. The game rules changed slowly, with occasional changes mostly aimed at achieving a more dynamic game. Today it is hard to imagine that players were not allowed to move during “dead time”. The players had to stay in the place where they were at the time when the game was interrupted, or the whistle was sounded. How much time was lost trying to return the “restless” players to the place where they were at the time the referee sounded the whistle! At first there were two half-times, and later on the game was cut into four quarters. After three heavy fouls by one team, the referee called a penalty, so the players tried harder to force a serious foul, than to achieve a goal from a combination. “One player less” used to mean waiting for the first score, and fouls were grouped into mild, ordinary and heavy. Referees strove to have complete control over the game, but as the situation often got out of control, referees were often criticized. Referees between the two wars really had a rough time…





Ivica Jobo Curtini was one of the best players that the world of water polo has ever had. He was an excellent swimmer, mobile and a matchless scorer, unstoppable attack player and often the main protagonist of many victories for his club and the national team. He participated in three world championships (Monte Carlo 1947, Vienna 1950 – bronze medal, Torino, 1954 – silver medal) and two Olympics (London 1948, Helsinki 1952 – silver medal). After Niymegen in 1953, when the Yugoslav national team won first place at the unofficial world championships, and after Curtini scored three goals against the Hungarians, who were leading 5:3, and thus turned the result into 5:6 for victory and first place, the Austrian Wiener Kurier proclaimed him the “king of water polo” (Der Wasserballkönig)! He was enlisted twice amongst the seven best players. He spent his entire life as a player in Rijeka as a member of Victoria Sušak or after World War II, Primorje. After the end of his active career, he tried to coach in Italy. Curtini is part of the romance of this rough and demanding sport, he belongs to the times when they played two half times, without the pedantic measurement of one-hundredths or one-tenths of a second, without limitations in attack and the game with one player more, the time when there were no indoor pools. At least in this part of the world. He was born in 1922. At the age of fourteen he started swimming, and at sixteen he started participating in competitions. For Victoria, of course. He started playing water polo quite successfully in 1938, when Victoria beat the Italian national team in Trieste 4:3 and he scored three goals. in Zagreb He appeared for the Yugoslav Year of birth: 1922 in Rijeka national team 67 times. Year of death: 1990 omist water his d At the junior national chamde Occupation: econ en he d , an water polo in 1938 pionships in Split in 1936 he He started playing 60 19 in r contributed to Victoria’s sucree ca polo a) šak), Primorje (Rijek (Su ria cess when they won fourth to Vic : bs Clu , Napoli 60-1968, Canottieri place. At the time, water Coaching career: 19 lo Club Primorje Water po polo matches were held Sports director of l team: 67 na tio na e th after swimming competifor Appearances : m tions, so the corpulent Ivica tea l na natio Trophies with the i in 1952 Curtini soon came to like nk lsi He in s pic 54 – silver at the Olym hips in Torino in 19 ns the leather ball. pio am Ch an pe nna in 1950 – silver at the Euro Vie in s hip ns Although he was a junior, pio ropean Cham – bronze at the Eu he played for the senior club: Trophies with the – 1938 (Victoria) via team. In 1938, Victoria sla go Yu of Kingdom – champion of the won the title of national


Ivica Jobo Curtin

Polo The King of Water


champion for the first time. This was achieved by: Vazmo Pavešić, Janko Matković, Vlado Polić, Dušan Marčeta, Ivica Jobo Curtini, Božo Grkinić and Boris Polić. Victoria left behind Jug, Mornar, Jadran and other clubs. They did not manage to defend the title in 1939, but they were still on top. The following years were harder, it was the eve of the war and sporting activities were diminishing. In 1941, many Victoria members went to fight for the National Liberation Struggle, and the water polo player Boris Polić was killed in 1943. Ivica Curtini took refuge from the war in Napoli, where he was a member of the fire brigade in 1941 and 1942, with many excellent Italian sportsmen. At the end of 1942 he returned to Rijeka and joined the Partisan movement. In 1945, Zdravko Kovačić and Mišo Blažina founded the Primorac Youth Physical Education Association, which was actually the restoration of Victoria. That same year, the first Croatian physical education rally was held in Zagreb, with Sušak water polo team as participants: Viktor Križanec, Zvonko Klemen, Viktor Hreljanović, Aladar Boršić, Duško Marčeta, Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić and Ivica Jobo Curtini. After a year, Primorac was renamed Primorje. In 1946, Slavia from Prague came to Rijeka with swimming and water polo teams. Primorje won both matches, the first by 6:1, and in Opatija by 6:0. When Enotnost came to Rijeka from Ljubljana in Rijeka, Curtini swam 1500 m free style, and set the best result until then (20:52.0) thus surpassing the second-placed by almost two minutes. In the water polo match, Primorje beat Enotnost 5:0. A Rijeka newspaper reported: “Ivica Jobo Curtini distinguished himself above all. Although he was well-guarded, he managed to score three indefensible goals and he also became prominent with his game in the field.” At the Olympics in London in 1948, two players from Rijeka played for the Yugoslav national team – Ivica Jobo Curtini and Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić. The team

> VICTORIA 1938 - Božo Grkinić, Ivica Jobo Curtini, Boris Polić, Vazmoslav Pavešić, Vlado Polić, Janko Matković, Duško Marčeta (from the left) VICTORIA, Rijeka 1938

of the former state did not achieve significant success at that competition, which is understandable because they did not have the proper conditions for preparation. In the 1950s, the Netherlands had the reputation of being the major water polo power, with Van Feggelen as a particularly renowned center-forward, and he was a guest in Rijeka as a member of the Dutch and European champions De Meeuven in 1951. The match was played off the public city beach in front of 4000 spectators. The hero of the match was Curtini who scored six goals for an overwhelming victory over the European champions 8:2, both goals for the notorious Dutch were scored by Van Feggelen! At the Olympics in Helsinki in 1952, Yugoslavia won the silver medal, and among the best were the goalkeeper Kovačić and the center-forward Curtini, the best scorer of the championships! They were both included in the FINA team because of how they played. That year Ivica Jobo Curtini celebrated his 50th appearance for the national team, for which he scored more than 150 times. In the championships in 1954, which were played as a tournament in Rijeka (near the Torpedo factory), Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, Primorje came in fourth, behind Jadran, Jug and Mornar. At this championship, Curtini scored 41 goals out of the total 62 scored by Primorje, and he was proclaimed the best scorer. From 1955 he played less and less and he finally stopped performing in 1960 having spent 22 years with Victoria and Primorje. Thus ended the excellent water polo career of one of the best Croatian, European and world center-forwards. During his career Curtini played more than 600 matches and scored more than a thousand goals. After the end of his career as a player, for a short while he coached junior players and the first team, and then he went to Italy, where he also coached for a while.

The Boom Period After Victoria lost the national championships in 1927, the following eleven years were filled with systematic self-sacrificial work, imbued with love for the club. On the other hand, the Sušak newspaper Primorje mentioned “little and calculated work” which was to result in an extraordinary balance sheet. On the basis of the information we have about sport today, Victoria’s enormous rise in 1938 may be classified as an amazing return, because being an unquestionable hero for years, losing that predominance, and then again climbing to the top – is a greater success than the initial rise to the top. Talents matured and the Hungarian coach Istvan Huniadfy introduced iron discipline. He established his reputation at the Olympic Games in Berlin. Thanks to the technical officer, Mićo Blažina, this excellent coach found himself in Sušak, where he stayed until the War. The defeat by Triestina at their own grounds was followed by a series of excellent results in the Adriatic League. They beat Ilirija, Jadran, Fiumana, and then Triestina in a return game. After that they outclassed Jadran in Split and Ilirija in Ljubljana, and Victoria won the title of the champion. At the third junior national championship in Novi Sad, Victoria won a crushing victory in swimming and water polo, improved twelve national records, took the cup from Galeb and Estate Triestina (swimming and water polo) at the Italian-Yugoslav swimming tournament, yielded ten national team members… In 1938 Victoria water polo team, consisting of Vazmo Pavešić, Janki Matković, Vlado Polić, Dušan Marčeta, Ivica Jobo Curtini, Božo Grkinić and Boris Polić, won the national water polo championship for the first and only time.


In 1940, Victoria was on its way to win the third championships in a row, as it was “the most solid and the most homogenous club”, and “it achieves extraordinary results both with its men’s and women’s teams”. In the first match of the 1940 championships, held in Rijeka off the City Beach, Victoria beat Jug. At the “baptism” of the new and yet unfinished beach on the River Sava, in the match with ZPK, members of Victoria, after gaining a resounding victory against the hosts, abandoned the match owing to unfair refereeing. Then the club went to Dubrovnik for a return match with Jug, where there was a chaos among the referees after a tumultuous race in the 100 m free style. The Štakula brothers appeared for Jug and Ivica Curtini and Zmaj Defilipis for Victoria. Accompanied by ecstatic support by the people of Dubrovnik, including the referees, Lovro Štakula was pronounced the winner after deliberation, and a “dead heat” was proclaimed for the other three competitors. Members of Victoria protested, but in vain. They left the swimming site and – the championships. There was no return match, as the dark clouds of war had already begun to build up on the horizon.

VICTORIA WOMEN’S TEAM 1939 VICTORIA JUNIORS 1939 – Špehar, Prseu, Curtini, Huniadfy (coach), Arnerić, Mišković, Poločnjak and Polić


Two months after the Fascists stormed into Sušak, the Fascist commissar, also the representative of the Italian Olympic Board (CONI), demanded that the members of the Victoria Board, Justin Cuculić and Predrag Miculini, transfer the club completely to Fiumana in Rijeka. They refused. Then the commissar called a meeting of all competitors. After many kind and considerate words, he suggested that they go over to the Italian club. The answer was a level-minded, decisive and clear – no! The commissar lost patience and he exploded: “All right, but you should know that you will no longer appear nor exist as Victoria! From now on, all your activities are banned!” Members of the club stayed together for the whole of 1941. From 1941 until the Italian surrender in 1943 they trained, but there were no public appearances. SOURCES 1. Defilipis, Z. (1952). Četrdeset godina plivačkog sporta u Sušaku i Rijeci (Forty Years of Swimming in Sušak and Rijeka). Rijeka, PK Primorje. 2. Miculinić, P. (1958). 50 godina Viktorija – Primorje 1908-1958 (50 Years of Victoria – Primorje 1908-1958). Rijeka, PK Primorje. 3. Defilipis, Z. (1968). 60 godina Victoria – Primorje (60 Years of Victoria-Primorje). Rijeka, PK Primorje 4. Rogić Nehajev, I. (1978). Victoria – Primorje 1908-978. Rijeka, PVK Primorje.

The Foundation of Yugoslav Swimming Federation On 14th December 1919 the Yugoslav Olympic Committee was founded in Zagreb. As there were no independent sport associations yet, besides for football and cycling, the Yugoslav Olympic Committee established sections for individual sporting disciplines. Thus at the YOC meeting on 25th April 1920 they founded the swimming section, and Đuro Kulčar from Zagreb was named as its head. This swimming section, together with the Sports Association from Ljubljana, organized the first national swimming championships on Bled in 1921. There were 120 competitors from eight clubs. The swimming competitors decided to make this section independent as soon as possible and turn it into an independent sport association for all three swimming sports. The Yugoslav Olympic Committee swimming section became the independent Yugoslav Swimming Federation at the meeting in Zagreb on 2nd October 1921. It was responsible for swimming, water polo and diving right up until 1971. The national championships were joint – the program consisted first of swimming, then diving and in the end water polo.

There was a turning-point in the development of water sports in 1929. Upon the initiative of the versatile sports expert and building contractor, engineer Stanko Bloudek, the Ilirija Sports Club pool was built in Ljubljana, with a 50-meter pool, an Olympic platform and heated indoor pool for winter training. After the championships organized at improvised swimming sites in Bled Lake in 1921, at Zimovnik in Belgrade in 1922, at Pećine in Sušak in 1923 and 1924, and again at Zimovnik in Belgrade in 1928, the Yugoslav Swimming Federation finally held the first Yugoslav championships in swimming, diving and water polo according to international regulations. According to statistical data by the Ministry of Physical Education of the People of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, in 1934 the Yugoslav Swimming Federation, with its headquarters in Zagreb, had six sub-federations. The Zagreb, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Dubrovnik and Split sub- federations comprised 23 clubs, with 852 men and 280 women swimmers, that is a total of 1132 members.

PEĆINE BEACH ON SUŠAK – the Yugoslav championships in swimming, diving and water polo were held there in 1923 and 1924 THE ZIMOVNIK BEACH NEAR BELGRADE – This is where the championships were held in 1922 and 1928


Development of Water Polo in Dubrovnik Founding of the Sports Federation in 1923 In 1923 a new swimmer appeared on Danče – Rudi Reš. He was born in 1896 in Sušak, where he was one of the founders, a coach and one of the best swimmers and water polo players of Victoria. To their regret, in 1923 he had to move to Dubrovnik, as he was transferred there as the employee of the First Croatian Savings Bank. He started playing football right away with the Jug Sports Club. At the same time he taught young people to swim free style and he introduced them to the rules of water polo. On 10th August 1923 Reš organized a promotional competition in Šulić Bay in front of the Lovrijenac Fort, where Marko Dabrović, Špiro Bjeladinović and Nikša Jazbec swam next to him, and he also undertook a feat typical for him – he swam the distance from the city to Lokrum (1420 m). From 1924 to 1928 he played water polo, and after that he dedicated himself to coaching. In 1936 he served in Novi Sad where he founded the Galeb swimming club. In 1945


he spent a year with ASA Mladost in Zagreb, and from 1946 he was again in Jug where he worked with young people. He died in Dubrovnik in 1971. At the end of 1923, a swimming section was established in the Jug Sports Club on his initiative. The idea was supported by Pero Kolić, a then official of Jug, whose name can be found among the dignitaries of the “republic” of Danča (ensign), as well as Tonči Nardeli. In 1924 the swimmers and water polo players already appeared under the name: Jug Sports Club. Jubilee celebrations for this sports team followed in 1934 and 1954, and 1924 is considered to be the year it was founded. The unforgettable trio: Tonči Nardeli, the long-standing president, Pero Kolić, the organizer and bearer of the club spirit, and Rudi Reš, tireless in searching for new talent, left their mark on this sporting organization, which soon after that became a synonym for Dubrovnik and whose popularity and reputation grew year after year. All three of them were prominent workers for Jug.

RUDI REŠ (centre) – after Rijeka, he started water sports in Dubrovnik. Here he is photographed with the Jug team in 1925. JUG DUBROVNIK – 1925 JUG AT PORPORELA GAME IN DUBROVNIK HARBOUR – 1927

New Sections for Swimming and Water Polo At the same time, similar activities were going on other Dubrovnik beaches. The event on water known as “Kraljevine Banja i Porporele” was the most famous. These events encouraged the establishment of swimming and water polo sections, whose role model was Jug. The archive of Dubrovnik Swimming Sub-Federation shows that in 1925, besides Jug, there were other registered clubs such as GOŠK (Gruž Youth Sports Club), Penatur from Pile, the swimming sections of the Rowing Club Neptun and Građanski in Šulić Bay, and there were some unregistered clubs. The success of the members of those clubs in swimming and water polo at the Dubrovnik championships and various other competitions were sometimes surprising. On the tenth anniversary of Rudi Reš’s involvement in sport in 1925, swimmers from Jug, Penatur, GOŠK and Neptun appeared. At the national championships in Dubrovnik in 1926, GOŠK water polo players came in second, and Građanski water polo players came in third at Sušak in 1926. Some renowned Jug players arose from those clubs. So for example Željko Statinger started playing in Penatur, and Luka Ciganović in Građanski.


Water polo Players Were Also Swimmers

Gruž Youth Sports Club – GOŠK

There was no water polo player in Jug who did not represent Jug in swimming, at least as a junior. At joint events, every water polo player wanted, expected and was proud to appear in swimming races, even though it was in the second or third relay race. Some pre-war members of Jug, like breast-stroke swimmers Miljenko Orlić and Vojo Ucović, were among the first-team players, and it is not well known that they were swimmers, even longer than they were water polo players.

The swimming and water polo section in Gruž was founded in 1925 as a part of the football collective. That same year the team tried out its strength against the local club, Neptun, and then on 19th July it participated in the tournament to mark Rudi Reš’s tenth anniversary of involvement in sports. Four teams from Dubrovnik competed according in a cup competition. GOŠK beat Neptun (3:0), but it lost to Jug in the finals (5:0). A week after the tournament, in the match between GOŠK and Penatur the result was 0:0, and as neither team scored a goal in extra time GOŠK surrendered the match owing to – the weariness of its players! In 1926, GOŠK started its season in the sub-federal championship. At the 4th national championships in Dubrovnik, GOŠK came to the finals with a 3:2 win over the triple national champions, SSU (Sombor). In the final match it was defeated by Jug 5:0 and thus won second place. This was also the greatest success of the club. However, already in the following year there were no more public appearances, the activities of the swimming and water polo section were reduced and in the end they stopped completely.



Građanski Sports Club

Penatur Maritime Sports Club

As opposed to GOŠK, which belonged to Gruž (city district), Građanski originated as a club within the narrow city area (the old town). It was founded a year after Jug and GOŠK were registered in the register of sports clubs. The club sign was the Dubrovnik coat of arms with the letter G. In 1925, after the Maritime Sports Club Penatur joined the club, they founded a swimming section. Water polo players trained in Pile, and they played in public in the old city harbor. At the end of July 1926, in their first public appearance at the Dubrovnik sub-federation championships, in two matches with Jug they suffered a crushing defeat (6:0 and 8:0). At the national championships held in the same year, Jug was their rival in the first round and after the defeat (5:0), they dropped out of further competition. In 1927 at the preparations for the championships, the team was defeated in two matches with Jug (6:0 and 6:0), however, at Sušak, on 6th to 8th August, they came third and thus achieved their greatest club success. In 1928 the activities of the section were already in decline. They only had one match with Jug (0:6) and an appearance in Dubrovnik and Herceg Novi, organized by the Dubrovnik Sports Sub-Federation, without any significant results. The lack of activity and the small number of appearances led to the complete end of the section in 1929.

Just like the Jug swimming section arose from the “republic” of Danča, so the young people of Pile (the south-western part outside the city walls, under the fort Lovrijenac), organized in the “kingdom” Penatur, founded the Penatur Maritime Sports Club in 1924. According to the Articles, only those born in Dubrovnik could be members of the club. The purpose of the club was to nurture swimming, water polo and diving and organizing summer events. In the first year of its foundation, the club played two matches with Jug. The first team was defeated (3:0), while the reserve team played a tie (2:2) with the rival’s reserve team. Penatur was the first Dubrovnik club who played an international match. This was in 1924 in the old city harbour against two teams of the English fleet, which was visiting Dubrovnik. In both matches, Penatur was defeated (3:0 and 4:0). At the beginning of September of the same year, at the celebration of the Water Polo Club Neptun, Penatur was defeated in the match with Jug 1:0. In 1925 it participated in the celebration of Rudi Reš, the founder of the Jug swimming section. Seven days later they beat GOŠK in a match. In the same year, before appearing at the national championships, they checked the team’s readiness in a match with Jug (0:6). At the fifth national championships in Split, Penatur was eliminated in the first round. The rival was Sušak Victoria, and the result 2:3. After two years of existence, the club joined the sports club Građanski and continued its activities under that name until 1929. That is when all its public appearances ceased, and its activities were reduced to recreational sports. In the two years of its activity, the Penatur colours were defended by: Bošković, Devo, Fortunić, Legaz, Ilić, Ljubišić, Pasarić, Stipković, Šišević, Tudorić...

SOURCES 1. Moretti, S. (1981). Povijest plivačkog i vaterpolo kluba Jug (The History of the Swimming and Water polo Club Jug). Dubrovački horizonti, 21 (13), 147-176. 2. Petković, M. (1978). Prikaz djelovanja Sportskog kluba Jug u Dubrovniku (19231977)(The Review of the Activities of the Sports Club Jug in Dubrovnik (1923-1977). Dubrovački horizonti, 18-19 (10-11), 96-109. 3. Petković, M. (1981). Vaterpolo reprezentacija Jugoslavije između dva rata (19271940)(Yugoslav National Water polo Team Between Two Wars (1927-1940). Povijest sporta, 47 (12), 115-124. 4. Vetma, A. (1961). PK Jug 1961. Povodom 20-godišnjice ustanka (SC Jug 1961. On 20th Anniversary of Revolution). Dubrovnik.


The Beginnings of Water Polo in Zagreb “The Day Has Come” In 1921, HAŠK managed to obtain all the permits to hold public swimming competitions and water polo matches and training in Maksimir Lake. As the lake is in the immediate vicinity of the club football field, it was particularly suitable for serious professional work, so HAŠK became seriously engaged in that. That same year the lake was prepared and partially cleaned. The Management Board of the Yugoslav Swimming SubFederation was constituted at the meeting of representatives of the Yugoslav Swimming Sub-Federation regular members in Zagreb on 5th July 1922. There were five sub-federations in the country at the time – Zagreb, Ljubljana, Split, Belgrade and Sombor, and around 1925 the Dubrovnik and Sušak sub-federations were formed. Sub-federations gathered clubs from the surrounding cities and towns and organized the work and championships of the sub-federations. The Zagreb Swimming Sub-Federation consisted of swimming clubs from Zagreb, Sušak, Karlovac and Samobor. On 23rd July 1922 at Maksimir Lake, the Zagreb Swimming SubFederation organized a competition as the championships of its sub-federation area. Besides swimming, the program also included water polo . The competition started at four o’clock in the afternoon, before the football match between Građanski and Hertha from Berlin, so according to the press of the time: “the sporting audience had the best opportunity to participate at both occasions”. The following day, the following report was published about the event: “The day has come. A good attendance was the award to the agile organizers. The free shore was definitely the most crowded. Numerous gondoliers, who knew nothing about rowing, could watch the swimming events from behind a rope. HAŠK played water polo against Victoria and a com-


bined team, and won 4:2. Both forwards did an excellent job, while the defence is somewhat falling behind. The goalkeepers are good. Goals were scored by Reš – 2 for Victoria, and Esapović – 2, Justitz – 1 and Senđerđi – 1 for HAŠK.”

“It Seems the Matches Will Be Hard” On 6th August 1922, the Zagreb daily newspaper Jutarnji List described in an article its difficulties in acquiring a cup awarded by that paper for particular sports disciplines. The cups were displayed in the window of the management of the Jutarnji List in Masarykova Street. The article mentions the cup for water polo , a game thus described by the journalist: “Water polo is a game with a ball in the water, similarly to football on land. Two parties with seven players try to put the ball in the rival’s goal. A match lasts for two periods of seven minutes with one minute break. This cup is intended for the best team in the country, which is to be found during the swimming competition for the national championships. Today the decision will be made as to who will be the first to win that cup. It seems the matches will be hard if all the registered teams appear. Almost all great sports centres have representatives. Zagreb is represented by HAŠK, Sušak by Victoria, Ljubljana by Primorje, Split by Baluni.” After the national championships, the popularity of the sport grew, therefore, swimming competitions continued, followed by commentaries in the daily press and announced by invitations, such as the invitation to the HAŠK club meeting: “On Sunday, 13th August 1922 at 4 p.m. the Croatian Academic Sports Club (HAŠK) is organizing a club meeting in swimming, diving and water polo at Maksimir Lake. The program consists of: 60 m juniors, 100 m handicap/Skretch: Blažić, max 25 sec/4x60 sprint rally, platform diving, 60 m back stroke, two

water polo matches. Besides the members of HAŠK, all other clubs have the right to participate, so swimmers are asked to register by Saturday evening to the HAŠK swimming section officer at the café Zagreb. Water polo teams may be combined.” The competition was held before the football match between Građanski and Slovan from Vienna. Swimming and water polo competitions were usually held before football matches (at the nearby football field, today FC Dinamo stadium), in order to increase the number of spectators and stimulate interest for those sports. In the water polo match, team A played against team B 1:6 (0:4). Team A consisted of: Bedenko, Simović, Macanović, Bazala, Petrak, Justitz (Marjanović) and d’Elia, and team B: Blažić, (Laudenbach), Esapović, Savić, Belčić, Ancel, Herjavić and Schmidt (Klemens). The press had the following comments to make on the players’ behaviour: “Team A organized a very nice game, particularly the forward line Laudenbach – Esapović – Savić. We need to point out that the referee should treat undisciplined players much more strictly. We believe that screaming in water is quite unnecessary.” Regardless of the justifiability of those comments, it is obvious that water polo was arousing increasing interest.

The First International Competition The first club swimming competition was held on 15th August 1923. The following teams participated: Baluni from Split, Sombor Sport Association, Victoria from Sušak, Olimpija from Karlovac and Zagreb HAŠK as the host. The response of the audience was quite good.

The water polo match between Victoria and HAŠK was reported thus: “More ardour than technique on both sides. The team which was more decisive in front of the goal rightfully won. The Victoria players Richtman and Smokvina stood out. Sušak Victoria completely outclassed HAŠK with the result 4:0, while the Baluni, despite the great resistance by Sombor, won 4:2.” Further events were described as follows: “The swimming meeting will be held at Maksimir Lake on 19th August 1923, in the morning and in the afternoon. It is still uncertain whether the swimmers of the Viennese Hakoah will appear, but all the best swimmers from Sušak, Split, Sombor, Karlovac and Zagreb will be at the start. All in all, a total of 60 swimmers from other cities and 2 from Zagreb will be competing. The members of the Viennese Hakoah are famous as good swimmers, representing the best Viennese swimming class, which is particularly true for water polo players.” On Sunday, 19th August, after playing the semi-final matches between Split Baluni and Sušak Victoria, the match between Split team and Hakoah was expected with great anticipation. The press emphasized numerous people in the audience, but they criticized its bad behaviour: “The response of the audience was unprecedented, however, we have to note that during swimming competitions, and especially water polo matches, the audience assumes the mentality of football fans, with much yelling and supporting passion, which distracts the competitors. Water polo Hakoah – Baluni 5:3.” At the national championships in water polo , held on 1st and 2nd September 1923 on Sušak, HAŠK beat Brđanin from Belgrade 4:0, but it was defeated by Sombor Sports Association 3:0 and by Split Baluni also 3:0. The Split team came in first in the end, Sombor team came in second, while HAŠK was third.

MARATHON – the first Zagreb water polo team (1919)



The Last Matches at Maksimir Lake In 1924 the swimming grounds at Maksimir Lake were still available to the swimmers, but it would not be long before their work was banned. The ban was owing to the opening of the Zoo. On 29th May 1924, HAŠK invited its rivals to a water polo tournament. The HAŠK team consisted of: Malešević, Jurković, Simonović, Justitz, Esapović, Rosenfeld, while the rival team consisted of various players: Valenteković (Građanski), Macanović, Mihačinović and Bulat (Baluni), Pavelić (Concordia) and Krišković (Victoria). HAŠK was the challenger, but it lost to the combined team 4:2. The return game a week later aroused much interest both from the public and the press. The paper Jutarnji List published a long report about the match on several pages, while the banks of Maksimir Lake were crowded with spectators. The host was reported as “the Zagreb team”, while their opponents were dubbed the “Split Academics Team”. Zagreb won 2:1, with the following team: Valenteković (Građanski), Simović, Jurković, Justitz,


Božičević, Senđerđeli (HAŠK) and Pavelić (Concordia), while Split players were: Sakić, Kirchmayer, Duboković and Vitkica (Gusar), Macanović, Bulat and Ožanić (Baluni). The papers said: “After Bulat’s action, the guests scored first. The scorer was Macanović. Senđerđeli tied the score to 1:1. And then? There was a storm… HAŠK player Božićević was sent off by the referee Tomislav Bedenko, due to dunking an opponent. Then Split team put Bulat in goal instead of Sakić in order to increase the pressure. In vain. The Zagreb players, although inferior in number, scored the second, winning goal. Lujo Senđerđi was the scorer.” Both teams had a tough game. Provocations and sarcasms went on throughout the match. They had to test their strength once again to prove who was the best. The match was played on 14th June 1924 in the beautiful oasis of Maksimir, in the then still clear lake water, but it was a tie at 1:1. Therefore, on 15th June there was another match, but still no winner, with the score 3:3.

Promotional Water Polo Matches

Invitation to the Match in the Newspapers

On Sunday 13th July 1924, it was announced that Maksimir Lake would host: “A promotional swimming event with a water polo match. A water polo match will be played between HAŠK and a combined team. Both teams are in good shape, so the match will be a display of good sports. After the match Mihočinović will perform a whole program of Olympic dives, which will be followed by promotional swimming with a 60-meter medley rally (breast stroke, back stroke, side stroke, free style). The competition will end before the beginning of the international football match Slovan – HAŠK.” On the day of the announced swimming event, Jutarnji List reported again about the events in Maksimir: “At 4:30 p.m. HAŠK will play a water polo match against a combined team. As both teams had the opportunity to train, the match will be a good and hard struggle. Before the water polo, there will be several swimming events. The match will end before the beginning of the international football match HAŠK – Slovan, so the audience can attend both events.”

In the meantime, on 6th August 1924, there was a swimming contest between Zagreb and Sombor, which attracted considerable attention. The Zagreb club warned the players through the newspapers: “This match demands arrangement and discussion about tactics. Therefore, all swimmers and water polo players located in Zagreb are invited to come on 6th August at 4 p.m. to Maksimir owing to that intercity game.” “Today, on 6th August, there will be an interesting swimming contest and water polo match between the teams of Sombor and Zagreb. Sombor swimmers and water polo players, some of the best in the country, will start and represent Sombor colours on their way through Zagreb to the national championship on Sušak. Sombor team members are arriving in the morning with a team of fifteen people, including the famous breast-stroker Deak, and the best water polo player and sprinter Aleksa Vago. The Zagreb team is as follows: Valenteković, Simović, Jurković, Justitz, Macanović, Margreitner and Kavurić. The contest begins at 5 p.m., and the water polo match at 6 p.m., thus enabling those fans of swimming, who are busy in the afternoon, to participate in that event.” Sombor team won 5:2.


> GAME AT THE SAVA LIDO – 15th August 1926

Poor HAŠK Placements at the National Championships Jutarnji List, on 13th August, brought a review of the swimming and water polo competition in the national championships, held on 9th and 10th August 1924 on Sušak: “The competitions were held at the Jadran public beach, the qualifications started on Saturday afternoon, and the finals took place on Sunday morning and afternoon. The response of the swimmers was enormous, so all sub-federation swimmers, as well as clubs, attended. HAŠK resolved the match with Brđanin to their own benefit. The Belgrade players have improved a great deal since last year, but they still lack an overview of the game and shooting towards the goal. The HAŠK trio had some nice combinations, but their shots were not worth mentioning. The scores came from some amazing opportunities. Among the Belgrade players, we should give special mention to the goalkeeper, and among the HAŠK players – Simović. The match ended at 4:0 for HAŠK. The match Sombor – HAŠK was marked by Sombor’s supremacy. HAŠK did well in the first half time, and Sombor players managed to score only three goals. HAŠK caved in the second half time, so the Sombor team ruled the situation and raised the result to 8:0. Somber prepared quite well this year. Their team is extremely well balanced. All players are good technicians, and the left wing Vago and Lalošević – back are of a special class. HAŠK team played well, but they were not dangerous enough for the Sombor team on their way to the finals. However, they should be commended for their fair and gentlemanly game.” The final order at the championships of the state of that time in water polo in 1924 was: 1. Sombor Sports Association, 2. Victoria Sušak, 3. HAŠK Zagreb. Sombor team took the Jutarnji List cup for the second time as state champions in water polo .


Football Players Formed the Water Polo Team

City Beach Water Polo Team

Owing to all those events, water polo became increasingly interesting both to players and the audience. After the end of the championship, an unusual game was played in which football players tried their skills in water polo. On Sunday, 24th August 1924, HAŠK football and swimming section played at Maksimir Lake. Footballers’ team consisted of: Matijašić, Lukić, Leskovac, I. Mikša, Borković, Hans, Rukavina, with reserves Wölf, Verner and Babić. Swimmers team consisted of: Malešević, Simović, Pavlović, Justitz, Resenfeld, Esapović, Božičević, with reserves Kavurić, Lorin and Jurković. Before the match, which ended with the victory of the swimming section, there was a presentation of several swimming events. At the end of the season, on 20th September 1924, there was another game in Maksimir. The rival, a combined team, named after the god of all water, Neptun, won 5:2 (2:1). HAŠK team consisted of: Matić, Simović, Justitz, Esapović, Rosenfeld Malešević and Senđerđi, and Neptun: Valenteković, Pavlović, Praunsperger, Lalošević (Sombor), I. Pavelić, N. Pavelić and Kavurić (Concordia).

Although many doubted the future of swimming in Zagreb owing to the bad conditions, still the swimmers popularized it and organized competitions wherever possible in the conditions at the time. On Sunday, 15th August 1926, a swimming competition in calm water was held on the River Sava at the City Public Beach – on a “swimming area” of 50 m. “The pool” was located in the pond at the Croatian Rowing Club (HVK), where the headquarters of AVK Mladost are today. The Jutarnji List reported: “The City Beach water polo team beat a combined team 8:0 in the match. There were about 500 people in the audience and the winners were awarded with suitable collars.” Soon after, on Sunday 29th August 1926, a swimming competition was held in the River Sava. They also announced a water polo match between the teams of City Beach and the beach Gospodarićevo, which was free. The City Beach team consisted of: Esapović, Rosenfeld, Senđerđi, Malešević, Knoll, Simović, Lolić, Praunsperger and Bedenko. The advertisement said that the referee would be Julije Bartole. The match was played in the river back water at the Croatian Rowing Club, but the result was not registered.


Founding of the Zagreb Swimming Club At the beginning of December 1934, the Jutarnji List reported the foundation of a new swimming club in Zagreb: “A few years ago Concordia and HAŠK swimming sections were established again after a longer period of inactivity. The work of the swimmers was complicated by the lack of swimming facilities, which caused a great deal of aggravation for the section officers who were trying to keep the men together. Finally, this year, owing to unselfish and hard work, a few Zagreb SubFederation officials managed, with a great deal of effort and financial means, to build a proper sports swimming pool and thus enable the swimmers to train regularly. Admittedly, the pool was built with minimal resources, it is very modest, but it still provides the possibility for holding championships in acceptable conditions.” During 1934, Zagreb Swimming Sub-Federation made a pool in one of the numerous river backwaters on the right bank of the Sava, where Jadranski Most bridge is today. The pool called Bare had wooden pontoons at the start and finish, with dressing rooms next to it. As it was often exposed to flooding by the River Sava, it was soon abandoned. Zagreb News published an article on 9th December 1934 about the foundation of the Zagreb Swimming Club: “The Founding Committee, consisting of renowned Zagreb sportsmen and swimming operatives - mr. ph. Boris Praunsperger, Mirko Simović, mr. ph. Nikola Köhler, O. Bedenko, Hinko Justitz, Ivo Steinhartd, Alojz Šef, Leo Praunsperger, Oto Leitner, Antun Janković, Josip Juranić, Dragutin Fučkar – published this proclamation to all friends of the swimming sport: “The need to concentrate all swimmers in the Zagreb area in one club has been present for a long time. Despite of all their work of the past 10 years, all good will and extreme efforts, Zagreb sport clubs swimming section officers were always in


the background, because besides swimming section, there were other sections. Therefore we decided to found a club in Zagreb, a club whose members would exclusively be involved in swimming, water polo and diving, and therefore we are assembling the founding committee of the Zagreb Swimming Club, on Wednesday, 12th December in the rooms of the national 1st General-Program Secondary School, at Wilson Square.” As announced, the Founding Committee of the new club was held on 12th December 1934, with about eighty people from the Zagreb sporting world present. The inauguration speech was presented by the president of the Zagreb Swimming SubFederation, Mr. Švarić.”

Zagreb Swimming Club Water Polo Team At the beginning of the season, on 1st July 1935, the newlyfounded Zagreb Swimming Club was the guest in the Maribor marathon. The competition was held at the pool on Maribor Island. The water polo match ended with the result 8:0 (5:0) for the ZSC, which was represented by: Klein, Mirković, Petrović, Krušelj, Belan, Ivančević and Bleiweis. Soon after that, on 14th July, the ZSC organized a promotional swimming competition at the Hydropathic Pool at the foot of the old city in Samobor. In the end, the A and B teams played a water polo match. A local journalist reported about behaviour that the people of Samobor did not like: “The game was very lively and interesting, except for the player Mirković who spoilt the game style with his very violent playing. He was sent off three times, and in the end he behaved in an unfair way confronting the audience as well. The people of Samobor like the usually nice Zagreb swimmers, and they would like them even more if they would not bring this kind of sportsman, who use indecent expressions even in common language.”

The Appearance of Jug Water Polo Players on the Sava Then the Zagreb Swimming Club organized the first Zagreb swimming championships in the Sava backwater at the SubFederation pool. HAŠK and Marathon were invited. The ZSC beat the combined HAŠK and Marathon team 2:1. The ZSC was represented by: Kurir, Ivančević, Mikuličić, Bašić, S. Klein, Šuljić and M. Klein, and the players of the combined team were: Šimec, Dobrijević, Antoljak, Halambek, Trstenjak, Savin and Bajda. On 7th August 1935, at the Zagreb Swimming Sub-Federation pool on the Sava, Jug from Dubrovnik and the Zagreb Swimming Sub-Federation team played a water polo match. Jug had just returned from an international water polo tournament in Brussels and France. Their appearance was awaited with much interest in Zagreb, so despite the fact it was a working day, the game was watched by about five hundred spectators. Jug was represented by: Fabris, Cvjetković, Tarana, Dabrović, Štadinger, Ciganović, Tošović,

while the ZSS was represented by: Mihovilović (Jadran, Split), Čortan I and Čortan II (KSU, Karlovac), Sajler and Grkinić (Victoria, Sušak) and Petrović and Mirković (ZPK, Zagreb). Despite reinforcements, Zagreb players did not do a very good job. Their tactics was extremely poor; the only one who played satisfactorily was Grkinić, who could not fight against the coordinated Jug team. Tošović and Štadinger scored four goals each, Ciganović one, so the match ended with the result 9:0 for Dubrovnik team. Despite the promises by the authorities from the previous year, the best Zagreb swimmers entered the summer season of 1938 with the same difficulties, because they did not have a place to train. Actually, the members of the ZSC and HAŠK, clubs with the best Zagreb swimmers, had the greatest problems. Autumn floods, fast and high waters simply overflowed the Sub-Federal Pool in Bara near Kolni Most. Now the swimmers did not have anything but water.



The First Pool in Zagreb The long awaited construction of the Marathon Swimming Club pool on the Sava finally started, as reported by Novosti on 7th August 1939: “Directly between the club headquarters of ZSC and Marathon, the builder Branko Vlaha (also the pool designer) started digging, and already this week, they will begin with concretework, as Artur Prstec, the general secretary of the club and the committee for the pool construction, said. Swimming operatives and all sports people of Zagreb are following this work with great interest, even though they started at the end of the season.” Then came the autumn of 1939, which was full of events. The Banate of Croatia was formed, and the political situation in the state at the time, naturally, affected the position of sports associations. In September, the daily press published: “Yesterday afternoon, owing to the new political constellation and the awakening of Croatian athletes, regarding the activities of founding Croatian sports clubs, there was a meeting of the Zagreb swimming club delegates: Zagreb Swimming Club and HAŠK. It was concluded at the meeting that both clubs would take over the duty of organizing and founding the Croatian Swimming Federation. For that purpose they sent a letter to all clubs in the territory of the Banate of Croatia, inviting Croatian swimmers to cooperate and found their own national association. Swimming clubs in the territory of the Croatian Banate, who will join the Croatian Swimming Federation, were warned that need not secede from the Yugoslav Swimming Federation, but that they would so collectively or take some other steps if the YSF did not acknowledge the legality of the Croatian Swimming Federation.”


< ZPK (Zagrebački plivački klub, Zagreb Swimming Club) team – 1940 ZPK (Zagrebački plivački klub, Zagreb Swimming Club) team – Tivoli pool, Ljubljana, 1937 ZPK TEAM – 1940

The Appearance of Zagreb Swimming Club in the Swimming League On 14th July 1940, the newly-formed league player ZSC from Zagreb had its first appearance in the league. In front of about 2000 spectators in the old city harbour in Dubrovnik, they competed with Jug in swimming and water polo. The local press reported that, among others, the public representative Roko Mišetić and the city mayor Bajkas attended the match. Regardless of their bad form, Jug won by a mile even in disciplines in which its weaker swimmers competed, as their best swimmers were on military exercises, so the final result was 69:46. The water polo match also ended with the Victory of Jug (5:0, 2:0). The ZSC head Boris Praunsperger took all possible steps to obtain an expert coach for the Zagreb team, recognizing the fact that without a coach they could not form a good league team. A Hungarian coach should have started working on 17th July, but unfortunately he did not report for duty. The return match was held on 3rd August in Zagreb at the Zagreb Swimming Sub-Federation pool on the Sava. Dubrovnik team did not do well in the 18°C cold, blurred and “heavy” water. The pool was well-arranged, the event well-organized, and the response of the public very good, with more than 1500 tickets sold. The main referee was Ante Roje from Split, who also refereed the water polo match.


OPENING CEREMONY OF THE SWIMMING ARENA ON THE RIVER SAVA – July 1934 > POOL ON THE SAVA – The People of Zagreb got their first Olympic size pool in 1940

Opening of the Marathon Pool The construction of the Olympic sized 50x20-meter pool was entrusted to a member of the Marathon Board, Branko Vlah, who cooperated with the famous expert Stanko Bloudek from Ljubljana. Its starting depth was 1.20 meters, and the greatest depth 2.50 meters. The pool was also equipped for playing night matches. It needed 1500 cubic meters of water and about 60 hours to fill up, and three days for emptying. Despite certain problems, the construction was finished, so the water began to flow on 12th August. As they were afraid that the pool would not be filled in time, two additional pumps were employed. Then there came the long awaited day of the grand opening of the pool. All papers reported about it, and here are some of the excerpts: “15th August is a great day for Zagreb, for Zagreb swimmers and their development in the future. Today the first Zagreb Olympic sized pool will open with a match between Victoria and ZSC.” “Victoria players arrived two days earlier, instructed by the experience of Jug players, whose swimmers almost all failed in Zagreb water, which they were not used to. Unfortunately, they could not use the new pool because it was not completely filled, so they used the pool in the Sava backwater to adjust to fresh water.” “On 15th August 1940 at 3:30 p.m., over 4000 spectators gathered at the pool. The grand opening of the pool began with a welcome address over the microphone by the president of the Croatian Sports Club Marathon, dr. Tomo Jančinović. In a short speech he greeted the esteemed guests: the HSS vice-president dr. Košutić, the president of Hrvatska športska sloga (Croatian Sports Association), and the main HSS secretary dr. Krnjević, as well as the city mayor Mato Starčević. After the address by dr. Krnjević, the mayor Starčević declared the pool open. The league competition started immediately after that. The championship match between Victoria from Sušak and ZSC was broadcast live by Radio Zagreb.”



Water Polo in Karlovac Karlovac Sports Association The swimming section of Olimpija from Karlovac started playing water polo in 1922. In 1924 there was a crisis in Karlovac swimming, so a group of enthusiasts, mostly ex-Olimpija swimmers, started an initiative to found an independent club for water sports and field athletics. The Karlovac Sports Association was founded on 25th April 1925 in the small conference room of the city hall. The club rented land at the former military pool in Rakovac, the so-called Švimšul, where it was planned to set up an athletic track and a pool. In 1925, KSA participated at the Yugoslav championships in Split, where they were beaten by Jug from Dubrovnik. A year later, there was a revival of the Sports Club Građanski, and in 1926 KSA made a pool in Rakovac. It was placed across the River Korana, from one bank to the other, 30 meters wide and 50 meters long. At the championships of Karlovac, in 1927, the Sports Club Građanski beat KSA (4:1). That year Građanski was the champion of the Zagreb Swimming Sub-Federation in swimming, water polo and diving. At that championships their water polo players beat Victoria from Sušak (2:1). However, at the national championships in Sušak in 1927, they lost to Jadran 10:0. Immediately prior to the championships, the water polo players of the Belgrade Sports Club, Bob were guests in Karlovac, where they beat Građanski 3:2. On 14th July 1929, Građanski organized a promotional swimming and water polo competition in Duga Resa, with football players and athletes. That summer it celebrated its tenth anniversary and seventh year of swimming section activities. On that occasion Primorje, the champions of the Ljubljana Swimming Sub-Federation, were guests in Karlovac, and Građanski won 3:0.


In 1929, the pool in Rakovac was bought by Dragutin Fogina, the president of KSA. The pool was enclosed, modern cabins and two stone entrances into water were built, and the following year, there was also a wooden platform for diving. In June 1931, Karlovac gained a new sports pool on the Korana, made by Građanski – upstream from the waterfall, and downstream from Fogin’s pool, where the host was KSA. At the beginning of the 1930s, KSA hired a Hungarian swimming coach Miklosz Mezei, which resulted in the increased quality both of swimming and water polo. With such lively swimming activity, in 1932 Građanski organized a water polo match between its players at the River Kupa, upstream from the railway bridge. It was an attempt to found a water polo club at that spot. On 16th July 1933, on the River Korana, KSA and Građanski jointly organized the first international swimming event. The swimmers and water polo players of the Magyar Uszo Egylet from Budapest were their guests. The water polo match was especially interesting. After a great struggle, the Hungarians beat the Karlovac team 4:3. The local team consisted of: Đan Tomić, Mišo Balaš, Nikola Gavrilović, Boris Balaš, Uroš Miličević, Dragan Čortan and Branko Keser. The Rakovac pool was lit-up on 28th August 1935, so swimming and water polo competitions could be held at night. At the opening, KSA and Victoria teams competed in swimming and water polo. The Zagreb water polo team of the Zagreb Swimming SubFederation consisted of some players from Karlovac, Tuškan, Emil Laškarin, Đan Tomić, brothers Čortan and Branko Kesler.

THE FIELD AT THE MOUTH OF THE KORANA – set up in 1930 Karlovac 1922 – Olimpija swimmers play with two goals for the first time KSA WATER POLO PLAYERS at the Yugoslav Championships in 1925 in Split WATER POLO SECTION OF THE GRAĐANSKI 1926 SPORTS CLUB KARLOVAC SPORTS ASSOCIATION – the founders were ex-Olimpija players in 1925


The Appearance of Yugoslav Team Between the Two Wars With Macanović at the EC in Bologna Immediately after the Slavic Swimming Championships, the team, under the leadership of Hrvoje Macanović travelled to Bologna to the Second European Championships. Inexperienced and unprepared, the team lost to the best Belgian players 7:1 and Austrian team 2:0. The Austrians were favourites in that match, but they had a difficult time winning it. The players were: Dinko Fabris (Jug), Srećko Čulić (Jadran), Marko Dabrović (Jug), Ante Roje (Jadran), Nenad Popović (SSU), Mirko Mirković (Jadran) and Mirko Brajda (Jug). At the time there were no captains or coaches, but the Federation Board chose the national team players. Team players were selected after the national championships, and then they would go to international competitions without any prior preparations. The leader of the journey was usually the technical head of the swimming and water polo team, and diving team. At the Second Slavic Swimming Championships in Prague in July 1928, Yugoslavia beat Poland 3:1, and was defeated by Czechoslovakia 8:0. At the Third Slavic Swimming Championships in Warsaw, the Yugoslav water polo players were again better than the Polish team (5:0), and they played a tie with Czechoslovakia 2:2.


Ivo Dabrović First Scorer

The Yugoslav water polo team played its first match on 27th August 1927 in Belgrade at the First Slavic Swimming Championships. The team, consisting of Jadran and Jug players, easily beat the Polish national team 8:0. The players were: Dinko Fabris (Jug), Srećko Čulić (Jadran), Marko Dabrović (Jug), Ante Roje (Jadran), Mirko Mirković (Jadran), Ivo Dabrović (Jug) and Mirko Brajda (Jug). The first goal for the national team was scored by Ivo Dabrović. On the same day, in the afternoon, the Yugoslav and Czechoslovakian national teams played a tie 2:2.

European Championships in Magdeburg – First Success

HRVOJE MACANOVIĆ (the first on the right) – the head of the Yugoslav team at the EC in Bologna – 1927 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS 1927 POSTER THE FIRST LEN MANAGEMENT BOARD – managing body of the European Swimming Federation: Binner (Germany), E.G. Drigny (France), Bergvall (Sweden), Donath (Hungary) and Hodson (England), elected for the first time in Bologna during the European Championships EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS 1927 MEDAL

The Yugoslav national team achieved its greatest success between the two wars at the 4th European Championships in 1934 in Magdeburg, even though they were not registered by the Federation! They went there at the intervention of the Hungarian Donat, while the Magdeburg Swimming Club paid their expenses. Among ten participant countries, Yugoslavia won fifth place. In the first trial matches, Yugoslavia played with Hungary 1:3, Belgium 0:3, France 2:1 and the Netherlands 1:3, and so took fourth place. The third and fourth-placed teams formed a group fighting for placement between 5th and 8th places. This is where Yugoslavia beat Spain 3:2 and played a tie with Czechoslovakia 2:2, thus winning the first place, or fifth place in total. This success was achieved by: Miro Mihovilović, Vinko Cvjetković, Zdravko Samardžić, Marko Bibica, Jozo Dabrović, Luka Ciganović, Željko Standinger and Ante Bibica. Except Mihovilović, all other players played for Jug. The five first-placed teams from that championship gained the right to participate at the Klebelsberg Cup in 1935 in Brussels. Although the team appeared with the same players as at the European Championships, they lost all matches. After that the team went to Paris, where they beat France 3:2.

THE YUGOSLAV WATER POLO TEAM at the European Championships in Magdenburg (shot in Budapest in August 1934) EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS IN BOLOGNA 1927 – the pool where the championships were held


At the Olympics in Berlin 1936 There were sixteen teams, grouped into four groups, at the 11th Olympic Games water polo tournament in Berlin in 1936. The players of Jug and Jadran appeared for the Yugoslav water polo team: Miro Mihovilović, Mirko Tarana, Ante Roje, Filip Bonačić, Vinko Cvjetković, Luka Ciganović and Bogdan Tošović. Milivoj Ćurlica, Miran Fuks, Ivo Giovanelli and Vazmo Pavešić were also members of the team. After the defeats to Hungary 4:1 and Great Britain 4:3, and the victory over Malta 7:0, Yugoslavia came in third in the group and thus was knocked out of the competition. The goalkeeper Mihovilović was proclaimed the best goalkeeper of the Olympic tournament. The complete Jug team appeared as the national team in an unofficial match in Dubrovnik on 28th August 1937. In the old city harbour they beat Czechoslovakia 3:2. The team played the last match before World War II on 8th September 1940 in Szeged and was beaten by Hungary 2:0.


< MIRO MIHOVILOVIĆ – defending against the Hungarians at the 1936 Berlin Olympics PARIS – the last official game before the Berlin Olympics; Yugoslavia defeated France 3:2 OLYMPIC WATER POLO TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE, 1936

The Greatest Number of Appearances by Luka Ciganović Between the wars, the national water polo team played 35 official matches and achieved 10 victories, 20 defeats and five ties. A player of Jug, Luka Ciganović had the greatest number of appearances (23) and with 17 goals he was also the best scorer. The Jadran goalkeeper Miro Mihovilović and Jug player Vinko Cvjetković appeared 22 times. Other representatives appeared for the national team as follows: Zdravko Samardžić (Jug) 18, Jozo Dabrović (Jug) 18, Željo Standinger (Jug) 16, Ante Roje (Jadran) 14, Marko Bibica (Jug) 12, Srećko Čulić (Jadran) 10, Bogdan Tošović (Jug) 9) Filip Bonačić (Jadran) 9, Dinko Fabris (Jug) 8, Ivica Dabrović (Jug) 7, Mirko Tarana (Jug) 7, Mirko Braida (Jug) 6, Mirko Mirković (Jadran) 5, Božo Grkinić (Victoria) 3, Marko Dabrović (Jug) 3, Nanad Popović (Bob) 2, Andro Kuljiš (Jadran) 3, Ivo Giovanelli (Jadran) 2, Janko Matković (Victoria) 2, Dušan Marčeta (Victoria) 2, Dragutin Betner (Jug) 2, Milenko Kangrga (Bob) 2, Anastasijević (Bob) 2, Vazmo Pavešić (Victoria) 2, Lujo Mirković (Jadran) 2, Lujo Sengyörgy (SSU), 2, Boris Polić (Victoria) 1, Viktor Hajon (Jug) 1, Ivica Curtini (Victoria) 1, Mato Kunčević (Jug) 1, Ante Bibica (Jug) 1, Teo Dimković (Jug) 1, Hektor Mini (Victoria) 1, Miran Fuks (Ilirija) 1 and Saša Strmac (ZPK) 1). The swimming club Jug yielded 17 national team members who scored 44 goals, and eight players from Jadran (15 goals), seven from Victoria (1 goal), Belgrade Bob three (2 goals), and one player from Sombor Sports Association, Ilirija from Ljubljana and ZSC.


ić Luka Ciganov

thers One of Jug’s F19a15

th nuary 12 , Date of birth: Ja Dubrovnik Place of birth: th rovnik 9 , 1994 in Dub Died: January n teacher io at ysical educ Occupation: ph g 1932-1953 Ju Player career: the club: , 1937, Trophies with , 1934, 1935, 1936 pion: 1932, 1933 am ch v sla go – Yu 195 1949, 1950 and

He was one of the founders of swimming and water polo in Dubrovnik and his name is crucial in the history of the creation of this club. Essentially, Luka Ciganović himself is the history of water polo in the City. He was, without a doubt, one of the first Croatian water polo players of world reputation and importance. Only the fact that he reached his prime in the days we would now called the romantic days of sport, when the media were not as widespread as they are today, when the news, and especially sports results, would reach us several days later, in the age before television, prevented Luka Ciganović from being even more popular today, both in national and international terms. Although known primarily as a water polo player in the City beneath Srđ, Luka Ciganović first started building his sporting career in the water, but as a swimmer. He started swimming for the Jug Swimming Club from 1928, or four years before he discovered the beauties of the water ball. Nevertheless, he remained faithful to swimming (at the same time as playing water polo) until 1953. Luka was no “ordinary”, but an excellent and versatile swimmer, and as such he swam for the national team in the 100 and 400 freestyle, 100 backstroke and in relays. However, the backstroke suited him best and he won two champion’s


titles before World War Two for the 100 meters backstroke. But, his greater successes came in water polo. He started playing for the Jug first team in 1932, winning nine national championships before and after World War Two. He played for the national team for as long as 17 years, from 1934 to 1951. It is particularly worth mentioning that before World War Two, he played 23 matches for the national selection, scoring a total of 17 goals. That makes him the top scorer in Yugoslavia in the pre-war period. He participated at two Olympic Games, in Berlin in 1936 and London in 1948. In the German capital, Ciganović was the second Croat, next to Mihovilović, to be included in the best team of the Olympic water polo tournament. On the eve of World War Two on Croatian territory, in 1940, he graduated from Physical Culture College in Belgrade. After ending his player career until his retirement he worked in his profession in several high schools in Dubrovnik. That does not mean that he left the pool and his Jug. Quite the contrary, he worked as a coach for Jug, and he was also a distinguished international water polo referee. In 1986 he was awarded with the Croatian Water Polo Federation Trophy.

Miro Mihovilović

Our First Goalie of

the World

Date of birth: Febr uary 22nd, 1915 Place of birth: Split Died: February 18th 2010 in Zagreb Occupation: docto r of physical educ ation Playing career: 19311948 Jadran Trophies with the club: – Yugoslav Champio n: 1939, 1946, 1947 and 1948 – Champion of th e Yugoslav-Italian League: 1937

Split gave Croatian and world water polo some of the greatest names in the sport. But our largest city on the Adriatic coast is unique for one thing: its excellent goal keeper school, the best in the world. It produced Kačić, Posinković, Školneković, Rebić and today Pavić; goalies who were or are, if not the best, then among the best in the world. Their leader and predecessor was Professor Dr. Miro Mihovilović, a man who was officially proclaimed the best goal keeper of the Olympic Games in Berlin, and also the best in the world. Two years earlier, at the European Championships in Magdeburg, he was proclaimed the best in Europe too. After that, the event in Berlin was logically bound to happen. In 1936, after the Berlin Games ended, a promotional match between the teams of Europe and the Rest of the World was played. The Old Continent won by 9:0, with Mr. Miro guarding the European goal. – I remember we started forcefully, but when we saw we were going to fill their net, we took our foot off the gas pedal. Everyone did except Mihovilović, which he would explain several decades later. – I defended that goal as best I could; I wasn’t going to let them “pollute” my net, hahaha. Miro Mihovilović dived into the world of water as a 14-year old in Jadran. Like most water polo players, he first trained as a swimmer. A little later, when he became completely infected by the yellow ball, he became the irreplaceable goalie of

Jadran. He guarded the goal of this famous club from Split from 1931 to 1948, winning four national titles and one title in the Yugoslav-Italian League in 1937 during that period. He played 22 matches for Yugoslavia. Upon ending his career, he coached in Korčula, Makarska and Kaštela, and he also participated in the 1948 Olympic Games in London as the national team coach. For a while, he was also an international water polo referee. However, Miro Mihovilović achieved scientific fame which almost matches the one in water polo. He was appreciated both in our country and abroad, where he cooperated with many respectable universities and institutions in the USA and Western Europe. His area of interest was kinesiology – physical education. He graduated in Belgrade, in 1952, from the National Institute for Physical Culture, and earned his doctorate in psychology in Zagreb in 1965 at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He was the founder of the Institute for Physical Education in Zagreb, and for a number of years was an associate professor at the Faculty of Physical Education in Zagreb. He was the scientific advisor at the Faculties of Economy and Architecture in Zagreb, and at the American Academy of Physical Education named him its honorary member. In 2004 he received the greatest Croatian national recognition for sports success, the Franjo Bučar award for lifetime achievement.





i Ivo Giovanell r Polo Player Youngest Wate The lympics O in rl e B 6 3 9 1 at the

nd ay 22 , 1919 Date of birth: M Split Place of birth: th , 2009 in Split Died: July 30 onomist a, Italy Occupation: ec 54-1956 Catani 954 Jadran; 19 -1 36 19 : er re ca Playing adran) the club: 48 and 1954 (J Trophies with , 1946, 1947, 19 39 19 : on pi am – Yugoslav Ch

The ball was in the blood of the temperamental boy from Split. To play for Hajduk was the dream of Ivo Giovanelli. He did well, but his father would not even consider the boy playing football. At the age of 12, in the summer of 1931, he came to Jadran. Five years later, he was already a member of the regular first team. That year, in 1936, the 17-year old Ivo Giovanelli became the youngest water polo player at the Olympic Games in Berlin. He also played at the first post-war Olympics, in 1948. He could not get over the fact that no medal was won either in Berlin or London. He played 25 games from 1936 to 1954 for the national team, either of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia or later the communist state. He was a versatile player; as he used to say, ‘I was both in attack and in defence’. However, through the modernisation of water polo, he stood out as the centre player. Teamed up with the colleague from Jadran, Marko Brajnović, he made one of the strongest club centre pairs of the time. Which is why it is no wonder that Jadran won the title of the national champions five times. He often

emphasised: “In my time, water polo was much more pure”. Which is why, , he was very angry watching from the audience in the final years of his life when defenders would not let the centre players play, while the referees protected them. Giovanelli was willing to talk about that problem in the game at two meters ‘forever’. A Jadran player from head to tow, but he did not end his playing career in Zvončac. It hurt him a little when some younger players “raised their voice” and Đove moved to Italy. It is true, that meant only in the summer months, when he played for Catania. He played there for two seasons, brought them to the first division, after which he coached them for as long as eight years. It is remembered from that ‘Italian era’, in the mid-1950’s, that he was among the first to roll into Split on a Vespa motor bike... The Italians awarded him with a gold medal for sporting achievements. However, Zvončac was his home. From 1967 to 1974 he was the President of the Jadran Sports Association, and he watched every water polo game in Split until the end of his life.


Water Polo Rules Between the Wars After Three Heavy Fouls – Penalty Shot

The Leather, Round, Hard and Waterproof Ball

Between the two wars, water polo was played with two halftimes, each consisting of seven minutes of “pure” play. At the beginning of each half-time and after every goal scored, the players had to swim to the ball thrown into the middle of the pool. Tactically, the teams played with two full-backs in front of their goal, two centres and two attack players. The rules of the game inhibited the dynamics of the game and the speed of the action. After a foul was called, during the so called dead time, the players were not allowed to move, they had to stay in the place where they were at the moment when the game was interrupted. This formation and the inability of the players to move during the interruption, made it impossible for the defence to score. So for example, the standard full-back Vinko Cvjetković was not enlisted as a scorer. This rule was not abolished until 1950. Often a great deal of time passed before the players returned to the place where they were at the moment of the referee’s whistle. After three heavy fouls by one team, the referee called a penalty shot, so the players strived more to force a foul than to score in the game. A sent-off player could re-enter the game only after a score. Referees were often unable to judge numerous complicated situations properly, so they were often criticized by the players, management, audience and public. Wishing to make the game more interesting to the spectators, the rules were often changed.

At the time, the water polo pitch was an enclosed water area. The shorter side of the field, on the middle of which was the goal, was called the baseline, and the longer one the side line. On each half, there was a penalty line four meters from the baseline. The ball had to be “round, it must not have any bumps, it must be fully inflated, made of waterproof leather, it must not be oiled with grease or any kind of oil …”




Water Polo Arena In Jutarnji List, published on 7th August 1925, the famous swimmer and swimming operative, water polo referee Jovo Esapović described the water polo rules in detail, which were issued by FINA and accepted by the Yugoslav Swimming Federation. These rules were published in the Swimming Federation Technical Rule Book, but as the translation was quite bad and dry, Esapović commented: “At the end of the 19th century (actually around 1900), this game began to be fostered at the initiative of the English and in a short while it broke through into all European and American sports centres. In a while both black and yellow races started to cultivate the game, and today it is one of the most widespread sports in the world. In Croatia, it began to be played only after World War I. The greatest development was realized by Jadran from Split in just a few years and they are today a serious pretender for the national water polo championships. The water polo court is a rectangular precisely enclosed water surface. The longer side may be 27 meters at the most and no less than 15 meters. The field is divided by visible marks into two equal halves. At 2-meters from the baseline towards the middle of the court is the so called mal line, and at 3.65-meters the penalty line. The baseline also borders the field on the goal side. In the middle of the baseline on both sides there is a goal, 3 meters in width and 0.90 meters high, with at least 1.50 meter depth. When the water is shallower, the distance from the bottom of the pool and the horizontal crossbar must be at least 2.50 meters. The goal is enclosed with a net (on the outside), which must reach at least 30 cm behind the goal line. The goal must be firmly positioned and there must not be any obstacles or protruding beams in front (especially on the goal line).”


Water Polo in the Banate of Croatia

Zvončac 1940 – Swimming competition at the Jadran pool

The Foundation of Croatian Sports Association Sport in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was, just like the political regime, founded on extremely centralistic grounds. Anything relevant was decided in Belgrade, which was also the headquarters of almost all sports associations. And most importantly, the finances for the development of sports were alloted by Belgrade. The Croats, just like any other non-Serb nation in Yugoslavia, were in a subordinate position in sport in relation to the favorized Serbs. Any emphasis of nationality in sporting achievements by Croatian athletes was judged by the Belgrade sports functioneers as mixing politics with sport. From the Croatian point of view, it was seen as hypocrisy, because it was precisely Belgrade who headed up the policy of Serbian hegemony in state sport. Therefore, for Croats in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia sport was a symbol of national affirmation. The Croatian Sports Association (Hrvatska športska sloga) was founded at the Assembly on 14th May 1939 in Zagreb. Although it started as a football organization the HŠS tried to gather other sport disciplines. At the time, Zagreb Swimming Club and HAŠK started activities to found the Croatian Swimming Federation, while at the conference of the Croatian Sports Association on 14th May 1939

it was concluded that all sports branches should have their own independent Croatian associations. The Organizing Committee of the Croatian Swimming Federation was held in the rooms of the Croatian Sports Association in Gajeva Street in Zagreb on 15th October 1939. It was attended by a representative of Jug (Dubrovnik) Josip Sotlar, from the Korčula Swimming Club (Karlo Pansini), Victoria (Ivo Gollob and Vazmoslav Pavešić), Karlovac Sports Association (Mirko Simović), Swimming Society Bjelovar (Boris Praunsperger), HAŠK (Božidar Šarkanj and Miljenko Martinis), Marathon (Zdenko Grund, Ivo Steinhard and Mirko Macarol), Jadrija (Niko Turina), ZSC (Boris Praunsperger and Dragutin Fučkar). Swimming sub-federations were represented by Mićo-Slavko Blažina (Sušak), Josip Sotlar (Dubrovnik) and Ante Kurir (Zagreb). Clubs from Split, Crikvenica, Novi Vinodol and DPK from Dubrovnik were not present, but they approved the work and agreed with all conclusions of the Zagreb meeting. The First Annual Assembly of the Croatian Swimming Federation was held on 27th November 1939, while an Emergency Conference was held on 17th April 1940 in Zagreb.


THE FIRST CROATIAN NATIONAL TEAM – On 15th September 1940 in Split it comprised: Mihovilović, Vidmar, Giovanelli, V. Polić, Štakula, B. Polić ZVONČAC 1940 – water polo match

The First Appearance of Croatia The Croatian national water polo team played its first match against the Hungarian team in Szeged on 8th September 1940. The match, which was won by the hosts 2:0, was refereed by Boris Pranunsberger, and the following players appeared: Mihovilović, Giovanelli, Samardžić, Curtini, Dinković, Strmac and Ciganović. The second match was played in Split on 15th September, and it was presented as a meeting of Split and Budapest teams (3:4). The following players played: Mihovilović, Vidmar, Giovanelli, V. Polić, Štakula and B. Polić, who scored all three goals. The match was played in the Jadran pool in front of 3000 spectators. Our team was dressed in light blue tracksuits, with the Croatian red-and-white coat of arms and a golden crown on the chest. The march-past of the opening ceremony was late as the Zagreb paper Večer reported in a text entitled “Swimming Will Soon Become the Most Popular Sport Here”: “The climax was the selection of the water polo team, which took more than half an hour. There were as many as six changes of team members, owing to one protest by Split, then by Dubrovnik, then Sušak, but it all happened quickly like in a film. The arguments about the flag were not considered to be a major sin, either for the persistent functioneers, or for the undisciplined competitiors. We do not know what stand the Federation will take after everything that happened in Split , but we would like to point out that the undisciplined swimmers and players are not the main culprits. The persons responsible for the sad event are the organizers who were supposed to take care of the team members. If the Serb Ciganović or the Slovene Žižek wear shirts with a Croatian coat of arms, that is up to them, but it is awkward, unquestionable and tactless putting these things off until the end, instead of solving them sooner and on time. We do not want to defend the swimmers, but we know


that they tried to warn the authorities that they do not want to carry the Croatian coat of arms on their chest. Why wasn’t this solved and agreed upon sooner, and why did so many unwanted and embarrassing incidents happen in front of such a large audience, in front of a foreign team, in front of a few of the most renowned Hungarian sports officials, this should be investigated by the responsible persons from the CSF. This is not the business of our foreign guests, they do not know nor are they obliged to know our political circumstances. Anyone who saw or knows everything that happened in Split in Jadran club house, on the surrounding terrains and spaces and at the very start, will certainly not come to another event, even though it might be international!! The swimming competitions mostly brought good results. This is first and foremost true for the visitors, but we cannot really complain about our swimmers. They did fall short in some disciplines, but we know from experience that this happens often, even in league matches. The reason is simple - the competitors started training too late. Many of them lack the necessary experience, and many were so impressed by the importance of the match, that they could not sleep the day before. The Hungarians praise us, and in the new season they will certainly try to organize a larger event,which they will invite us to. First of all, to avenge their failure in Split and then because we are more advanced and better than some other nations, who were guests and have played in Hungary.” The events in Split were the subject of a debate at the regular Annual Conference of the Croatian Swimming Federation, held on 10th December 1940 in Zagreb. The meeting lasted a long time owing to the long and heated debates and it raised a lot of dust. The Assembly should have cleared and straightened out many differences and important issues, which impinged upon the work and competence of the Croatian Swimming Federation.

Water Polo During World War II

> WATER POLO MATCH BETWEEN CROATIA AND GERMANY played in 1942 at a pool in Zagreb

Water Polo in the Independent State of Croatia According to a decision by the Poglavnik (Head-of-State) of the Independent State of Croatia of 4th November 1941, Miško Zebić was appointed the “State Head for Physical Education and Sports and the Principal of the Department of Physical Education and Sports at the Ministry of Social Matters”. The state head of sport and its office managed 22 sports associations, physical education and schools, home guards and Ustashe units. According to the legal regulations issued on 24th April 1941, the Falcon (sports) associations of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia were dissolved, and on 21st May 1941 Miško Zebić made a decision to dissolve old sports associations. During the war the first national championships took place and also competitions for teams in athletics, boxing, field hockey, wrestling, bowling, football, swimming, handball, skiing, table tennis, tennis, water polo and rowing. In the branch of the IOC, on 15th August 1944, Independent State of Croatia was listed as a special IOC member and Franjo Bučar as its representative. In the Independent State of Croatia the name of water polo was changed to “playing ball in water” (a strictly Croatian formulation, to avoid the use of foreign terminology). Official matches were played in the pool on the River Sava in Zagreb. The name of the pre-war sports club Marathon was changed to the Croatian Sports Club, Zagreb. In August 1942 this club’s water polo team played two matches with the German championship Landessportbund from Berlin. Both matches ended in a tie (2:2). In 1942 the water polo teams of the Independent State of Croatia and Slovakia played matches in Zagreb and Bratislava. In Zagreb the Slovaks were more successful 3:2, and in Bratislava our team won with the same result.



Water Polo in WW II TITO’S DOLPHINS – water polo team in Rome in 1944 at a competition < of allied armies in swimming and water polo

From 18th to 20th August 1944 at the swimming stadium Nazionale in Rome there was a competition of allied armies’ teams in swimming and water polo. Besides the USA, France and Great Britain, there were also representatives of the Yugoslav Partisan army. The players were withdrawn from the battle fields, taken by ship to Bari and then by plane to Rome. They were led by Oskar Danon from Belgrade and Mićo Blažina from Victoria. Thrilled by their appearance, the English journalist Peter Wilson called them “Tito’s Dolphins” in the army newspaper the Union Jack. The water polo team beat the combined team of the USA and France (3:2) and England (6:2), but as they lost to France (5:7), “Tito’s Dolphins” won second place. The following players appeared for the water polo team: Vojko Pavičić, Dane Matošić, Teo Dinković, Gojko Marović, Dinko Rizzi, Augustin Montagne, Darko Grabušić, Vojislav Ucović, Rudi Glajher and Branko Žižek. The team leader was Oskar Danon, and the technical officer Mićo Blažina. As the host did not have the new Yugoslav national anthem “Hej Slaveni”, Oskar Danon wrote the music out for them, so it was performed during the opening ceremony.


The Supremacy of Croatian Clubs and Players The water polo scene in Croatia and Yugoslavia, which was almost extinct during the war years, suddenly revived after World War II. Some clubs changed their names, so Victoria of Šušak became Primorje, Mladost of Zagreb in a way continued the tradition of the forbidden HAŠK, Jadran of Split competed as Hajduk for a short period of time. Another club was founded in Zagreb, Naprijed, which in 1961 changed its name to Medveščak. In 1974, that club also ceased to function, but after a ten year break, it was reestablished and for a period of time was a member of the Inter-republic league – western division. As far as the club competitions in Yugoslavia went, until the 1960’s the championship was regularly won by the Croatian clubs, those from the coast (Croatian domination was interrupted by Jadran of Herceg Novi in 1958). Jadran of Split won the championship title seven times: in 1946, 1947, 1948, 1954, 1957, 1960 and 1991. Jug of Dubrovnik was the national champion eight times: in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985, Mornar of Split won the title of Yugoslav champion five times: in 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, and 1961. The


continental Mladost of Zagreb should be added to this brilliant string of coastal clubs, with six titles in post war Yugoslavia: in 1962, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1989, and 1990. Although Jug recorded the 1951 championship as theirs, it was officially annulled. This happened because of the events at the final match between Jug and Mornar in Dubrovnik when Jug took the lead by 1:0, had one player more until the end of the match and then only protected the ball. – Mornar was exceptionally strong then because it was actually the professional team of the Yugoslav Navy. One can say that the Jug players, aided by the referees, abused the rules. That match was annulled, and subsequently the whole championship was also annulled, although Jug never accepted that decision. Many years later, Jug requested the General Assembly of the Yugoslav Water Polo Federation to recognize the championship as theirs, but that request was denied. I do not know if anything else happened in the meantime – said Stjepko Bradarić from Split, a former water polo player and water polo official.

< THE YUGOSLAV NATIONAL TEAM BEFORE A GAME, 1948 HAJDUK SPLIT – Yugoslav Champions, 1948: Brajnović, Bakašun, Majić, Giovanelli, Radić (standing), Katuranić, Bonačić (squatting) > THE NATIONAL WATER POLO TEAM IN NIJMEGEN, 1953 (during the tournament and upon their return)

The supremacy of the Croatian clubs within the bounds of Yugoslavia was interrupted in the 1960’s when Partizan from Belgrade suddenly began to gain strength. Of course, this could not have happened without the help of the Croatian experts and players. First, in 1958, Vlaho Orlić was brought in as coach from Dubrovnik to Belgrade. In the playing sense, Partizan became strong when Zoran Janković came from Mladost in 1963. After that, a whole plethora of Croatian water poloists left for the Yugoslav capital. Duško Antunović left Korčula in 1966, a year earlier Siniša Belamarić left Šibenik, and a little later, in 1971, Ratko Rudić and Uroš Marović left for Belgrade from Jadran of Split. There were more Croatian “missionaries” spreading water polo in the east. One can say that the British invented water polo, but the Croats spread that sport to other regions of Yugoslavia. Croatians water polo players achieved their first significant international success after World War II as part of the national team of the second (socialist) Yugoslavia. At the first post war Olympic Games, in London in 1948

(from 29 July to 14 August), which brought together 18 water polo national teams, it was practically a Croatian national team that played because only one Yugoslav player was not Croatian. The players then were: Juraj Amšel, Veljko Bakašun, Marko Brainović, Luka Ciganović, Ivo Giovanelli, Božo Grkinić, Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić, Ivica Jobo Curtini, Saša Strmac and Ivo Štakula. They defeated Australia 12:3, tied against Italy 4:4, then in the second round lost to Hungary 3:1 thus losing the quarter finals. But the skeleton of the national team which would bring in a harvest of medals in the following years was created then. The new rules applied from 1 January 1950 (they were accepted in 1948 during the Olympic Games in London). The article which prohibited free movement of players during “dead time” was abolished (the players had had to remain in the position they found themselves in at the moment play was interrupted by the referee’s whistle). The game became faster and much more dynamic, and quick and mobile players became particularly prominent.



A Living Croatian Water Polo Legend! Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić, the best goalkeeper in the world during the 1950’s, will never forget the April of 1984. On the 19th, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and on the 30th, he received approval for his induction into the Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The charter was signed by the U.S. President, Ronald Reagan. Books could be written and films made about Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić. He was born in Sušak on 5th July 1925. Swimming was his first sport, from the age of eight years. His first appearance was in 1938 in Crikvenica for Victoria. Kovačić was an excellent swimmer, with remarkable stamina. He was known as an excellent breaststroke swimmer. He could swim underwater for 50 metres, which the rules of the style then allowed. A year later, he became a first-team player for the water polo club Victoria. The war prevented his further development and that of his generation. For some time, he fought with the partisans in the World War II. He was one of the first to reopen the club after the end of the war. His first appearance, with Ivica Job Curtini, was in September 1945, at the first Croatian rally in Zagreb.

Zdravko Ćiro Kov a

Best Goalkeeper in


the World

Date of birth: July th 5 , 1925 Place of birth: Suša k Occupation: econ omist Playing career: 1939 -1957, Victoria / Pr imorje National team caree r: 82 appearances for Yugoslavia Trophies with the national team: – silver at the 1952 Olympics in Helsink i – silver at the 1956 Olympics in Melbo ur ne – silver at the 1954 European Champio nships in Torino – bronze at the 19 50 European Cham pionships in Vienn a


‘’My first appearance for the National team of former Yugoslavia will remain in my memory as long as I live. We played against Albania, and during the entire match, I didn’t even touch the ball!’’ Kovačić recalls, ‘’My team mates did not allow the Albanians to come even close to my net, or aim a shot past me. We won 26:0!’’ At the Olympic Games in London in 1948, two players from Primorje played for the National team of Yugoslavia – striker Curtini and goalkeeper Kovačić. At this tournament, there were no significant results, but at the next Olympics, in Helsinki, in 1952, Yugoslavia won the silver medal, and Curtini and Kovačić, after their excellent performance, became part of the FINA best team. “There is only one king – which is why he is the king. Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić was not proclaimed the king of water polo because Ivica Jobo Curtini was already on that throne. He had to be content with the modest title of the world’s best goalkeeper,” the sports sections reported. And he was! Shapely, strong, serious and responsible, he kept the entire team under control. Unfortunately for him, if there are two aces in the same club, the supporters always favour the attacker. This is a sporting injustice, but it has always been so and always will be. And yet, there is always someone ready to take the burden of responsibility, the unrewarding role of goalkeeper. And Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić always took the responsibility in matches. There is an anecdote. After the Primorje – Mornar game (6:6) in the Croatian Swimming Cup in 1954, in answer to a journalist’s question as to why Kovačić did not defend some of the goals scored, the best player of Mornar, Štakula answered briefly and to the point: ‘’He couldn’t have. We only fire shots at Ćiro if we have a 100% opportunity!’’ And statisticians would often write that in the Primorje games, Ćiro made a lot more saves than goals scored against him, and that he contributed enormously to the success of the team. Ćiro participated in the 1953 Tournament of Nijmegen with Ivica Curtini. He played twice for the National team in world championships. His last appearance for the National team was in Zagreb in 1957. At the end of his playing career, Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić stayed with Sports Association Primorje 08. He has performed various duties, and is still active. He is happy that Rijeka and Primorje now have a complex of swimming pools on Kantrida. ‘’Ah, if we only had had such conditions, how far we might have gone! We trained in all kinds of weather in the sea. We had to postpone so many games due to bad weather and high waves,” says Zdravko, “but that’s all right, at least this generation and the ones to come have better conditions for work and improvement.”

Zdravko Ježić, or Pucko as everyone used to call him, started playing water polo persuaded by his neighborhood friends, the Strmec brothers. Saša Strmec already played water polo in London in 1946, and the older brother Boris was Zdravko’s godfather. Before that, Pucko played handball and did some running, in fact, he was involved in almost all sports. Even later, when he stopped playing water polo, he continued running – in marathons. He was a great player, but also a great man. There are two details that confirm this. He was the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony of the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. He had the same function at the Closing Ceremony of the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, an honour which is not bestowed on just anyone. In 1981 he was introduced to the International Water Polo Hall of Fame, the first Croat ever to receive that honour, and as modest as he was, he only found out about it in 1984! And he never bragged about it. We should also mention that he was very involved in Ozren Bonačić’s reception into that company of world legends, writing at least 3 or 4 letters of support and requests. Furthermore, the Hungarians included him amongst the best seven players of world. And as a man? He was perhaps an even greater man, although these categories are hard to measure. Once he lent his friend, Zlatko Šimenc, who was at a time a poor student, a jacket for some ceremonial occasion; Ćos managed to stain it and was embarrassed to return it in that condition. When he finally admitted what had happened, Pucko just waved his hand and said, “Never mind, leave it!”. He was like a big brother to the guys, giving them shoes, ties… When Zdravko Kovačić needed heart surgery in America, it was again Pucko who was most engaged in organizing it. Ježić earned his doctorate in chemistry in Zagreb in 1962, and in October 1964 he left for postgraduate studies in Michigan. By then he was working for OKI, and in America he worked in the renowned chemical giant Dow Chemical. His wife Božena and his young son Boris, born in 1963 accompanyied him across “the great pond”. First they went there on his student visa but after Zdravko died, they remained living there. They say of Pucko that he was a born winner. Although he does not come from a family of athletes, he never lost a battle, apart from his final

one, against prostate cancer. He did not forget his roots while in America, he went to as many as four Olympic Games to watch and cheer for our athletes. People recognized and respected him at these games, which was particularly noticeable during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. As a player, he was diligent, among the first to realize the importance of physical fitness, he bought weights in Russia and created a small gym on his mother’s terrace. He ran up Sljeme, he went cross-country skiing and bathed in the spa as there were no pools in Zagreb at the time. He was third in Croatia in the 200 meters freestyle; ZDRAVKO JEŽIĆ (left) and JURA AMSEL at the 1956 at 185 centimetres tall he was at home in the water, Olympic Games in Melbourne powerful and strong. His specialty in water polo ZDRAVKO ĆIRO KOVAČIĆ (left) and ZDRAVKO JEŽIĆ was his ambidextrous shot, so the opponent’s The Yugoslav national team playing at the 1956 Olympic goalie never knew which side the threat would Games in Melbourne come from. He practised and played some more in Michigan, but that was purely recreational for him. In 2002 he attended a reception with the Croatian president Stjepan Mesić. The occasion was the gathering of all Olympians after Janica Kostelić’s success at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and on that occasion he received a crystal Croatian coat of arms, something he kept in a special place. He was a rare breed of scholar, a man who spoke five languages, an athlete, an Olympian, a world-renowned chemist, but again so simple, so ordinary, so much his own man, a man who did not forget his roots and whose children, although Americans, speak the Croatian language. His family decided to bury him in Zagreb, at Mirogoj. Date of birth: Aug His ashes were taken from ust 17th, 1931 Pla ce of birth: Niš America to his home soil Died: in 2005 in Ne which he loved so much. w York, USA

Zdravko Ježić

An Athlete and a S


Occupation: docto r of technological sciences Playing career: 1946 -1961 Mladost Trophies with the national team: – silver at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki – silver at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome Trophies with the club: – Yugoslav Winter Championships: 19 60 and 1961 (Mlad ost)


Ivo Štakula is a complete unknown for the wider Croatian sports audience, and for the great majority of the younger water polo audience, regardless of the fact that he won two Olympic medals, was the best player in the world at his time and a defensive player before his time. We dare to say that the reason for this is not the fact that the time of his water polo endeavours reaches back into the 1940s and 1950s; we believe that the reason is his desertion from the former communist state in the first decade of its existence, thus making him a “persona non grata”. Every mention of his name was automatically observed through an ideological-political prism. That detail, Štakula’s decision to stay in Australia after the 1956 Games in Melbourne and not to return to Yugoslavia, was without any doubt one of the key moments of his career, far from sporting achievements and values, but it is interesting to mention that the name of Ivo Štakula is one of the rare names of a Croatian athlete in the American list of athletes who defected from former communist countries. What is more, all his biographers emphasize this fact alongside his Olympic medals. Truth be told, politics and water polo were closely intertwined throughout his entire career. Ivo Štakula, born in Dubrovnik, started playing water polo for Jug, of course. He stayed there until 1950 when he had to transfer to Mornar from Split. Namely, the club from Split, which was at the time backed by the Navy, blackmailed one of the best water polo players in the world to “either transfer to Mornar, or the information that he played for the Independent State of Croatia national team will become public knowledge”. Of course, his passport was confiscated and he was told he could get it back only if he transferred to Mornar. Of course he had no choice but to leave Jug in 1950. Ivo Štakula continued playing; in a country he could not consider his own because six years later he departed on a voyage of no return. To be more specific, during the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, where he won his second Olympic silver, he contacted the Croatian expatriates with the wish to remain in Australia. He told Božo Grkinić, the national team coach, about his request. – The decision about his request was in the hands of a politically powerful man and the chief of the Yugoslav Olympic expedition to Melbourne, Miljan


Neoričić – Hrvoje Kačić, Štakula’s co-player at the time remembers the events in Australia. – The players were in favour of approving his request, but Neoričić threatened that he would be proclaimed a traitor to his country unless he returned. He did promise to let him go back to Australia upon their return to Yugoslavia. Ivo decided to stay right away. He had already arranged for his wife and son to reach Trieste earlier. We, the players were forbidden to even say goodbye to him. That is how Ivo Štakula stayed in Australia. He never saw his homeland Croatia or the Adriatic Sea again. He was a magnificent player in this region; one of the best in both Jug and Mornar, and interestingly, one of the rare players to have played for three different countries – the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Independent State of Croatia and SFRY. He participated in three Olympics (London 1948, Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956). He took silver medals in Finland and Australia. In the Helsinki Games in 1952 he was elected onto the best seven team of the tournament, receiving a special FINA Medal. He also won two silver medals in continental championships before that and he also played in the first post-war European Championships in Monte Carlo in 1947. After defecting to Australia, he conth tinued playing for Melbourne, but uary 25 , 1923 te of birth: Febr Da not for long. Only two years later he Dubrovnik ralia Place of birth: th elbourne, Aust died in the pool in 1958. He suffered 26 , 1958 in M er ob ct O : ed Di a heart attack during a match. His 8 ntal technician ornar; 1956-195 Occupation: de Melbourne club later established g; 1950-1956 M Ju 0 95 -1 39 19 : Player career an annual award for the best young Melbourne player called the Ivo Stakula Trophy. am: the national te i Ivo Štakula, a great player and patriot Trophies with mes in Helsink 52 Olympic Ga 19 e th ne at ur rests far away from his home country, r bo ve el – sil mes in M 56 Olympic Ga 19 e Turin th in having died where he was the greatest at s r ip ve sh sil – ampion 54 European Ch Vienna in – in the pool. s ip sh on – silver at the 19 pi am

Ivo Štakula

gee from Water polo Refu Communism

an Ch e 1950 Europe – bronze at th : the club ), 1952, 1953, Trophies with 1949, 1950 (Jug , 40 19 s: ip sh ampion – Yugoslav Ch (Mornar) 56 19 d an 1955

One question will forever remain unanswered. Many water polo connoisseurs claim that Croatia has not had, at least in the first hundred years of water polo, a better player than Mornar’s legend, Lovro Radonić. Understandably, views and tastes differ, but one thing is sure – Lovro was a great player and man, a predecessor of modern water polo. He was an excellent counter-offensive player, an extremely fast swimmer, a sprinter. His shot was strong and precise. He was a natural born goal-getter. Even today, when water polo is played much faster, Lovro would be a strong link in any team. Apart from that, he was a an entertaining fellow; an athlete from head to toe. He started in his native Korčula, in KPK. He enrolled at school and the club on almost the same day. He played for KPK until the Date of birth: Febr uary 25th, 1928 war year 1942, when he left the island and Place of birth: Korču la joined his older brother Andro in Borovo. Died: July 31st, 1990 in Rijeka There he changed sports, started playing Player career: 1935 -1942 KPK; 1949-19 football and learned the shoemaking 64 Mornar Coaching career: 19 64-1968 Primorje trade in the shoe factory. After the end of Trophies with the war he left for Belgrade. Invited by Pero national team: – silver at the 1952 Lozica, he started playing for Partizan. Olympic Games in Helsinki – silver at the 1956 But he was persuaded to come to the city Olympic Games in Melbourne – silver at the 1954 under Marjan, where a new club, Mornar, European Champio nships in Turin – silver at the 1958 was formed. European Champio ns hips in Budapest – bronze at the 19 Mornar’s coach at the time, Božo Grkinić, 50 European Cham pio ns hips in Vienna was convinced that Lovro was a water – gold at the 1959 Mediterranean Ga m es in polo star. He won the national ChamBeirut Trophies with the club: pionships five times with Mornar, with – Yugoslav Champio n: 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1961 (Mor the first in 1952, and Lovro Radonić was nar) the youngest member of the first team line-up. The celebration was huge; after all they had managed to dethrone the invincible Jug. Mornar won their last, fifth Yugoslav Champion title in 1961. Radonić was the team captain, the oldest player and a true role model to his significantly younger team mates Jane Barle, the brothers Ante and Jakov Matošić, Zvonimir Kreković and others. Only one defeat in the championships was the best validation of the quality of the rejuvenated Mornar team. He continued lifting trophies in the international scene. Mornar won the unofficial World Championships in Vienna in 1953 and Radonić was elected butterfly (passed the qualifying rounds) at the the tournament MVP. He played 99 matches for Rome Olympics. the national team, starting with the 1950 European He ended his playing career on April 1st, 1964 and Championships in Vienna right up to the 1960 moved to Rijeka with his family. For a few years Olympic Games in Rome. In Trofeo Italia, the unofhe coached Primorje which played in the second ficial World Championships (World Championships league at the time. were not played at the time) Yugoslavia won, and To end the story we will quote something he so four years later in an identical tournament, but this often repeated: time in Zagreb, Radonić and his team mates won – It’s a pleasure to win against any team, but to desilver. It is interesting to note that Lovro played feat Jadran at Zvončac is something special. Those water polo (4th place) and swam in the 200 meters wins are my favourite.

Lovro Radonić

The Predecessor of Modern Water Polo


> NATIONAL WATER POLO TEAM at the 1960 Olympics in Rome WATER POLO PLAYERS at the 1960 Olympics in Rome

First Medal: Bronze in the European Championships in Vienna 1950 The first medal, and a bronze one at that, was won by the national team at the European Championships in Vienna, played from 20 to 27 August 1950 (at the previous European Championships in Monte Carlo in 1947, Yugoslavia did not pass the preliminary group). Under the lead of Filip Bonačić they won third place. Only the national teams of the Netherlands (who defeated us 6:3) and Sweden (with whom we tied 4:4), were ahead of us and behind us was Italy, whom we defeated 9:7. There was a change at the helm of the national team at that time. After the tournament in Naples, Bonačić immigrated to France, and was replaced by Grkinić and Polić at the helm of the national team. The appearance of the Rijeka tandem, Božo Grkinić and Vlado Polić, at the head of the Yugoslav national team signified a turning point. Not only in Yugoslavia, but also in the world of water polo others started following this model. They introduced “strong hand” professionalism, to a great extent copied from the Russian way of conditioning athletes for major competitions, by which the whole system was given its informal name. An era of great results started, which continued long after Grkinić and Polić left the helm of the national team in 1960. Long and gruelling training, and months of playing together before major competitions, already bore fruit at the Olympic Games in 1952. Two years after the bronze from Vienna, at the Olympic Games in Helsinki (from 19 July to 3 August 1952) 21 national teams played, and the Yugoslav team, consisting of six players from the London set-up – Amšel, Bakašun, Brainović, Kovačić, Curtini and Štakula – helped by three new Croats, Vlado Ivković, Zdravko Ježić and Lovro Radonić, won their first Olympic medal, a silver one, placing themselves right after the then untouchable Hungarians, against whom we tied 2:2 in the quarter final group. Along with another tie, 3:3, against the USSR (who was playing at the Olympic Games for the first time) and wins over USA (4:2) and Italy (3:1) in the final group, Yugoslavia took second place, with 1 point less than Hungary.


The first major title for the national team led by the Grkinić – Polić duo was won in 1953 at the Trofeo Italia, that took place in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, This competition, which each year was organized by the winner of the previous tournament, was practically an unofficial world championship. In Nijmegen, six leading water polo nations played, and the tournament was played on a point system (everybody against everybody else). In this form of competition, Kovačić, Bakašun, I. Štakula, Ježić, Vuksanović, Courtini and Radonjić did not lose a single point. In the first round, Italy was defeated 5:3 (goals were scored by: Courtini 3, Radonjić and Vuksanović), in the second Hungary, 6:5 (Curtini 3, Vuksanović, Ježić, Radonjić), and victories against the Netherlands 5:4 (Curtini 3, Ježić 2), Spain 7:1 (Štakula 3, Radonjić 2, Bakasun, Courtini) and Belgium 5:1 (Ježić 2, Vuksanović, Radonjić, Courtini) ensued. With five victories, 10 points, Yugoslavia was the winner ahead of Hungary (8 points), The Netherlands (6), Spain (4), Italy (2) and Belgium (0). At the European championships in Turin, from 31 August until 5 September 1954, regarding the result the team took a step forward. They won the silver medal. In reality, Yugoslavia dominated the championships. They did not lose a single match (3:3 with Hungary, 3:1 with Italy, 4:0 with the Netherlands), but after a scandalously run match between Hungary and Italy, the gold went to the Hungarians. The chief protagonist of the scandal was an Italian player, Cesare Rubini, a member of his national basketball and water polo teams, who ‘gave away’ most of the 8 Hungarian goals. In the middle of Turin, the team ranking third, the host of the championships, was out-classed by the winner of the title with the result that Hungary needed for a better score difference, and so they won the gold medal. At the following Olympic Games in Melbourne, from 22 November until 8 December 1956, Yugoslavia, now in competition with ten participating countries, again won a silver medal, with ten Croats in the national team: Juraj Amšel, Ivica Cipci, Tomislav Franjković, Vlado Ivković, Zdravko Ježić, Hrvoje Kačić, Zdravko Kovačić, Lovro Radonić, Marijan Žužej and Ivo Štakula.

The first place in the group was won by defeating the USSR 3:2, Australia 9:1 and Romania 3:2. Then, in the playoffs for classification from first to sixth place, the USA was defeated 5:1, tying against West Germany 2:2. The first defeat was by the Hungarians 2:1 and finally, Italy was defeated 2:1. The decisive duel was played between Hungary and the USSR, only a few months after the Soviet intervention in Hungary. Witnesses say that it was a real war in the water, with numerous slightly and seriously injured players. The Hungarians were successful in their intention, they defeated the USSR and defended the gold medal, while Nikita Khrushchev’s national team won their first Olympic medal – the bronze. The Olympic Games in Melbourne were important because it was the first time that the yellow ball, which is still in use, was introduced. Although the tournament was played with the old, leather ball, which absorbed water during matches and very quickly became heavy, the promotion of the invention by an American James R. Smith, who back in 1936 had published the first book on water polo (Playing and Coaching Water Polo), was an precursor of the revolution in the game which would ensue years later. Namely, the plastic balls were not introduced until 1968 when the American company Voit produced balls all of whose measurements were satisfactory to the heads of FINA. At the European Championships in Budapest played from 31 August until 6 September 1958, Yugoslavia was second again. The gold medal went to Hungary once more, as the winner of the match with Yugoslavia 5:3. Yugoslavia on the other hand, defeated Italy 3:2, and lost with the same result to the USSR, who won the bronze medal. The Olympic Games in Rome, two years later, were held from 25 August until 11 September 1960. Sixteen national teams played at the water polo tournament, and for the first time, an Arab country – the United Arab Emirates. The Yugoslav team was significantly altered. Of 13 players in the team, seven were Croats: Gojko Arneri, Ivo Cipci, Zdravko Ježić, Anton Nardelli, Lovro Radonić, Zlatko Šimenc and Marijan Žužej. The gold medal was won by Italy, the silver

by the USSR, the bronze by Hungary, and Yugoslavia was only fourth. In the preliminary rounds, Yugoslavia defeated the Netherlands 2:1, South Africa 5:3 and Australia 6:2. It continued to win in the quarter finals – it overpowered the Americans 6:2, and Hungary 2:1. The national team was in the lead even after the quarter finals, but the problems started in the duel with Italy, in the playoffs for classification from first to fourth place. In a dramatic duel, in front of five thousand fierce Italian supporters, the hosts won 2:1. Yugoslavia also lost to the USSR (4:3) thus losing the medal because the Hungarians tied against the USSR (3:3) and against Italy (3:3). A year later, the rules were changed again. The match was to last 4x5 minutes, with a two-minute break between each quarter. Replacement of players was allowed after a goal or during breaks between quarters, while 11 was the highest number of players allowed in a team. This change contributed to a faster rhythm during the entire match, and the frequent replacement of players allowed a wider choice of tactical alternatives in defence and in attack. The following European Championships took place in the then East German city of Leipzig, from 19 to 25 August 1962. Yugoslavia ranked one place lower in respect to the previous championships on the old continent – it won the bronze. It was defeated by the German Democrat Republic 1:0, tying against the USSR, 3:3, and losing the match with Hungary 3:2. The Hungarians won the gold medal, the USSR silver (goal difference was decisive – the Soviets had 7:7, Yugoslavia 6:6). The third time they won the Olympic silver medal, in Tokyo in 1964 (from 10 to 24 October, 13 national teams played), the Croats made up the majority of the Yugoslav national team (eight out of 11). They were: Ozren Bonačić, Zoran Janković, Anton Nardelli, Frane Nonković, Vinko Rosić, Karlo Stipanić, Zlatko Šimenc and Ivo Trumbić. Of the players from other republics, the most important player in the team was Mirko Sandić, and he was of Croatian origin on his mother’s side (and is Ozren Bonačić’s cousin), and the remaining two were Milan



^ NATIONAL TEAM – Training for the match against the USSR, Zagreb, 1956: coach Lovro Štakula, Dragoslav Šiljak, Jani Barle, Boris Čukvas, Gojko Arneri, Ivo Cipci, Zoran Janković, Zlatko Šimenc, Uroš Roje, Ivo Štakula Kolendić, Miro Čirković, Juraj Amšel, Hrvoje Kačić, Tomislav Franjković, trener Božo Grkinić (standing), Antun Nardeli, Vladimir Ivković, Lovro Radonić, Boško Vuksanović, Zdravko Kovačić, Zdravko Ježić (sitting)


Hrvoje Kačić

Prison Instead of the Olympics

Date of birth: Ja nuary 12th, 1932 Place of birth: Dubrovnik Playing career : 1946-1961 Jug National team career: 150 appe arances for Yu goslavia Trophies with the national te am : – bronze at th e 1950 Europe an Championsh – silver at the 19 ips in Vienna 56 Olympics in Melbourne – silver medal at the 1958 Euro pean Champion Budapest ships in – gold at the 19 59 Mediterrane an Games in Be Trophies with irut the club: – Yugoslav Ch ampions: 1950 and 1951 (Jug)

The year is 2005 and in the old town harbour of Dubrovnik a show game is being played. It is the preliminary match for the Wild League finals, for the title of the traditional Dubrovnik Championships in water polo. Despite his age, 73 year-old Hrvoje Kačić is also playing. He does not want to be the team captain. The reason is he has estimated the strength of his team and concluded, “It will be difficult to win. Besides, you know, I never lost a match in the harbour as captain of Jug.”. From the beginning to the end of his career, Hrvoje Kačić was connected with Dubrovnik’s club, Jug. Even in the 1950’s, when he was in the army, he did not want to play for Split’s Mornar, a military club at that time. “Like all the other players in the National team, I could have, but I didn’t want to.” He did not want to, and the reason is well known. While still a player, he was not politically acceptable. For this reason, he was not awarded the Croatian National Sports Best Athlete award in 1957. “It did not seem appropriate to the authorities then that I should be the best athlete in Croatia, as five years earlier they had placed me in solitary confinement and confiscated my passport,” he commented some forty years later. The reason why he spent time in prison in 1952, in solitary confinement, on the orders of the State Security Administration, is that after the football match between Dinamo - Crvena Zvezda, when Božo Broketa from Dubrovnik, who played for Split’s Hajduk, sent a telegram saying “While there is a heart, there will be a Croatia too’’, he went out on the streets celebrating Zagreb’s victory. His passport was then confiscated. Three times altogether during that decade. Hrvoje Kačić began his sports career after World War II. His brother, Pero, was already playing for the leading team as a goalkeeper. Hrvoje’s debut for the team was in 1950. Jug was the champion that summer, and at the age of 18, the best player


among the champions, Hrvoje started playing for the National team. In the same year, he returned from the European Championships in Vienna with a bronze medal. This was the first water polo medal for the National team of former Yugoslavia in a major competition. “We also won the title in 1951, but for political reasons the Championships were cancelled. When we defeated Split’s Mornar, they complained that we prolonged the game against the rules. What rules, when at that time the offence was not being timed?! The team could keep possession without a time limit. But the authorities stood behind Mornar. It was a military club, favoured by the regime, and so the title was taken away from us.” Nevertheless, Jug itself never accepted the decision. In the club’s treasury, among the other trophies it says - Jug champion of 1951. This was the last of Jug’s titles won in the old town harbour where they played until the completion of the pool in Gruž in 1961, when Kačić concluded his playing career. “We played against Partizan, who were favoured by the judges from Montenegro. The game was in Belgrade. Pure theft. I couldn’t bear it any longer. I got out of the pool, started throwing stopwatches and I swore then, “I will never play again.” He never changed his mind. He did not even try to appeal against the three-month ban he received. Thus ended the playing career of Jug’s best player of the 1950’s. During his eleven seasons, Kačić collected medals with the National team of Yugoslavia. In his time, the international Trofeo d’Italia tournament was considered to be the unofficial world championship. In 1957, Yugoslavia took second place and Kačić was elected best player of the tournament. That year, apart from being chosen as the best Croatian athlete, he was convincingly the best athlete of Dalmatia. He was the only one to win the votes of all 188 survey participants. Kačić also participated in the 1960 Olympic Games, but in Rome came just a step away from a new

Olympic medal (Yugoslavia was fourth), while he missed the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, since he had to serve his prison sentence, and his passport was with the police. “During the Olympic Games in Helsinki, I was serving my sentence. I spent thirty days in jail working on the construction of the seafront in Cavtat, in front of the hotel of the Ministry of Interior.” The leaders of the Swimming Federation tried to convince the state and party potentates that the team was depleted without Kačić, but to no avail. “Water polo in my time was a summer sport. We would start training on Danče when the sea got warm enough to swim in. After a month of training, we would begin playing. First came the league matches. Then came the championship. We played international games as well. The Austrians, Hungarians and English often came, and we travelled to the Netherlands, France, Belgium ... It was a great occasion when we played in the harbour. More than two thousand spectators would squeeze into the stands. It was well known who sat where, especially on the stands under the walls where the seats were marked and sold out before the start of the season. It was a pleasure to play in such an atmosphere. And we could not lose.” When he ended his playing career, he devoted himself to law. He became a University Professor, with a doctorate in maritime law. In the first democratic elections in Croatia in 1990, he was elected to the Croatian Parliament. From 1994 to 2001, he was President of the State Commission for Borders of the Republic of Croatia. “In the early 1950’s, I was expelled from university for what they used to call “violating public order and disturbing the peace”. But I studied, nevertheless. Actually, I had plenty of time, since we did not play in autumn and winter. Today it is quite different. The water polo season lasts ten months, and for the best players there isn’t a single day off. Everything has changed.”

lli Toni Narde ater rtist in the W An A

th 37 : April 15 , 19 Date of birth : Split Place of birth th ber 5 , 1995 m Died: Septe gineer d stopped chemical en dran, Split, an Ja in 48 Occupation: 19 o in ng water pol Started playi a; 1964-1973 73. rvena zvezd C 63 playing in 19 19 n; ra 952-1962 Jad Club career: 1 Jadran al team: h the nation es in Tokyo Trophies wit g Olympic Gam 64 19 e th hips in Leipzi at – silver n Champions ea p ro Eu ut 62 e 19 in Beir – silver at th nean Games 59 Mediterra 19 e th at d – gol ran) h the club: and 1967 (Jad Trophies wit 54, 1957, 1960 19 n: io p m ha – Yugoslav C

Muškatirović and Božidar Stanišić. The coach was Boško Vuksanović. Initially, Yugoslavia convincingly won first place in its Group C, defeating the USA 2:1, the Netherlands 7:2 and Brazil 8:0. To those victories in the quarterfinal group, it also added triumph over Belgium 6:2, while it tied against Hungary 4:4. In the last seconds of the match, Mirko Sandić did not manage to score a four-meter penalty. Later it became clear that that was a fatal miss. In the play offs for the classification from first to fourth place, the Yugoslavs defeated the USSR 2:0 and Italy 2:1 (with a goal against them in the last Italian offensive), but the Hungarians were more convincing – they defeated the Italians 3:1, and the Soviets 5:2, with a definitely unusual outcome of 3:0 in the last quarter – and with a better goal difference were awarded the shiniest of the medals. The European Championships in 1966 (from 20 to 27 August) took place in the Dutch town of Utrecht. Yugoslavia was third again, after the USSR and German Democratic Republic. They were victorious over the Italians (who ended being in the fourth place) 2:1, tying against the USSR 1:1, and losing from Germany Democratic Republic 2:1.

Toni Nardelli is the legend of the team from Zvončac. He played First League water polo for as many as 21 seasons – 20 of those for his home club Jadran, and in 1963 he could not resist the large financial incentive from Belgrade. He played for Zvezda for only a year, before returning home to the ranks of Jadran, for whom he played 302 matches and scored 267 goals. He came from an athletic family. His mother’s father, and Toni’s grandfather, Conte Antun Toni Pavlović was one of the most esteemed members of the SC Labud, and Toni also began his athletic career in sailing, winning the first Mrdujska regatta. However, he soon replaced sailing with swimming and water polo. In a school competition Toni was noticed and was recruited for Zvončac. He swam and played water polo from the beginning. He played 97 matches with the national team (1959-1964) and ten with the swimming national team. He was the national champion in the 100 meters freestyle and a water polo representative at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. His famous statement after the defeat in the final of the Olympic tournament in Tokyo was, “Why did we do this to ourselves, allowing them to spoil our joy!” upon receiving the Olympic silver, Toni comforted himself by saying, “That is why sport exists: for one to learn how to lose”. In the European Championships in Leipzig, Nardelli was elected the tournament MVP. In the 1959 Mediterranean Games he won two swimming medals – the silver in the 4x200 freestyle relay and

the bronze in the 4x100 medley relay – and the gold for water polo. He was more drawn to water polo, so in 1960 he decided, despite the danger of possible punishment, that he liked the game with the ball in the water better. His sparkling water polo star first shone strongly in 1960 when he was the goal leader and MVP of the national Championships. Two years later, he did wonders at the European Championships in Leipzig: he was the Championship MVP and most deserving for the silver medal won. Why was Toni the best? The answer is really simple. Not only was he gifted in sport (he might have been a great sailor had he continued) but he was also extremely diligent. During the summer months, when he had no school obligations, he and his friends spent time at the pool, leaving only when chased away by the guard at the pool on Zvončac. Apart from his sporting obligations, he was as successful in his studies too: he graduated from the Chemical-Technological Faculty in Split where he also worked until his premature death. Due to his extreme floatability and speed, the admirers of his game honoured him with the epithet: “An artist in the water”. For young people he was an idol that stood apart with his modesty and nobleness. His son Albert inherited his place in the Jadran team, and was a member of the team from Zvončac which won two consecutive European Championships in 1992 and 1993.


n Veljko Bakašu ran Games Decades of Jad Two

ly 14th, 1920 Date of birth: Ju Split Place of birth: th , 2007 in Korčula Died: July 17 neer ipbuilding engi Occupation: sh an dr Ja 8 : 1937-195 Playing career am: the national te Trophies with i Olympics. lsi the 1952 He nk at al ed m ampionships r ve – sil rin European Ch Tu 54 19 ips e th at an Championsh – silver medal Vienna Europe 50 19 m fro al – bronze med the club: 57. Trophies with 48, 1954 and 19 : 1946, 1947, 19 on pi am Ch v – Yugosla

Veljko Bakašun began his career in sports at the Split swimming pool Zvončac in the mid-1930’s. The experts foresaw a great swimming career for that slim young man. A born back-stroke swimmer, they used to say. But, his only love was – water polo. He used to say, „the devil would not let me alone“, so that after his swimming training sessions he stayed behind with water polo players.. Soon he left the swimmers and remained faithful to one club only – his Jadran. Many used to say that there was no better defender in the world at the time. From 1948 to 1953 he played 66 games for the national team. It was in that last year with the national team in Dutch Nijmegen, at the Trofeo Italia, a prestigious tournament, the unofficial world championships, when Yugoslavia won the gold with Bakašun. The faithfulness of Bakašun to his Jadran was demonstrated in his own words at a late age: “I never swam anywhere in Split during my whole life except at Zvončac. I have never entered the sea even at the Bačvice beach (the famous main beach in Split)”. Bakašun’s number 2 cap has become a legend at Zvončac. Believe it or not, but he was never absent


from any of Jadran’s championship games for the 20 years of his career. He was the role model for loyalty and fairness in sports. He said about his favourite club Jadran: “Jadran always had subtlety of character”. He especially liked the games against the city opponent Mornar in the packed Zvončac, but the real party was playing in Dubrovnik. He used to say about the games against Jug: “That rivalry was so precious and lovely”. Baka prepared for each and every game, regardless of the fact that talent and true value always come to the fore. He claimed that there were no better centre players than the Hungarian Szivos and the Dutch Van Fegelen, and that his club co-player Ivo Giovanelli was undoubtedly the most complete, the most versatile player of the times. He never considered the comments of the people from Zvončac that he was a ‘pure genius’. He never took rest, even in old age. Clearly, he could not play water polo then, which is why he moved to the neighbourhood – from Zvončac to the Baluni bay, from Jadran to Labud. He would sail for hours in his boat, he regularly participated at the annual Mrduja regatta, and, finally, he presided over the Labud Sailing Club for many years.

Marko Br ajnović

Marketo o

f Two Met ers

Date of bir th: July 17 th , 1920 Place of b irth: Split Occupatio n: machin e enginee Started to r play: in 19 30 in Jadran Playing ca reer: 1938 -1956 Jadra Trophies w n ith the na tional tea – silver m m: edal at th e 1952 He – bronze lsinki Olym medal at pics the 1950 V Trophies w ienna EC. ith the clu b : – Yugosla v Champio n: 1946, 19 1954. 47, 1948 a nd

Arousing fear and trembling in all goalkeepers. The centre player Marko Brajnović had a hundred solutions in attack. He could shoot with both hands. Nearly equally powerfully and precisely,. He often asked himself why today’s centre players do not learn to shoot with both their left and right hands. This water polo sly scored 300 goals for Jadran at two meters in front of the opponents’ goals. By a shoot, a spin shot, a ceiling shot. He was unpredictable both for goalkeepers and defenders. He was the fans’ darling, close especially to young girls’ hearts. The Split girls admired not only his plays and goals, but also the looks of this kindhearted two-meter tall player. He remembers a stewardess from those young days from Stockholm, who called him Marketo. It was the nickname that was soon accepted by Split. They even encouraged him during the games, “Come on, Marketo“ and “Eagle, Eagle!”. To this day he remains Marketo for his friends. Mister Marketo is proud of his career. He played with Jadran for as many as 18 seasons, he played at the 1948 Olympic Games in London and in 1952 in Helsinki. His words were wise: “Water polo was the stimulus for my success in everyday life”. He graduated from the Engineering Faculty in Zagreb. Just like all Split children, he was infected with balls. His older brothers brought him to Jadran, although he trained as a swimmer from the age of four in the Split swimming-pool Firule. He was trained by Đuro Bjedov (the father of ‘golden’ Đurđica). At the age of only 10 years, he came to the Zvončac pool and never left Jadran again even though he was tempted indeed when he came to Zagreb to study. Then a track and field coach, the late legendary journalist Žarko Susić had been tempting him to become an athlete claiming that he could make a great career in the throwing disciplines. He thanked Mr. Žarko and remained faithful to water polo. It was not easy to devote his summer holidays to everyday training sessions (at that time they trained twice a day, for five to six hours) and games (the championships were played in the summer months). While playing for Jadran, he nearly fulfilled all his ambitions in sport. However, he was not happy with his achievements for the national team, where he played 42 games from 1948 to 1953. He would say later that they had no luck at the 1948 Games in London, while they won the silver at the next Games in Helsinki, without losing a single game. They drew 2:2 with the Hungarians in the finals, but due to the tournament scoring system from the first until the last game, the Hungarians took the gold.


Tomislav Fran j

Mornar’s Legen


d from Korčula

Date of birth: M ay 19th, 1931 Place of birth: Korčula Playing career : 1946-1949 KP K Korčula; 1949 -1960 Mornar Trophies with the national te am: – silver medal at 1956 Melbo urne Olympics – silver medal at 1954 Turin Eu ropean Champi Trophies with onships the club: – Yugoslav Ch ampion: 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956 (Mornar)

To succeed and make Split accept you, although your origins are not from the city at the foot of Mount Marjan, is not a trivial thing. And when they embrace you with time, and entitle you a legend, one of the co-founders of the story of, actually, the strongest Mornar in history, then it is the compliment of the highest level. This was true of Tomislav Tomica Franjković. From Korčula by origin, where he became ‘infected’ with water polo, he came to Mornar at the moment when he began his military service. As the club was still under the patronage of the Navy at that time, ckecrvene.psd it was clear how it happened. Franjković played in the glorious era of Mornar, but also in a very strong national team, beside Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić, Hrvoje Kačić, Boško Vukasinović, Vlado Ivković, Lovro Radonić, Ivo Štakula and Ivo Cipci. Besides the Olympic gold in Melbourne in 1956, that national team and Franjković also won the gold medal at the 1957 World Student Games in Paris, as well as the silver medal at the Trofeo Italia 1953, which was extremely appreciated at the time. Individually, Franjković received one of the great-


est accolades in 1956, on the eve of the Melbourne Olympics. That year he was invited to join the European team which played a show game against Hungary in Budapest. Playing centre, he scored twice, directly competing against one of the best Hungarian water polo players of all times, Dezső Gyarmati. Particularly interesting was Franjković’s description of the trip to Melbourne in that early year of 1956, recorded in the monograph of the Sports Society Mornar in 2009. “We flew over Munich to Copenhagen. Then across Greenland, to land in Los Angeles. We changed continents like socks. Then the engine broke down, and we landed on Hawaii, then in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on Fiji, only then in Sydney and finally in Melbourne. All in all, two days and two nights”. With Mornar, he won the gold medal in Vienna at the 1953 Austrian Trophy, the forerunner of today’s European League. Tomislav Franjković, the man of Korčula whom Split embraced to be his son.

Ivica Cipci J


an Best shooter at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne Date of birth : April 25

th 1933 Place of birth : Split Occupation: lawyer Playing care er: 1948-196 1 Jadran National team career: 50 ap pearances fo (1953-1961) r Yugoslavia Trophies wit h the nation al team: – silver at th e 1956 Olym p ics in Melbou – silver at th rne e 1958 Europ ean Champio – gold at the ns hips in Budap 1959 Mediter est ranean Gam Trophies wit es in Beirut h the club: – Champions of Yugoslavi a: 1954, 1957 Awards: and 1961 – Best athlet e of Dalmat ia in 1959, w Franjo Buča on the Natio r Award for nal Dr. Sport in 2007

The words of Ivica Cipci are unforgettable, “I am not leaving until they throw me out!” or “Jadran and me? Our connection has never changed from day one: I give to Jadran, and Jadran gives to me.” No doubt, this is sporting philosophy. Of himself he said: “I am just the tip of an iceberg sticking out of the sea ...” Ivica Cipci, nicknamed Johan, is certainly the biggest name in the Split club, Jadran. A player and a functionary. And to this day, though no longer at the forefront of club administration, it would difficult to make an important decision without Johan’s opinion. He often said in reference to his sports career: “My father had six children, five clever ones and a water polo player!” However, it is clear that he did not regret for a moment giving his whole life to water polo. He was, in his time, the best quarterback in the world, and the top shooter of the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. He was the forerunner of true leaders in sports, who leave behind a set of examples and criteria to be followed unconditionally. He was, among other things, a water polo innovator; throwing the ball as if it were a stone has become a world famous speciality. He played 200 games for Jadran, scoring 129 goals. At the end of his playing career, he was for a short time Jadran’s coach, and for many years a leading functionary at Zvončac, in FINA and the LEN Committee. Like many of his peers, Johan had come to Jadran to swim at Zvončac. That is how his sporting

career began in 1946, as a swimmer at a rally in Opatija. But several years later, Cipci was among the water polo players, and in 1950 he became part of the Jadran junior team, which won the state championship. A year later, he made his debut for the Jadran first team, and in 1953 became part of the National team. He played his first match for the National team in the Vienna tournament against Austria. Yugoslavia won 12:3, and Johan scored. His last, 50th match for the National team was played in 1961 in Beirut against Lebanon (21:1, Johan scored 4 goals). During his remarkable career, Jadran and the National team were very strong. Johan and his players (he was team captain) brought the title Champions of Yugoslavia three times (1954, 1957 and 1961) to Zvončac. Those were the days when sporting Split was crazy about Jadran’s players, when the stands on Zvončac were too small, and the spectators would surround the swimming pool in boats in order to watch matches. The derbies of those years with the city rival Mornar are still talked about. He was in the National team that won in Nijmegen in 1953, then the world’s toughest tournament. He was also part of the National team at the Olympics in Melbourne. But the silver medal did not satisfy

Cipci’s ambitions. Even today, he says that after they won against Italy in the semi-finals (3:2, he scored the winning goal), they should have won against Hungary in the finals of the Olympic tournament. But there was no such luck, and upon his return he said, “We were better, but we lost.” That loss upset him so much that he did not want to go to the awards presentation. Only at the urging of his team mates did he turn up to collect his silver. The next Olympic Games, in Rome in 1960 he does not even like talking about. Fourth place was a great failure. But that particular year was memorable because of his graduation from the Faculty of Law in Zagreb. At the end of his playing career, Johan dedicated himself not only to work for the club and international forums, but was also for many years a wellknown judge in Split, and at the end of his career he was the Chief Commissioner of Police in Split.


It was a fight such as Tokyo had never seen before. The referee made a mistake and gave the Italians the out which ended the Yugoslav attack, an attack which could have resulted in the two-goal difference needed for the gold. The players, coaches, officials, and even a journalist all joined in. On one side, mostly Croats, on the other, Italians. For the Yugoslav team, Vinko Rosić was the hardest hitter. Rodeo, his nickname in Split and water polo circles, later said, “I punched the person closest to me”. And then there was stampede. “There wasn’t a man who didn’t join in the punchup with the Italians, because we believed we had been wronged by the referee. It was many years afterwards that we met in Italy as friends,” said Rosić. “There was a lot of shouting in Tokyo at the Austrian referee Dirnweber, in the match against Hungary, but in spite of him snatching victory from us, Sandić had one more chance to rectify the situation literally in the last moments, but he almost broke the goalpost with his shot,” he added. “Against Italy, we needed a two-point difference, because after the draw with Hungary we were level, and we were playing in the final group for points. If we had had that two-point difference, we would have been the Olympic winners and would have won the gold! Nardelli passed the ball a little too forcefully, I didn’t catch it and the ball bounced, heading out. But it did not cross the line. However, the referee called it out. In the counter-offensive, four seconds before the end, they scored and we lost the difference and the gold. A 2:1 win against the Italians just wasn’t enough.” During the post-war years, the water polo national team was one of the world forces that seemed unable to win gold, a scenario which was repeated with the Tokyo silver, missing the gold once again by just a hair, assisted a little by injustice. Rosić (81 matches in the national team from 1960 to 1967) played in Japan with two more players from Split, Toni Nardelli and Ivo Trumbić from Jadran, and there were other famous names in the team, like Milan Muškatirović, Mirko Sandić, Zoran Janković, Ozren Bonačić and Zlatko Šimenc. Rosić was born in 1941 in Split, and was barely 20 when the famous Mornar won their last national champions title. At the time, no one expected that the “Salts” would wait another twenty years for


Vinko Rosić e Stampede deo before th Ro

nd 41 : May 22 , 19 Date of birth lit Sp : Place of birth th , 2006 in Vis 19 ne Ju : d Die engineer mechanical Occupation: (Mornar) 1 97 er: 1951-1 Playing care ornar member of reer: 1973 M r 1974-1976, na or M Coaching ca of t iden official: Pres Career as an e since 1975 te it m m t co the VJS Exper al team: h the nation Tokyo Trophies wit pic Games in m ly O 64 19 e ps in Leipzig th – silver at Championshi n ea ht p ro Eu e 1962 hips in Utrec – silver at th n Champions ea p ro Eu 66 the 19 – bronze at 61 h the club: it w , 1956 and 19 es Trophi 52, 1953, 1955 19 : ns io p m ha – Yugoslav C ner: 1953 rov Cup win it M na en – Vi

their next title, even though water polo as a sport was no longer the privilege of the “children of the sea” and the trademark of the coastal towns. The construction of pools inland, where many went to study, gave an advantage to their players. This last great director of Split’s Škver became a legend in Mornar during his lifetime, and his name was eternalized in the pillars of history of the club from Poljud today. His name, and names of Jakov Matošić, Jani Barle, Marin Grubić, Zvonimir Rino Kreković, Lovro Radonić, Ante Matošić, Josip Jović, Uglješa Čavlina, Tomica Franjković, Zdravko Grubić, Miomir Ercegović and Nenad Kuriđa, along with coach Bruno Cvitan, are closely linked with the champion days of Mornar from Split.

Zlatko Šimenc

Water Polo and Ha ndball National Team Pla yer

Date of birth: Nove mber 29th, 1938 Place of birth: Zagr eb Occupation: docto r of kinesiology, a retired professor of Faculty of Kinesiol the ogy in Zagreb Sports career: swim mer for Mladost 19 50-1955, water polo for Mladost 1955-19 player 75, handball playe r for Vihor 1957-1958, ha ball player for Mlad ndost 1958-1965. National team pla yer career: 101 appe arances for Yugosla (1957-1967) via Coaching career: Co ach of the Mlados t first team 1971-19 Functionary caree 75. r: Chairman of the Expert Committee Croatian Water Po of the lo Federation 1992 - 1996, Board mem the Croatian Olym ber of pic Committee 19 91 -1995, President of Olympians’ Club 19 the 96-2000. Trophies with the national team: – gold at the 1959 Mediterranean Ga mes in Beirut – gold at the 1961 University Games in Bucharest – silver at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo – silver at the 1958 European Champio nships in Budapest – silver at the 1962 European Champio ns hips in Leipzig – silver at the 1961 Mediterranean Ga mes in Naples – bronze at the 19 66 European Cham pionships in Utrec Trophies with the ht club (as a player): – European cham pions: 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1971 (Mlad – Champions of Yu ost) goslavia: 1962, 1967 , 1969 and 1971 (M – Winter Cup: 1960 ladost) , 1961, 1962 and 19 64 (Mladost) Trophies with the club (as coach): – Cup Winners Cu p: 1975 (Mladost) – European Super Cup: 1975 (Mlados t)

Zlatko Šimenc Ćos is one of the few athletes who could choose his sport - water polo, or handball. Since he could not choose between them, and was brilliant at both, he was vied for by both. So Ćos just played both. And in each sport he made the national team, a feat of which few athletes in the world can boast. As a child he was a swimmer for five years, taking part in many competitions, from pioneer to junior, although he would later claim for himself, “ I wasn’t very buoyant”. In any case, he became a top division water polo player, as he himself admits, by chance. In fact, at that time water polo matches were played after swimming competitions, and so in 1955 in Split, young Ćos, who swam for Mladost, was given a cap by the Zagreb club, shown the player he had to mark, and the rest is history. The opponent in question was nowhere to be seen. “I put such pressure on him that he didn’t score a single goal. That match was where I proved myself,” Zlatko would say many years later. “Although this was not my first contact with a water polo ball, and I had just played in the pool, I had never seriously trained.” Šimenc was always a quarterback, although he would sometimes play centre, “and as the game developed, I would move forward,” but with different tasks from today’s water polo,

like passing the ball and assisting. He particularly loved assisting in water polo, although, surprisingly, in handball he was an outstanding striker. He began playing handball at secondary school, for the Vihor School Club, under the supervision of his PE teacher, Krešo Pavlin; they played regularly at the winter championships in Zagreb. Handball in winter, water polo in summer, that was Šimenc’s choice. As a handball player, he participated in two World Championships. In 1958 they were eighth, and in 1961 they were not even amongst the first eight. He graduated from the Faculty of Kinesiology, where he has worked since 1966, first as an assistant, and today as a full professor in the Department of Sports Games, where his subjects are Handball and Water Polo. For a full 20 years, Zlatko Šimenc played for Mladost. “You did not change clubs then as they do today, you were always loyal to your club,” and in 1971 he became both a coach and a player. For four seasons he led Mladost as a coach, when they won the Cup Winners Cup and the Super Cup against Partizan Belgrade in Ljubljana, and then he stopped playing, since his work at the university became quite extensive. “I could not manage to carry out my duties.”

He made the National team of former Yugoslavia for the first time at the 1958 European Championships in Budapest, just three years after he first tried his hand at the game, and still regrets that in his time, there were no world championships. Zlatko was a player of great quality, quite progressive for the water polo of that time. He had a great overview of the game and was a true playmaker in the water. He created opportunities for others without being greedy to score himself. Always in excellent physical shape, he was a bold and combative player. What he admits even today is his “lack of natural speed; you either have it, or you don’t. I didn’t really have it, and that I realised a lot later”. Of course, among his great successes, we should mention his son Dubravko, whom he directed towards the world of water polo. For without Dudo in recent times, or his father Zlatko, much, much earlier, Croatian water polo would have been significantly poorer.


Aleksandar Seifert

Winner of the first Olympic gold th Date of birth: November 25 , 1923 Place of birth: Zagreb th Died: August 27 , 1993 in Zagreb Occupation: water polo coach Medveščak, Mladost, the Coaching career: Naprijed Zagreb, Yugoslav National team , international referee Referee career: local referee from 1948 from 1961 to 1978 Trophies with the national team: ico City – gold at the 1968 Olympics in Mex es in Tunis Gam n – gold at the 1967 Mediterranea in Izmir es Gam n anea – gold at the 1971 Mediterr ships in Utrecht pion Cham pean Euro – bronze at the 1966 Trophies with clubs: 1969 and 1971 (Mladost) – European champions: 1967, 1968, and 1971 (Mladost) – Champions of Yugoslavia: 1967, 1969 dost) (Mla – Winter Cup: 1966 (Medveščak), 1970 Awards: – Award of the City of Zagreb 1969 hy 1979 – Croatian Water Polo Federation Trop

Aleksandar Coša Seifert is a Croatian water polo legend, especially when it comes to his coaching work. Although in today’s terms he did not win very many trophies, either with the club (Mladost) or the National team (of Yugoslavia) Seifert literally touched the water polo sky. With the National team he won our first Olympic gold medal (in Mexico City in 1968), and with Mladost he won the League Cup four times, which made him the club’s all-time most successful coach. He was present in Croatian water polo for more than half a century, starting in Yugoslavia, where he was active for many years, and happily awaited his involvement in independent Croatia. He was a player, coach, referee, and functionary. He trained players, coaches, referees, and (again) functionaries. He left a permanent mark, especially in Zagreb, where his nickname, Coša, was a synonym for water polo enthusiasts.


“Above all Coša was a great man, with a big heart for water polo. To all these young men he was a substitute father, concerned about their schools and universities, and their personal problems. He taught them manners, work and discipline. Coša loved life in every sense of the word. “He was a gourmet, an aesthete, and a citizen of the world,” according to Ronald Lopatny, one of his pupils. In addition to Mladost and the National team, Lopatny also worked with Seifert in Medveščak. In 1966, Seifert launched out on a real adventure with the club from Šalata. He led them into the First Division, and before that, in the winter of that year, while Medveščak was still a second division club, they won the Yugoslav winter championships. This was the greatest ever success of the water polo players from Šalata. Medveščak was also the only second division club to win the Winter Championships of the former state, the competition that preceded the Yugoslav Cup. Medveščak then returned for the third time in 1972, when with Seifert (assisted by Vlado Hrestak) they again convincingly won first place in the second league (nine points ahead of KPK, who came second). He played a very important role in the National team of Yugoslavia. In the years when he was not a coach, he was a consultant or member of the Experts Council. As a consultant, Seifert made a considerable contribution towards winning the second Olympic gold medal in 1984 in Los Angeles. The coach at that point was Ratko Rudić, then quite young, and Coša was always at hand for suggestions, help, or advice. He worked very closely with Vlaho Orlić, so they often led the National team together, for example, at the Mediterranean Games in Izmir in 1971, the year they won the gold medal. The same medal Seifert won four years earlier in Tunis.

Ozren Bonačić

Born to Win

They called him Pluto (because of the way he walked and because of his good nature), Veli Jože (or Big Joseph, a giant from local literature) – because of his height – 199 centimetres and weight – 130 kilograms, and again because of his good nature, the Cowboy of the Sava (because of his love of westerns, because he was a hunter and won trophies), the Sava Duty Fireman (because they called him every time Mladost was in trouble), but to most, he is simply Bone. The nation’s Bone! Ozren Bonačić was born to play for Mladost, a Frog from head to toe. As a player, he performed only for Mladost (except for ten days in April 1964 when he played for Partizan as a borrowed player – the rules at that time allowed it – when they won the first Champions Cup). It was the first for him too, the first of six that he would later win as a player (5) or as a coach (1). Twice more he led his club from the bench in the finals: in 1997 in Naples the Frogs lost to local Posillipo, and in 2000 in Vienna they also lost to the host team. As a coach he also tried Primorje, Brescia, Triglav (at the same time he was the coach of the Slovenian national team) and Medveščak, but he always returned with great pleasure to the swimming pool on the Sava, where he started swimming at the age of four (although, as he points out, in the old pool that no longer exists). When we sum up his medals as a player and coach (38 altogether), Bonačić stands out as one of Croatia’s major trophy holders, simply a born winner. And when asked if he was more successful as a player or as a coach, Bonačić, born under the sign of Capricorn, responds, “I prefer the successes I achieved as a player. Not only because I was younger, but simply also because it was a nicer, easier role, with far fewer worries. You depend more on yourself, whereas as a coach, you depend a lot more on the players you lead. You can’t just get into the pool and play instead of them.”

Date of birth: Ja nuary 5th, 1942 Place of birth: Zagreb Occupation: se nior sports coac He played four times at the Olympics: h and senior ra He began train diologist he won a gold medal in Mexico City ing water polo at the age of 14 (s ag e of six ) wimming at th and a silver in Tokyo and took fifth e Playing career place in Munich and Montreal. : 1958-1978 Mla do st , Za gr da eb; 1964 Partiza ys) “In Mexico, we played in the final n (ten National team against the USSR. It was a terrible career: 275 appe arances for Yu Coaching care match, a life and death battle. No goslavia er: 1979-1985 M ladost; 1988-198 1990-1991 Bres mercy! The Belgian Abe Fuchs, oth9 Primorje; cia; 1993-1994 Triglav, Kranj; 19 1997-1998 Med erwise a rich man, a diamond trader, 95-1996 Mlado veščak; 1998-2 st; 000 Mladost; 20 Kranj and coac pretended not to watch the whole 00-2001 Triglav, h of Slovenia; 20 02 -2 00 2004-2006 Mla 3 Mladost; 2004 time. The Russians struck hard, but dost; 2008-200 Medveščak; 9 Mladost so did we! When we won at the end, Trophies with th e national team after overtime, we were as happy as : – gold at the 19 68 Olympics in little kids, even though our noses, Mexico City – gold at the 19 67 Mediterrane arms, and heads really hurt ... an Games in Tu – gold at the 19 nisia 71 Mediterrane we didn’t mind. We celebrated an Games in Izmir – silver at the 19 64 Olympics in to the rhythm of Mariachi in a Tokyo – silver at the 19 75 Mediterrane restaurant all night long. And I will an Games in Al – bronze at th geria e 1973 World Ch always remember how the Croats ampionships in – bronze at th Belgrade e 1966 Europe welcomed us back to Zagreb: the an Championsh – bronze at th ips in Utrecht e 1970 European whole of Zagreb was at the main Championship – bronze at th s in Barcelona railway station and on Republic e 1974 European Championship Trophies with s in Vienna Square, as it was called then. the club (as a pl ayer): – Champions of They carried us around bodily,” Europe: 1964 (P artizan), 1968, (M ladost) Bonačić says, recalling one of the 1969, 1970 and 1972 – Eu ropean Cup W most remarkable moments in inners Cup: 19 76 (Mladost) – European Su his playing career. per Cup: 1976 (Mladost) – Champions of Twice he was in the Guinness Yugoslavia: 19 64, 1967, 1969 – Winter Cham Book of Records as the water and 1971 (Mlado pionships: 1960 st) , 1961, 1962, 1964 Trophies with polo player with the most (Mladost) clubs (as coach) games played for the national – Champions of Europe: 1996 (M ladost) team: in 1975 he had 248, and – European Su per Cup: 1996 (Mladost) a year later 275 games. He – European Cu p Winners Cup: 1999 (Mladost was later surpassed, but Bone – Mediterrane ) an Cup: 2000 (T riglav) says, “You need to remember – Croatian cham pi ons: 1996, 1997 that the National team did , 1999, 2003 an – Croatian Cup: d 2008 (Mlado 1998 and 2005 st) not play so often then!” (Mladost) – Champions of Sl ov en ia: 2001 (Trigla Although he knows every– Slovenian Cu v) p: 2001 Triglav thing about water polo he Awards and ho nours: never imposes on others by – Order of Dani ca Hrvatska w endlessly theorizing and ith the portrait of Franjo Buča constantly trying to prove r 1996



his competence in the sport in which he has achieved worldwide fame. In an important, decisive game, when many of his club would lose faith in victory, he would simply win. Bonačić is like wine – the older the better – as he proved at the beginning of his sixth term in Mladost. In March 2008, when the team was in serious trouble both in the championship and in the Champion’s Cup, the “water polo Ferguson” (Bone is the same age as Manchester United’s famous coach) came to the rescue and worked a miracle: he eliminated Partizan on the way to the final tournament in Barcelona (his fourth with Mladost), and after Šibenik, in the thrilling final duels he prevailed over Jug and brought Mladost their tenth Croatian champions title. The Frogs have won half these titles (5) under

the leadership of Ozren Bonačić. But that is not all: of the 43 trophies that decorate the showcase of the water polo club with the most trophies in the world, Bonačić participated as a player (15) or as a coach (10) in winning 25. Bonačić’s trade mark was strong and aggressive defence with hockey modifications. And so he sums up his coaching philosophy in just one sentence; “Destroy your opponent in every possible way allowed, in defence and attack!” And so for years now, he has been turning timid and uninventive losers into courageous fighters and winners overnight. “A coach must be able to see what gift God has given a player; he must develop it and work on it to the best of his abilities.” This is Bonačić’s conception of working with players.



Mexico 1968: Olympic Gold! The new rules which came into force in 1967 introduced personal fouls (instead of excluding a player until the next goal). After three serious fouls by one team, a penalty shot was given, and a player with three personal fouls had to leave the game and be replaced by another player. This made the game considerably poorer in combinations because the players tried to force serious fouls instead of scoring goals. In most cases, it was the team with a good goalie that won, who was trained to defend the penalty shot and a specialist for performing penalty shots. Thanks to those rules, in Mexico City in 1968 Yugoslavia finally won a gold medal (from 12 to 27 October, 15 national teams played, with Australia unofficially). The coach was Aleksandar Seifert, and out of 11 players eight were Croats: Ozren Bonačić, Zdravko Hebel, Zoran Janković, Ronald Lopatny, Uroš Marović, Miroslav Poljak, Karlo Stipanić and captain Ivo Trumbić (Dejan Dabović, Đorđe Perišić and Mirko Sandić were also part of the team, and the 12th player, as a reserve, was the promising Ratko Rudić). Thin air at an altitude of 2,300 meters was obviously beneficial to the Yugoslav water polo players to reach Olympus itself. In a group with eight national teams, Yugoslavia had five wins – against UAE 13:2, Mexico 9:0, The Netherlands 7:4, Greece 11:1 and Japan 17:2, tying 4:4 in a match against East Germany and losing to Italy 5:4. In the semi-finals, Yugoslavia defeated Hungary 8:6 (Stipanić defended two four-meter penalty shots), while the USSR was better than Italy 8:5. In the finals, which the chroniclers say was one of the most exciting, Yugoslavia won 13:11 after overtimes. The match ended in the regular time 11:11 although a few minutes be-

fore the end Yugoslavia was leading 9:6, and the hero of the match was the goalie Karlo Stipanić who, alongside many brilliant defences, also ‘took down’ a four-meter penalty shot. The rule then was “three fouls – a four-meter penalty shot”; it is interesting that in the final match the Soviets scored all their 11 goals from four-meter penalty shots, while Yugoslavia had four shots from normal play (Trumbić and Sandić two each). The reporter from daily newspaper Večernji List Ico Kerhin, wrote: “Water polo players tortured us for one hour only to delight us in the end “. It was obvious that there was something wrong with the new rules. The spectators’ interest decreased, so in 1969 they were changed again. The time one team could hold onto the ball was limited to 45 seconds (from 1975 to 35 seconds) and exclusion for serious fouls was introduced again, lasting one minute or until either side scored. These rule changes had a significant effect on the development of tactics in defence and attack, especially attack with an extra player, and defence with a player less, which made the game quicker and more interesting. At the European Championships in Barcelona, which took place from 4 to 12 September 1970, the USSR won a gold medal, defeating Yugoslavia 4:1 among others, and a victory with the same result was won by the Hungarians, who won the silver medal. Beating Italy 4:3 allowed Yugoslavia to win a bronze medal. The coach of the national team was an inhabitant of Belgrade from Šibenik, Ante Lambaša, who was also the president of the European Water Polo Committee (EWPC), while the coaches and the actual leaders of the team were Zlatko Šimenc and Boris Čukvas. THE GOLDEN OLYMPIANS – Mexico City, 1968 THIS IS HOW THEY CELEBRATED – After a match RECEPTION WITH THE PRESIDENT – to mark the occasion > OLYMPIC GAMES MEXICO CITY, 1968 – Final match POSTAL STAMP – Olympic gold was immortalized like this



THE YUGOSLAV NATIONAL TEAM, gold medallist at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City: Dabović, Marović, Hebel, Lopatny, Trumbić, selector Seifert, Bonačić, Perišić, Čorić, referee Knežević (standing); Rudić, Janković, Stipanić, Dr. Brković, Poljak and Grubić (squatting) MLADOST IN 1968 – coach Seifert, Lopatny, Bonačić, Jeger, A. Matošić, Poljak and Trumbić (standing); Hebel, Stipanić, Z. Šimenc, Pozojević, Mikac (squatting) < THE YUGOSLAV NATIONAL TEAM – at the preparation sessions in Krško in 1968, before the Mexico Olympics – Hebel, Poljak, Trumbić, Marović, Bonačić, Lopatny, Sandić, Dabović, Antunović, Perišić (standing); Pozojević, Rudić, Marković, Miškov, Stipanić, Belamarić, Grubić and Mikac (squatting)


Water Polo Leaves the Swimming Association Of the Yugoslav republics, in water polo Croatia led the way and thus the Croatian Water Polo Federation was the first to disaffiliate from the republic’s swimming association. It happened at the Assembly meeting in Split 20 and 21 May 1971, and Ivo Kaleb was elected the first president of the Croatian Water Polo Federation. After that, Kaleb’s deputy dr. Bogdan Srdar, Ivica Cipci, Stjepko Bradarić, Đuro Kolić and Igor Koprivnikar, as the representatives of Croatia, helped to do the same at the state level. The Yugoslav Water Polo Federation had been part of the Swimming Association since 1921 – i.e. half a century, and during the session of the Assembly in Herceg Novi on 29 and 30 May 1971 an independent association was founded. Milan Muškatirović was elected the first president. It was Vladimir Pezo’s wish, as a highly positioned Croatian politician of the time, to have the seat of the Yugoslav Water Polo Federation in Zagreb, but that idea was not realized. The Swimming Association and the Diving Association went to Zagreb, while the Water Polo Federation stayed in Belgrade. After water polo separated from swimming at the state and republic levels, water polo clubs also began to become independent, and the Croatian clubs led the way. We were unhappy that the headquarters of the Association were in Belgrade, but we drew a little satisfaction from the fact that the Association of the First League Clubs was in Split – recalled Stjepko Bradarić. At the Olympic Games of 1972 in Munich (from 26 August to 10 September, 16 national teams played), Yugoslavia was only fifth. There were eight Croats in the national team (out of 11 players): Duško Antunović, Siniša Belamarić, Ozren Bonačić, Ratko Rudić, Ronald Lopatny, Uroš Marović, Zoran Janković and Karlo Stipanić (Mišo Marković, Mirko Sandić and Đorđe Perišić were with them in the team). In its group, Yugoslavia defeated Canada 12:4, Romania 8:7, Mexico 5:3, and Cuba 7:5, and lost to the national team of the U.S. (undoubtedly faster swimmers) 5:3, and entered the final tournament ranked second, which included the two best national teams from each of the three groups. However, in the

play-offs for classification from first to sixth place, defeats ensued: first, without the injured Janković, to the USSR 5:4, then tying against Italy 6:6, and then defeated again by Hungary 4:2, and in the end victory over Germany 5:4. The title was won by the Soviets, while the Hungarians were second, Americans third, and because of a better goal difference, the local and national team squeezed itself ahead of Yugoslavia. After several years of hesitation, the leaders of FINA finally decided to organize world championships. The first were held in Belgrade in 1973 (1 to 9 September), at Tašmajdan, and the director of the championships was Ante Lambaša. There were no great surprises. The first golden medal was won by the Hungarians, the silver went to the USSR, and the bronze to Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav water poloists tied against the Hungarians 3:3, and in the last match of the final tournament lost to the Italians 5:4. The Croats participating in the winning of the first world medal were Ratko Rudić, Ozren Bonačić, Đuro Savinović, Damir Polić, Siniša Belamarić, Boško Lozica and Milo Franjković, accompanied by Mišo Marković, Nikola Stamenić, Đorđe Perišić and Predrag Manojlović. Yugoslavia had previously won first place in the Balkan Games in Korčula defeating Greece 11:4 in the finals (Savinović 3 goals, Bonačić, Rudić, Lozica and Polić one each). As far as the European scene was concerned, not much changed even in the European Championships held in Vienna from 18 to 25 August 1974. Yugoslavia again had to content itself with a bronze medal, the gold went to Hungary, the silver to the USSR. The only defeat Yugoslavia suffered, and a minimal one at that, was to the USSR (10:9), tying 7:7 with Hungary, and 4:4 with Italy, and defeating the Dutch 5:3, the Germans 7:3 and the Spaniards 7:6. After that, they had a three points smaller goal difference than the Soviets, ranking third with the same number of points (10), and the Soviets ranking second. Coach Vlaho Orlić made only minimal changes to the team: instead of Damir Polić, Đorđe Perišić and Mile Franjković, he included Uroš Marović, Duško Antunović and Luka Vezilić.



Ronald Lop

l A Born Rebeer 19 , 1944 th

: Septemb Date of birth : Zagreb Place of birth onomist (later ec n: in Naprijed Occupatio polo in 1958 er at w ng yi Began pla t Zagreb -1973 Mlados Medveščak) aprijed; 1968 N 8 96 a -1 vi la 58 er: 19 Yugos Playing care earances for reer: 150 app ca am te l na Natio al team: h the nation exico City Trophies wit lympics in M O 68 nisia 19 e th Games in Tu – gold at editerranean M ir 67 m 19 Iz e in th – gold at an Games Mediterrane in Utrecht 71 s p 19 hi e ns th io at p – gold ean Cham p ro Eu 66 in Barcelona 19 the mpionships ha C – bronze at n ea p the 1970 Euro – bronze at ladost) h the club: and 1971 (M Trophies wit : 1968, 1969 ns io p 1970 and 1971 , am 69 ch 64, 1967, 19 – European 19 in a vi la os of Yug – Champions t) (Mlados 1970 and 1971 Awards: Yugoslavia: of r ye la p t bes – Twice the

Roni is a real Zagreb guy, some would say a rascal, but in the positive sense. A rebel, a liberal, the offspring of a society in which the Beatles ruled. He swam from an early age, but he also loved handball, skiing and other sports. He was first in the 50m freestyle in Zagreb, and second at the Junior State Championships. However, swimming was rather boring for a young man so full of energy, so he switched to water polo, and at 15 started playing for Naprijed, then a second division club. Nowadays, he often says of himself that he passed through all the stages of competition that exist in water polo, from qualification for the second division and playing in it, all the way to the first division and the National team, of course. In the season in which he made the first team, Naprijed dropped out of the second division. In the 1958/59 season, he played in the Croatian championships, in 1960 in the qualifications for the second division in Samobor, and after that came the first division. Lopatny is the only second division player who was also a member of the Yugoslav National team, indeed, its youngest member. He won the gold medal in Mexico City as a member of the second division club Naprijed, something unthinkable today. He was a brilliant player, short-tempered but powerful. At the age of 29 he hung up his cap. Much too early. Why? “I had won everything there was to win!” was the laconic reply. His generation had fallen apart, and for him, the company he kept always meant a lot. “I had already done a lot of travelling, I no longer had the right motivation, and besides you could not live from water polo as you can today,” he would say often. It is interesting that both he and Karlo Stipanić refused to take a drugs test in 1972, and for that reason they were suspended from the National team for a year. “We had already done a few tests, I just couldn’t be bothered with any more,” Lopatny says today.


He especially remembers 1970 and the “stolen” European championship. “They took it from us because of a single goal difference - Partizan bought the game from the Russians.” He played offensive half in 1970 and 1971 was pronounced the best player and shooter of the championships. There is no such all-round player today. “Perica Bukić would be perhaps my closest rival, but he wasn’t as outstanding a shooter as me,” he says without modesty. Everyone agrees he was the forerunner of today’s modern water polo player - a player with a great feel for scoring. “I could score from 10 metres, and from a swim-in. Actually, the swim-in was my speciality.” He loved picking something up from every player, so from Janković he “copied” the dribbling, from Bonačić the quarterback feint, and from Sandić swimming-in and tossing back. He loved playing with Anton Matošić. “We understood each other even with our eyes shut,” and the same was true of Zlatko Šimenc. At the age of 25, he graduated in Economics. Always uncompromising, often impulsive, he would often find himself in unpleasant situations, including fights. “If someone hit me, I didn’t just stand and watch, on the contrary, I would hit back hard, even harder!” His conflict with Bato Orlić is well known, particularly their fight in Barcelona. One evening at the Orient Hotel on Las Ramblas, in the company of some journalists from Belgrade, Orlić was criticizing several people, Roni amongst them. Roni had just come down to the bar to have his usual glass of milk before going to bed. At first Lopatny was content to retort verbally, but pretty quickly the fists came out. The place was literally wrecked, and Roni’s roommates Stipanić and Šimenc returned later to pick up the room key and a shoe. Even the Hungarian newspapers reported on this incident in Yugoslav water polo, and the famous

caricaturist Otto Reisinger drew a witty cartoon. There was ongoing bad blood between Lopatny and Orlić, though it was Lopatny, who organised a farewell match for Orlić in Budva. Of today’s water polo, he says it is less rough than it used to be. ‘’There was more withdrawal and striking then.” The technically stronger players dominated. “Šimenc and I kept the ball in Moscow for a whole quarter - there were no restrictions on the offence then, and no one could take it away from us. In Mexico we kept the ball for three minutes and only then scored.” He praises his first coach, Seifert: “An outstanding coach and psychologist, who allowed us to go on a spree in the evening, provided we were all in shape in training the day after. He often mentions that at that time Mladost lost only three times in three years. What dominance that was! He almost made it into the National team in 1963 as a candidate for Tokyo, but he had no backup, was too young, and in addition, was only a second division player. Up to 1973, he played in 150 selected type matches and only regrets that none was in Zagreb. His Croatian patriotism was often mentioned in those years. Lopatny is today a well-known restaurateur. His restaurant L.R. is in Palmotićeva Street, right in the heart of Zagreb. It opened in 1976 and is an exclusive meeting point for the jet-set. Roni also belonged to this group, “perhaps mostly because of my first wife, the singer Tereza Kesovija, it was simply her lifestyle.” His second wife, the actress Mia Begović, also belonged to this milieu. He was also a correspondent for Sportske novosti (or Sports News), and had his own column, Valovi bazena or Pool Waves. Today he regrets nothing, “even though I ignored an invitation from America.” They were good days, when we enjoyed playing and each other’s company.

Interesting facts: Four times the best shooter of Europe, the top shooter of former Yugoslavia’s National team and the third best shooter at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Miro Poljak, known as Žmego, was a fighter like no other, born to win, although the tragedies he experienced would seem to belie this. Perhaps this is exactly why Miro was a winner, since with courage rarely seen, he loved life wholeheartedly and enjoyed every single day. His personal calvary began in 1980, when following a head-on crash with a bus, he was diagnosed as diabetic. Because of his high level of blood sugar, his eyesight began to suffer (he has undergone laser surgery 11 times), and today his vision is only about 30 percent. At the end of 1999 he slept through a heart attack, which was followed by 2 bypass procedures. And then came the worst: his big toe started to turn black and had to be amputated. For this reason, he was treated in a decompression chamber in Pula 98 times. The illness kept spreading, as contagious as his optimism. “You simply should not give in to illness, you shouldn’t feed it in any way!” he says. The amputations kept coming. Three more toes, fully awake, since the doctors were afraid to operate under anaesthetic because of his high blood pressure. Then followed the middle toe of the other foot, and with that another misfortune – the vicious hospital MRSA bacterium, for which he received large doses of antibiotics, which in turn caused kidney failure. Then came the amputation of the right leg below the knee. In two years, he underwent 200 dialyses. His wife donated a kidney on 6th July 2006. But that was not the end: after this the carotid artery, which carries blood to the brain, was operated on. That year, 2006, his left lower leg was amputated and, a year later, his thigh. But troubles never come alone; his wife Dubravka, to whom he has been married for 36 years, has problems with osteoporosis and with her spine, their daughter Ines suffers from diabetes also caused by stress after the accident, and their late son-in-law, Krešimir had a severe form of sinus cancer. So that is why their four year-old grandson Borna is the centre of their world and their universe, as is the table in their house. “My family means everything to me, and the table brings the family together. That is why at home we always eat together, breakfast, lunch and dinner.” In spite of all these incomprehensibly cruel misfortunes, Miro is endlessly witty, a brilliant man. His jokes, as he says, are often repeated by his friend Stipe Mesić, the former president of Croatia. His nickname, Žmego (Squinty), was bestowed by Verži, his teammate from Mladost, because he squints a lot. But with Žmego every thing has a special story. “I squinted because my teacher would often beat me on the head when I was little for refusing to learn the Cyrillic alphabet,” says Miro, once a great water polo player and a purebred shooter. “Whenever I didn’t know what to do with the ball, I’d shoot it towards the goal and score,” he jokes at his own expense. He always wore a number 7 cap, even though it was not really his lucky number. But it is connected to a good story about the 1967 pre-Olympic tournament in Mexico. “We were in Acapulco and there was prize competition going on in the hotel. In the middle of hotel

pool, there was Miss Acapulco and a bottle of Dom Perignon on a stand. The first person to reach her would get the bottle and a kiss. The head organiser had just counted to three and I was already kissing her, with the bottle in my hand. Those few strokes for me were child’s play.” Žmego was an excellent swimmer, and always swam for the first ball. He could start from a standstill, according to his teammates, like noone else. Zlatko Šimenc once told him he was a “moving torpedo’’. Žmego also remembers Zdravko Ježić. “Pucko would give me his old clothes since I wasn’t very well off.” Pucko was also the reason for his first game in 1962. “We played in Zelina against Primorac, he left the game and said, “Now you play, little guy!” He started playing water polo with Juraj Amšel as coach. “He discovered Bonačić, Stipanić and me.” A lot connects him with the two men; they even worked together later in the Radiology department of Vinogradska hospital (Hospital of the Sisters of Mercy). “It’s just that I stayed there till the end and earned my pension there, whilst Bone soon stopped rd ember 3 , 1944 working there and returned to Date of birth: Sept eb water polo, and Stipanić went to Place of birth: Zagr y technician Switzerland.” og iol rad n: Occupatio yed briefly for Mladost, he also pla 76 At the Olympic Games in Mexico -19 60 19 r: ree ca Playing he was the best shooter of the kov Betina and Filip Ja National team, and remembers national team: Trophies with the another interesting detail. o City Olympics in Mexic – gold at the 1968 “Against Italy, I missed two club: Trophies with the four-metre penalties, and the and 1971 ns: 1967, 1968, 1969 pio am ch an – Europe newspapers then wrote “A Pole Cup: 1975 gambled away the semi-finals.’’ – European Super , 1969, 1971 goslavia: 1962, 1967 Since there was no Internet at that – Champions of Yu ost) lad (M , 1962 and 1964 time, the newspapers were a little – Winter Cup: 1961 late arriving, so this headline came out just as we were playing the Hungarians, a match I played really well. I’ve actually always been especially motivated against strong opponents; with weaker ones it is a bit harder ...” In Mexico, he recalls, the owner of a restaurant in Garibaldi Street gave them gold coins for winning first place that were more valuable than the Olympic gold medals themselves. He best relationship was with Zoran Janković. ‘’We could find each other with our eyes closed.” They were both incredibly fast. He stopped playing at a relatively young age, in 1974. “I had had enough, the generation had fallen apart, and there was not much to win anymore, there was no real motivation.” They invited him to play in Belgrade, for Crvena Zvezda and Partizan, but, as he would say later, “What would I have done there, I am from Zagreb?!” He continued to play for the second division Betina and Filip Jakov clubs, “just to have somewhere to spend the summer.” Žmego doesn’t conceal his motives; he is a great man and an even greater fighter. A man who fully deserves a place of honour in Croatian water polo. An Olympian, who, according to his own words, figured out the meaning of it during a visit to America. “I met three Nobel Prize winners, who asked me for my autograph when they heard I had won a gold medal at the Olympics. They wanted my autograph, instead of me asking them for theirs! Certain things are appreciated a lot more in other countries than here at home.”

Miro Poljak

an Even d n a r e y la P t a re G A Greater Fighter


Zdravko He b


l From Goalke eper to President of the Croatian Olympic Com mittee

Date of birth : January 21 st 1943 Place of birth : Zagreb Occupation: electrical en gineer, univ Playing care ersity profess er: 1960-196 or 2 Naprijed; 19 National team 62-1977 Mlad Career: 68 ap os t pearances fo (1965-1969) r Yugoslavia Referee care er: an intern ational refere Functionary e since 1979 career: Presid ent of the Za ciation 1991 greb Sports -2000, Vice-P Assoresident of th Committee e Croatian O 1991-2000, Pr ly mpic esident of th Croatian Wat e Association er Polo Refe of rees 1993-199 Croatian Wat 5, President er Polo Feder of the ation 1995 an sident of the d 1999-2000, Croatian Oly Prempic Comm ittee, 2000-2 Trophies wit 002 h the nation al team: – gold at the 1968 Olymp ics in Mexico – gold at the City 1967 Mediter ranean gam Trophies wit es in Tunis h the club: – European champions: 1967, 1968, 19 – European 69 and 1971 Cup Winners Cup: 1976 – European Super Cup: 19 75 – Champions of Yugoslavi a: 1962, 1964 and 1971 , 1967, 1969, 1970

Why water polo? The answer is simple: summers in Zagreb in the early 1960’s were hot, the financial situation did not run to holidays on the coast, so the pool was the obvious solution. Hebel was always a good swimmer, buoyant, broad-chested, with a good, strong scissor kick, which was the reason he later became a goalie. He lived in Šubićeva Street, relatively close to the pool at Šalata, and first started swimming in Naprijed. He was first at the 1961 Junior Championships of Yugoslavia in the 200m breaststroke. As swimming was a tough sport, he decided on water polo, but at that point he was not dreaming of a career. ‘’Good company and having fun – that’s what was important”. His first swimming coach was Franjo Štigler, and his first water polo coach was Franjo Balen. Naprijed then played in the second division and Hebel remembers his first match quite well. “In Kotor, against Primorac. It was cold, September, the sun there sets quickly behind the hills. Kotor then was in the First Division. I remember even today those cold pools, there was no heated water then, once it was 16 degrees Celsius at Tašmajdan in Belgrade, and I think it’s a miracle I have no health problems today because of it.” He admits even today that the hardest blow he took to heart was the goal from the centre at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, in the match against the Italians. “Even today I feel embarrassed about it, but it just happened.” His best match he considers the finals of the Cup Winners Cup in Šibenik, where he played for Mladost against Ferencvaros. “Only Bonačić and I remained out of the “Mexican” team, but we played tactically very well, and eventually beat Partizan in the finals.” To this day, Zdravko often goes to water polo games, but comments regarding the young goalies, “You should never take a goal from the wing in the near corner, that was always our principle of defending then; the diagonal is the most important for the goalie.”


He admits too, “I wasn’t particularly good as a goalie for four-metre penalty shots, but I was quite good in situations with a player less.” He had the bad luck to play at the time of the great Karlo Stipanić. “He was better than me,” he admits, without a trace of envy. But it didn’t bother him. “You always seek the interest of the team, but I do not see this in most teams nowadays. What is so terribly important today is individuality, rather than adapting to the team.” For six years he was the first goalkeeper of Mladost after Stipanić stopped playing. “It’s not pleasant to be the second goalkeeper, it affects your mind, creates a feeling of inferiority, but after all, that’s a subjective experience. Stipanić was a great goalkeeper with excellent reflexes, especially for four-metre penalties.” In parallel with training, he graduated from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and his work was later always a priority. His sports career was deliberately no longer of such importance, but he never regretted it. The Olympic medal was a success only a few lucky people can boast about. Zdravko Hebel was considerably involved in trying to get Croatia to qualify for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, as well as in seeking recognition for Croatia in LEN. He did a lot for the organization of the Croatian Water Polo Federation when he became its President in 1995, succeeding Vlado Kobešćak. Organization has always been his strong point, whether organizing the defence in front of his goal or organizing various sports associations in which he worked and always left a powerful mark.

Zoran Janković is a Croat who spent his best water polo days in Belgrade’s Partizan. He died on 25th May 2002 and there were many prominent Croatian water polo players at his funeral. Janković left Mladost in 1961 and many consider letting him go was one of the club’s biggest mistakes. This was because he himself usually tipped the balance in favour of Partizan in its rivalry with the Zagreb club. “He was unhappy with the way they treated him in Mladost. For most players in the club he was just an insignificant village boy, whilst they were Zagreb guys and obviously did not accept him without any scruples,” explains Duško Antunović, Janković’s long-term teammate in Partizan and the National team. Antunović does not hide his admiration for Janković, both as a player and a man. “He would go out and enjoy himself and I enjoyed hanging out with him. We often went out, although he was already married. And how many bets I won because of him! Nobody would believe me when I said he was a Croat. I’d produce his birth certificate and every one would be surprised. We would often have a good meal as a result of those bets,” recalls Antunović. “Zoran was an outstanding player, a dribbler in the water, as juniors, we came of age together. In 1961 he was the best shooter in the Yugoslav league. He went to Partizan, since that was a professional club, and we were just amateurs, so Zoran couldn’t really earn a living with us. Later, he wanted to return to Zagreb, but had no money to do so. In Belgrade he married a Montenegrin, Sonja, a stewardess, and they had a son and a daughter who live in Belgrade,” says Ozren Bonačić. Janković began swimming very early, and was junior champion of Croatia. For the National team he played 221 matches and scored 259 goals. In those years, along with Mirko Sandić he was one of the most dominant figures in the champion Partizan team and was declared best player in many tournaments. He is also remembered as the first water polo player to score ten goals in one game. That happened in the match against Japan at the Olympics in Mexico, when Yugoslavia won 17:2. Janković was one of the most important players of the National team at those Olympics, bringing home the first Olympic gold medal. But he could not get over the fact that they had not won the gold four years earlier, in Tokyo in 1964, when he was ranked best shooter of the tournament. Many years later, Janković, one of the best players in the region, and a member of the Hall of Fame, would say, “I think the best generation of

Zoran Janković

Yugoslavia’s water polo players played in Tokyo. I do not say so because of myself, I was part of the th 1940 , National team even before Date of birth: January 8 H) (B& ica Zen Tokyo, but because of th: bir of ce Pla th grade (Serbia) Bel my team-mates, many of Died: May 25 , 2002 in dost; 1961-1973 Partizan Mla 961 whom have been forgotten. 8-1 Playing career: 195 Milan Muškatirović and al team: Trophies with the nation Karlo Stipanić alternated ics in Mexico City mp Oly 8 196 the at – gold between the goal posts. ics in Tokyo – silver at the 1964 Olymp echt Mirko Sandić and perhaps ean Championships in Utr op – bronze at the 1966 Eur celona Bar our best defender of all in ips opean Championsh – bronze at the 1970 Eur times, Ivo Trumbić, played rsity Games – gold at the 1961 Unive centre. I do not know a erranean games in Tunis dit Me 7 – gold at the 196 better bower than Božidar Trophies with the club: Stanišić Cikota, nor a faster or 1 (Partizan) 1964, 1966, 1967 and 197 – European champions: more explosive player than 1968 and a: 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, Toni Nardelli. We beat the – Champions of Yugoslavi Russians 2:0, while against the 1970. (Partizan) 1968 and 1969 (Partizan) Hungarians we drew 4:4. The – Winter Cup: 1963, 1965, last, decisive match between Awards: of Yugoslavia 1964 Hungary and the USSR we – Distinguished athlete mpics in Tokyo 1964 watched without being able – Best shooter at the Oly Fame since 2004 to do anything. To beat us, – Member of the Hall of the Hungarians needed to win against the USSR with a three-goal difference. None of us believed that the Soviets would allow the Hungarians to win so convincingly. The final score was 5:2. Someone had obviously decided that the Hungarians should win, not us, and all this was orchestrated by the Spanish referee, Batale. The Soviets fought fairly, but the Spaniard awarded four consecutive four-metre penalty shots to Hungary! The Hungarian national anthem played, and we wept. Later I won many more medals, but I still regret the Tokyo gold.

The Crucial Player


Karlo Stipanić, better known as Đingo, started playing water polo relatively late, at 18, when he came to Zagreb, in Mladost. His father was transferred at work, and he came from his hometown of Crikvenica to the metropolis. In Crikvenica he had played a little water polo, without much commitment. Later on, on the Sava, in the summer of 1959, he met Ozren Bonačić, who later became his best water-polo friend, and who was responsible for his nickname. “He called me after Genghis Khan, because of my eyes. And I called him Pluto, after the Disney cartoon character, because of his clumsy walk!” He started with swimming coach Jeger, and later with water polo coach Amšel. Amšel, a goalie, asked them both that summer whether they had ever played water polo, to which Karlo proudly responded, “I have, in Crikvenica, left wing!” Amšel put a fatherly hand on his shoulder and said,” There is no left wing in water polo, son!” Although he first played in the field, he soon ended up between the goal posts. “Amšel’s career was already in decline, so he placed me in front of the goal,” Đingo would often say. “We were supposed to go on a tour to Poland, and Amšel told me that if I wanted to go, I could only go as a goalie. So I agreed.” Which was good, because Croatia has never had a better goalkeeper. “Oh no, Ćiro Kovačić was the best goalkeeper in the world!” Đingo claims to this day. After almost five years of training, in the autumn of 1963, before the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, he was included in the National team. Before the Olympics in Mexico City, at the 1967 pre-Olympic tournament, he performed brilliantly and was proclaimed best goalkeeper in the world, as he was the year after. He feels sore about the “wooden” medal from Munich (fourth place), ‘’but by then, the National team was already falling apart. “ There is a great anecdote from that time. Bonačić and Stipanić were working in the Radiology department of Vinogradska hospital, and when they returned from the Olympics in Munich, a colleague at work presented them with hand-made tin medals, which were hung from the flushes in the toilets. To this day, Đingo keeps this medal along with his other trophies. He was an expert at four-metre penalty shots, and best remembers the match between Mladost and Partizan, when he defended five four-metre shots from the Belgrade team, so that afterwards noone dared to shoot towards the goal. In Mexico, he defended three four-metre shots from the Hungarians, and in the finals with the Russians,


after the famous overtime, he warded off the last two balls, and so determined the winner. Today, he still has that ball, signed by the players. And talking of balls, we should mention that a new era of water polo balls began in Mexico, quite awkward for the goalkeepers. “Until then, we had played with leather balls, which were quite heavy and slow when soaked with water. But in Mexico, plastic balls were introduced, which were considerably faster and bounced off the water. That was particularly noticeable in Mexico City; at 2400 metres above sea level the ball acquired great speed. Nevertheless, Đingo’s cat-like reflexes did not betray him. “The game then was livelier, there was more shooting, especially from the first second of play, and there wasn’t so much waving about with the ball like today. There was more imagination th 41 ecember 8 , 19 and freedom in the Date of birth: D Crikvenica game. Today, when you Place of birth: diologist ra compare water polo Occupation: st, 1959-1973 Mlado : er and handball, which are Playing care nd la er no, Switz similar sports, it seems 1973-1981 Luga am: to me that handball has the national te Trophies with Mexico City in profited more by chang68 Olympics 19 e th at ld go – Tokyo ing the rules, because the 64 Olympics in – silver at the 19 game has become more st) the club: and 1971 (Mlado Trophies with 1967, 1968, 1969 interesting, while water s: ) on st pi do am la ch (M – European , 1969 and 1970 polo has become more goslavia: 1968 Yu of s 68 on 19 pi – Cham ld 1967 and static. eper in the wor ke al go st be : Interesting fact He still remembers Sandić, who had a tricky shot, great strength and fine control of the ball until the very last moment – from the joint, a shot always very difficult for goalkeepers to defend. The years following 1972 were crucial. “Mladost was no longer under a kindly star and it was time to withdraw.” His dream was to go to Barcelona, but he ended up by chance in Lugano, where he remained. “They called me from Switzerland during a tour more important games, and gives advice to the of Portugal, and so I stayed there, found a job and goalies, who are eager to hear his remarks. Which even played for Lugano as well as for Bisone, when- smart goalie wouldn’t? Coaching jobs though have ever it was necessary, for whoever needed me. So never been of any interest to him. Even today, in recently, at the age of 60, I was still defending. his late sixties, Đingo is still very witty and often Today he lives in Lugano (in winter) and Crikvenica jokes at his own and his teammates expense. (in summer). He keeps a boat, loves the sea, and “We were once a great crowd, we lived like a family, has been retired since 2003. But water polo is still went everywhere together, often with our wives his great passion; he loves playing too, goes to the too. We really were a big happy family.”

Karlo Stipanić

een A Wizard Betw the Goal Posts

Ivo Trumbić

Started as a Goalie, Ended up a Defender

Date of birth: April 2nd, 193 5 Place of birth: Split Occupation: kinesiologis t Started playing water po lo in 1946 for Jadran Playing career: 1946-1961 Jadran; 1962-1970 Mlado st Coaching career: 1966-1 970 Mladost (coach and pla yer); 19701973 Olympiacos; 1973-19 80 coach of the Netherlan ds; 1981-1982 Jug; 1983-1984 Patras, Gre ece; 1985 coach of Greece ; 1986-1988 Pescara; 1989-1990 Jug; 1991-1996 coach of the Ne therlands; 1996 -1997 AZPC, the Ne therlands; 2000-2001 Rot e Erde Hamm, Germany Functionary career: 200

For those who do not know him, Trumbić started his career in water polo as a goalkeeper, and ended it as a legend, as a defender, a coach, an expert for all times. Up to 1962 he played for Jadran, and from then, for Mladost because they were willing to pay for his tuition at the Faculty of Physical Education in Zagreb. Thus, with Jadran he had his first trophy as a goalie, at the Yugoslav Championships in 1952. Then, following the game a little closer, he moved among the players, and became and remained a quarterback. He graduated in 1966, specialized in water polo and swimming, and already then began working at Mladost as a coach as well as being a player. He particularly remembers the match against Steaua in Bucharest for the finals of the Champions Cup. – In the first game I got such an elbow blow to my ear that I almost fainted. They made me a special plug for the ear, which I wore when we returned to Bucharest, where we played 4:4. I remember that time on our way back home – 30 000 people were waiting for us at the main railway station in Zagreb – we travelled by train then. After they won the 1969 Cup Winners’ Cup, a disagreement arose in the club and he was offered a transfer to Medveščak. Then he was called by Olympiacos and in 1970 he went to Greece, where his new club won the state championships after 30 years of no achievements! In October 1973 the Dutch called and offered him the position of coach. At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal they won the bronze, which was their greatest success in their recent history in water polo. He was a trophy coach – wherever he went he was successful, and so coming to Jug for the first time, within two years he was twice champion of Yugoslavia and the winner of the cup. There followed years of moving around and changing functions and responsibilities, but he particularly remembers 1987 when he won a quadruple crown with Pescara: the Championships and Cup of Italy, the European Championships and the Super Cup! Alongside playing and coaching, he fervently worked on his own education as well as on others, so he was a frequent guest lecturer at many sports forums, seminars or competitions. In Mladost he founded a water polo school in the now distant 1963, and it is still in operation. His book on water polo, published in the Netherlands in 1980, can be found all over the world, where

1-2005 Technical Director of AZPC Trophies with the nation al team (playing): – Gold at the Olympics in Ciudad de Mexico 196 8. – Silver at the Olympics in Tokyo 1964 – Silver at the European Championships in Leipzi g 1967 – bronze at the European Championships in Utrech t 1966 – Gold at the Mediterrane an Games in Tunisia 196 7 – Silver at the Mediterrane an Games in Naples 196 3 Trophies with the club (pla ying): – European champions: 1967, 1968 and 1969 (Ml adost) – Champion of Yugoslavi a: 1952, 1960 (Jadran), 196 2, 1967 and 1969 (Mladost) – Winter Cup: 1962 and 1964 (Mladost) – Champion of Greece: 1971 (Olympiacos) Trophies with the nation al team (coaching): – bronze at the Olympics in Montreal 1976 Trophies with clubs (coach ing): – Champions of Europe: 1987 (Pescara) – European Super Cup: 1987 (Pescara) – Champion of Yugoslavi a: 1981 and 1982 (Jug) – Champion of Italy: 198 7 (Pescara) – Yugoslav Cup: 1981 (Ju g) – Italian Cup: 1987 (Pesca ra)

it is held in high esteem, and FINA bought and donated one hundred copies to countries in Africa and Asia. Trumba, like many other water polo players in his time, flirted with handball as the seasons did not overlap. In water polo he played quarterback, followed the game, always wearing cap number 2. From 1959, when he first entered the selected type, he played 152 matches for the national team. He was proclaimed best defence player in the world in 1964 and best athlete by Belgrade’s Sport magazine. He remembers one other great game and one major injury. Namely, in Ciudad de Mexico, in the finals against the Russians, they played overtime. And he played on his own responsibility. – We were leading 13:12 and 12 seconds before the end the Russians scored from a four-meter penalty shot. We went into extra time and then I got a terrible blow with a heel in the lower abdomen, it left me without air and I lost consciousness. They revived me and had already tied me to a stretcher to transfer me to hospital ... But then I felt better and asked to be let back into the game. At the Mexican Olympics, Trumbić was also proclaimed best player in the world. Strong and agile, he remembers the words of the Italian Pica, who after a match between Mladost and Pro Recco came to congratulate him with the following words: “You are the best towing tractor I have ever seen!” In fact, the whole time the Italian kept holding on to him by his swim-suit to slow him down, and Trumbić dragged him and dragged him around the pool ... He never promised the impossible, but before every game he would say: “we’ll do our best, let’s compete’’. Today he lives in Zagreb, but currently is not involved in water polo, which is a pity since much could be learned even today from an expert like him.


THE YUGOSLAV NATIONAL TEAM at the 1975 World Championships in Cali (Columbia): Ozren Bonačić, Dejan Dabović, Đuro Savinović, Uroš Marović, Ratko Rudić and Duško Antunović (top row); Miloš Marković, Damir Polić, Predrag Manojlović, Siniša Belamarić, Zoran Lačić and Boško Lozica (bottom row)

Falsely Accused of Doping What happened at the World Championship at Cali, Columbia in 1975 (from 18 to 25 July), will remain permanently etched in the memory of all the water polo players of the time, especially Ratko Rudić, who became the chief protagonist of the championships in a way that he certainly wanted least. Rudić was accused of doping – which later proved to be false, but it was the reason the Yugoslav national team was disqualified from the fight for medals. A subsequent analysis proved that Rudić was not using doping, and he was acquitted of all responsibility. However, the scar remained... And it all started so well. Ozren Bonačić expected to play his 240th match for the national team (which of course happened), and as a captain and the greatest support to the team which was coached by Vlaho Orlić announced in Večernji List: “We will be playing in the finals!” The results initially were leading to this: victories against Bulgaria 8:3, Cuba 7:4 (Bonačić was excellent in keeping Perez and was the hero of the victory), and West Germany 9:7. The victory against the Germans would later reveal itself to be Pyrrhic. After that game, Ratko Rudić had to undergo doping control, but it seemed to be a routine matter, so the national team remained in a great mood. Romania was also defeated 8:4, and then FINA came with the announcement that a banned stimulant amphetamine had been found in Ratko Rudić. This substance reportedly causes general physical liveliness, removes mental and physical fatigue, enhances alertness, causes narrowing of blood vessels, and increases heart rate, blood pressure and sweating. Quite enough for FINA to reverse the victory of Yugoslavia over Germany to a defeat with the official score 0:5 and immediately expel the Yugoslav national team from further competition in the final group. Revolted by FINA’s decision, the President of the Yugoslav Water Polo Federation Milan Muškatirović first entertained the idea of having the national team return home on the first plane. Later, however, he changed his mind and Yugoslavia (of course, without the suspended Rudić) continued the competition in the consolation group. In a duel for 13th place, the indisposed national team barely defeated Canada 8:7. Much later Muškatirović described those moments in the following way: – After a second test, the Commission for Doping found that it was not amphetamine, but persisted in the assessment that it was something similar. Members of the commission did not want to admit a mistake,


but kept their position, so punishment ensued. A change in the result of the match with Germany caused tectonic disturbances in the classification of the whole championships. In the finals on the other hand, the USSR defeated Hungary 5:4. The Italians were placed third, and in a repeated match against Cuba they tied 4:4. Originally, Cuba won 4:3, but the match was annulled because, allegedly, the final whistle was blown before the regular time elapsed. That is, the Belgian referee Abe Fuchs, who was also the referee at the Olympic finals in 1968 in Mexico City between the USSR and Yugoslavia, did not admit an equalizing goal by the Italians. But this did not stop the Belgian in his career; he was the referee in international water polo matches for years to come and became a refereeing legend. An important innovation in the equipment of water polo players was introduced by the TWPC (Water Polo Technical Committee) in 1975 when plastic ear protection was introduced. At the next Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976 (from 17 July to 1 August), players wore such caps. Yugoslavia again won fifth place (in competition with 12 national teams), and the team had eight Croatian players: Duško Antunović, Siniša Belamarić, Ozren Bonačić, Zoran Kačić, Đuro Savinović, Uroš Marović, Boško Lozica and Damir Polić (Mišo Marković, Predrag Manojlović and Dejan Dabović played alongside). The gold medal was won by the Hungarians, who at that time had a very strong national team, well covered in all positions. They were led by the legendary Tamas Farago, considered by many to be the best water polo player in the world of all time, and his chief associate was the left-handed Gyorgy Horkai, perhaps the best lefty of all time. Yugoslavia was left with the consolation that they tied against this Hungary 5:5, and this was the only point the Hungarians lost in Montreal. However, it was shaky for the Yugoslavs in other matches. Already in the group it tied against Cuba (4:4, Bonačić equalized 15 seconds before the end) and Italy (6:6, although Yugoslavia was leading 3:1), and only Iran was defeated (15:0). In the play-offs for the classification from first to sixth place, Yugoslavia first tied against Romania (5:5), then lost to Italy (5:4), and tied against FR Germany (4:4) and the future winner Hungary (5 5), and was defeated by the Netherlands (5-3). After the Hungarians, came the Italians and the Dutch, while Romania squeezed in ahead of Yugoslavia.

For almost 20 years Damir Polić played first league water polo. The time between his first First Division match for POŠK in 1968 and 1988 in Catania passed so quickly. Overall, he had a very rich career, and was very successful. True, even today he still cannot get over the fact Date of b irth: Apri rd that he never won the state chaml 3 , 1953 Place of b irth: Split pionship with POŠK. This brilliant Occupati on: water generation from Zenta, an area in polo coac He starte h d playing Split, seems to not have been deswater po Playing c lo in 1964 areer: 196 tined for a champion’s triumph. in POŠK 8-1985 PO Volturno ŠK; 1985-1 To this very day Polić claims that in ; 1986-198 9 8 6 Caserta 7 Cosenz Coaching ; 1986 a, Italy; 19 the decisive match against Jug in Ducareer: 19 87-1988 C 88-1990 V za, Italy; 2 atania, Ita olturno, It brovnik, the referee Didić determined 005-2007 ly . aly; 1994-1 POŠK, Cro 995 Cose Trophies the winner by a huge, deliberate a ti a n with the national mistake: – Silver a te a m t the Olym : pics in M – Instead of ruling a clean four-meter – bronze oscow in at the Wo 1980 rld Cham penalty shot thirty seconds before the – bronze pionship at the Wo s in Belgra rld Cham end for our team, he let the Jug team – Silver a d e in 1973 pionship t the Euro s in Berlin pean Cha strike, left us with a player less and Gos– Silver a in 19 mpionsh 78 t the Euro ips in Vie pari (Jug) scored five seconds before the pean Cha nna in 19 – bronze mpionsh 74 at the Eu ip s in end 11:10 and thus won the title. ro Jö p e n an Cham – Gold at köping in pionship the Medit 1977 Damir Polić, however, with number three s in Split erranean – Silver a in 1983 Games in t the Med Split in 19 on his cap, kept his best performance for iterranea Trophies 79 n Games with the in POŠK in international matches. He was a T u c nisia in 19 lub: – Europe 75 an Cup W true leader, playing centre he destroyed the in ners Cup – Europe : 1981 and an Super opponent’s defence. His performance at the 19 C 8 u 3 p: 1983 (P (POŠK) – Yugosla OŠK) v Cup: 19 Super Cup final was unforgettable, during 80 and 19 82 (POŠK the match against the European champions ) Pro Recco in the neutral pool Sant Jordi in Barcelona. POŠK won against the favoured Italians 6:4, although for part of the game they played without their best player, Milivoj Bebić. The referees had already thrown out Bebić twice in the first quarter, and at the end of the first half-time he incautiously played defence with two hands. This was the third, final throw-out. Only a few people from Split at Sant Jordi were convinced that POŠK would lose. But Polić played until the end his best game, both in defence and in offense. It was a victory for a major celebration for the POŠK team. Polić played 278 games for the national team from 1973 – from the World Championships in Belgrade to the 1981 European Championships in Split. These are, of course, events of “special significance” in any athlete’s biography. The silver medal from the 1980 Olympics in Moscow takes a special place in his heart, and he recalls all the victories, but most of all one defeat, in the finals, by 8:7 against Russia. Damir scored two goals: – With a bit more luck we could have been first ... He claims that he and the guys from the national team were particularly happy about the gold medal at the Mediterranean Games in Split. The saddest moment of his career, he considers without a doubt was at the 1975 World Championships in Cali. The “discovery” during the doping control tests that Ratko Rudić had used banned drugs was an event that Damir would not be able to forget. It was just a tiny consolation to them that several months later, the test turned out to have been negative, and that Rudić had been clean, but the team was punished: the last day of the Championships, instead of playing against the Hungarians in the finals for the World Cup, Polić and the guys played “finals” for 12th place. Damir Polić is rightly proud of his playing career, although the gold, which he works so skilfully with, has not particularly loved him. But maybe it is just that his gold trade is the reason why his coaching career has not been that successful.

Damir Po

A Goldsm


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Boško Lozica

s Shut e y E is h h it w r Shoote

th 52 vember 28 , 19 Date of birth: No 85-1986 Korčula 80-1985 Jug; 19 Place of birth: KPK Korčula; 19 8 97 -1 nova 67 Ge 19 i : el er 990 Mam Playing care 7 Roma; 1987-1 98 -1 86 eli 19 am y; M an 0 ly; 1987-199 Fulda, Germ -1987 Roma, Ita 86 19 : er st re ca do la Coaching ly; 1992-1994 M 992 Catania, Ita Genova; 1991-1 am: the national te Trophies with mes in Moscow Ga c 80 Olympi ips in Belgrade – silver at the 19 ld Championsh or W 73 19 e t Berlin th – bronze at onships in Wes World Champi 78 19 oping e th Jo at – bronze onships in nk ropean Champi Eu na 77 en 19 Vi e in th s at – silver ampionship 74 European Ch 19 e th at ze – bron (as a player): Club trophies 1980 (Jug) ampionships: – European Ch 1978 (KPK) p: Cu p Winners’ and 1983 (Jug) – European Cu 1980, 1981, 1982 s: on pi am Ch – Yugoslav (Jug) 1981 and 1983 – Yugoslav Cup: : h) ac (as a co st) Club trophies d 1993 (Mlado onships: 1992 an pi am Ch n tia – Croa 1992 (Mladost) – Croatian Cup:


If you are born on Korčula, one of our most beautiful islands, traditionally linked with the name of the famous globe-trotter Marco Polo, then there are two things you must know as a child, how to swim and to how to dance the Moreška, a traditional Korčula dance. Young Boško was no exception. He travelled half of Europe dancing the Moreška before he did the same with water polo. With coaches Gojko Arneri and Mate Maglov, later a football coach, he learned the basics of water polo. Prior to that, he swam in the KPK club, which was basically the same thing, in the same place and with the same people. As a swimmer, he won many medals in different competitions, although in his beautiful apartment in Zagreb you would hardly know you were the guest of a world-famous athlete. There are no medals, no trophies, and nothing related to sport on display.

“I have it all somewhere, in boxes, some of it here, some in Dubrovnik; it’s all history anyway,” he responds laconically. Apart from water polo and swimming, young Lozica had flings with basketball and table tennis, so it is not surprising that today he is the Vice-President of Zagreb Table Tennis Club. He is to this day the national school record holder in the put shot. His cap number was always 6, except in the national team, where it was reversed to 9. Today, he claims there was no particular reason for this, it just happened. He played his first match for KPK in 1967, in the national Winter Championships in Zagreb, in the pool in Daničićeva. A year later, his generation were the Croatian and Yugoslav champions in Split. As many as nine players from that extraordinary generation won the Cup Winners’ Cup with KPK in 1978. Lozica was still with the team that year, but in 1979 he left for the army and the following year, transferred to Jug, along with the big affair that followed the transfer. Boško had been living in Belgrade since 1973, where he had enrolled in the law faculty (he did not take a law degree, having studied and graduated from the Senior Coaching School in Zagreb). He lived and practised, mostly with Partizan, in Belgrade and played for Korčula. Crvena Zvezda offered him a blank contract to join their ranks, but he resisted. He has not changed,

and is now the Vice-Principal of the City Office for Education, Culture and Sport in Zagreb. Leaving Korčula to study in the bigger cities was nothing new at that time; seven players studied in Zagreb and eight in Belgrade. The championships back then were played in spring and summer. The affair with Jug caused a lot of fuss and the Croatian Water Polo Federation refused to confirm his transfer from KPK to Jug. There were threats and blackmail, but it all ended well – he crossed over to Jug where he stayed until 1985. In those four seasons, they won many Yugoslav national titles, two national Cups and the greatest trophy, the Champions Cup in 1980. After 29 years, Jug became the champions with Lozica! Lozica is a well-known surname in water polo; between 1948 and 1952, Boško’s father Pero, after whom Boško’s son was named, was President of the Yugoslav Water Polo Federation, President of Mornar and of course KPK. Why did he leave KPK? “Because the generation fell apart, and we had no chance of winning again. I didn’t have any sports motivation and I decided to live in Dubrovnik,” he said later. In the 1985/86 season he left for Germany, for Fulda, although he was already working as the Secretary of the Jug Sports Association at the time. After Germany, he moved on to Italy, first to Roma as a coach and a player in the 1986/87 season, and later he spent four years in Genoa, lifting it from the B League, through the A-2 League to the first division, again as both coach and player. He made it to the national final with the junior team, and the Italian national team player Alessandro Bovo was also one of his protegées. When he left Genoa, Božo Vuletić and Antonio Milat arrived. Lozica worked one season in Catania too, and at the beginning of 1992 he returned home as Mladost’s coach. In two seasons, he won the first Croatian Cup and two national Championships and played the Champions Cup final against Jadran. After that, he founded Viktorija, today Zagreb, and the organization of the first women’s water polo cup should also be added to his biography. Three years in a row, from 1977 to 1979 he won the Sportske novosti “Yellow Cap” as the best player in the Championships. He was a distinguished shooter with an unparalleled easy way of filling opponents’ nets; even “with his eyes shut” he was a threat to any goalie. He shot swiftly and without hesitation, the main feature of his play. He still remembers the five goals from the centre position in Kotor, after which the audience got to their feet, applauded and – left the stands, as if they had seen enough. A giant at 195 centimetres, he played in the centre position but was also graced with swimming speed and the quickest, most precise shot of the time, unmatched by many even today. He had a good overview of the game, was a right-hander who could also use his left – a complete player. Later, as a coach, he used to say, “A young player has the right to make mistakes”, probably remembering himself and his beginnings. Boško was, in his time, the best player in the world-famous Wild League in Dubrovnik, where he played with Copacabana. Today, he still has a team he plays with at least once a week and trust me, he is still in good shape.

> THE YUGOSLAV NATIONAL TEAM IN 1976 – Gopčević, Galijaš, Z. Roje, Vezilić, Manojlović, Polić, Trifunović (standing); Lozica, Mustur, Vraneš and Belamarić (squatting) WINNERS OF THE SILVER MEDAL AT THE 1980 OLYMPICS IN MOSCOW – Čirković, Bebić, Vezilić, Roje, Manojlović, Mustur, Polić, Petković (standing); Lozica, Rudić, Krivokapić, Gopčević and Trifunović (squatting)

Belgrade and Rijeka: the Hosts of the 1st World Cup After the meeting in Rome on 5 February 1977, the TWPC introduced a second referee to water polo matches. The European Championships in the Swedish town of Jönköping from 14 to 21 August 1977 were played like this, in which the Yugoslavs, led by coach Tripun Ćirković, approached the throne once again, but did not sit on it. The Hungarians were better, against whom Yugoslavia experienced their only defeat (4:3). But they defeated Italy 5:4, the USSR 10:7, FR Germany 5-3, Romania 6:4, the Netherlands 8:6 and Spain 5:2. The Yugoslavs had to contend themselves with a silver medal, the bronze went to the Italians. The World Cup was held in West Berlin from 18 to 29 August 1978. Yugoslavia won the bronze medal. The gold went to Italy and the silver to Hungary. Selector Tripun Ćirković (the national team’s coach was the famous Croatian water polo worker Toni Petrić) could not count on injured Rudić, who had not even travelled to West Berlin. The Croatian players in the national team were Luko Vezilić, Boško Lozica, Zoran Roje, Siniša Belamarić, Mirsad Galijaš and Damir Polić, and beside them the goalie Predrag Vranješ, Slobodan Trifunović, Zoran Mustur, Predrag Manojlović and Zoran Gopčević. At the opening ceremony, the Yugoslav flag was carried by the national team’s captain Siniša Belamarić from Šibenik and a player with Partizan of Belgrade. It was interesting that before the championships, coach Ćirković had reservations about the players adapting to the conditions in the pool, which was only 180 centimetres deep, and tall players could walk through it. However, it was primarily decided by their swimming (not running) capabilities. In the first match, Yugoslavia lost to Hungary 3:2, but after that it defeated Spain 5:4 and Greece 11:2, so it progressed. After that, it overpowered Bulgaria 10:3, and Germany 4:3 in a very important duel (although the Germans were leading 3:2 before the last quarter). In front of two thousand German fans, Zoran Gopčević scored the winning goal 28 seconds before the end, and Boško Lozica also played very well. – Lozica won the last quarter all by himself – said Ozren Bonačić, then in the role of an ordinary spectator.

Had the Germans managed to equalize in those 28 seconds, they would have gone further, while in this way Yugoslavia won second place in the finals (after Hungary). “I was to blame for everything,” said the legendary German national team member Frank Otto, whose shot Vezilić defended in the last seconds of the match. In the competition for medals, Yugoslavia first, somewhat unluckily, lost to Italy 6-5 in a match in which they had an extra player three times, but did not score any more goals. Then they lost to the Hungarians 5:3, and then they defeated the USSR 6:4. Since Italy defeated the USSR 5:4, tying against Hungary 4:4, they got their first gold. The World Cup in West Berlin will remain in a somewhat unpleasant memory for the Croatian referee (later a respected water polo official), Josip Jović. At the game between Romania and USA, in which he was the referee, the Romanian coach Kroner assaulted him, trying to have a physical “settling of scores“ with him. Because of that incident, the FINA’s Technical Water Polo Committee (TWPC) initially punished the Romanian by forbidding him to lead his team in one game, but then toughened the punishment – Kroner was forbidden from sitting on the bench until the end of the championships. – After I awarded a four-meter penalty to the Americans seven seconds before the end, the Romanian climbed on the referee’s podium and was shouting something and waving his arms. It did not appear so terrible as the leaders of FINA found it, but they severely punished him. Afterwards, Kroner apologised to me and we even remained on good terms – Jović now remembers (born in 1941 in Supetar, Brač, and lives in Split. He was a referee between 1970 and 1989, and later was head of the referee’s organization. In 1979, from 29 April to 6 May, the first world (FINA) Cup was held in Belgrade and Rijeka. Yugoslavia, now with Rudić, won third place, behind Hungary and the USA. The Belgrade part (played at Tašmajdan), but with easier opponents, started well: victories over the USA and Romania with an identical result – 6:4, over Bulgaria 7:2, and then a surprising defeat by


He was one of Yugoslavia’s best, if not even the best player of all times and a national team player in 257 matches. He had creativity, the ability to predict the situation brilliantly and a shot that led to perfection. He was the originator of the delayed shot. Throughout his career that was his strongest weapon. Savinović could play quarterback as well as centre. In a word, he was a top player. He left the impression of being slow and clumsy, but whoever thought so, would be badly mistaken. He would explode in an instant! From apparent inertia he would shift into fifth gear in a second. He was a great scorer. Peaceful. Quiet. Withdrawn. The idol of the generation of Veselin Đuho, Goran Sukno and Božo Vuletić. An indispensable member of the senior national team. As a player he was a coach in the water. With his advice he helped younger players, and with Luko Vezilić he definitely contributed to the formation of great players from the new generation... He started training as a water polo player for Jug in 1962. He began playing for the first team three years later. He played against KPK in the second division. He spent the first two seasons in second league competition – these were the only two seasons in the history of Jug spent in the lower range – and 15 years later he celebrated the title of Champion of Europe. This was preceded by winning the Championship of Yugoslavia, a title Jug had awaited for 29 years. – The competition was damn tough, as never before – he says, recalling the performance of Jug in the Championships of Yugoslavia in the nineteenseventies and early eighties. Mladost, Partizan, then POŠK of Split, KPK were also strong, Jadran of Herceg Novi ... Before the joy of winning the title of state champions with Jug, then champions of Europe the same year, he won the bronze with the national team at the 1973 World Championships in Belgrade, and the same medal at the European Championships in Vienna a year later. He returned empty handed from the following two major competitions: the World Championships in Colombia and the Olympic Games in Montreal. A year later he ended his playing career in 1981 – and went nowhere. Then in 1983 he became coach of the Jug first team. In his debut season as a coach he won a double crown, the Championships and the Cup of Yugoslavia. The following season – empty handed, without either of the home titles, they lost

Đuro Savinov

The Originator Shot of the Delayed

to Dinamo Moscow in the finals of the Cup Winners Cup. A year later – another champion’s title, the last one of Jug’s in the former Yugoslavia and a defeat in the finals of the European Cup. Once again he led Jug in 1987, to the local Cup finals and to the Cup Winners’ Cup finals. Once again, it was Belgrade Partizan that won the Yugoslav Cup, whilst the LEN Cup Winners’ Cup title was lost in the finals during overtime in a crowded Scandona. The host Posillipo won its first European trophy. From Jug he went to Italy. Salerno, for whom Veselin Đuho and Goran Sukno played, became a first league club for the first time in its history. Then, after three seasons in Italy, he transferred for a brief period to Spain and Las Palmas. The reason he stayed so briefly in the Pyrenees was a call from Marseille, a club which thanks to him became champion of France once in five seasons and won

FR Germany, 4:3. At Kantrida followed a crushing defeat by the USSR 5:1, two difficult, but important victories were won: 7:6 over Italy and 8:7 over Hungary. Although Yugoslavia won defeated leading teams (Hungary and the USA), the defeats by Germany and the USSR cost it a medal brighter than bronze. Hungary had a point more, and the USA a better goal difference. In the club scene, Croatian water polo scored another success: after Mladost won the title of European Club Champion four times, Jug of Dubrovnik succeeded to do so for the first time in 1980. And that year was also fruitful for the national team. At the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980 (from 19 July to 3 August, 12 national teams played), Luko Vezilić, Damir Polić, Zoran Roje, Milivoj Bebić, Ratko Rudić and Boško Lozica (Milorad Krivokapić, Zoran Gopčević, Zoran Mustur, Slobodan Trifunović and Predrag Manojlović alongside in the team) were adorned with silver. Although the Americans and Germans boycotted the Games (due to the Russia intervention in Afghanistan), the water polo tournament was very strong even without them.


st arch 1 , 1950 Date of birth: M Dubrovnik Place of birth: : 1962-1981 Jug o, Italy; Playing career 89-1992 Salern 83-1989 Jug; 19 19 : er 000 re -2 ca 99 ng 19 Coachi Marseille; ain; 1993-1998 Sp , as lm Pa s 1993 La vnik Bellevue Dubro am: the national te rade in 1973 Trophies with onships in Belg pi am Ch ld or 1974 W e th at ips in Vienna in – bronze an Championsh pe ro Eu e th at – bronze ng) the club (playi Trophies with 80 19 : pe ro Eu – Champion of 80 and 1981 Yugoslavia: 19 of on pi am – Ch 1981 – Yugoslav Cup: s (coaching): ub cl ) Trophies with 83 and 1985 (Jug Yugoslavia: 19 – Champion of 1983 (Jug) – Yugoslav Cup: arseille) France: 1995 (M – Champion of 97 (Marseille) , 1995, 1996, 19 94 19 p: Cu ch – Fren

the French Cup four times. He returned in the end to Dubrovnik, became the Sports Director of Bellevue (Dubrovnik’s PRO CRO), which won the Mediterranean Cup at the end of 1998. He spent the season after that coaching once again. And then, in the summer of 2000, he retired, moving onto the stands, which was a great loss for water polo.

On the eve of the Olympic Games, the Yugoslav national team, in the last preliminary encounter in Moscow, lost to Romania 9:8, but when the real matches began, the real power of the Ćirković’s chosen men was demonstrated. In group C, Yugoslavia tied against Cuba 6:6 (early in the second part, Yugoslavia were doing quite badly, losing 2:5), than defeating Bulgaria 9:2 and Australia with the same score. In the play-offs for classification from first to sixth place, another encounter with Cuba again ended in a tie (7:7), after which a victory ensued over the favoured Hungary 8:7 and the silver medal was practically guaranteed. Two more victories ensued – against the Netherlands 5:4 and Spain 7:6 – and finally a defeat to the USSR 8:7. The Soviets, with all victories in the tournament, won the gold, while the bronze went to the Hungarian national team. – We can not object to the victory by the Soviet water polo players. They were better, skilfully taking advantage of all our mistakes and deservedly winning the gold medal – confessed Ratko Rudić in a sportsmanlike manner. Even the president of the Yugoslav Water Polo Federation, Celestin Sardelić was satisfied with the outcome in the end.

Luko Vezilić defended fantastically. In fact, Luko was more a player than a goalkeeper. He would emerge out of the water like an otter and snatch the ball from the opponent’s hands. He was practically invincible. His specialty was “the “banana”!? He introduced this basketball element to the water. The opponent would come at him, try to jump over him, but Luko would fly out of the water and grab the ball with two hands! “Don’t jump out!” Miro Ćirković the coach of the Yugoslav national team at that time, would happily shout from the edge of the pool, “Don’t jump so high ‘cause they’ll score through your legs!” The rest is recorded more than thirty years ago – after the European Championships in the Swedish town of Jönköping, Vezilić, who in his career had had neither any cadet nor junior experience, was for the first time proclaimed best goalkeeper in the world. Vezilić, in fact, stood between the goal posts from the second decade of his life. Before that he played in Cavtat, – wild-style, “in one goal, without any coach (or training). Nevertheless, he did not remain unnoticed. With his long arms, superb swimming, he was a goalie who would throw the offense into despair. He defended his goal with two hands, and not just corner shots or those balls that went over his head. He defended all shots with two hands, just like a football goalkeeper. He debuted for Jug in 1968. It was the farewell season of Pero Katušić, for many years the first goalkeeper of Jug. During the winter championships, which were played in Zagreb, Vezilić first took up position between the goal posts. When playing away he usually had no problems, there was no stage fright, but before the first match in Gruž, in

front of the local audience, he got so nervous that he ran away. Everyone was looking for him, and there was nothing else to do but to bring back Pero Katušić. Later he would say about that: – I simply couldn’t go out in front of so many fans. I felt my knees weaken and so I went back home. He was quiet, withdrawn and avoided reporters. “I have nothing to say’’, he would often say, indicating with his hands that he was not in the mood to comment. His favourite thing was to sit in his boat and go fishing where he would find peace. As soon as he started defending for Jug, Vezilić began playing for the national team too. Already in 1969, after the Championships in Dubrovnik, he travelled to the Balkan Games in Izmir with the national B team. He was disappointed by the decision to leave him out of the team which played at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. His first major competition was the European Championships in Vienna in 1974, where he won the bronze medal. He gained the trust of the coach, but two years later he did not travel to the Olympic Games in Montreal, although he was the first goalkeeper. In fact, the coach Vlaho Orlić called several other goalkeepers to the final preparations. It was something about the competition being tougher, and no one is a hundred percent suitable to play in Montreal. That made Vezilić angry, so he just picked up his stuff and left. It was never possible to know whether Vezilić would play or not. Nevertheless, he returned to the national team the year after. He played at the 1977 European Championships, then at the World Championships a year later, at the Mediterranean Games in Split and at the Olympics in Moscow.

Each time the national team returned with a medal. He played 210 games for the national team. Vezilić was well-known for his swimming-out, a “ball thief” with a precise arm. He made Đuho famous, Đuho who was always ready to strike. Đuho had such faith in Vezilić, that he would launch an attack the moment a player from the opposing team directed the ball towards Jug’s goal. The story about Jug’s all-time best goalie ended where it started. In Zagreb. A Cup game was underway, shortly after winning silver medal at the Olympics in Moscow, as well as Jug’s first Champion of Yugoslavia title after 29 years of waiting, and just before their first appearance in the Champions’ Cup ... Vezilić was then in great shape, at 32 he was thinking of going abroad and earning a little extra money. Unfortunately, he had an eye injury. Jug was playing against Split’s Jadran, in the open air. It was a cold day, and as the water was warming up, a fog formed above the surface. This was not a decisive game. It was known that Jug would go further from the quarterfinals group to the semifinals for the Cup. Kovačić was in front of Vezilić, who jumped out from the goal. Kovačić’s finger ended up in the eye of the world’s best goalkeeper. It was 17th October 1980. Vezilić spent a month and a half in hospital. But there was no possibility of a come-back. With the loss of Vezilić, Jug lost two, three, and even four trophies despite their dominance at the beginning of the nineteen-eighties. “He would have won so many more if what happened had not happened.” Veselin Đuho would say later. And it was not only Đuho who thought so

Luko Vezilić

An Otter at the Goal Posts nd Date of birth: July 2 , 1948 Place of birth: Dubrovnik for Jug. He began playing water polo in 1968 Jug Playing career: 1968-1980

Trophies with the national team: ships in Vienna in 1974 – bronze at the European Champion s in Jönköping in 1977 ship – silver at the European Champion – silver at the World Cup in 1978 in 1980 – silver at the Olympics in Moscow : Trophies with the club – Champions of Europe: 1980 (Jug) Awards: d (1978 and 1980) – twice best goalkeeper in the worl


ović n u f i r T n a Slobod čula m Kor

list fro a i c e p S e h T

3rd , 1956 : February th ir b f o Date (Serbia) : Belgrade ch th ir 8 b f o ce r polo coa Pla g, 1987-198 mist, wate o n 82-1987 Ju co e 19 : , n la o u ti ly a rč a p o It u K , o K cc P O 982 K 0 Salern reer: 1969-1 o, Italy, 199 Playing ca 89 Palerm 19 , ly players of a lo It o s, Naple n water p e m o w lia, 2008 Canottieri 2 9 rth, Austra e er: 1990-19 P re 8 0 ca an. g 20 in 3Coach ctor of Jap rmo, 199 , 2010 sele , 1993 Pale a ly k a rs It a , k o a rn M Voltu 09 Galeb, , France, 20 Tourcoing : onal team s ith the nati w Olympic o sc o Trophies w M the 1980 t a l 78 a 19 d e g m in p – silver EC in Jönkö 79 dal at the st Berlin 19 e W – silver me in C E e th t a l a ed – bronze m player): h clubs (as it w s ie h p Tro 1979 (KPK) g) ners’ Cup: in W p u nd 1985 (Ju C – ion: 1983 a p m ) a g h u C (J d 1983 – Yugoslav 78 (KPK) an 19 : p u C av ) rno) – Yugosl b (as coach 1992 (Voltu ith the clu 0, 1991 and 9 19 ): n Trophies w e m o ampion (w – Italian Ch

According to the opinion of then KPK coach Duško Antunović, he was, together with Boško Lozica and Uroš Marović, the most deserving person for winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1978. – That was, I would say, an anomaly – is what Slobodan Bobo Trifunović said in 2010 about Korčula’s campaign over Europe, and he is undoubtedly one of the best water polo players of all times for the Korčula club. – “We came as a surprise, because Korčula, a place with only 3,000 inhabitants, won the continental trophy. Simply, what came together was the maturity of one generation, of almost the same age as world class players, who could have made such a campaign. That is so rare. Primarily because we were all from Korčula, with the exception of Marović who came from Partizan. When you add an ambitious president on top of that, and a great coach such as Antunović... Yes, that is when you get winners”. Bobo Trifunović never stood out for his shooting, which he himself says, was nothing special. He never stood out for his power, nor height. On the contrary, while playing with the national team, he was convincingly the smallest player – the only one under 180 cm in height. For water polo at that time, and to an extent even today, that was supposed to be compensated for in other ways. And Trifunović had several. The primary thing was his speed. He was probably the fastest swimmer. But he did not only swim fast. He thought even faster.


He served the ball as if it were on a plate, while thinking about what the opponent might do. As such – fast, agile, dexterous – he had the role of ‘specialist’. Namely, Bobo has regularly defended against the best, the most dangerous players of the opponent teams. “It is true, I know I always had the duty to go against the Italian De Magistris, the Hungarian Farago, and later on against the Spaniard Estiarte”. What greater compliment than this could a player receive, and this says it all. He left Korčula in 1982, when he transferred to Dubrovnik’s Jug, although both POŠK and Partizan gave him invitations. After ending his career, he started a successful coaching career, but this time with women. He took the female water polo players of Italian Volturno to three subsequent titles as Italian champions. At the end of 1993, he was invited to Australia, more precisely to Perth and the Sports Institute of Western Australia. There he coached, and sought after water polo talent among men and women. That year, the Australians were awarded the organization of the Olympic Games , and also invested large sums of money in the development of water polo. Seven years later, three men and four women coached by Bobo Trifunović played for the Australian national team at the Sydney Olympic Games. For a few months in 2010, he was the selector of Japan. Korčula, Italy, Australia, Japan – the “specialist” Bobo makes it all.

During the 1960s, Šibenik boasted three highschool athletes, potential national team players (Siniša Belamarić, Krasnodar Rora and Marino Lemešić), who were so talented and versatile they could have picked the sport in which they wanted to make the national team. Rora and Lemešić opted for football, and Belamarić chose water polo, although he was the Croatian junior champion in the 100m backstroke, played basketball for Šibenik and played handball for Metalac, a Šibenik club. “The event that tipped the scale was the arrival of Toni Petrić from Split, who more or less guided me towards water polo and away from other sports. I was not quite fifteen when I started playing for the Šibenik first team with Mile Nakić, Ratko Karković and others.” Later it all went according to Toni’s predictions. All the first league teams, except for Mladost, took an interest in the top scorer of the Second League. “Partizan were the fastest and I liked the idea of training under the guidance of Bato Orlić. It was a time when a small Dalmatian colony had settled

Olympic Games in Mexico City. One European silver and two European and two World bronzes were not enough consolation, particularly because his Olympic performances (Munich, Montreal) had failed to quench his thirst for an Olympic medal. Fifth place was nothing to boast about in the former state. As a true athlete, he managed to stay for a full 23 years in senior water polo, with 258 matches for the national team. Sentimentality brought him back to where it all started, to Crnica in Šibenik. At the age of 37, he found himself in a team desperately trying to hold onto its First League status. For a short time, he was also the coach of the team from Šibenik, but then he returned to Belgrade, where he had a family and a teaching position in the university. “During the 1990’s I spent eight years coaching in Kuwait. I must admit that my ambitions kept decreasing. Not only because of my age. I find it hard to find my place in modern water polo. There’s too much swimming and brute

Siniša Belam


rić Top-Scorer o f the 1973 W orld Championsh ip s Date of b

irth: Februar y 18 th, 1947 Place of birth : Šibenik Occupation: physical educ ation teache Playing care r er: 1962-1970 Šibenik; 1970 Solaris, Šiben -1 984 Partizan ik ; 1984-1985 Coaching ca reer: 1985-198 6 Solaris, Šib Trophies wit enik h the nation al team: – bronze at the 1973 Wor ld Champio – bronze at nships in Be the 1978 Wor lgrade ld Champio – silver at th ns hips in West e 1978 Europ Berlin ean Champio – bronze at nships in Jo the 1975 Euro nk oping pean Champ – bronze at ionships in Vi the 1979 Euro en na p ean Champio Trophies wit nships in Ba h the club: rc el ona – European Championshi p s: 1971, 1974 an – Yugoslav C d 1975 (Parti hampions: 19 zan) 71, 1974 and 1975 (Partiza n)

in Belgrade. Apart from me, Marović, Antunović, Rudić, Tedeschi, Nardelli, Nonković, Kašić were all playing in Partizan and Zvezda... Mladost sent an invitation a few years later, but the people from Partizan sensed they might lose me, so they offered me an apartment, which in a way tied me to Belgrade,” Siniša Belamarić Cimpre remembers. Siniša was a complete player – a fast swimmer, a good shot maker and a solid defensive player. He was an excellent scorer, almost preferring timely, accurate passes to goals. In the 1973 World Championships in Belgrade, he was the best scorer of the tournament. But good as he was, he will never stop regretting being left out, with Rudić, of the national team that went on to win the gold in 1968

force, not enough finesse and charm. You know, I played against water polo artists like Nardelli, Stanišić, Janković...” Belamarić says honestly. He has earned both his water polo and teaching retirement. He spends his retirement days in his native Šibenik and Belgrade where his children and grandchildren live. “I spend at least five months in my house in Šparadići near Šibenik, where my neighbor is Ante Žaja, the former Hajduk football player. To be honest, knowing that my children and grandchildren are crazy about Šibenik means more to me than all the medals and trophies, which I can’t even count,” says Siniša Belamarić Cimpre.


European Championships in Split: “We’ve Had Enough of Silver, We Want Gold!” Starting in 1952, matches lasted for two half-times of ten minutes each, but from 1980 quarters of seven minutes each are introduced. The teams were allowed to have 13 players instead of 11. That change enabled the more frequent replacement of players, even what they called “hockey” change overs, when all the players left the pool, except the goalie. Playing under these new rules at the World Cup in Long Beach from 25 April to 1 May 1981, Yugoslavia won second place, behind the USSR. Cuba was third. Already at the start, Yugoslavia achieved a very important victory against Hungary by 11:10, with Zloković scoring in the last seconds of the game. Then Ćirković’s students defeated Spain 10:9, then Cuba 11:6, but they lost to the then extremely strong USSR by 10:6. However, the victory over Bulgaria 15:4 ensured second place. From 5 to 12 September 1981, Split hosted the European Championships, of which even the Yugoslav water poloists expected a great deal. They were saying, “We’ve had enough of silver, we want gold!” But, it was very difficult in the water. In the first duel with the Spaniards, the national team played nearly two quarters a player down (Damir Polić was excluded until the end of the match without the right to a replacement), so defeat could not be avoided, by 11:8. After that, Yugoslavia also lost to Germany 10:6, to the USSR 9:5, then to Hungary 7:6, in front of 2,500 spectators in the Poljud swimming pool, but defeated Romania 12:10, the Netherlands 9:8 and Italy 8:7. They won the fourth place, while the medals were won by the Germans (gold), with only one point lost, the Soviets (silver) and the Hungarians (bronze). – We just can’t play! – complained Duško Kalogjera, the leader of the national team. – Do not criticize the players, the death of Trifun Ćirković left them lost – said the Soviet coach Boris Popov. Selector Ćirković tragically died on 1 August 1981, less than a month before the Split European Championships. He was killed in a car accident near Dubrovnik, hurrying in a borrowed Fićo


car (Zastava 750) to the training of his selected players for the European Championships in Split. The only Yugoslav player included among the best seven players of the Championships was Milivoj Bebić, who, with 14 goals, was the top shooter in the national team, which was led by coach Milivoj Minja Petković, later named “Express“. The captain was Ratko Rudić, and apart from him and Bebić, the Croats in the team were Zoran Roje, Boško Lozica, Damir Polić and Mirsad Galijaš. Other national team members were: Milorad Krivokapić, Gopčević Zoran, Zoran Mustur, Slobodan Trifunović, Stanko Zloković, Andrija Popović and Mišo Marković. Yugoslavia had a similar experience in the European Championships, which were held in Rome two years later, from 20 to 27 August 1983. Defeats by Spain (9:8) and Hungary (8:7) were minimal, they even tied against the USSR (8:8), the future champions, and also Italy (8:8). The Netherlands was defeated 10:5, but the medal was not within reach. We won the fourth place with an equal number of points as Spain, which was third, but the result in a match together was decisive. The gold medal went to USSR, silver to Hungary. Until the last round and the match with Hungary, the Yugoslavs were competing for a medal. Had they defeated the Hungarians, they would have been second. Such an outcome, of course, brought a great deal of discontent to the national team and around it. Aware that they were one of the world’s best teams, the players were angry, as was a member of the expert council, Alexander Seifert. Selector Mile Nakić was replaced, and Ratko Rudić was brought in into his place. Eight Croats were part of the national team in Rome: Antonio Milat, Veselin Đuho, Zoran Roje, Goran Sukno, Milivoj Bebić, Zoran Filipović, Tomislav Marijan Risek and Tomislav Paškvalin. Besides them, Yugoslavia was also represented by: Milorad Krivokapić, Zoran Gopčević, Dragan Andrić, Stanko Zloković and Mišo Marković. A year earlier, at the World Championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador, from 30 July to 8 August 1982, Yugoslavia took seventh position. The USSR was first, Hungary second, and Germany third. Already in the preliminaries, it was obvious that things were not

Vlaho Orlić

ade a Mark M o h w n a M e h T History on Water Polo

th arch 16 , 1934 Date of birth: M gro) otor (Montene Place of birth: K (Serbia) th , 2010 in Belgrade Died: June 10 50 19 . g water polo in Started playin : 1950-1958 Jug 6 Yugoslav Playing career rtizan, 1971-197 Pa 6 97 -1 59 19 : er Coaching care coach am te l na tio na am: the national te Belgrade Trophies with ampionship in Ch ld or W 73 19 e Vienna th at ip ze – bron ampionsh s in 74 European Ch 19 e th ir at m ze Iz – bron an Games in 71 Mediterrane geria – gold at the 19 an Games in Al ne 75 Mediterra 19 e th at r ve sil – the club: , 1967, 1971, 1971 Trophies with ips: 1964, 1966 sh on pi am Ch – European 68, 1970, and 1976 , 1965, 1966, 19 ons: 1963, 1964 pi am Ch v sla – Yugo , 1975 and 1976 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976 1973, 1974, 1975 68, 1969, – Yugoslav Cup: s: 1963, 1965, 19 ip sh on pi am Ch r te – Yugoslav Win 1971 and 1972

Ante Lambaša, a former president and later lifelong honorary president of FINA used to say, “Chekhov said that all the greats of Russian literature sprouted from beneath Gogol’s undercoat”. We in water polo can paraphrase and say, “All the water polo stars in this area sprouted from beneath Vlaho Orlić’s overcoat”. All other relevant water polo experts will say something similar about Vlaho Bata Orlić, a citizen of Dubrovnik, born in Kotor, who spent most of his life in Belgrade. They all pay him due respect and emphasize his incredible contribution to the development of water polo

in Yugoslavia. He himself, as coach of Partizan and the national team, did not win as many medals and trophies as some others, but the coaches he trained (Rudić, Stamenić, Antunović, Mečkić, Silić, Manojlović, Porobić...) left their mark on the history of water polo, and not only in the region of the former state. Orlić was born in Kotor because his father was working there as a dentist at the time. He took his first career steps in Jug, which he left in 1958. He studied medicine in Zagreb and Sarajevo, became a graduate student in Belgrade, but never actually gained a further degree. He was too enthusiastic about water polo to work as a doctor. This water polo enthusiast came to Partizan in 1959 as a technical clerk (Božo Grkinić was the

going to be good. France was defeated 13:9, followed by Canada 13:11, but it was symptomatic that the Canadians were leading at one point by 7:5. But after the victory over the Dutch 7:6, the Yugoslavs carried over two points into the next round. However, the defeat by Hungary 11:10 sent Trumbić’s chosen players to the bottom. Due to the long distance, only scant news came from Ecuador. Thus, the defeat of Yugoslavia by the Hungarians was reported by the Spanish agency EFE in only two sentences: “Hungary won thanks to an error by the opponent 12 seconds before the end of the match. The error was punished by a goal from Atila Sudar.” All hope that the national team would fight for a medal was ended by the Cubans winning 9:8. The opponent’s water polo players played much faster and were more agile, and the Yugoslav players did not find a way to break through the opponent’s

coach at first) but after a while he became the club coach. As far as the Yugoslav national team was concerned, he was present from 1962 to 1991 (with a short intermission from 1976 to 1980), either as national team coach, the head of the expert team or the President of the Expert Council. Orlić is believed to be the chief ideologist, a controversial genius, a water polo missionary and the creator behind the phenomenon that Yugoslav water polo used to be in its heyday. It was the sport with most trophies in the former Yugoslavia, and most people would attribute that to Vlaho Orlić. He, on the other side, emphasized teamwork and fruitful cooperation with Aleksandar Seifert from Zagreb and other Croatian experts, particularly those from Split and Dubrovnik.

strong defence and prevent their quick counterattacks. In the contest for the classification from the 5th to 8th place, the Yugoslavs defeated Spain 7:6 and lost to the USA 7:8. Although they were world champions, the Italians were already knocked out in the preliminary phase. In the decisive duel the Spaniards defeated them 9:8. Even a tie against the Hungarians (7:7) was sufficient for the USSR to win the gold, although the match could have ended differently. Namely, it seemed that Gerendas from a distance of some ten meters had overpowered Šaronov in the last second and gave the Hungarians the lead at 8:7. The referees accepted the goal but the timekeeper did not. After ten minutes of heated debate, the goal was annulled. The explanation was that it was a technical error, the whistle did not sound on time, and the timekeeper saw that at the moment the end of the match was supposed to have been sounded, Gerendas still had the ball in his hands.


Ante Lambaša

From Šibenik to th e Head of FINA

Date of birth: June th 17 , 1918 Place of birth: Šib enik Died: November 18th , 1993 in Belgrade Career as an officia l: 1948 co-founder of the Yugoslav Swimming Federation, 1950 Ele cted for Office in LEN, 19 63 co-founder of th e Champions’ Cup, 19 68-1972 the preside nt of LEN TWPC (Technic al Water Polo Com m ittee), 1978 elected the vic e-president of FIN A, 1980-1984 the pres ident of FINA, 1982 -1986 the president of LE N

Ante Lambaša was the only person to hold simultaneously the duties of both LEN and FINA president. He died in a car accident in Belgrade, where he spent his entire career. A car ran over him in front of the house where he lived. He was the first Croat to be elected president of any world sports organization. He was one of the most notable sports officials in SFRY. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at the College of Physical Education in Belgrade, where he later graduated in law as well. After World War Two, as a trustworthy military official, he was in charge of promoting sport in the newly created country and for association between the national and international sporting organizations and federations. As was customary at that time, almost all sports federations of the new country were founded anew and Ante Lambaša was one of the founders of the Yugoslav Swimming Federation in 1948, with its headquarters in Belgrade. It was conveniently forgotten that the same federation had already been founded a long time before, on October 2nd 1921 in Zagreb, where it had been active until 1941. Ante Lambaša performed many functions in the Yugoslav Swimming Federation: technical clerk, secretary, president of the international committee and federal captain. He took part in the first FINA Congress in Monte Carlo in 1947. He was elected to the LEN Office in Vienna in 1950, where he remained until he died. Within that organization, apart from being an Office member, he was also the president of FINA’s Technical Water Polo Committee (1968-1972). In 1978 he became the vice-president of FINA, remaining in that position


until he was elected president. He was elected a member of the FINA Executive Board in 1960. Between 1964 and 1968 he was vice-president, and between 1968 and 1980 honorary treasurer and then elected FINA president in 1980, remaining in that position until 1984. A point of interest is that Ante Lambaša was the first president of FINA to stem from water polo, all the previous presidents having been swimming officials. During his presidency of FINA, he was personally responsible for China’s admission to FINA, as well as the expulsion of the South African Republic. He was also responsible for the inclusion of women’s water polo in the programs of the major competitions. He worked in the Federal hydro-meteorological Institute in Belgrade, where he was the financial director. Apart from that, he was the director of the First World Championships in swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming (Belgrade, 1973) and one of the founders of the European Champions’ Cup. He dedicated his entire life to water polo. He was a capable organizer and had a strong will to implement ideas. He used to listen to various propositions, ideas and opinions, before skilfully and successfully conciliating them. He was a member of the AGFIS council, the principal assembly of international sports federations with its headquarters in Lausanne. Besides that, he was a member of the Yugoslav Olympic Committee from 1952 to 1968. Ante Lambaša was the lifelong honorary president of LEN and an honorary member of FINA.

> Return of national water polo team from Seoul Olympic Games, 1988

Double Olympic Winners with Rudić Afterwards, under the lead of Ratko Rudić, one of the best coaches from these parts, Yugoslavia won the Olympic gold medal twice in a row. Among the golden players in Los Angeles in 1984 (from 28 July to 12 August) out of 13 players in the rejuvenated national team, eight were Croats: Deni Lušić, Božo Vuletić, Veselin Đuho, Zoran Roje, Milivoj Bebić, Perica Bukić, Goran Sukno and Tomislav Paškvalin (the team also included: Milorad Krivokapić, Zoran Petrović, Igor Milanović, Dragan Andrić and Andrija Popović). The competition was somewhat weaker because the USSR and most of the Eastern European countries boycotted the Games (the water polo tournament was without the USSR, Hungary and Cuba). In its group A, Yugoslavia convincingly won first place defeating in sequence: Canada 13:4, China 12:7 and the Netherlands 9:5. The continued their winning streak in the play-offs from first to sixth place: 9:6 against Australia (although the Australians led 5:3), West Germany 10:9, Spain 14:8. In the decisive duel for the gold medal in front of 4,120 spectators, it was enough for them to tie against the USA which is exactly what they achieved, playing 5:5, although their opponents led 5:2 at one point. The Americans, however, had to content themselves with the silver medal and the bronze went to West Germany. The gold medal was presented to the Croatian water polo players by João Havelange, the FIFA president, otherwise a former Brazilian swimming champion and a member of the water polo national team that participated in the Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952 (he was accompanied by Ante Lambaša). Ratko Rudić ended up in the swimming pool, while the technical director Alexander Seifert remained on land (he had experienced that adventure in Mexico). After all this, one of the players who made the greatest contribution in the blue ranks, Tomislav Paškvalin wished for the Olympic gold medal to be a stimulus to water polo in Zagreb (which would happen after several years), and goalie Milorad Krivokapić revealed that he was sure of gold and even when the Americans were leading 5:2.


THE NATIONAL TEAM DURING PRE-TOURNAMENT PREPARATION SESSIONS IN 1987 – Bukić, Milanović, Paškvalin, Lušić, Bezmalinović, Šoštar, Petrović, Popović, Đuho (standing); Posinković, M. Roje, A. Vasović, Rađenović, Vičević, Gočanin (squatting)


– We did not relax for a single moment, we did not surrender, and it brought us great success – said Krivokapić. At the World Cup in Duisburg (from 11 to 19 May 1985), Yugoslavia took fourth place. FR Germany, the USA and Spain were ahead of it. A German newspaper concluded that “Yugoslavia is the biggest disappointment of the tournament“. They did not mention the poor organization of the competition or problems with the referees. But two years later, in Thessaloniki (from 10 to 17 May 1987), at their fifth attempt the Yugoslavs finally triumphed in this competition. They took first place with a better goal difference than the USSR, West Germany was third. They tied against two strong opponents – the USSR by 9:9, and West Germany 12:12 (Đuho three goals, Bukić two). The encounter with the Germans was particularly dramatic. Three minutes before the end, the Yugoslavs were leading 10:7, and nine seconds before the end of the match Bukić’s goal saved us from defeat. Important victories over the Spaniards (11:8), the Americans (9:8), the Italians (9:8) and the Greeks (12:4) ensued after that, and in the decisive duel for first place, Rudić’s protégés defeated the Cubans 13:5, reaching first place without a single defeat.

THE YUGOSLAV NATIONAL TEAM – during preparation sessions on the eve of the 1988 Seoul Olympics; Padovan, Posinković, Gočanin, Rađenović, Popović, Bezmalinović (top row); Milanović, A. Vasović, Delić, Šoštar, Jelenić, Anđelić (middle row); Marinković, Vičević, Bukić and Šimenc (bottom row) THE YUGOSLAV NATIONAL TEAM WITH REFEREE KLARIĆ on the champion’s podium at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles


valin Tomislav Pašk

ith A Workaholic w Samson the Strength of

those days today, he says, “It was a good childhood; I will always remember riding on the number 14 tram, with our hair and ears green from the chlorine in the water of the old pool.” Tall and strong, he always played centre, wearing the number 7 cap until 1979, and number 10 afterwards. He was not quite 18 when he made it to the Frogs first team. He remembers those days very well, “The situation was difficult until the 1987 University Games, we didn’t have good conditions for training, that’s why we played all our home matches in Tivoli, Ljubljana for 4 years.” Paškvalin was the most prominent representative of Zagreb water polo in the Yugoslav national team, until Dudo Šimenc, and later the Kobešćak brothers and Štritof, appeared... He played 279 matches for Yugoslavia and another 45 for Croatia between 1982, when he made his national team debut, in 1993. Tomislav also made the Guinness Book of Records for participating in the longest match in history. The match in question took place in the World Championships in Madrid and lasted four hours – starting at eight p.m. and finishing after midnight the following day. “We were playing in the final, Yugoslavia against Italy, and it took us eight overtimes to win 12:11. The regular game drew at 8:8. I managed to get an extra player, Milanović was in the wing, the ball reached him and he scored the decisive goal. He and I were the strongest centre pair in the world

ugust 29 , 1961 Date of birth: A agreb Place of birth: Z n yer by educatio w la n: Occupatio 73 in Zagreb. 19 in lo po water Recco, Italy; Started playing ; 1988-1990 Pro st do la M 88 19 975, France; 1994Playing career: 1 94 Olympic Nice -19 93 19 ; ly Ita , cia 1990-1992 Bres ščak. r 96-1998 Medve 19 ; -2009, membe cia es Br 96 19 Medveščak 2002 of t en of sid d re ar l: P Bo S cia HV ber of Career as an offi 00-2004, mem pic m of Mladost 20 Croatian Olym ica as ol el of the presidiu Bj e th of or ct re pian Club 2006, Di Directors since e Croatian Olym -President of th ce Vi ects in 8, oj 00 Pr l -2 ta 97 pi Centre 19 ission for Ca m m Co e me th of ber Expert Program since 2006, mem member of the 8, 00 -2 ctor re 06 Di 20 , eb ce 2008 the City of Zagr ts Federation sin or Sp eb . gr 10 Za 20 e ce th pment sin Commission of arch and develo se re ts or Sp r of the Centre fo : e national team les Trophies with th es in Los Ange m Ga c pi m ly O 84 19 e th at – gold mes in Seou. 88 Olympic Ga rid – gold at the 19 onships in Mad World Champi 86 19 e blanca th sa at Ca ld in – go an Games 83 Mediterrane 19 e th at ld go – Solun 87 FINA Cup in Sofia – gold at the 19 ampionships in Ch an 85 Europe Strasbourg in s ip sh – silver at the 19 on pean Champi ro Eu 87 19 e th – silver at mes in Cannet editerranean Ga – silver at the M mes in Kobe 85 University Ga – silver at the 19 mes in Zagreb Ga 87 University 19 e th at ze on – br e club: Trophies with th ice) onships: 1993 (N pi – French Cham 94 (Nice) – French Cup: 19 Awards: l award (2007) annual nationa – Franjo Bučar th

Little Paškva – although whether he was ever small is doubtful – was introduced to water polo during a summer holiday in Betina. His father was born there, it is where he used to spend his summers, and where he played his first match, for Brodograditelj. His first coaches were Saša Masnec and Joško Bračić, and in Mladost, Duško Baždar. At the time, Paškvalin had flings with basketball, handball, football, but they were all short-lived; water polo was and remained his first love. When he recalls


then. We defeated the Russians and Italy defeated the Americans in the semifinals. It was an awesome match, with so many exclusions.” A year after the Zagreb University Games, Paškvalin left for Italy, to join Pro Recco, a club which wanted to regain the old glory of the 1960’s. Even though he had an invitation from Jadran in Split, the Italian team made an excellent offer. After Pro Recco, Brescia, who wanted to build a strong water polo team to complement their already strong swimming club, also showed interest. With Paškvalin, it was a winning combination! He later played with one of his co-players from the national team, Vasović, winning the French Championships with Nice. But he was a child of Zagreb and missed his city. Also, having graduated law in 1988, as he said “between two Olympic cycles”, he wanted to make his mark at home in his profession. So, in 1997, he became the Director of the Croatian Olympic Centre in Bjelolasica, during its establishment, and also later when the centre opened its doors to athletes. He was Director of the Centre, which grew under his leadership, until 2008. It remains a mystery why he joined Medveščak upon his return from Italy and not Mladost. “Bonačić was the coach at the time, I was 36 and he told me I didn’t suit him because of my age. I got an invitation from Jug as well, but I didn’t want to leave Zagreb anymore,” is what he has to say on the topic. However he remained connected to Mladost; as the President of Medveščak, he was also on the Board of Directors of Mladost, which did not sit all that well in water polo circles. His son, Fran (1984), is following boldly in his father’s footsteps today, although he admits his father’s charisma is a great burden to him. “I have suggested some things, although I prefer not to interfere too much; however much he is aware of his surname, it doesn’t give him a complex, because he truly enjoys the game.” A lesser known fact perhaps is that Fran started playing water polo at 16, and was in Cibona until then. Apart from his exceptional strength, Tomislav was also good at returning the ball; he was the first to make the most of the centre advantage and helped many shot makers in the process. A workaholic who never found it difficult to practice, he still swims untiringly. Cultivating physical health is his way of life and if it had no been for that, he probably would have succumbed to injuries sooner. He suffered three pierced eardrums, several bone fractures and finger contusions, but he was never out of play for long because he always prepared for each practice or match thoroughly. He was not interested in coaching, “In my opinion I wasn’t cut out for it, one is born to coach, and players cannot think with my head”, but adds, “I wouldn’t change a thing in my career because I’ve achieved what others can’t even dream of”. Paškvalin is a realist above all. And a great, great player, a centre the world remembers and will remember. A surname which is a synonym for water polo.

THE 1987 NATIONAL TEAM – Egon Padovan, selector Rudić, Đuho, Paškvalin, Petrović, Lušić, Šoštar, Andrić, Popović, Milanović, Dr. Brković, secretary Stefanović (standing); Rađenović, Vasović, Bukić, M. Roje, Gočanin, Vičević and Vegar (squatting)


Ratko Rudić

Water Polo Rolls Royce

Date of birth: July 7th, 194 8 Place of birth: Belgrade Occupation: senior spo rts coach Started playing water po lo in 1958 Playing career: 1963-1971 Jadran, 1971-1981 Partiza n Belgrade Coaching career: 1980-198 3 Partizan juniors, 1983-19 84 Yugoslav junior national team coa ch, 1984-1988 Yugoslav senior national team coach, 1988-1990 Partizan, 1990-2000 Ital ian national team coach, 2001-2004 USA nat ional team coach, since 2005 Croatian national team coach Trophies with the nation al team (as a player): – gold at the 1971 Medit erranean Games in Izmir – gold at the 1979 Medit erranean Games in Split

The only water polo coach to win the World championship title with three different national teams (Yugoslavia, Italy, Croatia)! The only water polo coach to win a medal in four consecutive Olympic Games (gold in 1984 and 1988 with Yugoslavia and gold in 1992 and silver in 1996 with Italy)! The only water polo player to win all four big competitions within one Olympic cycle (with Italy: the 1992 Olympic Games, the 1993 European Championships and World Cup, and the 1994 World Championships)! The total of his player and coaching (national team) medals (51) marks him as the Croat with the most trophies in this sport. In a nutshell; Ratko Rudić! They called him “the Dictator”, “the Tyrant” and all sorts of other names, but his sports philosophy proved superior and victorious. No one feels sorry for tyrants and dictators, and his former players (with rare exceptions) have only kind words for Ratko Rudić, because he gave them a chance – albeit with a lot of effort on their part – to become successful trophy winners themselves. Furthermore, Rudić’s former pupils, Perica Bukić, Goran Sukno and Milivoj Bebić, who were at the head of the Croatian Water Polo Federation at the time, were responsible for his return to Croatia in December 2004. ”Bukić is the best example of how one can be successful in other businesses, even in politics, after

– silver at the 1980 Olymp ic Games in Moscow – silver at the 1977 Europ ean Championships in Jon koping – silver at the 1975 Medit erranean Games in Algeria – bronze at the 1973 Wo rld Championships in Bel grade – bronze at the 1970 Eur opean Championship in Bar celona – bronze at the 1974 Eur opean Championshisp in Vie nna – bronze at the 1979 FIN A Cup in Belgrade and Rije ka Trophies with the nation al team (as a coach): – gold at the 1984 Olymp ic Games in Los Angeles (Yugoslavia) – gold at the 1988 Olymp ic Games in Seoul (Yugos lavia) – gold at the 1992 Olymp ic Games in Barcelona (Ita ly) – gold at the 1986 World Championships in Madri d (Yugoslavia) – gold at the 1994 World Championships in Rom e (Ita ly) – gold at the 2007 World Championships in Melbo urn e (Croatia) – gold at the 1993 Europ ean Championships in She ffield (Italy) – gold at the 1995 Europ ean Championships in Vie nna (Italy) – gold at the 1987 FINA Cup (Yugoslavia) – gold at the 1993 FINA Cup (Italy) – gold at the 1991 Medit erranean Games (Italy) – gold at the 1993 Medit erranean Games (Italy) – gold at the 2003 Pan-Am erican Games (The USA) – silver at the 1985 Europ ean Championships in Sofi a (Yugoslavia) – silver at the 1987 Europ ean Championships in Str asbourg (Yugoslavia) – silver at the 1995 FINA Cup (Italy) – silver at the 1999 FINA Cup (Italy) – silver at the 2010 FINA Cup in Oradea – silver at the 2009 World League in Podgorica (Cr oatia) – silver at the 1985 Unive rsity Games in Kobe (Yu gos lavia) – silver at the 1983 Junior World Championships (Yu gos lavia) – silver at the 1983 and 1984 Junior European Ch am pio nsh ips (Yugoslavia) – bronze at the 1996 Oly mpic Games in Atlant. (Ita ly) – bronze at the 2009 Wo rld Championships in Rom e (Croatia) – bronze at the 1999 Eur opean Championships in Florence (Italy) – bronze at the 2003 Wo rld League (The USA) – bronze at 2010 World League (Niš, Serbia) – bronze at the 1987 Un iversity Games in Zagreb (Yugoslavia) Club trophies (as a player ): – European Championsh ips: 1974 and 1975 (Partiz an) – Yugoslav Championsh isp: 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978 and 1979 (Partizan) – Winter Championships : 1967 (Jadran) and 1972 (Partizan) – Yugoslav Cup: 1973, 197 4, 1975, 1977, 1978 and 197 9 (Partizan) Awards and recognitions – AVNOJ award in 1989. – Franjo Bučar national sports award (2007) – member of the Hall of Fame since 2007

ending a sports career. Pero underwent my drill, in which I demanded complete dedication from my players. Today we are associates, looking for the best possible solutions for Croatian water polo,” says Rudić of his president. Rudić was born into a Croatian family (his father was from the Dalmatian hinterland and his mother from Gorski Kotar) in 1948 in Belgrade, where his father, a military officer, was stationed at the time. He grew up in Belgrade and Rijeka, and had his first taste of water polo in Zadar, in Jedinstvo’s pool, when he was ten. After four years in Zadar, his father was reassigned to Split, and Ratko became a member of Jadran in 1963, remaining there for eight years before leaving for Partizan. Before he left for Belgrade, his family moved to Zagreb and for a while, he travelled to and fro between Split and Zagreb (trying to study architecture at the same time) which was exhausting. He practised with Medveščak while in Zagreb, because Mladost kept themselves to themselves at the time. “Mladost had a great team at the time, but it consisted of mostly older players and it was apparent they wouldn’t be at the top for a long time to come. On the other hand, Partizan had taken my friends from the national team in those years; Siniša Belamarić from Šibenik, Duško Antunović

from Korčula, Uroš Marović from Split, and the coach was Vlaho Orlić from Dubrovnik. I judged that the Belgrade team offered more in terms of sports improvement and that was my only motive for going to Belgrade, where I spent the next 19 years,” Rudić later explained. And truly, Partizan from Belgrade really did take over the primacy in the following years, not only

PARTIZAN – Winner of the Champions’ Cup 1975.


in Yugoslav but also in European water polo. During Rudić’s playing career (from 1971 to 1981) the team from Belgrade won two Champions Cups (1974 and 1975), eight national Championships (Rudić did not take part in winning the 1976 crown because he was doing military service at the time) and seven National Cups (plus the Winter Championships in 1972). Rudić wanted to match his club success with national team successes too (279 matches) but he had bad luck in that area. In the Mexico City Olympics, when the national team won gold, he was still 12th player, on the bench. In the next Olympics, in 1972 in Munich, he was in the standard line-up, but the team only won fifth place. Events in the 1975 World Championships in Cali (Colombia) permanently marked the career and life of Ratko Rudić: he was accused of taking drugs, and Yugoslavia was disqualified from contending for a medal. Remembering those days is still painful for Rudić, “It was definitely the most difficult moment of my career. When they told me the test result and the penalty, I was shocked, as were all my teammates. We were playing superbly, we had made it to the semifinal and then to have something like that happen! Of course I didn’t use any illegal substances, which was later proved; although our initial thought was that I had been framed by opponents. What actually happened is that I had to wait two or three hours for the urine test after the match with Germany. During that time, I drank soft drinks, Coca-Cola among others, and I even lit a cigarette. This resulted in quinine in my body, which is why the dope test appeared positive,” said Rudić about the most difficult episode in his playing career. Following the World Championships, Rudić immediately went to Cologne, to the laboratory of Manfred Doneke, the chief of IOC’s doping control, where he proved his innocence. Doneke even included Rudić’s case in the expert literature as a classic example of mistaken analysis. But, at the time, Rudić and other national team players went through a difficult period in Cali. “We were so apathetic in our next match against Colombia, no one wanted to swim for the ball. Later FINA apologized officially, but the official denial was nowhere near as powerful as the original news. Anyway, our chance to win the medal was gone. It hit me hard, because I wanted that medal badly,” Rudić recalls. But his string of bad luck did not end in South America. Just before the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, he broke his fist. “It happened in the last preparation match against FR Germany. I stayed with the team in Montreal but I didn’t play. And I was in my prime. Later came the army and my playing career took a nosedive,” says Rudić. Despite all these difficulties, Rudić kept his place in the national team, and was in fact one of its core players. In 1977, he won a silver medal in the European Championships in Jonkoping, and two years later he won a gold in the Split Mediterranean Games and bronzes in the World Cups in Belgrade and Rijeka. In his playing career farewell, he was rewarded with a silver Olympic medal in Moscow in 1980. But the gold in the biggest competitions never came. What he failed to win as a player, Rudić made up for as a coach. He admits that the bad luck of his player days was additional motivation to make it as a coach. NATIONAL WATER POLO TEAM 1985.


“I thought I deserved more. I wanted to win gold medals in the biggest competitions and that boosted my coaching ambition. I still have that ambition and energy today, otherwise I wouldn’t be in this business,” he concludes. The rest is history. In an unparalleled coaching onslaught, Rudić won everything that could be won. What he could not do with the Yugoslav national team (win the European title) he managed to do with Italy, and he did it twice. He even won a medal for the Americans (a bronze in the 2003 World League) and he received validation where he most wanted it – as the national team coach of


Croatia, which he took over in December 2004. He already signed had a new four-year contract with the Americans, but they understood his desire to return home finally(after 33 years). And so, once more, he ascended the world throne with Croatia (having done the same with Yugoslavia and Italy). He won his favourite medal, and he won it in Australia! Those spring (or autumn, if you like) days of pride and glory in Melbourne in 2007 reached their pinnacle on April 1st (no, it was not a joke) in the final triumph against Hungary (9:8 after overtime). While we waited for the medal

ceremony and the national anthem, I could only say this to Rudić, “I knew you were good, but not that good!” Other coaches had won World and Olympic golds, but none of them could do it repeatedly, the way Rudić did. Due to his exceptional achievements in sports, Rudić has received many recognitions and awards. He was the winner of the greatest national sports award in Yugoslavia (the AVNOJ award) and in Croatia (the Franjo Bučar award) along with a number of awards in the USA and especially in Italy.

Božo Vuletić

A Rebel with a Cause

Date of birth: July 1st, 195 8 Place of birth: Dubrovni k Player career: 1973-1984 Jug; 1988-1989 Mameli, Italy Coaching career: 1989-199 3 Catania, Italy; 1993-1994 Mestrina, Italy; 1994-1996 Bellevue, Dubrovnik; 1996-1997 Mla do st; since 1999 Salerno, Italy Trophies with the nation al team: – gold at the 1984 Olymp ic Games in Los Angeles. Trophies with the club: – European Champions: 1980 (Jug) – Yugoslav Champions: 1980, 1981, 1982 and 198 3 (Jug) – Yugoslav Cup: 1981 and 1983 (Jug)

He came to the pool at Gruž at the age of 15. He came to the swimming club but was told he was too old to start training as a swimmer. Angry he could not join the swimming club, where some of his friends already were, he knocked on the neighbouring door of the water polo club. They took him in, and through a string of lucky circumstances, within a few months Božo Vuletić was on a wider list of talented young men gathering for the preparations in Kranj. There were no major competitions for that age category, but he excelled in the tournaments. Already the following year, he was a junior representative, and the team won the Six Nations tournament in Solaris in Šibenik. Božo Vuletić was one of the best. Professor Milivoj Petković already had him working with the first team. – We played a double round, in Kotor and in Bijela. We lost the match in Kotor, and levelled the score in Bijela. The club there was called Mladost, it was my first match for Jug – he remembers his debut in the first team cap. Luko Vezilić was in Jug’s goal, and the players were Staničić, Ruso, Garvan, Savinović, Milić... Božo Vuletić wrote down every piece of information. On many occasions he was known to correct incorrect information; he knew the statistics to a single goal, not only his or his team mates’, but of every player in the League. – My position was one of the three outside – he used to say. He was a dangerous player. You never knew where he would shoot and score from. He monitored the goalie’s movements, literally deciding at the last possible moment where to aim. Professor Milivoj Petković was the creator of the Jug team which became famous at the beginning of the 1980s. Jug’s “important generation”, as Vuletić called it. – I practised every day for only one reason – to be the best – Vuletić used to say. – Apart from that – he would always add – you had to be lucky to be in a team with six or seven great players. Jug became the Yugoslav and European champions in 1980, national champion after a 29-year wait and for the first time in history, the best European team. – I will never forget the complete madness in the City. Celebrations on every corner. We were welcomed everywhere. It wasn’t only our victory, of

the players, coaches and the management; it was everyone’s victory, of our fans. It was the success of the entire city. He played 58 matches for Yugoslavia. The first major competition he played in was the 1982 World Championships. – We had a bit of a bad luck there. The Hungarians scored a goal against us in the last seconds, and it made us have to fight for placement between 5th and 8th positions. Otherwise, we would have been in contention for a medal. It is the success that stimulates you, and when a goal is scored against you five seconds before the end, and what’s worse from the centre, it is understandable to be disappointed. I was very, very disappointed – remembers Vuletić. After returning from the World Championships he said: – Luck turned its back on us, but sooner or later, what goes around comes around. And it already came around at the next major competition, the biggest of all, the Los Angeles Olympic Games. It came around and it was big. It is the dream of every athlete to win at the Olympics. A large number of things had to come together. They did come together, precisely in Los Angeles. Trifko Banđur, the coach under whose guidance he won his first two titles in 1980, once said: – It was a generation which remained understated. They never confirmed the win in Europe. It looked like an accidental win. – Yes, we blundered. We lost the 1983 Champions Cup semi-final to Pro Recco. The Italians were aggressive in the first match, brutal in contact. And the refereeing was bad too. We lost by one goal difference, but despite that we were convinced we could win the rematch and make it to the final. We lost the rematch with one goal difference too. It was a failure despite the fact that Pro Recco had a great team. But then again, it was difficult to expect to repeat the European feat from 1980 easily. A shot with a hold; that is where Božo Vuletić was the best in the world. It was his biggest weapon. He competed with Veselin Đuho for the mantle of Jug’s and the League’s top scorer. He managed to win in 1982. Jug was the best team by far, as many as 13 points ahead of second-placed POŠK, 14 more than Partizan from Belgrade, which finished third. Božo Vuletić was the League’s top scorer. In the last match of the championships, in celebration of the new national title, he shook the net of Primorje from Rijeka ten times.

– The title of the League top scorer is a huge success for me– he used to say. The most beautiful moment of his career was winning the gold Olympic medal in Los Angeles. He, so to speak, finished his playing career there, at the age of 26. Upon returning from the Olympics he came into conflict with the coach and the club management. They called him a rebel and a good for nothing. He was late for the start of preparations for the second part of the championship after returning from LA. Đuro Savinović, his coach at the time with whom he played for several seasons, degraded him to the second team. It remained written: “His character contributed to the fact that he stopped at only the LA gold medal. He was an extremely dangerous player. Gifted for the counterattack”. – The club made a mistake. It didn’t have to be like that -Božo Vuletić will say. He left water polo. He spent four years out of the pool. One evening, at the end of 1988, he received a phone call from Italy. It was Boško Lozica who was a coach in Mameli. The team in question did not have any foreigners. Lozica remembered Vuletić. – When he called me I burst out laughing. I hadn’t had a decent swim in four years. But Boško insisted. I said yes, although it wasn’t easy. I had to lose weight, I was 30 kilos overweight. I did it, but I was nowhere near the form I had before. I played only one season. There was no point in continuing. Professor Milivoj Petković, who was his coach at the beginning, was a coach in Catania at the end of 1980s. He recommended Božo and that is where the coaching career of Božo Vuletić began. There were no trophies. Several times he managed to bring the team from the lower ranks of competition to the higher. In the mid 1990s he returned home. He coached Bellevue, and then left for the Sava, where he took over Mladost, Zagreb. The semi-final defeat in the Champions League Final Four tournament played in Zagreb was the reason why he did not stay on the Frogs’ bench until the end of the season. After that he was the head of the younger categories in Jug of Dubrovnik. When Kovačević was leaving, his name was mentioned in the discussions about a new coach for the first team. The same thing happened when Veselin Đuho, who came after Kovačević, was leaving, but he was replaced by Emil Nikolić. Božo Vuletić emphasizes on any occasion he can: – Not only do I want to be the coach of Jug, I will be the coach of Jug.


He started his long line of successes as a swimmer. Đuho ruled the pools of the former state in the youngest categories; he won in any competition at the 100m and 200m butterfly, and also competed in the 400m and 1500m freestyle. His swimming qualities were noticed in Gruž, and Boro Andrić, a Jug player during the 1970s, “convinced” Đuho to transfer from swimming to water polo. His first match for Jug was in 1976. Željko Vukčević, the captain of Jug at the time, was suspended for one match. Đuho played his first match well and retained his place in the first team, even after the captain returned. At the time, Professor Milivoj Petković decided to implement a generation change. Đuro Savinović, Luko Vezilić, Dubravko Staničić and Ivica Dabrović were the only ones left from the older generation. Apart from Đuho, Petković pushed Antonijo Milat, Goran Sukno, Luka and Božo Vuletić, Niko Matušić into the arena. It did not take long for the results to show. By 1979, Gruž announced their intention to contend for the title. Dubrovnik had waited for that move for 29 years. During the last weeks of 1980, Jug won its first European Champions title. Đuho was already on the list for the senior national team of Yugoslavia. He had his debut in 1979 in Romania. In a tournament in Cluj, he filled the nets of Romania, Hungary, Italy and USSR. Tripun Ćirković did not take him to the Moscow Olympics, but in the next two Olympic tournaments, in Los Angeles and Seoul, he was back on


the top step of the pedestal. As a reminder of the final of the Games in Seoul, a recording of his winning goal in the overtime of the final against the USA is on view in the Water Polo Hall of Fame. He was the team captain. He said his farewells in a match against Italy, organized as a tribute. He deserved it, because not only did he win two Olympic gold medals, but he was also a world champion, two years after Los Angeles, and two years before Seoul. The only thing he did not manage to win was the European gold. He was twice within an inch of taking it, but both times the USSR made sure he did not complete his collection of gold medals, a collection he started with the gold from the Mediterranean Games in Casablanca in 1983. He was best player many times, but two of his matches are legendary: the deciding match against Italy for the European Championships final, when he scored five goals out of seven, and the national championships match against Bečej, when he scored ten goals. He was the top scorer in the Championship several times. As a player, he was in the European Champions team with Jug, won the national Championships and SFRY Cup. He also played in two Cup Winners’ Cups. He started his coaching career in Cagliari, where he ended his playing career. In the summer of 1997, he succeeded Neven Kovačević. Just as the mid 1970s when he was a player, he also participated in the creation of a great Gruž team at the end of 1990s. The work was completed in 2000.

After 15 years, Jug were the national champions, and the champions of Croatia for the first time. Đuho led his team to its second European trophy, the LEN Cup. The next year, he took them one step further. Gruž was on fire on 18th and 19th of May when Final Four competition took place there. First, Bečej was defeated and then Olympiakos in the final. Jug were the European Champions. Only a few years earlier, the club won another national title. He said his farewells to Gruž in 2003, after defeat in the fifth and final match of the Croatian Championships. His reaction was unsportsmanlike as he verbally assaulted the referees at the end of the match. There was adverse public reaction to the incident, and he stepped down as the national team coach. He did not take Croatia to the European championships in Kranj or the World Championships in Barcelona. His path led to Greece. Olympicos was eager to regain the lost national championships. He successfully fulfilled the mission. He won them the double crown in the first season, defended the title the following summer and returned home. He spent one season in Šibenik and then headed towards the Sava, to join the ranks of Jug’s greatest rival in recent years. And it was precisely Jug that cost him his new position on the bench of Mladost. After several months out of the game, he started coaching Budvanska Rivijera, taking the club to a historical success – a placement in the Euro League.

Veselin Đuho

rovnik The Most Successful Dub th Athlete of the 20 Century

th 1960 , Date of birth: January 5 a and Herzegovina) sni (Bo a Foč Place of birth: Italy; 1991-1994 9 Jug; 1989-1991 Salerno, Playing career: 1974-198 Cagliari, Italy Jug; 7 Cagliari, Italy; 1997-2003 Coaching career: 1994-199 Olympiacos, 005 3-2 al team coach; 200 2002-2003 Croatian nation 008, since 7-2 200 st; do k; 2006-2007 Mla Greece; 2005-2006 Šibeni ch coa national team 2009 Koper as Slovenian al team (as a player): Trophies with the nation ic Games in Los Angeles – gold at the 1984 Olymp ic Games in Seoul – gold at the 1988 Olymp ampionships in Madrid Ch rld – gold at the 1986 Wo anca erranean Games in Casabl – gold at the 1983 Medit a Sofi in ips nsh ean Champio – silver at the 1985 Europ ourg asb Str in ips nsh pio ean Cham – silver at the 1987 Europ al team (as a coach): Trophies with the nation Istanbul World Championships in – silver at the 2001 Junior a player): Trophies with the club (as : 1980 (Jug) ips – European Championsh 5 (Jug) 1981, 1982, 1983 and 198 0, 198 ns: – Yugoslav Champio 1983 (Jug) – Yugoslav Cup: 1981 and a coach): (as b clu Trophies with the g) (Ju 1 200 : – Euro League – LEN Cup: 2000 (Jug) ips: 2000 and 2001 (Jug) – Croatian Championsh 2002 (Jug) – Croatian Cup: 2000 and ) 4 and 2005 (Olympiacos 200 : – Greek Championships piacos) – Greek Cup: 2004 (Olym ips: 2010 (Koper) nsh pio – Slovenian Cham

Awards: 2001. – Best coach of Croatia with the the Red Danice Hrvatske of er ord the ed – Award Pletera and the Red Hrvatskog portrail of Franjo Bučar th tury vnik athlete of the 20 cen – Most successful Dubro


On the World’s Throne after Eight Overtimes! Previously, at the World Championships in Madrid in 1986 (from 13 to 24 August), Ratko Rudić led the Yugoslavs to the world throne for the first time. In a dramatic final game, Yugoslavia defeated Italy 12:11 (7:7), but only after the eighth overtime, with the famous goal by Igor Milanović, four tenths of a second before the end. The USSR was third. The Croatian players in Rudić’s winning team were Perica Bukić (1966), Veselin Đuho (1960), Deni Lušić (1962), Goran Sukno (1960), Tomislav Paškvalin (1961), Dubravko Šimenc (1966) and Mirko Vičević (1968 ). The rest of the team consisted of the experienced goalie Milorad Krivokapić (in the finals in 1956 he played his 299th game for the national team), Andrija Popović (1960), Dragan Andrić (1962), Igor Milanović (1965), Anto Vasović (1967) and Zoran Petrović (1960 ). Milivoj Bebić, the best shooter and player of the previous World Cup, would have also been in the team but he had broken his arm in the tournament in Athens (in a duel with Australia), so instead Rudić called a Croat from Boka Kotorska, Mirko Vičević. First, in its group, Yugoslavia defeated Australia 12:4, but tied against Cuba 11:11. Then Rudić’s chosen men defeated Spain 10:6 (Paškvalin and Bukić three goals each) in front of 3,000 local supporters and virtually secured the semi-finals. – The Yugoslavs played great. The absence of their star Milivoj Bebić was not felt at all – said the Spanish coach Antonio Esteller. The Yugoslavs’ successful streak continued with their defeat of Italy 8:5, and they reached the semi-finals as the first in the group to play against the second team from another semi-final group – the USSR. It was actually the finals before the finals, the Olympic winners and the world champions came face to face. The Yugoslav water polo players defeated Zbornaja 8:6 (three goals by Sukno). They were especially convincing in the last quarter, which they won 4:1. With determination and by playing better in defence, Sukno the captain and his teammates managed to overpower the strong USSR for the first time in five years.


In the second semi-final clash, Italy defeated the USA 10:9, so in the finals Yugoslavia met with the Azzuri again. In front of 5,000 spectators, an epic victory and the first world gold were won, in a duel with overtimes which lasted for as much as 52 minutes! The Yugoslav national team finished the game without five players and played with just three men (Paškvalin, Milanović and Petrović). There was plenty of excitement, maybe not so much beauty, but the captain Goran Sukno put it well: – Decisive games are not pretty in other team sports either! Rudić’s chosen men, the world champions and the Olympic winners, had an important test at the World University Games in Zagreb in 1987 (from 5 to 19 July). In the previous World University Games in the Japanese city of Kobe they had won a silver medal playing in the finals against the USSR, so now in the competition which left the Croatian capital with many sports facilities, they needed to win the gold. However, others had plans and ambitions of their own, so the Yugoslav team had to content themselves with a bronze medal. The following Croatian players managed to do that: Renco Posinković, Tomislav Paškvalin, Denis Lušić, Marinko Roje, Perica Bukić and Mirko Vičević, with Aleksandar Šoštar, Zoran Petrović, Igor Milanović, Goran Rađenović, Dragan Andrić, Igor Gočanin and Anto Vasović as part of the team. Dubravko Šimenc was absent due to an injury. Matches on the River Sava were exceptionally well attended, so the Yugoslav victory over the Americans (9:6, three goals by Bukić) was watched by 4,000 people, and the one against Cuba (12:9) by 3000. The semi-finals with Italy filled the stands once again, but Yugoslavia fell flat. By playing more wisely and more calmly, the Italians won 8:6, and it is interesting that all the goals in the matches were scored by the Belgrade players: Andrić, three, Gočanin two and Milanović one. In the match for third place, a rerun of the finals from Kobe, Yugoslavia defeated the USSR 13:6, although they were playing without Milanović, who was excluded in the previous match, so Rudić kept him resting and did not introduce him to the game. In the finals, Italy overpowered Cuba 15:14 (12:12) after overtimes.

THE TEAM WHICH WON THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN MADRID IN 1986 – Krivokapić, Sukno, Popović, Petrović, Đuho, Lušić, Paškvalin, selector Rudić (standing); Andrić, Milanović, Vasović, Vičević, Bukić and Šimenc (squatting).


Zoran Roje’s is a special story in Croatian water polo. It is almost impossible to find a person who holds a grudge against this always calm gentleman from Kvarner, with a pronounced sense for sportsmanlike conduct, but also self-criticism. He has always been like this, as a player, and today, as a teacher and successful sports coach. Dalmatian in heritage (“There are many Rojes, we are one of the clans” he says), he fell in love with and is eternally loyal to Rijeka, Kvarner and Primorje. His father was a military officer who, when Zoran was 12 or 13, was reassigned from Split to Rijeka. It was precisely at that time that the records of the club from Kantrida registered Zoran’s first practices in Primorje. Little did anyone know in 1968 that the club from Rijeka, coached by Franjo Nonković at the time, would acquire one of its best, most famous players in Zoran, a player who could stand side by side with the greatest, like Jobo Curtini. For Roje, Primorje was not just his first club or launching pad, one in a long line of clubs where he would earn money, gain fame or build a career. In his case, and these are not just empty words, the club from Rijeka became part of his life, his family and himself. As a player, he was loyal to Primorje until 1985. During the 1970s, he drew attention to himself with his game and it was impossible to imagine the national team without Roje, the only player from Rijeka. To make your way into the national team from Primorje, at that time and in that league, in competition with strong clubs from Split, as well as Jug, KPK and Partizan from Belgrade, was a true feat. This in itself is proof enough of Roje’s quality. He was the key figure in winning the only trophy that Rijeka ever won in the Yugoslav period, the 1979 Cup, and the only player from Rijeka to win both Olympic silver (Moscow) and gold (Los Angeles) medals. In the water and out of it, he formed an unbreakable quartet with Bebić, Đuho and Sukno. He was the one who “fed” balls to the world’s greatest shot maker of the last century; balls which were then put away in the opponents nets. He was a first class “packer”! After the Olympics in California, it was finally time for him to weigh anchor and leave the harbour in Rijeka: he transferred to Canottieri in Naples, an Italian club with a lot of prestige and many trophies. He spent eight years in the Apennines, six in Serie A, but the relatively short time spent there was enough for the Italians to consider him one of the best foreigners ever to play in the best league in the world. An interesting fact is that he never won the Championship there either, although he played in two finals. He played for Caserta in the second league from 1990 to 1992, and finished his playing career in 1993, as a 38-year old, coached by his best friend, Milivoj Bebić. As soon as he hung up his cap, his first wish was to return to Rijeka, where he took over the first team immediately. Only two years later, he won the Croatian Cup with Primorje, thus becoming the only person to take part in winning both of Primorje’s two post-war trophies. He reached the national championship finals on three more occasions, losing to Mladost and Jug. He was elected coach of the year in Rijeka on two occasions, in 1995 and 1997. Perhaps he gained more prominence through the affirmation of a long line of young players whom he discovered


or helped establish as players (Hinić, Barač, Burić, Benić, Glavan, Franković, Premuš, Car...). He proved his loyalty to Rijeka and Primorje on many occasions, turning down generous offers from Mladost and Italian clubs. There was only one invitation he did not turn down, when Veselin Đuho was removed in 2003 and he took over the helm of the national senior team. It was only three weeks before the European Championships in Kranj and taking the responsibility for fine-tuning the team at such a short notice was proof of his great courage and self-confidence. He invited the 23 year-old Burić, a complete water polo anonymity, to join the team for the first time. Roje’s Croatia impressed Europe in Slovenia, winning the silver, although only three weeks earlier, no one gave the team much chance of getting past the quarterfinal. He stepped down from the national team’s helm after failure in the Athens Olympics a year later, when he (and this was so like him) accepted complete responsibility. “I stand behind my players and I won’t say a word against them. They are the best and the greatest in my opinion. This all means that their coach was unable to lead them,” Roje said after a difficult night in Athens. Can you think of any other example of a coach reacting like that after a defeat, or elimination? Zoran Roje was a great player, top coach and a matchless gentleman.

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th: Janua Date of bir th: Šibenik ach Place of bir ater polo co n: lawyer, w enik ib Š s s, Greeri la Occupatio o Olympiaco 57-1967 S 79 19 9 r: -1 e 78 re 19 ca Playing goslavia; 77 Solaris; team of Yu er: 1968-19 l a re n o ca ti g a n in ia; 1984Coach d junior of Yugoslav m Biograd an a 1 8 te 9 l Gla -1 n 0 o 8 ce; 19 nior nati ; 1986-1992 lector of se cos, Greece ia se p s, 4 8 m co ly 19 ia O 3p 198 85-1986 98 Olym Greece; 19 or; 1995-19 s, ct Al io le 2 h 0 C se 5 20 k 8 e 19 95 Gre selector; ece; 1992-19 2001 Iran’s ; re d ce G n e , a a re 6 d 0 G a , 5yf alkida r; 200 n’s selecto 98-1999 Ch rabia Greece; 19 02-2004 Ira 20 ; ia, Saudi A ia sy b e ra d A a i Q d l u A a S 10 , 0 ia -2 Qadesy ctor; 2009 vakian sele 2007-08 Slo : m taly) onal tea es in Bari (I ith the nati anean Gam rr e Trophies w it d e M 7 t the 199 95 – bronze a lyfada), 19 ith clubs: and 1990 (G w 9 8 19 7, 8 Trophies 19 86, ampion: 19 – Greek Ch mpiacos) s) co ia p ), 1998 (Oly a m d ly fa (O ly 6 (G 9 9 and 19 87 and 198 cos) p: 1986, 19 8 (Olympia – Greek Cu 97 and 199 19 : ) p u ia C sy r e e p (Al Qad – Greek Su pion: 2010 m a h C ia b – Saudi Ara

More than four decades of a fruitful coaching career are behind Ante Nakić. Alongside Ratko Rudić, if not the only one, then certainly he was one of a few water polo coaches who was the selector of as many as four national teams from an equal number of countries. He was a coach who created some world class players, who are today members of the water sports Hall of Fame. The coach who found his way equally well in swimming pools in hot Greece, even warmer and richer in sand Saudi Arabia, as well as in an Eastern European country such as Slovakia. There is no need to discuss his influence on the development of water polo in Croatia. We will only mention that he led Solaris in 1975 into the first league for the first time. However, when you come to his hometown Šibenik, which is not so large, and ask a passer-by whether they know about Ante Nakić and where to find him, you will see a thousand question marks in their eyes. – Huh-huh, of course you will since people have always called me Mile, and everyone knows me simply as Mile. But my real name is Ante Nakić. He was just a small child when he was nicknamed Mile. This nickname, in time, became so familiar that it ‘squeezed’ out his real name, Ante. However, that is perhaps a fact of lesser importance. Ante Nakić is the man who created water polo for an entire country, Greece. The only trophies in the history of Glyfada are his. The best club in the country, Pyrean Olympiacos, had every reason to choose him to be their coach for three terms. In

total, he led four premier league clubs in Greece, as well as the national team, with which he won the bronze at the Mediterranean Games (which is one of Nakić’s three such medals in the role of coach). – I believe that the job I did in Greece was huge and good. The national team defeated the Russians, Germans, and French for the first time in history, and surpassed them later on. In 2010, of twelve of the then first league players, as many as seven are coached by my former players. You know, that is a form of appreciation, it is true success. It is not all about medals. And the story does not end there: it was Ante Nakić who paved the way for numerous Croatian coaches and players who later and still today are precious for this country. The wider public, however, is less familiar with the fact that Ante Nakić was the SFRY’s national team selector who took on Perica Bukić for the first time. – That was at the beginning of 1984, at a tournament in Naples. Italy A, Italy B, Canada and Yugoslavia took part. And Bukić is not ‘his’ only product. He included two of the best Serbian water polo players of all time in the national team – the goalkeeper Šoštar and the centre player Milanović, who is a member of the Hall of Fame. In spring 1984, only two months before the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Ante Nakić withdrew from the job of selector, to be replaced by Ratko Rudić. A large part of that Olympic gold certainly belongs to him too. If you do not know who we mean, we are talking about Mile Nakić!


For Yugoslavia, the European Championships “Cursed” At the European Championships, the first place seemed to be cursed for the Yugoslavs. In Sofia in 1985 (from 4 to 11 August) and in Strasbourg in 1987 (from 16 to 23 August), Rudić’s chosen men had to contend themselves with a silver medal. In Sofia, the defeat from Hungary 7:4 was crucial, in Strasbourg two ties – with Italy (7:7) and the USSR (9:9). The USSR was triumphant in both Championships, while the bronze medal in Sofia was won by the Germans, and in Strasbourg by the Italians. It is worth noting that in Sofia Yugoslavia defeated Germany 7:6 and Italy 10:9, and tied against the champion, the USSR 7:7. In Strasbourg, it overpowered Hungary 9:7, Bulgaria 10:2, Spain 8:6, Germany 11:8, and Romania 14:7. Only one goal in the match with Zbornaja kept Rudić and his chosen men from their first European gold. At the next Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988 (from 17 September to 2 October), eight Croats contributed to seizing a new gold medal: Deni Lušić, Dubravko Šimenc, Perica Bukić, Veselin Đuho, Mislav Bezmalinović, Mirko Vičević, Tomislav Paškvalin and Renco Posinković (with also Aleksandar Šoštar, Dragan Andrić, Igor Gočanin, Igor Milanović and Goran Rađenović in the team). However, the beginning in the Korean capital was anything but good: a defeat by the Americans 7:6, with a goal received five seconds before the end of the match! The gold could only be defended by winning the following duel with the Hungarians and that is why that game was extremely difficult for Yugoslavia. However, they managed to “save” the match against


the Hungarians – with a victory of 10:9 (three goals by Đuho, two by Bukić, and Šoštar defended a four meter penalty). – We played under a lot of pressure. We had everything to lose in this match, and such matches are not easy to play – explained Paškvalin. As Spain defeated the USA 9:7, the Yugoslavs were back in the running for the gold. After that, they defeated Spain 10:8, in front of 4,000 spectators, in a game in which, apart from the opponents, they had to deal with the referees: the Dutch Van Dorp and even more with Troicki of the USSR. – Why did he need to assign those four meter penalties against us? – asked coach Rudić about Troicki. Ante Lambaša, who was the first official of FINA for one term, made an interesting prediction: – Water polo will be a compulsory part of physical education in schools throughout the world at the beginning of the 21st century. Maybe it did not come true, but water polo became very popular and received better coverage in the media. Thus, the victory of the Yugoslav water polo players in the semi-finals in Seoul over Germany 14:10 (four goals by Lušić and Milanović) took a prominent place and a great deal of space in all the newspapers of the time. The Yugoslavs were excluded 14 times, and the Germans only eight, but ... – Since our players are excellent even with one player less, they can afford to play rougher – said the famous water polo referee of the time, Željko Klarić.

In the second semi-finals, the USA defeated the USSR 8:7, so in the finals the gold and silver medal winners from the previous games in Los Angeles, the Yugoslavs and the Americans came face to face. Yugoslavia was again losing 5:2, but managed to level to 6:6 and after overtimes, win 9:7 and defend the gold medal. The Americans kept their silver, and Ratko Rudić proved himself to be a top class expert. In the match for third place, the USSR defeated West Germany 14:13. – The more overtimes there are, the more confident I am that we will win the match – said Rudić somewhat jokingly. And the captain of the Yugoslav national team, Veselin Đuho, summarized it: – When the Americans took the lead 5:2, I remembered Los Angeles and the same result. I knew that we were physically better prepared than the Americans and that the turnaround had to happen sooner or later. Among those who were particularly happy with the water polo gold was the boxer Željko Mavrović. He ran several laps around with the flag and in the end, jumped into the water completely dressed, to the astonishment of the Korean security guards. The president of the Yugoslav Water polo Federation, Celestin Sardelić could not hide his excitement in the TV Zagreb studio: – The gold in Seoul is just a continuation of successful results of the recent years. The serious, professional and organized work of the professional staff led by Rudić has borne rich fruit and made water polo the most successful sport in the country – said Sardelić.

SEOUL, 1988 MADRID, 1986


THE YUGOSLAV NATIONAL TEAM IN 1984 – Milorad Krivokapić, Milivoj Bebić, Deni Lušić, Dragan Andrić, Perica Bukić, Veselin Đuho, Zoran Petrović, Tomislav Paškvalin, Igor Milanović, Goran Sukno, Božo Vuletić, Andrija Popović, Zoran Roje



vić o k n i s Po ong Renco alist am Journ t s e B e Th layers P o l o P Water uary 4 , 1964

ch n olo coa birth: Ja water p d n a r e Date of ine Split Jadran ical eng f birth: o-techn Place o 89-1996 tr 9 1 c ; le r a e : rn tion Mo Occupa 86-1989 reer: 19 a c m: g in Play onal tea the nati mpics h it ly s w O l s u ionship 8 Seo Trophie 8 9 1 t Champ a l ld a nships o d e io W p m th – gold 91 Per n Cham 9 a 1 e t p a l ro 987 and a ed onn Eu niki in 1 B lo 9 a 8 s – gold m s 9 1 e t Th medal a A Cup in – silver t the FIN a l a d e – gold m A Cup lona FIN e 989 1 rc a in B rl 1 e B t 199 medal a adran) – silver lubs: c d 1992 (J h n it a w 1 s 9 9 ie :1 Troph ampion rnar) ean Ch 86 (Mo 9 1 : – Europ p u C ’ rs e adran) n in : 1991 (J n io – Cup W p m lav Cha – Yugos th

The best writer in water, unrivalled. Or the best journalist among water polo players. Although in comparison with his sports career, no matter how interesting, the latter is somewhat modest. Not because Renco is not equally skilled in writing, but because he was hardly beatable between the goals. A classical offspring of the Split goalkeepers school, which was the best in this sport not only nationally, but globally (Mihovilović, Rebić, Školneković, Posinković, the father and two sons Kačić, Pavić, Brzica...). Renco is the more intriguing because he loved his Split above all and more than anybody. In his whole career, he never moved away from his hometown, or from only two clubs – Mornar and Jadran. Actually, he left Split from time to time, but only to return a week or two later with a medal around his neck. Already at the beginning of his career, he was crowned with the European champion’s title – the Cup Winners’ Cup with Mornar in 1986. Two years later, he entered the hall of fame – as an Olympic winner. Renco Posinković was among the first sportsmen and sportswomen in Croatia to leave the Yugoslav national team at the time


of the war in 1991, together with Bukić, Šimenc, Bezmalinović and Vasović. In that same year, he took the European title with Jadran, which was the first European championship title for a Croatian club, in all sports. A year later, Jadran repeated the success by winning the second championship title of the Old Continent, while Renco had a distinguished role in being the best player of the finals after the return game in Split. He defended the goal for the Croatian national team from 1992 until 1996, just before the Olympic Games in Atlanta. That summer, he finished his playing career, and started work as a journalist. For a whole decade he worked as Split correspondent for the daily newspaper Vjesnik, then for a shorter time with the sports newspaper Sportske Novosti, and soon with the Split-based newspaper Glas Dalmacije. But he has never left the swimming-pool. Moreover, he has been coaching goalkeepers all the time, both in Jadran and the Croatian national senior team. In 2010, he turned a new page in his life. He became a member of the Board of the Spaladium Arena sports hall in Split.

Great Success Enhances the Reputation of Water Polo All this success made water polo extremely popular. They began to write about that sport much more than before (there was more of it on television), and, in 1988, Večernji List initiated an campaign to choose the best Yugoslav water polo player. The First Water polo Player award went to Igor Milanović, then playing for Partizan. Milanović was also the best in the next two years, but then as a resident of Zagreb and playing water polo for Mladost. After Milanović, Perica Bukić, Dubravko Šimenc, Siniša Školneković, Mile Smodlaka were voted best... The string of successes by the Yugoslav national team continued at the World Cup in West Berlin (from 11 to 15 July 1989). The national team, now led by coach Nikola Stamenić (who continued where Rudić left off ), won first place, defeating Italy 10:6 in the finals. The third was Hungary, who in the match for the bronze medal overpowered Spain 8:7. In the first game, Yugoslavia defeated the Australians 15:7 without much difficulty. They played a fairly relaxed game, so Captain Igor Milanović, a new player with Mladost, at one point entertained the audience by spinning the ball on his index finger. Even in the second duel with the Spaniards, there were no major problems: Bukić contributed four and Šimenc and Bezmalinović two goals to the victory of 10:8, and Posinković defended a four meter penalty.

However, the duel with the USSR was anything but easy. Zbornaja was leading 5:1 and 6:2, and it took a great deal of effort to reach a tie (7:7), which led to the semi-finals. At the end of the game, captain Milanović took things in hand and with three consecutive goals the opponent’s lead 6:4 reversed to the required 7:7. The equalizing goal was scored by “Prince Igor” only four seconds before the end (he deceived the otherwise excellent USSR goalie, Buzakov with a common “toggle”). After surpassing the Hungarians in the semi-finals 8:7, in the finals Yugoslavia taught the Italians a lesson, who had been better in the semi-finals than the Spaniards 12:10 (9:9). Yugoslavia took the lead with 4:0 and did not have a goal scored against them until the tenth minute; at the beginning of the last quarter they were leading 9:2. With the exception of the semi-final match against Hungary, the Blues practically did not have a worthy opponent in their effort to defend their title from the previous World Cup. Having broken the “Thessaloniki front line“ two years before, not even “The Berlin Wall” could stop them now. Dubravko Šimenc, with ten goals, was the best shooter of the national team at the tournament. Six Croats (Mladen Delić, Dubravko Šimenc, Mislav Bezmalinović, Mirko Vičević, Perica Bukić and Renco



Posinković) and seven men from other republics (Alexander Šoštar, Duško Popović, Igor Milanović, Viktor Jelenić, Anto Vasović, Igor Gočanin and Goran Rađenović) led Yugoslavia to success in West Berlin. At the European Championships in Bonn (from 13 to 20 August 1989), Yugoslavia, however, failed to win the title once again. The competition system had changed. The semi-finals were played and The Blues defeated Italy 8:7 but in the finals, the Germans, aided by the referees, were better 10:9 (9:9) with a golden goal by Rainer Oschelmann. In the duel for the bronze medal, Italy defeated the USSR 12:11. On the eve of the European Championships, Yugoslavia first won the tournament in Varna, and then the one in Zagreb (in the finals they overpowered Hungary 13:12). They had also won the World Cup... – This year we have not felt the bitterness of defeat, and there is no reason why things should not stay that way – said Perica Bukić on the eve of the championships.


The beginning was quite convincing. Yugoslavia defeated Romania 13:9 (although coach Stamenić said that too many goals were scored against them). In the second encounter, with a great deal of easing off, France was overpowered by 9:8 (4:0 in the first quarter), Sweden in the third by 14:3, Bulgaria in the fourth by 13:6, the Netherlands in the fifth by 11:5, then they tied against the USSR 7:7 (maybe also to avoid West Germany in the semi-finals). However, the Germans were waiting in the finals anyway (in the semi-finals they defeated the USSR 10:8). In the semi-finals, Yugoslavia overpowered Italy by 8:7. The Italians continuously exerted pressure on the referees, the Dutchman Tellegen and the Bulgarian Lalova, and an incident occurred at the end of the match. After Tellegen did not declare an obvious foul against Šimenc, the Italians had the last offensive. But Campagna “ducked” the ball, and Lalov sanctioned it. It completely infuriated Settebello, who attacked the referee and pushed him about. The referee, however, remained on dry land, but dr. Rade Repac, the Yugoslav national team doctor, ended up in the water.

In the finals, Yugoslavia took the lead at 9:6, but then the Germans started applying unprecedented pressure. No holds were barred. The referees, the Norwegian Inderind and especially the Turk Toygarli tolerated it all. They even awarded a four meter penalty levelling to 9:9, helping the Germans to climb out of the abyss and later achieve victory, as in previous three matches. – Obviously we are stronger in the pool than out of it – said Stamenić, unable to hide his discontent with the refereeing. That year, Yugoslav water polo adorned itself with yet another valuable trophy. The juniors, led by coach Bruno Silić, won the title of world champions in the tournament in Narbonne (France) after defeating the USSR 6:5 in the finals. In the Yugoslav team, among others, there was Vitomir Padovan, Ognjen Kržić, Elvis Fatović, Joško Kreković, Dejan Savičević, Davor Erjavec and Ivica Tucak, and the best player in the opposing team was Andrej Bjelofastov, subsequently a longtime player of Mladost and even a member of the Croatian national team.



Perth 1991: World Champions for the Second Time In January 1991, Yugoslavia won the gold medal in Perth (Australia), for the second time in a row at the World Championships. They defeated the Spaniards by 8:7 in the finals, who were led at the time by a Croat, Dragan Matutinović. The bronze medal went to the Hungarians, who, in a duel for third place were better than the USA by 13:12. In the semi-finals, Stamenić’s players overpowered the Americans (7-6), but the previous victory was crucial over Rudić’s Italians 9:6, who subsequently lost the semi-finals. Six Croats played in the winning team: Dubravko Šimenc, Perica Bukić, Vitomir Padovan, Mislav Bezmalinović, Mirko Vičević and Renco Posinković. The other players were: Igor Milanović of Mladost, Aleksandar Šoštar, Goran Rađenović, Vaso Subotić, Anto Vasović, Duško Popović and Viktor Jelenić. It is interesting that Stamenić’s chosen men began and ended the championship with the Spaniards. In the beginning they won 8:3 (three goals by Bukić), and Matutinović, with things slightly backwards said: – What use is it knowing the qualities of the Yugoslav water polo players when I do not have players who could defeat them. After that, Yugoslavia defeated Romania 16:6 (five goals by Bukić), China 25:9, and then, in a match that was “life or death” for both opponents, they lost to the USSR 9:8. The match with the Italians became the decisive match and was attended by two and a half thousand people. Former colleagues Ratko Rudić and Nikola Stamenić stood one against the other. The winner was decided by the then 21-year-old Vitomir Padovan. Vito put Yugoslavia in the lead 7:6 from a counterattack, and than skilfully scored for 8:6. Even Monica Seles, who had won the Hopman Cup (an unofficial tennis world championship for mixed doubles) with Goran Prpić a few days earlier congratulated him after the match on those goals and on an excellent match. In the semi-finals, Yugoslavia overpowered the Americans 7-6, although they had “traditionally” taken the lead by


5:2 ... The zone in front of Šoštar was very unstable, and the American rifle-shooters aimed with precision. The Yugoslav water polo players, even with an extra player in the offence, could not score a goal. It was not until the fifth exclusion of an American player that Popović punished them with a goal. After that, the Blues, through Šimenc and Subotić scored two goals within only two minutes and entered the final quarter with a tie at 5-5, and then defeated them. The Spaniards were better than the Hungarians, so Stamenić and Matutinović met again in the finals. However, the quiet Spanish lamb from qualifications turned into a cunning wolf, so Yugoslavia had a very difficult job in defending the world crown. In the heat of the match, Matutinović was even excluded due to vehement protests against the referees, and both coaches lost their voices after the match. Stamenić insisted on focusing the play on the centre player although by using the outer shooters he could have decided the winner sooner. But the Yugoslav coach played it safe and did not want to risk too much. The Blues’ game strategy was more rigid with a more difficult opponent. Around 3,000 spectators watched the match, most of them emigrants from the region of Yugoslavia at that time. Although the Croats in Perth were deeply divided into „the Yugoslavs“ and “the Croats“ amongst themselves, they formed the majority on the stands, many waving Croatian flags. However, in the audience, and later at the dinner with the consul, there were indications that the federation in the far away Balkans was in its last days. The President of the YWPF, Celestin Sardelić, as a member of the top leadership of the League of Communists of Croatia, deeply involved in political events, the final outcome of which would be the break up of Yugoslavia, stepped down after Perth. Since a Croat held the position of Federal President at that time, Stjepko Bradarić was elected president. He held the office for the following few turbulent months, until the disintegration of the league during a session of the Assembly in Herceg Novi on 31 August 1991.

Certainly his greatest success was winning the gold at the World Championships in Perth: “I was a regular member of the first team“, while his rich career will always be lacking the Olympic Games. He expected, he says, an invitation to Sydney 2000, especially after playing well at the European Championships in Florence the year earlier. But the generations had changed, and Vito was left out. And he missed the 1992 Games in Barcelona in a different way. However, only a year earlier he was brilliant at the FINA Cup, where he was elected to the competition’s best team. Alongside his modelling career, which was more like a hobby, Vito has been engaged in music, primarily in childhood. He played a trumpet, and later the piano, at the Cultural and Artistic Society Moreška. Once he ends his playing career, he will renew his interest in music.

Indeed, no matter how impossible it may seem now, Vito was afraid of water when he was a boy. Which is why he started to swim rather late for a Korčula boy, not until the age of eight. But today, he cannot live without water, without swimming. What a curiosity.... We said he was from Korčula, although both he and his sister were born in Mostar. But only born, because their mother, also born in Mostar, wanted it so. Father Egon played for KPK, but quit soon to go work. He was the president of KPK and Partizan, a member of numerous water polo commissions and boards, which is why Vito’s career today is also for his father. He says that he will play for 30 years – of water polo ... Later on, he will think about what next, although he would always stay in water polo, rather as an official than a coach. Like his father, … He began his career in Korčula and KPK, while he played for the first time in the first team, led then by Dragan Matutinović in January 1983 against Partizan. He obviously impressed the head of the Belgrade club, so they brought him into their ranks a year later. He stayed in Partizan until 1991. After a short episode in Trieste, he left a shining mark in Brescia, where he scored 85 times in 22 games of the first season, and became the second shooter of the Italian League. In the mid-1990s (1994-1996), the water polo “globetrotter” played the Summer League in Malta. Although he was “in water polo for a hundred years“, many will know him better for his modelling career, especially from 1993 until 1995 when he played near Milan. Vito has mainly played in the outer position, and that more on the left side, even though he is no stranger to his right arm. An extremely fast swimmer, with excellent, precise and always rational shooting.

Vitomir Padovan

Fear of Water

Date of birth: April th 19 , 1970 Place of birth: Mo star (Bosnia and He rzegovina) Occupation: econ omist Playing career: 1980 -1984 KPK Korčula; 1984-1991 Partizan grade; 1991-1992 Tri Belestina, Trieste, Italy; 1992-1995 Brescia, 1995-1996 Como, Ita ly; Italy; 1996-2000 Ml adost; 2000-2002 Nice, France; 2002 Olympic -2003 Nervi, Italy; 2003-2004 Marseille 2004-2006 Canotti , France; eri Naples, Italy; 20 06-2007 Sori, Italy; Al Ittihad, Saudi Ar 2007-2010 abia. Trophies with the national team: – gold medal at th e 1991 Perth World Championships – gold medal at th e 1991 Athens Euro pean Championship – silver medal at th s e 1989 Bonn Europe an Championship – silver medal at th s e 1999 Florence Eu ropean Champions – gold medal at th hips e 1990 Good Will Ga mes in Seattle – silver medal at th e 1991 Barcelona FIN A Cup – silver medal at th e 1991 Athens Medit err anean Games Trophies with clubs : – Cup Winners’ Cu p: 1991 (Partizan) an d 1999 (Mladost) – European Super Cup: 1991 (Partiza n) – Asian Cup Winn ers’ Cup: 2009 (Al Ittihad) – Croatian Champio n: 1997 and 1999 (M ladost) – Yugoslav Cham pion: 1986 and 1987 (Partizan) – French Champio ns: 2001 and 2002 (Olympic Nice) – Saudi Arabia Ch ampions: 2008 an d 2009 (Al Ittihad) – Croatian Cup: 19 97, 1998 and 1999 (M ladost) – Yugoslav Cup: 19 86, 1987 and 1990 (Partizan) – French Cup: 2001 and 2002 (Olympic Nice) – Saudi Cup: 2009 (Al Ittihad)


ić Mirko Vičev om Boka in The Gold Co, 1968



: June 30 Date of birth tenegro) : Kotor (Mon Place of birth ach 991 Jadran water polo co Kotor; 1989-1 , ac Occupation: or o; im Pr 9 996 Pro Recc er: 1982-198 elona; 1995-1 rc Playing care Ba 94 19 ; na 3 Savona a; 2007 Savo Split; 1991-199 -2006 Bresci 99 19 ; na vo 1997-1999 Sa al team: h the nation Trophies wit l Olympics nships the 1988 Seou at al ed m ld Champio d – gol Madrid Wor 86 19 ps e hi th ns at Champio – gold medal Perth Wold 91 19 ionships e p th m at ha European C s – gold medal en th A ps 91 at the 19 hampionshi European C – gold medal nn Bo 89 19 al at the Rome 1990 – silver med FINA Cup in e th at in Seattle al ed – gold m d Will Games oo G 90 19 e at th – gold medal yer) clubs (as pla h it w ) es hi Trop 2006 (Brescia d n Split) 03, 2005 an 20 d 1991 (Jadra : an up ) C ac N or m – LE ri (P 86 ia) hampion: 19 d 2003 (Bresc – Yugoslav C 92 Savona an 19 n: io p m – Italian Cha lona) : 1994 (Barce Croatian water polo history would be – Spanish Cup s a coach) h the club (a incomplete without a mention of the Croatian Trophies wit 10 Cattaro family Vičević from Kotor, and particularly its – LEN Cup: 20 most winning representative offspring Mirko Vičević, or as they called them, „the most water polo dynasty in Montenegro”. Today they own the club they founded, where Mirko coaches (Cattaro). Previously, they wrote the history of Primorac Club from Kotor. Mirko Vičević is one of the few water polo players in the world who have played in as many as three different national teams – SPRY, FR Yugoslavia and Montenegro. Clearly, his greatest successes were achieved with the national team of then communist Yugoslavia, at the turn of the 1980’s and 1990’s. – “I played at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but I didn’t feel like I belonged to that team. Either in terms of generation, or in terms of politics. Divisions among us started, and, coming from Kotor, I bluntly supported the independent Montenegro. The proudest moment came when I became the first captain of the Montenegro national team in 2007, and I knew then that I could stop playing water polo”. But only playing. Because water polo is in the blood of the Vičević family. – My father Pavle first played and then coached Primorac from 1976 until 1986.


Uncle Slobodan was the captain of that club (1979-1982), they sowed the seeds of love for water in both Mirko and his brother Željko. Mirko Vičević was launched to the elite at the 1986 World Championships in Madrid. “A thunderous final with the Italians. In the overtime, I scored from ten meters”. Later on, Milanović scored for gold after a ball received from Šimenc. Mirko also shone five years later in Perth, at the World Championships where he was the best shooter. In the EC finals in Strasbourg he scored twice. One Olympic and two world gold medals are certainly a crown, but a particular success was, undoubtedly, the winning of four national champion titles with teams which were outsiders for the first place (Primorac, Jadran Split, as well as Savona and Brescia). Mirko Vičević, the gold coin from Boka Kotorska.

Athens and Barcelona 1991: Together for the Last Time – Ivica Cipci and I were at the Assembly – recalls Bradarić – The most important thing happened on the eve of the Assembly. The Yugoslav Association of Sports asked the Water Polo Federation to condemn the actions of the Croatian Water Polo Federation and the Croatian team members, who had already left the national team after the tournament in Duisburg. We wanted to avoid any disapprobation or sanctions at all costs, since they could later be the basis for all kinds of “games”. I remember well the “Last Supper” of the YWPF, in which the most important role was played by Vlaho Orlić, the man most credited for the Croatian Water Polo Federation’s calm secession from the YWPF. We succeeded in preventing any disapprobation. Later, in November, Đorđe Perišić was elected president of the Yugoslav (truncated) Water Polo Federation. After Perth, the rules of water polo were once again altered. Excluded players were no longer out of the game for 35 seconds but 20 seconds, and an excluded player could be replaced in the game by any player from the bench. Personals foul in offence were abolished, and instead a counter foul and exclusion for 20 seconds in the case of a serious foul were introduced (where the ball was awarded to the opposing team, who start a new offence). The length of quarters was increased from seven to nine minutes.

The beginning of the final end of Yugoslav sports occurred at the Mediterranean Games in Athens in July 1991. Due to the aggressive action of the Yugoslav National Army in Slovenia, the swimmers Jure Bučar and Igor Majcen left the Yugoslav national team and joined the basketball player Jura Zdovc, who had shortly before refused to join the Yugoslav national basketball team at the European Championships in Rome. After the Croatian Sports Federation called on all Croatian athletes to leave the Yugoslav national team on 4 July, the water polo players who were training in Rome – Dubravko Šimenc, Perica Bukić, Mirko Vičević, Anto Vasović, Renco Posinković and Mislav Bezmalinović – refused to train any longer. However, they remained in the national team and played with it at the Mediterranean Games in Athens. Yugoslavia defeated Turkey 18:3, Greece 10:5, but lost to Italy 7:6 in the finals. The last time a complete Yugoslav national team played was at the World Cup in Barcelona in July 1991 (from 15 to 22 July). They reached the finals where they lost to the USA, in overtime, 7:6 (5:5). Spain was third. Previously, Yugoslavia defeated Romania 11:5, the USSR 8:7 and the USA 5:4. In the semi-finals, Hungary was also overpowered by 6:5 (for which the brilliant goalie Šoštar was most to thank, who even defended a four meter penalty), but in the finals the Americans demonstrated more calm and focus (they played the last quarter 3:1), while the Croatian players playing for Yugoslavia could not hide the nervousness caused in part by the news from their homeland, which was suffering increasing aggression. To all these successes at the Olympic Games, World and European Championships, and World Cups, which we have described in detail, we should also add those from World University Games (two gold medals – from Turin in 1959 and from Sofia in 1961, one silver – from Kobe in 1985; two bronze ones – from Mexico City in 1985 and Zagreb in 1987) and the Mediterranean Games (five first places – in Beirut in 1959, Tunisia in 1967, Izmir in 1971, Split in 1979 and Casablanca in 1983, and three second places – in Naples in 1963, Algeria in 1975 and


MISLAV BEZMALINOVIĆ, ANTO VASOVIĆ AND PERICA BUKIĆ 1990 – he last game for the SFRY national water polo team

Athens in 1991). In all of these endeavours, the contribution of the Croatian water polo players was enormous, undoubtedly the greatest among the republics of the former Yugoslavia. The final break-up of Croatian and Yugoslav Water Polo and the independence of the Croatian Water Polo Federation took place on 5 August 1991. A meeting of the Executive Committee of the CWPF was held on that day, and the following decisions were reached: – the Croatian Water Polo Federation hereby suspends its participation in the activities of the Yugoslav Water Polo Federation. – Activities of all clubs and individual members of the Croatian Water Polo Federation in the Yugoslav system of competition, as well as their participation in the Yugoslav teams is suspended. – The Croatian Water Polo Federation will prepare a comprehensive proposal for a new system of competition in the Republic of Croatia as soon as possible, which will be applied when the security and other conditions in the Republic permit The decision was signed by the then President of the CWPF, Vlado Kobešćak. The next day, the Croatian water polo players, who were supposed to compete for Yugoslavia at the European Championships in Athens, cancelled their appearance and after the tournament in Duisburg (where they won first place) returned to Croatia. They were: Perica Bukić, Mislav Bezmalinović, Renco Posinković, Dubravko Šimenc and


Anto Vasović. Mirko Vičević, a Croat from Boka Kotorska, under pressure from his parents, remained in the national team. His club at that moment, Jadran of Split immediately suspended him. Another Croat, later a member of the Croatian national team, Vitomir Padovan, remained in the truncated national team, but he was a player with Partizan of Belgrade. – My homeland is being shamelessly attacked and aware of that I refuse to play under a flag used as cover by many who are killing our people right across “Our Beautiful Homeland” – explained Dubravko Šimenc. It was not easy for the Croatian players to make such a decision because they had been training intensely for their appearance at the European Championships, and were eager to finally win a European gold medal, which was the only one still lacking. But patriotism prevailed. We were not without a representative at the European Championships in Athens (from 17 to 25 August 1991). Croatia was represented by Ivica Cipci, a member of the Office of the European Swimming League (LEN), and Jakov Matošić, a member of the EWPC. Jadran Koteks of Split entered the draw for the Champions’ Cup, although the YWPF did everything to prevent the men from Split playing. But the leaders of the EWPC and LEN did not fall for their allusions, and Jadran was included in the draw, with the explanation that the club from Split, as the last champion of Yugoslavia, duly qualified for European competitions. Thus began Jadran’s bus trip around Europe.

To be an international referee for a period of some thirty years is truly something which calls for admiration. Željko Klarić, a synonym for a water polo referee in Croatia, a youth of some longevity, is truly a record holder. He refereed more than 500 international matches and a total of more than 1,100 water polo matches in general. There probably is no one who can match him in any country, because Žele is the one and only and unique. Although he will decline any notion of his greatness in casual conversation, leaving others to assess it, he will say for himself “I learned from Feđa Penović and Aleksandar Seifert, the greats of Croatian water polo refereeing”. Željko Klarić Žele started swimming as a child in Mornar. He started with the backstroke, and later started his water polo career with the same club. Unfortunately, due to jaundice, he had to terminate his active sports career. He enrolled at the Law Faculty in Split, graduating in 1977. The first match he refereed was the Yugoslav Junior Championships in Kotor in 1971, and he had his international debut in 1975 when he refereed in a strong international tournament in Barcelona. – It was a match between Spain and Italy, I still remember it like it was yesterday – says polyglot Žele, who speaks Italian, Spanish and English. Although he was often denied refereeing finals in the major competitions, he is not unhappy about it. Date of birth: May th – During the time 25 , 1946 Place of birth: Split of Yugoslavia, and Occupation: lawye now also in the r by education, wo rking as the directo of Administration Croatian era, the r for Sport within th e Ministry of Scien Education and Sp national team was ce, ort of the Republi c Croatia. Water polo career: always at the very referee since 1971, international refere 1975-2004. top, always in cone tention for a medal, The major compe titions he refereed : so I, as the referee, – Olympic Games : Moscow 1980, Lo s Angeles 1984, Se always had to be left Atlanta 1996 and oul 1988, Sydney 2000; World Championships: We out. I refereed the Berlin 1978, Guayaq st uil 1982, Madrid 19 final of the European 86, Rome 1994 an 1998; European Ch d Perth ampionships: Jonk Championships in oping 1977, Split 19 Rome 1983, Sofia 19 81, 85, Strasbourg 1987 Sheffield in 1995, then , Bonn 1989, Sheffi 1993, Vienna 1995 eld and Florence 1999 the Zagreb World ; Me dit erranean Games: Split 1979 and Mo ntpellier 1993; Wo Student Games final rld Stu de nt de Mexico 1979, Bu Games: Ciudad charest 1981, Kobe in 1987, and the third 1985 and Zagreb 19 Asian Games: New 87; Deli 1982 and Seou place match in Atlanta l 1986; Pan-America Games: Havana 19 n 83; FINA Cup: Rijek 1996. No, I don’t regret a and Belgrade 19 Athens 1993 and At 73, lanta 1995; Goodwi it, the success of the ll Games: Moscow and Seattle 1990; 1986 and Maccabi Gam national team has, in es in Tel Aviv 1981. – he refereed 6 Ch a way, also been my ampions’ Cup finals , 6 Cup Winners’ Cu finals, 3 LEN Cup fin p success. als, 4 European Su per Cups – proclaimed the It is precisely that third best referee in the world in 1998 and – a long time mem 1999. place match in the 1996 ber of the HVS Int ernational Comm member of the AI ittee, Olympics in Atlanta that A (International As sociation of Water Referees) Executive he will always remember. Polo Board Hungary and Italy were facing off for the bronze, Italy being led by our Ratko Rudić at the time. – We were in the last minute, the Italians had one goal advantage and they were trying to keep that score. The siren went off, marking the end of the attack, and all the Italians jumped

Željko Klarić

A Referee with 30 Y ears of Experience

into the pool, celebrating the bronze medal. However, the scoreboard indicated that two more hundreds of a second remained, the official time keeper at the score table was a bit careless. According to the rules, I had to referee a penalty shot for the Hungarians, because the Italian bench had jumped into the pool. The Hungarians scored from the four meter penalty, equalizing and taking the match into overtimes. However, Italians proved better and won third place. There were also some unpleasant encounters during his refereeing career, although, “I never ended up in the sea”. He was twice physically assaulted, once in Herceg Novi, in a match between the home team Jadran and Partizan when one of the spectators hit him, and in the famous match in Gruž, between Jug and Mladost, when he was hit with something hard, probably a rock, wrapped in wet cardboard, and when he suffered slight concussion. Klarić remembers a large number of matches, but also the changes in water polo rules; from the 1976 Olympics in Montreal another referee was added; up until then there was only one referee, and in 1995 the flags were eliminated. – It proved efficient because you could easily make a mistake with the flags and lift the wrong colour. And caps could be in national or club colours from that time. Also, the ball changed, in colour primarily. Klarić still has ideas on how to improve water polo. – I would allow for play with two hands and for the goalies to cross the centre line, I would modify the rule according to which there is no foul as long as the ball is in someone’s hand… Željko Klarić was an excellent and authoritative referee of unquestioned quality, with a finely tuned sense for the play. – It is actually a myth that something is always happening under water. You have to be aware that the players are, in a way, floating on the water, and that they use their legs to keep on the surface, so it’s really difficult to make a foot foul. And it’s easy to see fouls with hands. Actually, referees need practice just as much as the players. I was lucky to have three strong clubs in Split, so I could go to practices and referee at least twice a week. The speed of one’s reaction is extremely important in water polo, one’s reflexes become sharper, and the rhythm of quick decisions becomes faster and faster. Also, you have to be careful not to be swept away by the atmosphere. Today, Željko Klarić holds a responsible position in Croatian sport as the assistant minister of science, education and sport, the assistant responsible for sport. He has been in the Ministry since 1997, and has been the assistant minister since 2005. Unfortunately, he no longer has much time to spend by the pool, although he is still a refereeing controller, and he still referees the wellknown Wild League of Dubrovnik, just for pleasure. Željko Klarić is truly one of our greatest sports ambassadors.



03 1991- 2010

Duško Antun


The First Croati an National Team Coach

He was the first Croatian national team coach and the first national team coach to win a medal: the silver in the Mediterranean Games in France in 1993. Coaching two clubs, Partizan and Mladost, he had won four consecutive Yugoslav championships. However, in his illustrious and trophy rich sporting career, Duško Antunović achieved several other feats, both as a player and a coach. To name a few: – Most of our coaches won trophies with one club. I managed to achieve that with four different clubs! – says Antunović. In his original club, KPK (where he started his playing career as a 12-year old on Korčula) at the beginning of his coaching career he won the Yugoslav Cup first and then the Cup Winners’ Cup. Both cups were won in 1978 and were the only trophies for the team from Korčula. He won the Champions Cup and the national championship with Mladost, thus ending a 17-year wait for the club. He won the Slovenian Cup with Ljubljana in 1996 and ended the domination of Triglav from Kranj. – There wasn’t a child in Korčula who didn’t come to swimming classes – Dule explains his roots, particularly proud of the fact that he was captain of the Yugoslav junior national team. As a result, he soon received an invitation from Vlaho Orlić to transfer to Partizan; an offer he – like many other Croatian players – accepted in the beginning of 1967. During his career he played all positions except goal keeper. During his last season in Partizan, he even played anchor. – When I came to Belgrade, Partizan was already strong. The arrival of Zoran Janković from Mladost in 1963 proved crucial – Antunović points out. He also had coaching success in Belgrade, but in 1989, he returned to Croatia and took over Mladost,


Zagreb nevertheless. And once again, he proved efficient: in a short time span he won six trophies for Date of birth: Fe bruary 24th, 1947 the Frogs: two Champions Cups, a Place of birth: Korčula Super Cup, two national championOccupation: w ater polo coac ships and the Mediterranean Cup. h, entrepreneu Started playin r g water polo in Ko Although Mladost welcomed the rčula in 1959 an Partizan in 1977 d finished in Champions Cup won on NovemPlaying career : 1959-1966 KP ber 26th 1989 (their final opponent K; 1967-1977 Pa National team rtizan Belgrade was Spandau from Berlin) with career: played 150 matches fo Co ac hi ng r SFRY ca relief born out of the desperation reer: 1978-1982, 1987-1989 Part Mladost; 1991-1 iza n; 1989-1993 of a long wait, Antunović prefers 993 Croatian na tional team co Ljubljana; 2000 ac the second one, won in the h; 1996 -2001 POŠK 1990/91 season, when Mladost Trophies with the national te am (as a player bettered Canottieri from Naples – bronze in the ) European Cham pionships in Ba in both matches. – bronze in the rcelona in 1970 European Cham – It was the strongest Championships in Vi – gold in Medite en na in 1974 rranean Games pions Cup ever. We fulfilled a in Izmir in 1971 Trophies with cl ubs (as a player much more difficult task in the ) – European ch ampionships: semis when we eliminated 1971, 1975 and – Yugoslav cham 1976 (Partizan) pionships: 1968 CSK from Moscow, which , 1970, 1972, 1973 1977 (Partizan) , 1974, 1976 and starred almost the entire – Winter cham pi on sh ip USSR national team, with two : 1968, 1969, 19 – Yugoslav cup: 71 and 1972 (Par 1973, 1974, 1975 tizan) wins. We won in Moscow by , 1976 (Partizan Trophies with ) the national te three and in Zagreb by one am (as a coach) – silver in Med : iterranean Gam goal difference – Antunović es in Cannet, Fr Trophies with ance 1993 (Cro cl ub remembers. s (as a coach): atia) – European ch ampionships: He is also extremely proud 19 89 and 1990 (M – Cup Winners ladost) of the Mediterranean Cup, ’ Cup: 1978 (KPK Korčula) – Eu ro pe an Super Cup: won in October 1991 in Izmir 1989 (Mladost – Mediterrane ) (Mladost defeated Glyfada an Cup: 1991 (M ladost) – Yugoslav cham from Greece in the final pionships: 1987 and 1988 (Partiz 1990 (Mladost by 4:3). an), 1989 and ) – Yu goslav Cup: 19 – The Mediterranean 78 (KPK), 1988 (Partizan) and – Slovenian Cu Cup is not an important 1989 (Mladost p: 1996 (VK Ljub ) ljana) competition, but to us it felt like we were playing in the World Championships, because for the first time, we were playing under our own Croatian flag – he explains. No one could stand in the way of Croatian sovereignty and independence any longer, but its freedom was born of blood. The Serbian aggressor stopped at nothing to prevent its independence. Croatia in 1992, Vujasinović later crossed over to Water polo players also wanted to make a contribu- Serbia and first became the key player of Serbia tion to the birth of their country. One of the first and Montenegro and then later Serbia. steps was the Zagreb match between the Croatian – Regardless of this, Vujasinović is, in my opinion, national team, coached by Duško Antunović and one of the best five players ever – he claims. the selection of “foreigners”, coached by Ozren Failure in the European Championships in Sheffield Bonačić. did not allow Antunović to spread his wings as the – That match, played on December 28th 1991, in a national team coach. A string of unfortunate cirpool next to the River Sava, under dimmed lights cumstances and inexperience resulted in only fifth and an air-raid alert which was sounded during place for the Croatian team. If we had managed to the match, holds a special place in my memories. win a medal then, maybe we would have avoided The stands were filled and the atmosphere was all those fourth places and “wooden” medals that beautiful. All our “foreigners” were happy to play we won later. Antunović analyzes the championand travelled at their own expense – Antunović ships: remembers. – Before Sheffield, we had doubts about the team. He is still sorry Croatia did not participate in We agreed that the priority was to win a medal, the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. If it had, maybe which would be the best promotion of Croatia. Our things would have taken a different turn; maybe players were experienced but they hadn’t played everything would have been different, easier and for the national team in years. We didn’t have a with many more medals than we won in the years real anchor or a point player. We didn’t go through to follow. and the match that was our undoing was a strange – Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to Barcelona and match with the Italians. Their players kept saying to the Olympics, no matter how we tried. Fina was ours: “Don’t you know that we agreed on a draw?” rigid and relentless… I wasn’t aware of any such arrangement, although, In his prophetic wisdom, Antunović pushed some arrangement by the officials on both sides Vladimir Vujasinović from Rijeka into the Croatian apparently did exist. However, these things are betnational team… But, despite having played for ter left forgotten. No sense in rubbing it in.

1991 Break with the YWF and Independence 1991 is considered a crucial year in the history of Croatian water polo. It was a time when political turmoil – and it already became clear that Yugoslavia could no longer subsist – largely affected sports too. Croatia had already tried to play a match in Germany under its own name in the spring, but the careful Germans requested the written consent of the YWF. In the summer of 1991, on the eve of the European Championships in Athens, Croatian players cancelled their participation in the Yugoslav national team. Junior players followed in the footsteps of their senior colleagues and cancelled too. But it was not only the Croats who cancelled on Yugoslavia; almost the whole of Europe did the same. The junior championship, which was supposed to take place in Bečej in July, was cancelled, according to Joy Woodward, the administrative secretary in LEN headquarters: “due to the problematic situation and uncertainty within the country”. The events took a dynamic and unstoppable turn. Following two and a half hours of heated discussion during the extended session of its Executive board, the Croatian Sports Federation reached the decision to make a definitive break. Among other things, the document states: “We are ceasing our participation in the activities of the Yugoslav Federation of Physical Culture and the Yugoslav Olympic Committee, we are severing connections with the Federal organization of Physical culture of Serbia, we also ask all Croatian republic and branch sports federations to cease all activities of their clubs and individuals within the Yugoslav competitive systems, as well as their participation in the Yugoslav national selections…” The document was signed by the president of the Croatian Sports Federation. The Croatian Water Polo Federation and its president Vlado Kobeščak soon followed this example with an identical reaction…

This is as good point as any to start writing the history of modern Croatian water polo. Second League competitions, which were supposed to take place that summer, were never organized. There were ideas to organize a united league with the Slovenians, but the idea was soon abandoned. Croatian water polo did not need long to consolidate. The moment when the country and the sport shared the same faith was quickly recognized. Already on August 8th 1991, a charity match took place between the teams of Cavtat and Jug (14:13), and all the proceeds were intended for refugees from war stricken Slavonia. Through a strange twist of fate, only a few months later, Dubrovnik was besieged and some other cities started collecting humanitarian aid for them. Water polo personalities remained active, also marking the day of the foundation of the Croatian Olympic Committee on September 10th in the Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb, when Olympian Zdravko Hebel became the COO (HOO) vice-president, and also, a few years later, the president of the Croatian Water Polo Federation (HVS). That summer, Jadran Koteks from Split entered the Champions League draw as the last Yugoslav champion. The Water Polo Federation of Yugoslavia, particularly Mišo Radan, opposed this development. However, Alphons Angela, the president LEN TWPC LEN (Technical Water Polo Committee of the European Federation) would not even consider the idea of denying Jadran its Euro League appearance. That is how Jadran started its 35,000 km journey through Europe, starting with a qualification tournament in Pitesti, Romania and ending in the February of 1992 in Trieste where they, coached by Neven Kovačević, became European champions. They did not play a single match at home in war devastated Croatia. This was the best possible promotion of our young country!


Duško Klisović


es to R u s Is t r a e H m ro F Heights

th 47 ptember 15 , 19 Date of birth: Se k Šibeni Place of birth: ion wyer by educat la n: io at Occup laris 7, a total : 1960-1965 So feree 1969-198 Playing career First League re : 7) 98 -1 l of 297 ta 66 to (19 1971 with a Referee career l referee from na io at rn te in ; of 711 matches Yugoslav resident of the matches 88-1990 Vice-p 19 : al ci tian Water offi oa Cr an Career as esident of the pr 7 00 -2 91 19 ation; rning Boards of Referee Associ ber of all Gove em m n; io at ci Asso Polo Referees n since 1991 Polo Federatio er at W n tia oa the Cr

Duško Klisović entered the world of water polo in 1960, at Paklena in Šibenik. After a pool was built on Crnica, Klisović added swimming to water polo. However, his water polo career ended abruptly: in 1965 he was diagnosed with a heart murmur and was forbidden to play any sport for a year. At that point, Toni Petrić employed him to coach younger generations. In 1966 the Yugoslav junior championships took place in Šibenik. Referee Karlovac (from Karlovac) did not appear at the championship so Aleksandar Seifert and Ante Roje offered Klisović to fill in for the missing referee. – They had watched me referee kids in practice and they liked it. They told me to study the rules and I passed the theory of refereeing exam and refereed in the tournament. Three years later, I was already refereeing in the First League, and at the age of 23 I became, and still remain until now, the youngest international referee – Klisović remembers. He refereed until 1987 and then decided to pursue his profession (he graduated in law and then specialized in foreign commerce). After being a representative of a New York company, he returned to Croatia for Christmas in 1990. After the Croatian Water Polo Federation separated from the YWF, he became president of the Croatian Water Polo Referees Association, remaining in that post until 2007, and a member of the Governing Board of the Croatian Water Polo Federation; a position he still occupies. In his rich career, he refereed more than a thousand matches, almost 300 of them international. He was a referee at two Olympic Games (Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984), in three European Championships (1977 in Jonkoping, 1981 in Split, 1985 in Sofia), in three World Cups (1979 in Belgrade and Rijeka, 1981 in Long Beach, 1985 in Duisburg). He was not present at the World Championships in West Berlin in 1978, partly due to illness, but mostly due to his conflict with Bato Orlić. But he did referee at several Champions Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup finals, and three consecutive Super Cup finals. At home, he refereed at nine consecutive Cup finals, from 1978 (won by KPK) to 1986 (Kotor). – I found it most difficult to referee in Boka and Korčula, because of the fans there. I often refereed these matches because Mladost, Partizan and


Jadran from Split asked for me when they had to play in these cities. They knew I could handle the pressure, no matter how strong it became. I was once even attacked by a group of home fans in Korčula, but Andro Depolo, the swimmer, defended me. No club ever requested my exemption. I also refereed at some international “tricky” matches, for example between the USSR and Hungary or the USA and Cuba – Klisović is proud to point out. – While I was a referee – Željko Klarić can testify to that – the referees spent more time together. We were a team. Asencio, Martinez, Di Stefano, Marculescu were all my friends... Even our wives were friends. Today, there’s a lot of jealousy, envy and false friendships among the referees – Klisović compares. Like many others (Seifert, Klarić, Kovačić, Antunović...), he did his best to put these friendships and ties to good use in 1991 to speed things up for Croatia’s admission into LEN and FINA. We succeeded, but unfortunately, not in our plan for Croatia to participate in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Many blamed Klisović’s friend Cornel Marculescu, who allegedly did not favor us. – That is absolutely not true. FINA and LEN were even then known for their rigid and persistent application of the rules, and I must remind you that the TWPC, at one point, reached a unanimous decision to postpone Croatia’s admission into LEN, and that Croatian clubs had to play all their international matches outside Croatia – he points out. When it comes to his friendship with Marculescu, he remembers how it was solidified: – Ante Lambaša suggested I should cancel one international match so that Marculescu could be delegated for it. He never returned to Romania after that and he took the job of secretary in the Spanish Federation. Lambaša later helped him become the executive director of FINA, a position he still holds. Klisović is a member of the HSV Governing Board, together with Bukić, Bebić and Sukno, who created and executed the plan for Croatia’s return to the top.

JADRAN’S TEAM – with coach Neven Kovačević

Rich Club Activity In the last Yugoslav season, in 1990/91, Mladost lost the Cup final to Partizan in Zagreb on April 24th, in a match where even the referees displayed, at the very least, a high level of uncertainty(Brguljan and Prvan). It will be remembered that tamburitza players, who came to celebrate the possible title of Mladost in the Žabac café next to the Sava, played their intended repertoire nevertheless; a repertoire that included a well-known Croatian patriotic song “Još Hrvatska ni’ propala...” The lyrics of the song prophetically foresaw the future events. Mladost lost another final that year, this one to Jadran on June 10th. The final of the Yugoslav championship was a violent game which ended up with Mladost’s Josip Vezjak’s visit to hospital to have his eye bandaged, due to firecrackers in the pool. The last season (1990/91) before the disintegration of Yugoslavia was traumatic and bad for Mladost. They played three finals without winning a single trophy. After that they lost Igor Milanović, the world’s best centre forward at the time. He had spent two seasons in Mladost and as he was leaving he said: “There was a lump in my throat as I was leaving Zagreb”. The reasons for his departure have for a long time been shrouded in a veil of mystery. The current political situation and almost war-like atmosphere were often mentioned as possible reasons. Even though there were no competitions, our clubs were quite busy that autumn. Mladost Auto Hrvatska from Zagreb played and won the Mediterranean Cup from October 2nd to 6th. The rivals they defeated were Florentia (11:8), Nica (10:4), the Malta national team in the semifinal (12:7) and Glyfada in the final (4:3). The line-up of Mladost was: Lašić, Žagar, D. Kobešćak, Šimenc, Bosnić, Štritof, Rebić, Vincek, Erjavec, Vegar, Bukić, Vidumansky, Cimerman, Vezjak and V. Kobešćak; the coach was Duško Antunović. For the first time, the Croatian flag was raised on the pole, although the Yugoslav delegate had tried to stop it. The team from Zagreb refused to take part in the medal ceremony in

protest against the Yugoslav flag which was initially hoisted. The Frogs did not give up until they replaced it with the Croatian flag. Upon returning from Turkey, they repacked their suitcases and headed for California, USA, on a tour with the junior national team. The Croatian national anthem “Lijepa Naša” was played and the Croatian flag raised at the well-known Stanford University. Many eyes were filled with tears at that moment. When they returned, the players brought a large quantity of medicine with them – humanitarian aid from Croatian expatriates. Player activities ran parallel with lobbying. On December 27th, an application was sent for participation in the Olympic qualifying tournament which was supposed to take place in Calgary, Canada in May 1992. However, FINA remained strict in abiding to its rules; the qualifying tournament had already been filled up by Greece, Romania, the Netherlands, France, and Czechoslovakia, which was still a single country. The next day, on December 28th, a match between the Croatian national team and the team of Croatian internationals, which had been postponed for a long time, was finally played during an air-raid alert, in a pool next to the River Sava with the lights dimmed. This match is considered the “ground zero” match; the point where it all began. It was Saturday; 6 p.m. there were 14 Olympic gold medalists in the water. The Croatian national team won by 17:14 and the first national team captain Perica Bukić scored seven goals. Željko Klarić from Split and Mario Pedišić from Zagreb were the referees. In a session of the HSV, which took place on that day, the presidency of Vlado Kobešćak was confirmed and Duško Antunović, the coach of Mladost, was appointed as the national team coach. Speaking of beginnings, it is worth noting that the first player to score a goal in any Croatian selection was Marko Pintarić from Medveščak, in Budapest in November, where our cadets defeated their Hungarian peers by 11:7. Since Croatia was still not internationally recognized, everyone, the Hungarians included, was wary about inviting our senior national team, but at the same time, they had no problems with our younger selections.


SELECTOR DUŠKO ANTUNOVIĆ – during a Croatian national team minute break

1992 Jadran Koteks – European Champions It happened on February 29th. In Trieste, where they were playing as hosts, because home matches were impossible due to the war in Croatia, Jadran Koteks became the European champions by defeating Rari Nantes Savona by 11:8. Posinković, Kržić, Kreković, Bezmalinović, Vasović, Budimir, Duhović, Savičević, Močan, Bukić, Vrbičić, Šimenc, Bratić and coach Neven Kovačević, won the first European club title in the history of the independent Croatia. Two jewels from Mladost, Bukić and Šimenc, reinforced the ranks of Jadran, playing as borrowed players for that season. After winning the last title of Yugoslav champions in the 1990/91 season, Jadran earned the right to play in the Champions’ Cup. However, war was ravaging Croatia. After an air raid on Split was announced, the team was evacuated from Split on the last ship to leave Split harbor, which was at the time already blocked by the Yugoslav warships. The team was shipped to Trieste where they remained for a whole month. After the first thirty days as refugees, an invitation for joint practices from Volturno – where our players Bebić i Lušić played – came as a Godsend. After that they moved to Zagreb, from where they travelled to Europe, usually by bus. On January 15th 1992, when Croatia was internationally recognized, they were also in the bus. They heard the news somewhere on the border between Austria and Germany, and the singing started immediately… Good news finally came from Lausanne on February 7th 1992: Croatia became a member of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) which took the Croatian Water Polo Federation, whose president was Zdravko Kovačić, under its wing. In conformity with the FINA Statute at the time, the three Croatian federations – Swimming, Water Polo and Diving – expressed their willingness and wish to affiliate with each


other to form the Croatian Swimming Association. The founding assembly took placed in Zagreb, on December 27th 1991. Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić was elected the first president and Jakov Matošić was elected general secretary. Kovačić, Kobešćak and Matošić tried their best to ensure our water polo team’s participation in the Barcelona Olympics. Thanks to Anton Vrdoljak, they managed to meet with Juan Antonio Samaranch, the president of IOC, who supported the idea. However, FINA, who had the final say, remained relentless and refused our participation. There were no competitions in Croatia at the time, but water polo activities did not cease. Although only the pools in Rijeka and Zagreb were functional, the Croatian Water Polo ‘92 tournament was organized, to keep the players and at least some sort of competitive continuity going. It started in Zagreb with eight First League teams from 4th to 7th March. Rijeka was to follow (27th - 30th March), Split was incorporated subsequently (2nd – 5th April) and finally Rijeka again from 24th to 26th April. After the four tournaments, the ranking was as follows: 1. Jadran Koteks (Split), 2. Jug (Dubrovnik), 3. Mladost Auto Hrvatska (Zagreb), 4. Primorje Croatia line (Rijeka), 5. Brodomerkur (Split), 6. Mornar (Split), 7. Solaris (Šibenik), 8. Medveščak Monting Energetika (Zagreb). That was the introduction and the first Croatian championships began on June 19th, 1992. Unfortunately, not all the clubs had the same conditions. Only Rijeka was able to practise at home, and also Mladost on the River Sava, together with Jadran, whose players were spending more time in Zagreb than in Split. Matches in Šibenik, Split and Dubrovnik were inconceivable, although water polo activity did not cease altogether. Apart from Jadran, Mladost also helped and hosted Jug during those days. Resourcefulness made the championships happen and they took place with the current European champion because Jadran managed to conquer the entire continent! After 14 rounds, Mladost was the first team with only one defeat, and Jadran second with two lost matches.

ić Vlaho As novator In The Greagtust 22 , 1936 th

irth: Au h Date of b polo coac irth: Split b f er, water e an; in g Place o n rt e a ry 956 P iz on: sanita ran; 1955-1 d Ja 5 Occupati 5 9 0-1 areer: 195 966 POŠK Playing c 2 POŠK; nd 1959-1 a r a rn o ; 1972-198 M n 9 ra 5 d o, 9 Ja -1 6 2 195 69-197 92 Volturn career: 19 K; 1987-19 Š g O in P h c 7 r a 8 e o 9 C 84-1 (young Jadran; 19 0 Jadran 1993-200 1982-1984 ; n ra d Ja 2-1993 ŠK Italy; 199 -2008 PO ns); 2004 ti er): genera o la (as a p y ith clubs w ornar) s ie (M h 6 p 5 Tro pions: 19 m a h C v ach): – Yugosla s (as a co ran) with club 1993 (Jad s: ip Trophies sh n io p m a an Ch K) 1 (POŠK) – Europe 1987 (POŠ ’ Cup: 198 rs e n in W 1986. and , 5 8 – Cup 19 : p u rranean C ) – Medite 80 (POŠK 19 : p u C v a sl o g u –Y

Vlaho Asić, whom the majority of the water polo family called Mišo, is one of the leading innovators among global water polo coaches. His particularity was the full trust he had in young players. And it was not only a matter of trust; he gave them knowledge. He is one of the most deserving, if not even the key people in creating such global water polo great players as Bebić and Lušić in Croatia, and the brilliant Fabio Bencivenga and the legendary great goalkeeper Francesco Attolico in Italy. He also had a vital impact on the careers of Bukić, Šimenc, Polić, Kaurlot... Or here is an amazing fact. While he was coaching Jadran’s younger generations from 1993 to 2000, various junior teams of the club won as many as 21 trophies in seven years! Some very famous players from Asić’s ‘incubator’ are still playing (Pavić, Antonijević, Milaković, Šetka, Elez, the Delaš brothers...). A decade and a half earlier, in 1982, when he took over Jadran’s bench, the club was in the second league. Then, Asić made a clean sweep: all the senior players left and he threw the young players into the water. Already in the next year, Jadran was back among the elite.

At the beginning of his coaching career, he set a record that was not to be surpassed very soon. In 1971, while he was coaching Jadran, there was a surreal number of viewers watching the game against Partizan in Split – the audience count was 6,500 specatators! And there were another thousand who could not get hold of a ticket. Clearly Jadran won in such atmosphere. That was Jadran’s first defeat of Partizan. Asić’s contemporaries say that POŠK played the most beautiful water polo by far in the area of what was then Yugoslavia in the 1970’s. In the 1975/75 season, Ivan Asić was the first water polo coach to introduce stretching exercises. Until then unknown, they have naturally become a totally normal occurrence today. During training sessions, he also used the knowledge of karate coach Petar Mijić, whom he also included in the expert team. He also introduced individual training. In one word – he was an innovator. – It is beyond my comprehension that a right hander cannot receive a ball or play with his left hand, or vice versa – said Vlaho Mišo Asić.

– Playing techniques must all serve the shot, the shot must always be sought after, one must shoot at the goal. And clearly, speed is of outmost importance. Asić was always and eternally his own man. He never became a professional in any club, because he never wanted to depend on the whims of a club’s management. The most intriguing story, however, comes from 1993, after having won the European Champion title with Jadran. – Four days after winning the trophy, I left my coaching position because I disagreed with expelling Mislav Bezmalinović, our player with the most trophies. I do not know too many cases where a coach had parted with the management only four days after becoming European champion. From 1971 until 1985, Asić was coach of all generations of the national team at the time. Moreover, he was the Balkan champion with the A team in 1979 and in 1983. For six years he was a member, and for two years also the President, of the Expert Council of YWF, while in independent Croatia he managed junior camps of CWF.

Mladost – the First Croatian Champions The championship play-off final, in September of 1992, saw Mladost and Jadran Koteks facing off for the title. There were more than 3,000 spectators crowded next to the open-air pool on Sava. The interest was unprecedented. Old yellowish newspaper articles mention several distinguished guests, but we would like to point out just one - Dražen Petrović, the legendary basketball player from Šibenik, who at that time played for Cibona. Mladost became the first Croatian champion, winning the 3-match series by 2-1. The first match was won by Mladost (8:6), the second by Jadran (11:10), and the third and last was won by Mladost. The first Croatian champion played with the following line-up: Lašič, Žagar, D. Kobešćak, Huljev, Bosnić, Štritof, Vincek, Antunović, Vegar, Bukić, Cimerman, Vezjak, V. Kobešćak, Rebić,

guided by coach Duško Antunović. In the story of these kids, Bukić was the leader, Vezjak the “old man”, and Lašič the Slovenian. The final ranking of those championships was as follows: 1. Mladost Auto Hrvatska, 2. Jadran Koteks, 3. Jug, 4. Mornar, 5. Primorje Croatia line, 6. Brodomerkur, 7. Medveščak Monting Energetika, 8. Solaris, 9. Galeb, 10. Opatija Key. Those championships, like all the others, also had another side. Jadran, the current European champion could not accept the fact that they did not confirm their primacy in the national competition as well. The Croatian Cup also went to Mladost. At the end of the year, our clubs marched on a new European quest. Mladost, as the national champions, qualified for the Champions’ Cup through a qualifying competition in Odense



li Mislav Bezma

t Croatian rs fi e th f o in ta Cap ro-Trophy Team with a Eu

ay 11th, 1967 Date of birth: M Split Place of birth: d his onomist dran, and ende Occupation: ec lo in 1977 in Ja po er at w g in Started play in Pescara career in 1995 995 Pescara Jadran; 1994-1 4 98 -1 82 19 : er Club care am: the national te Trophies with mes in Seoul. Ga 88 Olympic 19 e th rth. at ld go – pionships in Pe 91 World Cham Strasbourg. in s ip sh – gold at the 19 on pean Champi ro Eu . 87 19 e th onships in Bonn – silver at ropean Champi Eu 89 . 19 e ns th he – silver at an Games in At 91 Mediterrane – silver at the 19 the club: Trophies with 1992 (Jadran) pion: 1991 and am ch an pe ro – Eu ran) pion: 1991 (Jad – Yugoslav cham

Mislav Bezmalinović, today a successful entrepreneur in the fishing industry, undoubtedly had a very exciting and successful career. Unfortunately, his successful career was relatively short, abruptly halted at the age of 28 due to injury. Ratko Rudić was the person to thank for his illustrious career. The experienced expert included Mislav Bezmalinović in the 1988 Seoul Olympics team. His decision caused many comments, and some went as far as to claim that “daddy Niko fixed things”. However, Mislav proved wrong all those who doubted him – with his game. He already distinguished himself in his first Olympic performances, and reporters kept writing about his excellent game. No one doubted his fantastic abilities after Seoul. Three years later, at the beginning of 1991, the new national team coach, Nikola Stamenić, could not even imagine his line-up without Bezmalinović. His performance was one of the key factors in winning the gold at the 1991 World Championships. He was particularly impressive in the final against Spain, which was at the time led by Matutinović from Split. Those were some of his last matches for the national team. He did play in the beginning of 1991 in the Mediterranean Games in Athens, but withdrew, with other Croatian national team members, on the eve of the Athens European Championships, due to the JNA attacks on Croatia. He continued playing for the Croatian national team. He was the core player of the team from its first match in March 1992. He is, to this day, disappointed that Croatia was denied the right to participate in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. His club career is also filled with trophies. The end of the 1980s saw the creation of a very good team


on Zvončac, a team put together in the only way that is right: with ten domestic and four foreign players. After Jadran had won the last Yugoslav championships in 1991, Belgrade officials tried to dispute Jadran’s right to participate in the Champions’ League at a LEN meeting in Athens. However, they remained isolated and thwarted in their intentions. Mislav Bezmalinović led the team, and it was arranged for Perica Bukić and Dubravko Šimenc to play for Jadran in the European matches. Split’s homeless team (JNA had damaged the Poljud pool in shelling) trained and played in Italy. The pool on Trieste promenade by the sea was Jadran’s sanctuary. Those were the days of war in Croatian history, when athletes were the true ambassadors of the country. Therefore it is no surprise that Bezmalinović remembers all the events around the pool better than the actual matches which brought the Croatian nation such joy. The bus that drove the players from one end of Europe to the other will perhaps end up in the Club’s museum one day. On the German border, near Munich, on January 15th 1992, after the border formalities, Mislav and the team sang “Moja domovina” (My Homeland) as a greeting to their country. Mislav’s proposition to salute with “Into the battle, into the battle, for your people” (U boj, u boj za narod svoj! – a Croatian war cry) before every European match was accepted by the team. A host of national team players at Zvončac – Posinković, Kržić, Šimenc, Bukić, Vrbičić, Savičević and Kreković led by captain Bezmalinović kept overcoming all obstacles. Both matches in the final against the Italian champions, Savona were

played in Italy. The first match was played in February, in extremely cold and windy weather – in an open-air pool! Mislav used this fact to motivate his co-players additionally, but in the return match in Trieste, in front of the stands packed with spectators from Split, Jadran almost spoiled the celebration. After a convincing lead for Jadran, Savona managed to catch up and level the score. However, during the last five minutes of the match, Bezmalinović ruled the pool. The winning goal for a three goal lead was the “goal of all goals”: Kržić, who was in a hopeless situation, managed to pass the ball to Bezmalinović, and Mislav jumped out of the water and scored with full force! Jadran was the European champion and the first Croatian team with a European trophy. Bezmalinović quickly filled the winner’s cup with champagne. On their return to Split, the bells of Saint Duje rang, and the reception on the seaside promenade was typical for Split. Father Gracijan, at a mass at Saint Frances Church that followed the players return to Split, said proudly: – Our children are champions, the best and unmatched by anyone in the world! A similar scenario was repeated the following year. True, there were some changes, coach Neven Kovačević was replaced by Vlaho Mišo Asić, and instead of Bukić and Šimenc, the Hungarian Istvan Doczi, a great friend of Mislav, had been signed up. Mario Budimir was the team captain. Due to an injury, Bezmalinović missed some of the matches that season. But of course, the entire team was there for the second consecutive European final, when Mladost was defeated in Split.

Deni Lušić

with The Only Player from Split s Two Olympic Gold Medal

th 1962 Date of birth: April 14 , Place of birth: Split coach Occupation: water polo ed his lo in POŠK in 1977 and end po ter Started playing wa career in Zadar in 1999. 1989-1990 ŠK; 1989 Arenzano, Italy; Club career: 1977-1989 PO Italy; Italy; 1992-1994 Pescara, POŠK; 1990-1992 Volturno, 98 Ortigia, 1996-1997 POŠK; 1997-19 1994-1995 Catania, Italy; Italy; 1998-1999 Zadar 1991), 30 matches for SFRY (1983National team career: 276 1995) matches for Croatia (19921-2005 Pescara; 2001 POŠK; 200 96 5-19 199 : Coaching career a car Pes 7 a; since 200 Pecara; 2005-2007 Perugi al team: Trophies with the nation ic Games in Los Angeles. – gold at the 1984 Olymp ic Games in Seoul. – gold at the 1988 Olymp ampionships in Madrid. Ch rld Wo – gold at the 1985 Cup in Solun. – gold at the 1987 FINA a. ean Championships in Sofi op Eur 5 198 – silver at the ourg. asb Str in ips nsh pio am ean Ch – silver at the 1987 Europ et. erranean Games in Can – silver at the 1993 Medit e. Kob in s me Ga t den Stu – silver at the 1985 World reb. rld Student Games in Zag – bronze at the 1987 Wo a player): Trophies with clubs (as ŠK), 1993 and s’ Cup: 1981 and 1983 (PO ner – European Cup Win 1994 (Pescara) scara) 1983 (POŠK) and 1993 (Pe – European Super Cup: ŠK) (PO 1982 – Yugoslav Cup: 1980 and a coach): (as b clu the h wit ies Troph – LEN Cup: 1996 (Pescara) two Olympic y athlete from Split with Interesting facts: The onl coaches of BC years canvassed by the gold medals. He was for Split Jugoplastika, today BC

We can discuss his swimming speed, his trophies and his career intertwined with the roles of a coach and a player, but one fact is certainly more impressive than any of these. In Split, “the most athletic city in the world”, only one player can boast two gold Olympic medals: Deni Lušić! This is why he is a member of Split’s Sports Hall of Fame, where he occupies a special place. He was also responsible for promoting water polo with the members of the fair sex during the 1980s! Wherever Deni played with POŠK or the national team, or later in Italy, the stands were filled with women. Even today, when his name is mentioned, many women will say: “Yes, he was handsome!” His rivals in the pool would probably say: “Yes, he was tricky!” Agile, limber, extremely fast, with an excellent shot and remarkable play overview, he was one of the best point players in the history of

Croatian water polo. He played 276 matches for the Yugoslav national team, and more interestingly, he added 30 matches for the Croatian national team at the end of his career. The most interesting fact is that he was almost self-taught, with no “water polo school”. He had trained for less than a year when he made the first line-up of POŠK at the age of 16. More experienced players like Polić and Gabrilo were in the army and Lušić used the chance he was given. When he was eighteen, a real fight for Deni Lušić between two sports – water polo and basketball – ensued. Deni was also an excellent basketball player, and he loved the game with baskets just as much as he loved the water sport. In 1980 he had already been a junior national team representative when he played a Cup match for Dalvin against Jugoplastika, the national basketball champion with Goran Sobin. Dalvin won, “the great Yellows” from Gripe were on their knees and one of the best players in the winning team was – Deni Lušić. – I’m a huge fan of the Yellows. It was my great desire to play for Jugoplastika. I had a good relationship with Dukan, as well as Igor Karković, who discovered Toni Kukoč. Igor was my nextdoor neighbor and he kept asking me to come to practice. After that match with Dalvin he

got so angry that he refused to let me watch one match of Jugolastika – remembers Deni. A renowned basketball coach Nikša Bavčević came, on one occasion, to POŠK’s coach Mišo Asić and begged him to let Deni play basketball because he was the “new Dalipagić”. Mišo replied, “Only if you can guarantee that the kid will make it to the national team, otherwise get lost!” It was not so much Deni’s will as much as his friends who “stole” him for water polo. His coaches were Momo Ćurković and Davor Troskot, but Mišo Asić was to play one of the crucial roles in his development. In 1987, after another Olympic and world gold medal, Lušić had a call from the Italian Arenzano; they wanted him to replace – Tamas Farag! The great Hungarian was one of the best players ever. He left for Arenzano two years later, but he returned to POŠK after only three months. He left for Italy, to Volturno, in 1990. He played in Italy for five years, spending one of them in Paguros, which had just qualified for the Series A and, with Deni Lušić, made it to a sensational fifth place, after Roma, Savona, Pescara and Posillipo. Then, as he claims himself, he made his worst mistake ever: he became a coach! In his only coaching season, coaching the major Pescara, he won the LEN Cup and played in the Italian championship final against Posillipo. But Lušić wanted to play some more… He again became active in the 1996/97 season in his POŠK, from where he transferred to Ortigia and finally Zadar where he concluded his playing career in 1999.


He was a water polo goal scoring machine, the world record holder and the best goal scorer in the history of Croatian water polo. Croatia has never had a player like him; it still does not and it probably will not for a long time to come… In the 1985 World Student Games in Japanese Kobe, Bebić put the Japanese electronics to shame. The water polo scoreboard “allowed” (was programmed) for a maximum of 20 goals per player. When Bebić scored his 21st goal, the computer took a second or two to compute and then wrote across the entire scoreboard the English word – Impossible! But it was possible, at least in Bebić’s water polo. The Japanese were never as embarrassed as that day. On that day, our player set a world record, unmatched to this day, with 28 goals scored in a single match! The opponent in that match was Guatemala and the final score 62:0. Bebić also holds the Yugoslav record of 620 goals in the seven years (1979-86) he was a national team player. That is an average of almost 100 goals per year. And further more: he was the top scorer in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the 1982 World Championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in the 1985 European Championships in Sofia, the Long Beach World Cup, the afore mentioned Japan World Student Games of course, and many other tournaments and official competitions. FINA rewarded him with the best player of the Globe Award on three occasions – 1982, 1984 and 1985 – for a good reason. He was a man with an undying thirst for goals and an incomprehensible ease of scoring. There must have been something special in his genetic code, because the technique of Milivoj Bebić is not something one can learn or train for; one is born with it. – I practiced with him, I knew his soul, I was his friend outside the pool too and I was still surprised by some of his goals – said Bebić’s coplayer Zoran Roje. These are the words that best depict what kind of a water polo battle cruiser Split had produced in the form of this player. The city was infected with football, which was the first choice of Milivoj too. The club was of course Hajduk when Milivoj was a city rascal of 8-9 years of age. However, chasing the black speckled ball lasted for only 2 or 3 years. Why? – You know how things are at that age. You go where your friends are – Bebić remembers. His friends chose the swimming pool for their habitat. Milivoj admits not to be as drawn to the pool as he was to the company, but once he touched the water he became one with it. His first coach in his first and only club love, POŠK, was Momo Ćurković. At only 16, in the summer of 1976 and coached by Mišo Asić, he had his first league debut, and only a year later he was a regular member of the club’s first lineup, a club that played in the world’s strongest league. An awesome fact!


Hvar and 1977 were the place and time for the legendary story to start unfolding. In the farewell game of Ozren Bonačić, a living legend, Milivoj Bebić played his first match for the national team. At that point no one realized the hidden symbolism. A giant was on his way out and a new one had just arrived. A year and a half later, in Kupari, in the Cup final tournament, POŠK scored 15 goals, 13 of which by Bebić! The voyage to the stars by the magnificent scorer had begun. Only... this story should have lasted for much longer than eight years. Why was it cut short? The answer may be found in 1986. Just before the World Championships in Madrid Bebić broke a bone in his left fist which resulted in his not going to Madrid. Soon, his name was taken off the national team player list indefinitively because he left to play abroad. The unwritten rule of the time was – if you play abroad, you cannot play for the national team. His “abroad” venture meant going to Italian Volturno for four years for the spectacular sum of a million German marks. He was probably the best paid player of all time. He profited financially and was the top scorer of the Italian Series A Date of birth: Au for three consecutive years – but gust 29th, 1959 he did not win any new trophies; Place of birth: Split at least not in his playing career, Occupation: ec onomist which ended in 1993. He started play ing water polo 1971 in POŠK fro He had a short and successful in 1993 in Nerv m Split, and fin i (Italy). ished outing as a coach in Volturno, Club career: 19 71-1986 POŠK; 19 but also in Šibenik, making 86-1991 Volturn Nervi, Italy o, Italy; 1991-199 3 it to LEN Cup semifinal with National team ca re er : 300 matches that team; however, his 1995 for SFRY (1977-1 Career as the offi 986) cial: from 1996 return to POŠK as the sports to 2001 sports member of the director of WC HVS Governin director offered a new chance POŠK, g Board 1996-1 to the present 999, and from day, a membe 20 for him to rise again. He 01 r of the Split m director of the unicipality 1998 Institute for sp directly “tailored” the team -2001, orts facilities m city of Split 20 anagement in 01 -2 008, a membe which, coached by Dragan th e r of the LEN te committee sin chnical water ce 2004, a mem Matutinović became the po lo be r of the Govern Hajduk 2001-2 ing Board of th 007. Croatian champions (1998), e CFC Coaching care er: 1993-1995 Vo the European champions lturno; 1995-199 6 Šibenik Trophies with (1999) and the winner the national te am: – gold at the 19 of national Cup (2000). 84 Olympic Ga mes in Los Ange – gold at the 19 Simultaneously, he has been les. 79 Mediterrane an games in Sp an HVS Board member since – gold at the 19 lit. 83 Mediterrane an Games in Ca 1996 and a member of the – silver at the 19 sablanca. 80 Olympic Ga m es in Moscow. LEN’s Technical Water Polo – silver at the 19 85 European Ch ampionships in Committee since 2004. And – silver at the 19 Sofia. 81 FINA Cup in yes, he returned to Hajduk, Long Beach. – silver at the 19 85 Universiade his childhood club, where in Kobe. – bronze at th e 1979 FINA in he served as a member of Rijeka and Belg – bronze at th rade. e 1979 World St the Governing Board from udent Games Trophies with in Ciudad de Mex th e cl ub: ico. 2000 to 2008. – Cup Winners ’ Cu p: 19 81 and 1983 (P If there ever has been OŠK) – European Su per Cup: 1983 an arm of gold in (POŠK) – Mediterrane an Cup: 1983 an Croatian water polo, d 1985 (POŠK) – Yugoslav Cup: 1980 and 1982 it is for sure, the arm (POŠK) Interesting fact of Milivoj Bebić. s: reco

Milivoj Bebić

The World Reco rd Holder Goal Scorer

rd holder for th e number of go Yugoslavia (620 als scored for ) and world re cord holder fo a single match r the number of (28) goals in

THE FIRST CROATIAN WATER POLO NATIONAL TEAM, ZAGREB 1992/93 – Damir Glavan, Siniša Školneković, Dejan Savičević, Mislav Bezmalinović, Ognjen Kržić, Dubravko Šimenc, Perica Bukić (standing); Maro Balić, Andrej Bjelofastov, Vjekoslav Kobešćak, Ratko Štritof, Zdeslav Vrdoljak and Renato Vrbičić (squatting)

1993 The First European Medal was Won by the Cadets in Denmark. The defending European champions, Jadran, also qualified for the competition in a tournament in Nice. Both teams made it to the final, the team from Zagreb with wins against CSK in the quarterfinals and the Polar Bears in the semifinals and the team from Split with wins against Savona in the quarterfinals and Nice in the semifinals. This marked another great success for Croatian water polo: while the country was being ravaged by war, two Croatian clubs were playing in the Champions’ Cup final! The first match, played on February 7th, 1993, was won by Mladost (8:7) and Jadran bettered Mladost in the second match, on February 12th, by 6:4, thus defending its crown and winning its second European title. Two years prior to that, Mladost had occupied the top spot of European club water polo for two years. Croatian water polo achieved complete domination – four consecutive European champion titles! Before the final match, the first Croatian president, Dr Franjo Tuđman, organized a reception for the finalists. “There’s no greater pride and honor than to have two great clubs in the Champions’ Cup final” he said on the occasion. “This is important for Croatia which is still struggling for its freedom, now when it needs any kind of recognition”. Despite the opposite recommendation from LEN, the finals were played in Zagreb and Split. Jadran played with the following line-up: Bratić, Vrbičić, Kreković, Bezmalinović, Vasović, Budimir, Duhović, Savičević, Kržić, Pavlović, Doczi, Ježina and Posinković. Vlaho Asić was the coach. Jug was eliminated from the Cup Winners’ Cup in the quarterfinals by Hohenlimburger, Mornar and Primorje did not qualify in the LEN Cup preliminary rounds, and Brodomerkur finished fourth in the Mediterranean Cup.

After 18 rounds of the national championships in the 1992/93 season, Mladost Auto Hrvatska was ranked first, Jug second and Jadran third. The First League started with double rounds in February. In the play-offs, Mladost defeated Jadran by 12:9, Jadran fought back with 13:10, and on May 1st, Mladost won by 12:11, in the third overtime, after a golden goal was scored, by – who other than – Perica Bukić. It was the first and last time that the championship was decided by a golden goal. The Frogs played with the following line-up: Rebić, Žagar, D. Kobešćak, Cimerman, Bosnić, Štritof, Vincek, Huljev, Vegar, Bukić, Bjelofastov, Vezjak, V. Kobešćak and Školneković. Boško Lozica was the coach. The final championship ranking was as follows: 1. Mladost Auto Hrvatska, 2. Jadran Koteks, 3. Jug, 4. POŠK, 5. Primorje Croatia line, 6. Kvarner Express, 7. Mornar, 8. Medveščak Monting, 9. Galeb, 10. Solaris. Mladost won the National Cup too. That season the Second League competitions also kicked off. In the European Championships in Veenendaal in the Netherlands, which lasted from 15th to 22nd of August, Croatia’s cadets, coached by Zoran Curiš won the first European medal of any kind for Croatia. The youths came in second, losing the final match to the Hungarians by 6:9, and the line-up was as follows: Subota, Laštre, Mirović, Večkovec, Perčinić, Smodlaka, Sarić, Antunović, Ivaniš, Hrestak, Jerković, Jovica and Pintarić. Jadran’s centre Mile Smodlaka, who was already then potential A-team material, was proclaimed the championship MVP, and Franko Antunović from Mladost made it to the championship’s best seven line-up. In the World Championships in Cairo, our juniors were only tenth. Before the cadets, in June, a medal was won by the senior team: Croatia, led by coach Duško Antunović, came in second


Goran Sukno

The Holder of 19 Titles th Date of birth: April 6 , 1959 rov Place of birth: Dub nik 1971 in Cavtat Started playing water polo in 1976-1986 Jug; 1986-1994 Player career: 1971-1976 Cavtat; Salerno, Italy ches for SFRY National team career: 220 mat er the director of WC Jug, memb 6 Career as an official: since 199 for a number of years of the HVS Governing Board : Trophies with the national team Los Angeles. in es Gam ic mp Oly 4 – gold in 198 ionship in Madrid. – gold in 1986 World Champ mpionship in Sofia. – silver in 1985 European Cha Games in Casablanca. – gold in 1983 Mediterranean : Trophies with the club (Jug) – European champion: 1980 1, 1982, 1983 and 1985 (Jug) 198 0, 198 : ion – Yugoslav champ 3 (Jug) – Yugoslav Cup: 1981 and 198 Awards: nik on four occasions – the best athlete of Dubrov Franjo Bučar Sports Award – the winner of the annual Dr hrvatske (The Order of the – decorated with Red Danice the the face of Franjo Bučar and Morning Star of Croatia) with tle) Wat n er of the Croatia Red hrvatskog pletera (The Ord

1994 (Italy won) in the Mediterranean Games in France, in what was supposed to be just a rehearsal for the European Championships in Sheffield. However, our oversea neighbors inflicted on us one of the toughest defeats in history: our team of experienced international players suffered a 7:13 breakdown, and the defeat against Romania left us out of contention for a medal. Allegedly, we tried to arrange for a draw with the Italians because more than half the Croatian team was playing in Italy. However, the whole thing was executed badly and clumsily so our rivals found an additional motive in these schemes and intrigues and inflicted this disastrous defeat on us. The marking Italian centre, Ferreti, played particularly well. In the end we were fifth. There were too many internal strives and conflicts in our team, and the peace that was so necessary was consequently washed away. At an HVS board meeting, Antunović irrevocably resigned and was replaced by Bruno Silić who returned from Greece and took over Mladost as well. However, he would not officially become the Croatian national team coach until the first day of 1994. Antunović was later to admit his dilemma: to take young players or old(er) international players to the European Championships. Since it was a good opportunity to promote our country, a decision was made that the result was more important than the placement, and this could only be achieved by experienced players. It was a mistake because those players had not played any matches for the national team for years. After Silić was named the new national team coach, a new line of attacks on HVS ensued from Split. They had a problem with the fact that the national team coach was once again the coach of Mladost. They demanded that Antunović be replaced by Neven Kovačević, who was eventually named the junior national team coach.


International Matches Outside Zagreb Too! In domestic club water polo, the domination of Mladost, which had an addition to its club name: Dukat; continued. They won another Cup in the final played in Sisak, which was supposed to serve as a boost to new, young urban environments, although this time the attempt proved unsuccessful. The team from Zagreb also won their third national championships. The final was played, as expected, against Jadran, which slowly lost its momentum after this final. The team captain, Mario Budimir left, under strange circumstances, in the middle of the season, and the coach, Joško Kovačević offered his resignation, which was not accepted. The championships were not overly interesting: apart from Mladost and Jadran there were no other favorites for the title. Jug started to reawaken, but this was still not enough to jeopardize the two-time former European champions. As soon as the conditions were favorable in Šibenik, Solaris started initial practices, and so did Primorje from Rijeka. Jug, coached by Valjalo, started the championship well, but started burning out as it neared its end. POŠK was on the brink of survival, but recovered in the autumn of 1994 under the new name of Slobodna Dalmacija. The 1993/94 season was marked by the first major riots at the pools. In Gruž, in a match between Jug and Jadran, referee Zvonimir Brkljačić from Rijeka was hit on the head by a cigarette lighter, and the match was terminated. Mladost won the Cup and the Championships that year with the following team: Rebić, Žagar, D. Kobešćak, Cimernam, Bosnić, Štritof, Vincek, Antunović, Vegar, Bukić, Bjelofastov, Fatović, V. Kobešćak, Školneković and coach Bruno Silić.

He was up to the task in defense and displayed extraordinary precision in offense. For any coach, he was “the player you can only wish for”. Sukno always had the task of guarding the opponent’s most dangerous player. Even Milivoj Bebić, “the goal machine”, and the world’s best player at the time, did not get to play much when guarded by him. He was great in counter-attack and extremely fast. In Ljubljana in the Super Cup match against CSK from Moscow at the end of 1980s, he won the first ball and attack at the beginning of every quarter and all four overtimes, for his Jug. Ten years after he stopped playing, his co-players and coaches pointed out: in the beginning of the 1980s he played water polo as it is played today, 20 years later. He was a gentleman in the pool and outside it. His co-players from Jug held him in high respect and, to illustrate the point further, he was the national team captain for two years. He started playing water polo in Cavtat where he grew up. He was twelve years old when he attended his first practice. When he was 17 he received an invitation from Jug. Professor Milivoj Petković decided to change the entire team with a new generation, to put together a new team that in 1980 would , after a 29 year wait, bring the

Yugoslav champion title back to Dubrovnik, and to take the club on its first trip to European cups, where Jug went all the way, taking their first European Championship in a final tournament in Kupari. In 1979 he played for the senior national team in the Mexico World Student Games. Prior to that, he played for the junior selection, which, although it was a good team, never managed to win a medal. Eleven players went to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow; Goran was the twelfth, one extra. He continued taking trophies with Jug, winning both domestic competitions in 1981, and in the following season he won another national championship and became a standard player of the A national selection. He does not like to remember the first two years with the national team, marked by no great success, fourth place in the World Championships in Ecuador and fifth place in the European Championships in Rome. Gold in the Mediterranean Games in Casablanca was the introduction to a life on “the winners’ podium”. The following year he won the gold again, this time in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, followed by a silver medal in the 1985 European Championships in Sofia, and gold in the 1986 World Championships in Madrid. He was

That year, the Croatian teams lost their primacy in European water polo. The great Hungarian team, Ujpest Torna stormed across the European scene. Special mention should be made of the LEN TWPC meeting where it was decided that international matches could also be played outside Zagreb. The first international match at Poljud was thence played on February 26th,1994: Jadran played Catalunya (6:6) in the Champions Cup semis, and was then defeated in Barcelona by 8:5. Mladost ran into Ujpest Torn in the quarterfinals, losing in Zagreb by 14:12, and leveling in Budapest 6:6. Kvarner was fifth in the Mediterranean Cup, and Jug went out to Vasas in the Cup Winners’ Cup semifinal. In May, Croatia suffered another tough blow: it lost an important position in the LEN office. Ivica Cipci was no longer the member of LEN Governing Body, and Jakov Matošić remained on LEN’s Technical Water Polo Committee. When Bruno Silić became the national team coach, a change of generations occurred. The main goal was set – Atlanta 1996, the Olympics. Everything else was supposed to be just stops on the way, with of course attempts at winning medals at all competitions. That is why Silić left for the 1994 World Championships in Rome without seven of his standard players. He introduced new players and started building the national team cult. However, things did not go smoothly. In mid April 1994, Joško Kreković from Jadran dropped out of the national team, unhappy with the way he was treated in Antunović’s time. It was no secret that his club was falling apart and that he, and some other older players, wanted to cash in their skills somewhere else, on Malta for example. However, he reached an agreement with Silić, reserving the right to cancel again after Rome. Nevertheless, Silić lost an important

the captain of the world champion team, but that is where his representative career ended as he left Jug and joined Italian Salerno. In the Apennines he played for Salerno in the A-1 League for four seasons and just as many in the unique A-2 League. He made a brief return to Jug in 1989. Salerno was nowhere as strong as Jug, but he said: “I was very content and didn’t accept offers from stronger clubs”. In the summer of 1994 he returned home. Neven Kovačević became the new coach of Jug, and the team was reinforced by Emil Nikolić and Elvis Fatović who returned to Gruž after their outings to Italy and Zagreb. Goran Sukno took over the role of Jug’s sports director, a role he is still fulfilling today. In 1994, only two months after Sukno’s return, Jug won the Croatian Cup, its first trophy in the independent Croatia. Two years later, a new Cup was won, and since 2000, not a year has passed without a trophy. In 2001, for the first time in its history, Jug managed to win three trophies in one year and in 2006 took a step further, winning four new trophies. A total of 19 new titles have been won since 1994, four of which are European. Both Goran’s sons, Ivan and Sandro, play for Jug. Goran is the vice-president of the HVS (the Croatian Water Polo Federation), the right arm of Perica Bukić.

player that year: the left-handed Marko Žagar from Mladost, left to study in the USA in July that year. Certain clubs, of course, expressed displeasure with the A-team composition; in Šibenik they were angry because Ivica Tucak was left out and Primorje had the same problem with Damir Glavan not being invited. During the summer, the team played several preparatory tournaments which indicated some cracks in the team; however, these cracks were not mended until the “Foro Italico”. We were once again one step away from a medal and again came short. This time we lost the bronze medal match to Russia by 14:13 after overtimes. Our goal keeper Renzo Posinković played extremely badly. In the World Championships, which are objectively a much weaker a competition than the European, we only managed to defeat New Zealand, Australia, the USA and the Netherlands, and we lost to Italy, Spain and Russia, so we did not deserve better than the fourth place we won. Italians won the Championships, led by Ratko Rudić who created a great team. However, Croatia did win a medal in 1994: the junior team won silver at the European Championships in Bratislava, losing to Hungary in the final by 8:4. Our young team was coached by Neven Kovačević, and the players were: Perčinić, Komadina, Ivaniš, Herceg, Burburan, Smodlaka, Pintarić, Antunović, Bradarić, Oreb, Hinić, Rogin and Pejić. It was precisely this generation that produced new players for the A national team and created a new generation. A year later the same generation played in the junior World Championships in France. They made it to the semifinal where they defeated Italy. Unfortunately, the last whistle of the referee marked the beginning of a mass fight, started by the Italians. Since the Croatian team did not back down and returned the punches instead, both teams were disqualified from the competition.


MLADOST DUKAT – Croatian champions in 1995

1995 The Supremacy of the Frogs, the National Team Fourth in the European Championship After Neven Kovačević became the coach of Jug at the end of 1994, the team won the national Cup and was in the race for the Championship title. The team played with the following line-up: Balić, Bijač, Pecotić, Herceg, Musladin, Lujo, Nikolić, Klaić, Bošković, Vasić, Bobić, Fatović, Režić and Jurišić. They celebrated the title in the Zagreb discotheque Saloon, owned by Vlaho Srezović, their former co-player. After the initial impetus in the newly created state, and the logical fall ensued of all those clubs that could not follow the demands of top competitive drive, the ratio of power shifted. Solaris, with their coach Grga Renje, became a more serious and worthy opponent, and so did Primorje with Zoran Roje. The fourth championship of Croatia hinted it would once again, be a very interesting one. It started with a -2 point penalty for Mladost, Mornar, Galeb and Second League Zadar because their juniors did not show up for the junior championships of Croatia. A pretty good decision based on principles. The Mediterranean Cup took place in Zagreb with Solaris as the host. They lost the final to the Italian Como, which had Dubravko Šimenc playing for the team at the time. It has to be pointed out that the true winners of that tournament were the players of Medveščak, a club which did not play in the official competition, but who bettered all of its opponents. In the fall of 1994, the HVS assembly took place in Zagreb. In the assembly, there were attempts to overthrow Vlado Kobešćak, the current president, due to a conflict of interest. Kobeščak was supposed to make a choice – to remain the president of the HVS or of Mladost. The national team coach, Silić, was also offered a choice – to be the professional coach of Mladost or the national team.


In the national championships, the Frogs were still dominant. They often went to Hungary for sparring matches which surely contributed to their strength and experience. In February of 1995 there was one serious incident which required the intervention of the police, and it occurred in Split in a match between Jadran and Solaris. After a physical conflict, the team from Šibenik left the pool, resulting in subsequent penalties for 11 players, coach Grgo Renje and the club president, Zoran Knežević. They were stripped of three points and the match was registered as a 5:0 victory for Jadran. It was not the only incident of the season: Željko Klarić was hit with something – they say with wet cardboard – in Gruž, during the match between Jug and Mladost. The match was registered as a 5:0 win for Mladost and Jug was punished with five home matches being played before empty stands. The play-off saw another match between those two teams. In Zagreb, the host team led by 5:0 and 9:5 but in the end barely managed to draw a level score of 9:9. The match in Dubrovnik was also a draw (14:14). Gruž was empty, but outside the pool, the heat was on. In the deciding match in Zagreb, Mladost managed to win by 12:7, with 6 goals by the excellent Perica Bukić. Mladost played with the following players: Školneković, Vrdoljak, D. Kobešćak, Cimerman, Veszelits, Štritof, Vincek, Damjanić, Vegar, Bukić, Pačalijev, Ivaniš, V. Kobešćak, Vićan and coach Bruno Silić. Mladost deservedly won its fourth Croatian championship. In the league part of the competition they had only two draws, against Rijeka and Šibenik. In the play-offs they had two more against Jug. The championship was won without a single lost match. Jadran finished the season fifth, sinking deeper and deeper to average standard and was the biggest disappointment of that championship. In the Euro cups, Jug made it to the Cup Winners’ Cup semifinal, sadly losing to Vasas in Budapest by 10:8 (the first match was won by Jug 7:6). Jug lost its final appearance only 2 seconds and 5 tenths before the end of the match. By that point, the score was 9:8, a result that would have taken Jug into the final.

The most important people for the development of Siniša Školneković’s career were probably two young coaches from Split. When he started playing as a 13 year-old boy at Zenta, he played the position of centre and played it well. But this lasted for only a few months because coaches Željko Jozipović and Neven Podrug put him in goal. It proved to be a great decision because Školneković was, in his time, without any doubt, not only the best Croatian goalie, but also the best goal keeper in the world. We all remember how well the “Varaždinec, his homeland son” defended his goal – just like a real octopus with a hundred arms! It is hard to forget his fantastic saves. He himself once said that his best game was in the Atlanta Olympic Games. Details of him kissing the ball after every saved shot from centre Igor Milanović in a quarterfinal match against Yugoslavia are unforgettable. That quarterfinal victory was, Školneković and his co-players claim, something more than a mere sporting victory; but the pinnacle was their game in the semifinal when Croatia defeated the unbeatable Italy after two overtimes. Our Ratko Rudić, the Italian coach at the time, came to Školneković after the match and said “Good work Sine!” In his career, which ended in 2004, the name of Dragan Rebić is especially prominent. They played side by side, first in POŠK, in Mladost and then the national team for which Školneković played 164 matches. They would change roles: first Dragi was on the goal, and Sine was the reserve, and then vice-versa. This rivalry gave birth to a great, true friendship, and Školneković was the best man at Rebić’s wedding!

If we ignore the part of his career spent in Palermo, where he spent more time recovering from injury than playing, we must ask the question which club will remember him more: he was a great player with POŠK and Jadran, but his days of glory came in Mladost. Those were the four seasons filled with trophies: four national championships, two national cups, the Champions League and Super Cup. His name is written in golden letters in the books of the club from the River Sava. Siniša says he had so many great experiences during his career, but there are plenty of unpleasant ones too. The happiest and the saddest was the Olympic tournament in Atlanta. He is convinced that after wins over Yugoslavia and Italy, they would have defeated Spain in the final too if only coach Bruno Silić had not had to sit that match out in the stands, due to a red chart. He will never Date of birth: Ja forget the final matches of the nuary 18th, 1968 . Place of birth: Champions League against Ujpest Varaždin Occupation: w Torna in 1996 and the Super Cup ater polo coac h Started playin against Roma that same year. g water polo in 1981 in POŠK an ca – Those are definitely my favorite reer in 2004. d ended his pl ayer Player career: club victories – he is convinced. 1981-1982 POŠK ; 1992-1996 Mla He does not hide his sorrow at Jadran; 1999-2 dost; 1996-199 000 POŠK; 2000 9 -2002 Palermo Jadran’s defeat against Partizan Jadran (Italy); 2003-200 4 in the LEN Cup final on Poljud. Coaching care er: 2004-2006 Jadran; POŠK sin No wonder there, because after ce 2007 Trophies with the national te 8:8 in Belgrade, the whole of am: – silver in 1996 Olympic Games Split believed the trophy had in Atlanta – silver in 1999 Eu ropean Champi already been pocketed. But, onship in Flor – silver in 1993 ence Mediterranean instead of a home celebration, Games in Cann Trophies with et the club: Partizan managed to win in – European ch Split by a football score of 3:1. ampion: 1996

Mladost too was stopped in the Champions Cup semifinal. It all started with some behind-the-scenes games by Posillipo in the quarterfinal. They were allegedly afraid for their two Serbs: Popović and Tadić and they even suggested playing the match in Trieste, where Jadran had to play during the war. In the semifinal against Catalunya, Mladost lost in Spain by 5:4, but could not do better than draw (6:6) at home, which meant elimination from the competition. Catalunya went on to win the Champions’ Cup, but also the Super Cup in a match against Vasas, refereed by our international referee Željko Klarić, who refereed almost all the important international club or national team matches in the world in that period. At a extraordinary HVS Executive Board meeting on July 17th 1995, Zdravko Hebel was elected as the new president of the Federation. Hebel had, up to that point, fulfilled the duties of HVS and COC vice-president. His predecessor, Vlado Kobeščak, confirmed his appointment by fax from his cell in a Rome prison where he ended up due to his “excessive passion for expensive cars that he leased but did not pay, at least not in time”. In August 1995, the national team played in the European Championships in Vienna, which were played in a football stadium: a pool was assembled on the tartan track in front of one of the stands. Bruno Silić, who opted to become the professional national team coach and left his post as the coach of Mladost, led the team. The team went to Austria incomplete and we have the fingers of Joško Kreković and Renato Vrbičić to blame. Kreković got injured first and cancelled his participation, and afterwards, centre Vrbičić’s finger snapped in three places and he also could not play. The naturalized Croat Andrej Bjelofastov was in the team, but Dubravko Šimenc was not. Dubravko made an arrangement with the national team coach to take the year off

Siniša Školne

The Croatian O c



(Mladost) – European Su per Cup: 1996 (Mladost) – Croatian cham pionship: 1993 , 1994, 1995 an – Croatian Cup: d 1996 (Mlado 1993 and 1995 st) (Mladost)

because his family had grown and he wanted to ensure a good living in a foreign club. However, the draw favored Silić’s team and they also played well in the few tournaments before the Championship. Their appetites grew and there were again stories of winning medals. But it was not to be. With two defeats against Hungary and draw scores against Russia and Italy, the team made it to the third place match. That would not have been bad at all had we won, but the bronze went to Germany after an 11:10 loss. The winning goal was scored by Reiman, and our team claimed that the ball did not cross the imaginary goal line. There were no cameras in the goal at the time, so the goal was refereed regular and Germany took the bronze. They managed to win even without the former Mladost player Davor Erjavec, who took German citizenship but did not play in that match due to an injury. Rudić led the Italians to another win, despite the fact that they, like us, also rejuvenated their team. Spain was only fifth and alongside Croatia, was one of the greatest disappointments of the championships. After the European Championships, the FINA Cup in Atlanta, the qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games the following year, was to ensue in September. In a competition of eight first teams from the last World Championships in Rome in 1994 we did not do well again. The Hungarians were finally first and we ended up sixth which was just enough to qualify for the Olympics. We were not injury free in that tournament either; Vjekoslav Kobešćak injured his finger. The cadets, coached by Miro Trumbić, ended the European Championships in German Esslingen in only seventh place.


The return of the silver water polo players from the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta

1996 Mladost Wins the Champions Cup and Super Cup The world of water polo was increasingly dissatisfied with the unjust system of competition in the Champions’ League and there are more and more demands for rule changes in that competition, as well as of the basic rules of water polo. However, in a FINA congress, in February of 1996 it was decided that referees would lose their flags, coaches were given two timeouts during the match, after a foul outside the seven meter zone players were free to shoot at the goal, and it was possible to change the players in the ejection corner at any point in the match. Furthermore, the caps no longer had necessarily to be blue or white exclusively, club colors were now allowed. The World Association of Coaches strongly opposed the proposed shortening of the pitch to 25 meters and the reduction in the number of players to six, so these propositions, together with permission for flying changeovers during the match and the reduction of ball volume, were discarded. In the fifth national championships, which, as usual, commenced with Cup competitions, Mladost unexpectedly lost the semis to Jug, who faced Primorje in the finals. The first final match ended in a draw, and Primorje won the second by 13:11, thus winning the trophy. The team from Rijeka played with the following line-up: Petrić, Vezjak, V. Burburan, Šimac, D. Burburan, Pejić, Benić, Vičić, Gović, Barač, Hinić, Glavan and Kaid, Vuković. Their coach was Zoran Roje. Jadran won second place in the Mediterranean Cup that year, losing the final to Vouliagmeni by 6:7 in Kranj. After the league part of the championship, Mladost was leading; Jug is second, followed closely by Primorje and Solaris. In January 1996 a bizarre car accident happened: a bus with Jadran’s players collided with a tram in Zagreb. Apart from several cuts and slight concussion for centre Dejan Savičević, everything went fine.


Having lost the Cup, the team from Zagreb put a great deal of extra effort into the championships, winning for the fifth time with the following team: Školneković, Vrdoljak, D. Kobešćak, Vićan, Bosnić, Štritof, Jerković, Damjanić, Vegar, Bukić, Rogin, Ivaniš, V. Kobešćak, Huljev. They were coached by Ozren Bonačić. The play-offs were played in three rounds. Mladost was also dominant in Europe, winning the continental title, but also the Super Cup that time. The final in Budapest, on March 23rd 1995, saw the great Ujpest Torna defeated by 7:4, and the 6:6 score in the Zagreb return match was enough for the title. In the Super Cup, Mladost bettered Roma, which eliminated Jug in the Cup Winners’ Cup semifinal. The December of 1995 is interesting because it marked the first meeting of clubs from the former country. In Kranj, in neutral territory, in the LEN Cup, Solaris and Bečej faced off. The team from Šibenik, led by Milivoj Bebić won by 7:4, but in Szeged, which Bečej chose as its home pool, Solaris lost by 11:9. Juniors, coached by Neven Kovačević, won a European bronze in Istanbul in August 1996. The line-up was: Volarević, Komadina, Mirović, Benić, Burić, Rabadan, Sarić, Đogaš, Jaić, Letica, Šintić, Rilović and Vičić.

Silver Medal in Atlanta Olympic Games However, 1996 is important for something else too – the first Croatian Olympic medal. Atlanta will always be marked with a golden hue in the Croatian water polo record book – even though the medal won was silver. Our team headed to America more determined than ever, they were not hiding behind statements or empty words like “we’ll give our best, we will try to win a medal”, and this time they were pretty clear about their intentions – “we are going for a medal”. Said – and done!

Bruno Silić

Atlanta The Creator of the Olympic Medal

st mber 1 , 1958. Date of birth: Dece Place of birth: Split th 2004 in Zagreb slav Died: January 18 lit; 1988-1990 Yugo 86-1989 Jadran, Sp 91 19 j; an Coaching career: 19 Kr v, Trigla m coach; 1989-1991 98 junior national tea t, Zagreb; 1994-19 os ad Ml 95 -19 93 19 ; ns he t, At , da ad yfa 1993 Gl 2000-2002 Ml os coach; 1998-2000, m tea l na tio na n Croatia -2004) Zagreb r of Mladost (2002 l: executive directo cia offi an as r ree Ca national team: Trophies with the ta. pic Games in Atlan – silver in 1996 Olym Bari. in es m Ga n ea an diterr – silver in 1997 Me in Narbonne, hip ns r World Champio nio Ju 89 19 in ld – go slavia) France 1989 (Yugo : bs Trophies with clu ost) lad (M 01 – LEN Cup: 20 d 2002 (Mladost) hip: 1994, 1995 an ns pio am – Croatian Ch 02 (Mladost) – Croatian Cup: 20

Sila (or Force in Croatian) – only a short word, but one which brings back memories of a man from the history of Croatian water polo; a man always cheerful, with a smile on his face and an everlasting flame in his eye. The face of a man who enjoyed life to the full – as if he had known that he would not be with us for a long time – and who literally spread positive energy all around him. An excellent coach and an excellent human being with all the traits of humanity that are these days lost, ignored or not recognized all too easily. He remained that way until the moment he was gone and we realized the void that was left behind. That was Bruno Silić; the creator of the Atlanta silver Olympic medal, which was, until the World Champions’ title in Melbourne, the greatest success of Croatian water polo. Water polo was not his job, it was never his profession. Water polo for Sila was a passion, love and life. He always gave himself in his entirety by the pool, for the boys in the pool, for the game. And his playing career was terminated before it even started. He was 19 when the doctors told him to forget about the pool! Completely opposite to so many careers that started after a doctor’s recommendation. Bruno started training as a boy in Jadran, but a bacteria he picked up in the pool, a form of conjunctivitis, proved fatal. He was not too desperate; determined to stay in water polo, he put on his jogging suit and started a coaching career. At only 20 he took over Jadran, his players only slightly younger than he. This did not prove to be a shortcoming, quite the opposite. The confirmation came in 1984, only six years after he took on coaching. Ratko Rudić, the national coach of Yugoslavia enlisted him for his expert team. He was supposed to coach players serving their military service. And when Rudić asked a 26 year old young man into his team, it became obvious what coaching potential that young man had.

In 1986 Silić became the first coach of Jadran – at the age of 28 he was one of the youngest experts in the history of this successful and prominent club. He did not win any trophies, but one must bear in mind that this was the period when Partizan was particularly strong and Mladost was spreading its wings for a European comeback. After three years on Zvončac, he left for Slovenia, which was still not considered a foreign country. Triglav of Kranj played in the Second League at the time. He came there in the middle of the 1989/90 season, and already in the next season, the club fought for and won its place in the First League; only, that league was never going to be played again. He was still in Slovenia when the war started. He received an invitation from Athens, from a club bearing the name of the beautiful Athenian quarter, Glyfada. He did not win any trophies in Athens either, but there he met his life-long and probably best friend ever – the basketball player Stojko Vranković, who played for Panathinaikos at the time. Besides, Stojko is the one who has safe-keeping of Silić’s Olympic medal these days. Silić spent two years in Athens before returning to Croatia and starting a new chapter in his life. Life in Zagreb – love for Mladost. The golden era of Bruno Silić started at New Year 1994. That was the day he was named the national team coach. He also continued in his post as Mladost’s first team coach until 1995. That year he won his first trophy, the national championships, and he would repeat that success the following year too. From 1995, he was the national team coach exclusively. The perfect combination of discipline, unquestioned knowledge, the right psychological approach to every individual, all spiced with a pinch of humor within the team, made Silić’s Croatia ready for great things.

Almost ten years later, Ratko Štritof was picturesque in describing Sila’s methods: – We were in a tournament in the States, and war was raging in Croatia. We were playing against Yugoslavia, we played badly and were losing bigtime, our people in the stands were angry at them and us. Sila called for a time-out, we reached the pool edge ready to get our share of criticism, and he simply looked at his watch and said: “OK, let’s get this over with quickly; the shopping mall closes in only an hour”. How can you not do everything for that kind of a coach next time! In Atlanta, in that amazing July of 1996, our players had the entire country on their feet. Yugoslavia was brilliantly defeated in the quarterfinal, Italy eliminated in the semifinal, in the thrilling overtime. In the final we played without Silić who was excluded due to misconduct in the previous match and won the silver. Two years later, after failure in the World Championships in Perth, Silić, after almost five years as the national team coach, stepped down, worked in Jadran for a while, and in the 1998/99 season transferred to Pescara, one of the rare clubs to win all three European cups. However, he could not go without Mladost and Zagreb for too long. He took over the Frogs again and led them until 2002, as long as his health allowed it. He went on to win another trophy in 2001 – the only trophy still not won by that club – the LEN Cup. The last year and a half he spent as the Executive Director of Mladost, visiting the pool some 10-15 days prior to his death. Perica Bukić approached Silić after the Olympic final in Atlanta in July 1996 and said: “Sila, we couldn’t have done it without you”. Time flies, but this statement remains true. If it had not been for Silić, many things would not have been possible. Now that he has gone, many things will never be possible again.


They did not leave anything to chance, even sending a delegation to scout out the situation in Atlanta prior to the beginning of Games. It was a smart move, allowing them to avoid any possible problems with acclimatization. They were supposed to spend time preparing in Tupelo, a small town best known as the birth place of Elvis Presley. But Tupelo did not have a suitable pool, so our two-week preparation was summarily moved to Nashville. The Atlanta quarterfinal match against Yugoslavia was particularly emotional. Defeat there would be twice as painful – not only would it be a slap in the face, but would leave us out of contention for medals. Siniša Školneković, who saved 9 out of 15 shots at the goal, Perica Bukić who started our campaign with two goals and Dubravko Šimenc who played one of his best matches ever and scored three goals, did a great job. Of course, they were not alone. The team appeared mighty and precise. We defeated Italy in an exhausting semifinal match. Our coach, Bruno Silić, was expelled due to misconduct in that match, which was to prove to be an insurmountable obstacle in the final the next day against Spain. That final was the first and only match where our players did not show their true colors, as if they were already content with the silver medal won the previous day. The Spaniards took gold which they had intended to win four years earlier when they organized the Olympic Games in Barcelona. We lost the final by 7:5 with the following team: Školneković, Vrdoljak, Kreković, Šimenc, Kržić, Štritof, Vrbičić, Glavan, Vegar, Bukić, Hinić, Balić, V. Kobešćak and coach Bruno Silić.



In Atlanta, we defeated Greece (8:5), Romania (11:6), we lost a group match to Italy 10:8, defeated Ukraine 16:8 and lost to the USA 10:8, in a match which did not mean much because we knew we had already booked a place in the quarterfinal. There awaited Yugoslavia, and after a grandiose fight in the best match of the Olympic tournament, we won by 8:6. The day after, we defeated the Italians by 7:6 after overtimes, since the referees were working in our opponents favor. The final brought a nervous breakdown. Our reserve goalkeeper Maro Balić had a mobile phone hidden in the pocket of his robe. The idea was for Silić, who was in the stands, to communicate with Fabijan Nola, his assistant. With so many cameras around, this scheme could not have gone unnoticed for long and the mobile phone was taken away from us after a quarter and a half and Silić was given a special guard in the stands. Our players lost their concentration in all the fuss and played their worst match in the tournament. A shame really, because that gold should have ended up round our players’ necks. After winning the silver medal in the Atlanta Olympics, nothing was ever the same, water polo was given the place it deserves in Croatian sport. Or rather we all thought it was. However, the years to come were to show that this historical moment was not used in the best possible way. In team sports, basketball was slowly descending from the Croatian scene, football has always been a world of its own anyway, but handball appeared and took over the primacy.

THE WINNERS OF THE OLYMPIC SILVER MEDAL IN ATLANTA IN 1996 – Tino Vegar, Siniša Školneković, Igor Hinić, Damir Glavan, Dubravko Šimenc, Joško Kreković, Perica Bukić (top row); Maro Balić, Vjekoslav Kobešćak, Ratko Štritof, Zdeslav Vrdoljak, Renato Vrbičić, Ognjen Kržić (bottom row)



Perica Bukić

The Greatest of th

e Greats

Bukić’s game and results, personality and behavior, have left an impressive mark on the history of international water polo, and in the one hundred years of Croatian water polo, he is without doubt the greatest star. In our modern age, we might say he is the closest thing to the classical perception of the sports hero/role-model. In a precise mathematical way, the statistics confirm this fact: 40 trophies – medals, cups, and titles – in senior competitions alone, make him the absolute world record holder and the all-time player with most trophies on the face of the planet! He has 12 more than his closest rival, the great Catalonian, Manuel Estiarte. While Bukić was playing for Mladost, the Zagreb club won 24 titles, earning the mantle it proudly wears today, as the club with the most trophies in the world. During his presidency of the national Federation, Croatia climbed all the way to the title of World Champions. Not all of this was coincidence. There are people in this world who are simply destined for success, or victories. Bukić is one of them. “My late grandfather was called Petar and I was named after him. To differentiate us, my parents called me Perica. To be frank, I didn’t like the name for a while. It sounded fine when I was a baby, or a little boy, but later it didn’t seem that great. Although later, when I started playing, it all came together. It had a nice ring to it.” Despite its longstanding tradition in the sport, Šibenik, where he was born and raised, is not really a water polo city. When Perica was growing up, the city was infatuated with basketball and the Mozart of the parquet, Dražen Petrović. Basketball was the first sport of the young Bukić, too. He admits to being a talented basketball player, and says it was his first, childhood love. Then, ironically, medical problems emerged. At the age of 13 or 14, he was diagnosed with ossification of the back, and swimming was recommended. Swimming, but not water polo, because any blows might have left him permanently disabled. The problem was that the 13 year-old youngster took a fancy to water polo. And that is how it all started. At the age of 14, he won his first cup with Solaris, but he was bit able to celebrate it as he would have wished! “We won the Yugoslav Cup, but the problem was that we won it on May 4th 1980. Two or three subdued songs in the bus on our way back to Šibenik, no celebration and that was it,” Bukić remembers. For those who have forgotten or were not even born at the time, that was the day the President of the country, Josip Broz Tito, died. Only a couple of years later, by 1983, 17 year-old Perica Bukić had achieved star status in the club and the city. At the age of 18, he became the captain of Solaris and the Olympic champion. National coach Rudić concealed the fact both from the press and their opponents that Bukić had broken a finger only a few weeks before the Games. He was not yet a star in Los Angeles. He was getting used to the company of older players (Bebić, Roje, Sukno, Lušić...), but his time was still to come. At 20, he added the 1986 Madrid World crown to the Olympic gold. He had already matured as a player, but he was still the age of a junior. The biggest clubs, Partizan and Mladost in particular, had their eye on him, and

Date of birth: Fe bruary 20th, 19 66 Place of birth: Šibenik Solaris could not compete objecOccupation: ec onomist tively with the two dominators of Started playin g water polo in the national water polo scene at 1979 in Šibenik, in 2001 in Mlado ended his care the time. Belgrade showed interst er Club career: 19 est, but the team from Sava had 79-1987 Solaris , Šibenik; 1987-1 Zagreb; 1991-1 991 Mladost, a master plan – to create a team 992 Jadran, Sp lit; 1992-2001 M Na tio nal team career ladost, Zagreb for the highest achievements : 300 matches for SFRY (1983 matches for Cr and return to the paths of -1991), 150 oatia (1992-199 8) Career as an offi glory. In the summer of 1987 – cial: Director of Mladost from President of th during the University Games in 2001 to 2008, e Croatian Wat er Po lo Federation sin member of the Zagreb, when Mladost finally ce 2004, Croatian Parliam ent since 2003 Club of Croatia got its own pool – the club , President of th n Olympians fro e m 2001 to 2004 Croatian Olym made one of the most crucial , member of th pic Committee e from 2000 to 20 Board of Direct moves in its history. Jere 04, member of ors of the Water the Polo Clubs Wor Bukić, who was negotiating Performs seve ld Association. ral political du tie s in addition to on behalf of his son, asked Trophies with the above. the national te for much less than Mladost am: – gold at the 19 84 Olympic Ga was ready to offer. The deal mes in Los Ange – gold at the 19 les 88 Olympic Ga was settled quickly. Starting mes in Seoul – gold at the 19 86 World champi from the next season, Perica onships in Mad – gold at the 19 rid 91 World Cham Bukić would wear the Frogs’ pionships in Pe – gold at the 19 rth 87 World Cup in cap. Thessalonica – gold at the 19 89 World Cup Among the first to discover in Berlin – gold at the 19 the news was a journal90 Goodwill Ga m es in Seattle – silver at the 19 ist from a Zagreb sports 96 Olympic Ga m es in Atlanta – sil ver at the 1985 weekly magazine, who European Cham pi onships in Sofia – sil ver at the 1987 rushed to Šibenik right European Cham pi on – sil shis in Strasbou ve r at the 1989 Eu away. His arrival caused rg ropean Champi – silver at the 19 onships in Bonn shock waves in Krešimir’s 91 World Cup in Barcelona – silver at the 19 city. 91 Mediterrane an Games in Cane – silver at the 19 “The departure of Perica t 93 Mediterrane an Ga mes in Athens – silver at the 19 Bukić means losing 85 University Ga mes in Kobe – bronze at th the foundation of all e 1987 Universit y Games in Za our results and all the Trophies with greb the club: ambitions of our club,” – European Ch ampionships: 1989, 1990 and – the grieving people (Jadran) 1996 (Mladost ), 1992 of Šibenik complained – European Cu p Winners’ Cup: frankly. 19 99 (Mladost) – LEN Cup: 2001 (Mladost) The news hit the town – European Su per Cup: 1989 instantly – Perica was and 1996 (Mla – Mediterrane dost) an Cup: 1988 an leaving. True, they d 1991 (Mladost – Croatian Cham ) pionships: 1992 knew they could not , 1993, 1994, 19 1999 (Mladost 95, 1996, 1997 ) keep him forever, but and – Croatian Cup: 19 93 , 1994, 1998 an they had hoped for d 1999 (Mlado – Yugoslav Ch st) ampionships: at least a few more 1989 and 1990 – Yugoslav Cup: (Mladost) 1989 (Mladost seasons. ) A few days later in Zagreb, Perica made a statement for the leading sports weekly in the country, “I am really sorry to leave my club, too. Unfortunately, my studies have already taken me away from my city. I have been living and training in Zagreb since 1985, recently mostly on my own. Not that Mladost or Medveščak haven’t been willing to help me, but the fact is, I can’t play with them during practice when they’re fine-tuning their teams. During those months, Bukić spent Monday to Friday in Zagreb, then travelled to Šibenik, or wherever Solaris was playing that weekend. It was no way for a top athlete to survive and develop. His departure was only logical. Mladost did not have to wait long to start reaping the fruits of success with its new reinforcement. The very next year, they won the Mediterranean Cup – their first trophy since 1975 and the departure of a great generation, which had won four European Champions titles. That year, 1988,

< Bukić with the title of the European champion after the finals between Mladost – Spandau 04

Perica won his second gold Olympic medal in Seoul. Trophies kept coming in, as though off an assembly line. One of the most impressive celebrations was surely that of 1989, when after the drama of overtime in the return match of the Champions League, the powerful European champion, Berlin’s Spandau 04, was dethroned. The stands held an amazing crowd of 5,000, though their capacity was only half that. The Frogs, led by Bukić, “set Zagreb on fire” and after a wait of 18 years, Mladost was again on top of Europe. Bukić, at the time 23 years old, with two Olympic golds, one World Championship title, and two club European Championship titles under his belt, had Zagreb at his feet. He was young,


successful and popular, alone in a big city, with no supervision, exposed to all the glitter and temptations a city like that offers to sports stars. At the age of 24, although already mature for his age, Bukić went through an additional transformation. In 1990, his father became severely ill and underwent treatment in Zagreb; he died the same year, leaving Perica to take over as head of the family and care for his mother and younger sister. The outbreak of the Homeland War resulted in the dissolution of Mladost’s champion team in 1991, only a few months after their victory in another World Championship in Perth. Milanović, Damjanić, Miškulin and Popović all left and Šimenc soon followed. The greatest interest focussed of course on Perica Bukić, but the best player of all – stayed! No one would have held a grudge against him had he gone abroad. After all, he was in a position to choose a club and write the figure of his choice on a blank cheque. But instead of heading for the peace and wealth of the West, he chose to stay in war-torn Croatia, in a club whose future was questionable, surrounded by talented but inexperienced young players (the Kobešćak brothers, Štritof, Bosnić, etc.). Bukić, however, had no intention of leaving; either his biological or his sporting family on the bank of the Sava. True, he was to leave Mladost, of which he was the captain, but only temporarily, seconded to higher, patriotic interests. In 1991, with Šimenc, he reinforced the ranks of the Split club, Jadran, on their quest for the European Championships title. In the newly created, independent Croatia, such a trophy did wonders to affirm the young state. The mission was a success, and while Split was still celebrating, Pero was already back in Zagreb the following day, practising with the Frogs. He was the one who hoisted the first trophy of the Croatian Championship and Croatian Cup. He was to hoist five more consecutive Championship titles. He was in peak form in 1996. “I was in top form that year. Mladost won the double national crown, the European Champions title, the European Super Cup, and I also played in the Olympic final. In the Opening Ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics, I carried the Croatian flag. Yes, that was the key year of my career,” Perica describes the year when he made his third appearance in the Olympics and played his third final. There are not too many athletes in the world who can boast achievements of this calibre. 1996 was the culmination of his playing career. He was to play in the national team for another two years, leading Mladost to a plethora of new trophies, two


of those European: the Cup Winners’ Cup and LEN Cup. Winning the latter meant he had rounded up the number of trophies won to 40, another record. There is no other water polo player in the world who has managed to win every competition in which he has participated! In November 2001, Bukić ended his playing career and became the director of Mladost. However, a year later, on November 12th 2002, he organized a spectacular match, still remembered in the world of water polo. It was truly a pilgrimage of the great to hail the greatest of them all – Massimilliano Ferreti, Tamas Molnar, Jesus Rollan, Aleksandar Jerišov, Theodoros Chatzitheodorou, Dubravko Šimenc, Gergelly Kiss, Igor Hinić, Tibor Benedek, Zsolt Varga, Revaz Čomakidze, Vjekoslav Kobešćak, Vladimir Vujasinović, Fabio Bencivenga, Renato Vrbičić, Ryan Bailey and Mile Smodlaka. From Spain to the USA, from Russia to Greece, through Hungary, Serbia, Italy and of course, Croatia; the crème de la crème came to say farewell to the greatest number ten in the history of water polo. The significance of the number 10 shirt in football (Puskas, Pele, Maradona, Zidane and Ronaldinho) is the same as the significance of Perica Bukić’s number 10 cap in water polo. Every end is also a beginning. He became the club director of Mladost and from November 2004, the president of the Croatian Water Polo Federation as well. Again, Bukić turned the tables, transforming a losing team in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and a sport abandoned by fans and sponsors into World Champions, welcomed by ten thousand people on Ban Jelačić Square in Zagreb. Of course, not everything planned has been achieved as yet. The arrival of Ratko Rudić, the coach with the most trophies in the world, put in motion the plan to return the Croatian national team to the top of the world. That process, which requires time, is still in motion. During the night after his farewell match, still surrounded by all those who had been with him during his career, he received an offer to exploit his popularity, wide circle of acquaintances and university education, in Croatian politics. A little later, he accepted the offer and left for his hometown of Šibenik with the task of revitalizing the economy of the city, which was in decay. He also gave himself a “secret” mission, to help Šibenik Water Polo Club, where he began his career and journey to sports fame so many years ago. His results in this arena also brought him applause and popularity. Today, the Šibenik players play in a new indoor pool in Crnica. And Bukić became a member of the

Croatian Parliament in 2003, staying until after the 2007 elections. During his first term, he stayed on familiar ground, participating in the creation of the Sports Act, and in topics related to his native region of Šibenik. In the second, he expanded his activities and participated in debates on social issues, particularly relating to children and young people. In the debate on the foundation of the National Council of Sport, he detailed the key problems of the status and functioning of sport in general and the system of sport financing, which was closely related to clubs’ functioning problems, which he emphasized as the basis for the development of any sport. During the debate, he also addressed the matter of athletes’ rewards and compensation, thus contributing to a better appreciation of sports and athletes. Bukić continued to assist, block, swim and score in this “game” too. This time, his victories included successful projects, social and economic progress, and improvements in the status of sport. “The greatest satisfaction in a job well done is when you help the people around you. I try to help as many as possible.” One warm July night in 2008, in the south of Andalusia, in a castle above Malaga, he was officially inducted into the Water Sports Hall of Fame. As he emerged to receive his sash, a permanent badge of Hall of Fame members, the video wall displayed mementos of a unique career – goals, trophies, celebrations and medals. In an appropriate speech of thanks, he mentioned his native Šibenik, his family of course, Mladost, his homeland Croatia, but most importantly, “Water polo, that beautiful game, took me from the pool of my home city to a life journey which gave me a lot of friends, sporting success, unforgettable victories and trophies, my wife Jelena and my three brightest medals, my children: my daughters Dorija and Petra, and my son Luka... It is commonplace to say that a person receives immortality through winning the Olympics. He did it twice. But joining the elite company of the Hall of Fame at only 42 indicates the fulfilment of a universal goal. “Achieving what you plan is the best way to become who you are,” Bukić said a few days later. “People who can set themselves high goals and go for them are lucky. Besides, that’s what makes the world go around. Rich people don’t strive to be even richer; they strive to achieve what they have planned.” Perica Bukić has achieved many goals, but his wealth lies in not shortening his list of goals and always setting new ones. Individuals like him are rare. The greatest of them all in water polo.

Maro Balić


o The Child and the S of Jug

5th, 1971 Date of birth: June ovnik Place of birth: Dubr lo coach po ter wa n: tio Occupa 05 Jug -20 Playing career: 1989 national team: Trophies with the s 96 Atlanta Olympic – silver medal at 19 club: Trophies with the pion: 2001 am Ch an pe – Euro – LEN Cup: 2000 and 2005 n: 2000, 2001, 2004 – Croatian Champio 03 and 2004 20 , 02 20 94, 1996, 2000, – Croatian Cup: 19

If you ask the fans of Jug how they remember Maro Balić, they are unanimous. By the end game of the Final Four tournament of the 2001 Euro League and his defences in the finals which, in a phenomenal atmosphere in Dubrovnik’s Gruž swimming pool, brought victory to Jug after overtime periods against Olympiacos of Greece and the second title of European Champions. It is true, the game’s hero was the centre player Mile Smodlaka. He was the key of the overtime period with the only two Jug goals in that part. But the entry of the goalkeeper Maro Balić at the end of the second quarter was the move of the game. Chatzitheodorou, Olympiacos captain, scored in the second quarter with a long shot against Goran Volarević, who started the final game in the Jug goal. It was a sign for cheers from the audience: “Maro Balić, Maro Balić!” Veselin Đuho, the coach of Jug, felt it was the moment to change the goalkeeper, and made no mistake. By the end of the finals, Balić collected seven great defences. He delighted everyone, his name was yelled out by the more than 5,000 fans of the Dubrovnik team, who squeezed into the Gruž stands that May night in 2001. Maro Balić is an offspring of Jug, but also the ‘soldier’ of that Dubrovnik club. Namely, he never replaced Jug’s cap with any other club’s cap, although there have been offers and invitations. Other players were leaving, but he stayed on. He played for seasons and seasons between the goalposts. His career began in the 1980’s. He participated in the first club’s successes after the Homeland War, beginning with the Croatian Cup in 1994, and onwards. Because of his excellent defences in the Jug goal, Bruno Silić, then selector of the Croatian national team, took on Balić in the team which brought Jug’s number one to an Olympic medal. Balić was a national team member, the second goal keeper, a replacement for Siniša Školneković at the Athens Olympic Games. After the end of the career in the summer of 2005, Balić started his coaching career. He is teaching the young Jug goalkeepers.


Renato Vrbičić

The Smiling Šibenik


st mber 21 , 1970 Date of birth: Nove enik Place of birth: Šib ter polo coach ical technician, wa ctr ele n: tio pa cu Oc ik; 1991-1992, -1990 Solaris, Šiben Playing career: 1987 Mladost; 1995-1997 -1995 Solaris; 1995 Jadran, Split; 1992 Jadran; 2001-2002 Mladost; 2000-2001 Solaris; 1997-2000 Civitavecchia; Catania; 2003-2004 Mladost; 2002-2003 2004-2005 Šibenik national team: Trophies with the pics e 1996 Atlanta Olym – silver medal at th : Trophies with clubs dran) n: 1991 and 1992 (Ja pio am Ch an – Europe p: 1999 (Mladost) – Cup Winners’ Cu ladost) – LEN Cup: 2001 (M 2002 (Mladost) n: 1997, 1999 and pio am Ch n tia oa – Cr ost) 98 and 1999 (Mlad – Croatian Cup: 19


One of the greatest centre players Croatia had in the last two decades of the 20th century. When taking into consideration who was ‘anchored’ at two meters in Croatian water polo of that period, then his remark has a particular weight. Renato Vrbičić, or more simply Vrba (or Willow in Croatian), was one of the main players for the Olympic silver in Atlanta. If we add that Vrba was the first centre player of the selected team, while the forthcoming Hinić the second, we said it all. A player of nearly superhuman, surreal, animal power, a nightmare for all the world’s defenders. And it began as with many water polo players. – “My back is to blame. I had problems in my childhood, and the doctors sent me to the swimming pool, for swimming as therapy” – Vrba explained. Thus ended his football career. “Actually, I liked to train as a footballer much more. Had I done that, who knows where I would be. I would not be here; rather in Hawaii”, he says in his playful style. It is usual to say that a willow tree is sad. But Vrba of Šibenik is the opposite example. The smile never leaves his face, constantly as a pulled trigger and ready for jokes. Except in one place. There were no jokes with Vrba in the swimming pool. He had three beloved clubs in his career, and always returned to them – his mother ship Šibenik, where he began and ended his career, then Mladost, with whom he won the most trophies, and Jadran from Split, with whom he twice stood on top of Europe. “I will always remember the first semi-finals we played as hosts in Zagreb against Savona. Two seconds until the end, I was ‘at the goalpost’. Bezmalinović gave me the ball, and I scored the goal. For victory, for the finals. My first Zagreb celebration”. After the end of his playing career, he stayed in Šibenik and with water polo as a coach. In the sport in which, in his own words, he ‘gained many friends, saw many new places and... received many hits in the head!’

Tino Vegar You simply cannot fight some things in life. Just as Tino Vegar could not do without water polo, he was simply predetermined by God to be a water polo player. Namely, Deni Lušić, one of the most famous names of Croatian water polo, is his first cousin – Tino’s mother is the sister of Deni’s father. Also, in the years when little Tino – although, not little indeed, because he was always tall – was beginning his career, POŠK was living its best times. First swimming, as if following some logic, already at the age of 9, and then to water polo since he was 13. His first coach was Ivica Rauning. In the summer, when there were no training sessions, they played with a ball, so Tino found his sport. In his play, he was somewhat ahead of his time, the kind of polyvalent player sought after today. Then it was an exception. Tino usually played on the right side, as defender, but also the centre player. He always had good legs, naturally in terms of water polo, the “scissors” which kept him high above the water. Interestingly, he was a defender in the club, and centre player in the national team. Still, many remember the killing combination from Mladost which drove the opponents crazy: number ten, Bukić on the left side, the nine Vegar against the ‘anchor’... What is normal today was patented by them. By the way, for a year and a half Mladost was invincible. Tino still plays water polo with the third league club Pučišća, or in the Wild League for the legendary Chuck Norris. In his words: he worked the most for the Olympic silver medal in Atlanta. They threw out then, on the way to the finals, all the strong national teams only to lose in the end to a weaker team (Spain). The semi-final game against the Italians is still inscribed in his mind Without the expelled coach Silić, they lost the finals: it still hurts him, as do the lost finals of the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup when Mladost lost to Jadran because of his missed four meter penalty:

tional Team Defender in the Na b – Center in the Clu

th ary 30 , 1967 Date of birth: Janu Place of birth: Split polo coach 00 Occupation: water 99 Mladost; 1999-20 -1991 POŠK; 1991-19 83 19 r: 04 ree ca -20 g 03 yin 20 ; Pla -2003 Jadran Ortigia, Italy; 2002 k POŠK; 2000-2002 05-2007 Medvešča 20 t; os -2005 Mlad Posillipo, Italy; 2004 national team: Trophies with the pics e 1996 Atlanta Olym hips – silver medal at th ropean Champions Eu g 1987 Strasbour e th at al ed m r ve – sil A Cup 87 Thessaloniki FIN – gold medal at 19 (as player): Trophies with clubs n: 1996 (Mladost) pio am Ch – European p: 1983 (POŠK) t) – Cup Winners’ Cu and 1996 (Mlados Cup: 1983 (POŠK) (Mladost) 91 19 d – European Super an ) ŠK 1986 and 1987 (PO p: Cu n ea an 97 err d – Medit , 1995, 1996 an 19 n: 1992, 1993, 1994 pio am Ch n tia oa – Cr (Mladost) n: 2004 (Posillipo) d 2000 (POŠK) – Italian Champio d 1998 (Mladost) an an 94 19 , 93 19 p: – Croatian Cu club (as coach): Trophies with the 09 (Medveščak) d Croatian Cup: 20 an s hip ns pio am – Junior Ch

“The ball slipped out and went where it should not – where I did not shoot”. Until that moment, Tino was one of the best Mladost players in that game. He scored three goals against the goalie Posinković. During his playing career, he played 58 times with the team of the former state, and 80 games for Croatia. After his playing career, he began work as a coach of younger players in Medveščak, to become the sports director, then the coach of the first team for a while, and finally to work as the club’s secretary.


Ognjen Kržić

ander Magnificent Left-H from Gruž

13th, 1969 Date of birth: March nik ov br Place of birth: Du lo coach po , ter ; 1993-1995 Savona Occupation: wa g; 1991-1993 Jadran Ju 91 -19 86 19 r: Playing caree g Italy; 1995-2007 Ju national team: Trophies with the s 96 Atlanta Olympic uedoc-Ro– silver medal at 19 mes in Sete (Lang Ga n ea an err dit Me 93 19 – silver medal at ussillon), France Games in Bari, Italy 97 Mediterranean – silver medal at 19 : g) Trophies with clubs ), 2001 and 2006 (Ju 92 and 1993 (Jadran 19 n: pio am Ch an – Europe g) – LEN Cup: 2000 (Ju p: 2006 (Jug) rcu pe Su 07 (Jug) an pe ro – Eu 2005, 2006 and 20 2000, 2001, 2004, n: pio am g) Ch n (Ju tia 06 oa 20 Cr d – 03, 2004 an 96, 2000, 2002, 20 – Croatian Cup: 19

Each sporting career must come to an end, as it has been written a thousand times, but what made the departure of Ognjen Kržić so special was his abundant career. Kržić won his first two trophies playing not for his home club Jug, but for Jadran of Split. He won a total of 18 trophies, of which six were European titles, and among them four were the European Championship club title. He took two with Jadran, two with Jug, having won with the latter the LEN Cup and the European Super Cup. As a junior, Kržić won the world champions title playing for the national team of the former state. That was in French Narbonne in 1989. At his senior age, playing for Croatian national team, he won the silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and the silver medal at the Mediterranean Games. He took part twice in the greatest world’s sports competition. After Atlanta, he also played at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.


For twelve entire seasons, indispensable on the right side, either with Jug, or Split’s Jadran, or Savona. A left-hander, a player of vast experience, he transferred his knowledge to younger generations, helping at the end of his career in the development of Maro Joković, the youngest Croatian national player to win the gold at the World Championships in Melbourne. How much Joković appreciated the success of another left-hander on the right side speaks for itself: after Kržić’s farewell, he took his cap, designated number five, and wore it in his further career. Besides all this, Kržić was famous for his swimming stamina. Despite his age, he could play two games in a row without resting. His left arm rarely missed the opponent’s goal, each ball he shot had eyes – as sportsmen like to say. After finishing his career, he stayed with Jug as coordinator of the younger generations. Ogi has a great deal to show, to teach the youngsters.

Joško Kreković

derous Arm

n Cool Head and Thu

17th, 1969 Date of birth: April lit Place of birth: Sp polo coach scara; dran; 1998-1999 Pe Occupation: water rnar; 1989-1998 Ja Mo 89 -19 85 19 r: ar Playing caree ly; 2003-2006 Morn 2000-2003 Nervi, Ita 1999-2000 POŠK; national team: Trophies with the s 96 Atlanta Olympic 19 – silver medal at : Trophies with clubs dran) n: 1991 and 1992 (Ja pio am Ch – European p: 1986 (Mornar) – Cup Winners’ Cu n: 1991 (Jadran) – Yugoslav Champio

Beauty, power and cold blood. Three characteristics of the play of Joško Joke Kreković. Although there are water polo players with more trophies, Joke Kreković is one of the best in the history of Split and Croatia. He swam with the ease of an eel, the attacking deadliness of a shark, and amazing, at times frightening cool heartedness when all was boiling around him. During the Atlanta Olympic semi-finals against Italy, when shooting what were then still four meter penalties, he demonstrated it all perfectly. Although, a dozen years later, he would say honestly and loudly: When I think of it today, there is no chance that I would do it again in cold blood. Actually, I wonder how I did it then. I could never do it later even during the club’s training session. It is good that he had no training session on that July afternoon in Georgia. “Actually, that year I completely matured as a player. I remember that Smodlaka, Vrbičić and I came to the selector Silić for preparatory trainings in Rijeka. I decided to give it all, absolutely. We told ourselves, ‘we will crush ourselves if needed, but we are not coming back without a medal‘.”

And return they did with a medal around their necks. It is true that he is still prickled for the lost chance in the final. However, the silver medal from Atlanta will stay forever inscribed as a success. Joke Kreković had several blissful moments in his career, several peaks. Atlanta is only one of them. In the finals of the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup against Mladost, Jadran was after one goal difference in Split. The first sports spectacle in the city in the middle of the war. Kreković scored three goals, and the last two were his masterpieces, especially the goal against the goalkeeper Rebić from 10 meters for a 5:4 lead and the overtime, where his final shoot ensued. He shone in another finals: in May 1998, in the first game of the LEN Cup finals in Belgrade, when he “crammed” in three goals against Partizan for the final 8:8. Today, Joško Kreković is a coach, and his colleagues say of him, which is a great, or even the greatest compliment for all great coaches: “You can see in Joke’s teams that their play has a head and a tail”. Joke was a similar player. Cool head, thunderous arm, one could never stop him.


1997 Yet Another Fourth Place Medal After winning the medal in Atlanta, coach Silić was again considering rejuvenation of the team. In 1997 we had three major competitions: the World Cup in Athens, the Mediterranean Games in Bari and the European Championship in Seville; and all of them during the summer months. It was imperative to find good form, preserve it and maintain it, and the most important thing was for the players to remain healthy, with no injuries or illness that had so often accompanied us in the major competitions. The first to come was the World Cup in Athens. We went there with a rejuvenated team and only six players from Athens. Kreković, Šimenc, Kržić, Vegar, Bukić, Balić and Vjekoslav Kobešćak were left out. It was a disastrous mistake. The great generation from Atlanta had disintegrated and seven best players in their prime were left out of the representative list. The oldest among them, captain and the team leader, Perica Bukić, was only thirty. All the others were younger. One may easily say that this was one of the biggest, if not the biggest mistake in the history of Croatian water polo. We needed to be among the first five out of eight teams to qualify directly for the World Championship in Perth the following year. We were not good, quite the opposite, we finished the tournament last. Our players seemed to be content with a 5:3 victory over Yugoslavia in the group, a victory, the future will show, which was to provide them with a motive for months to come, and cause problems for us. Following the quarter final defeat in Atlanta, this was the second consecutive loss by Yugoslav loss to us. Our players needed no better motive than war devastated Croatia. Silić played with: Školneković, Vrdoljak, D. Kobešćak, Herceg, Hinić, Štritof, Vrbičić, Glavan, A. Bošković, Barać, Kržić, Rogin and Perčinić.


After the Greek catastrophe, there were discussions about the necessity of bringing Šimenc and Bukić back into the national team, while Vjekoslav Kobešćak was left out of these debates because he had problems with a finger on his shooter arm. The press shared the concern of the public which was sensitized after the Atlanta medal. Bad prevention of counter-offensives, badly formed defense, inefficiency with an extra player were only some of the complaints... The Mediterranean Games in July were supposed to be a chance to rectify the situation and also a general rehearsal for the European Championships in Seville. But truth be told, this was a second rate competition. In the first matches, Slovenia and France were heavily defeated, but these were not true tests of strength. We played without Školneković, who was injured, and Vrbičić and Glavan. Italy was defeated in the semifinal by 6:5, and the final brought another match against Yugoslavia. We were defeated by 8:7, our only defeat in the competition. Yugoslavia got its revenge for the World Cup defeat; their winning goal was scored by Vičević, a minute and a half before the end of the match. We still had some chances, but the shots by Vjeko Kobešćak, Vrdoljak and Barać did not find their way into the Yugoslav net. It all ended with a fight in the pool because emotions were still strong in those years. Finally, in August, our team was facing the European Championships in Seville. It was a real competition, a place where we were supposed to take a continental medal. Vrdoljak, Glavan, Vrbičić and Jerković were ill on the eve of the Championships. Nevertheless, Silić managed to put together a respectable team which, as they announced themselves, was going for the medal. The team line-up was: Školneković, Vićan, A. Bošković, Kržić, Herceg, D. and V. Kobešćak, Vrdoljak, Glavan, Štritof, Vrbičić, Hinić, Barać, Ivaniš and Smodlaka, and those left behind after the preparations in Rijeka and Rome were Perčinić, Rogin, Burburan and Oreb. Preparations that summer were really intensive, a full three and a half months and three competitions.

Samir Barač

Goal-Getter an

d Model Maker

Date of birth: No vember 2nd, 19 73 Place of birth: Rijeka Occupation: m echanic engine er Started playin g water polo in 1983 Club career: 19 83-1997 Primor je; 1997-2000 PO Mladost; 2001-2 ŠK; 2000-2001 007 Brescia; sin ce 2007 in Prim orje Trophies with the national te am: – gold in 2007 World Champi onships in Mel – bronze in 20 bourne 09 World Cham pionships in Ro – silver in 1999 me European Cham pionships in Fl – silver in 2003 orence European Cham pionship in Kr – silver in the 20 anj 09 World Leag ue in Podgoric – silver in 1997 a Mediterranean Ga mes in Bari – silver at 2010 FINA Cup in O radea Trophies with clubs: – Euro League : 1999 (POŠK) – LEN Cup: 2001 (Mladost), 2002 , 2003 and 2005 – Croatian Cham (Brescia) pionships: 1998 (POŠK) – Italian Cham pionships: 2003 (Brescia) – Croatian Cup: 1995 (Primorje )

He is the epitome of a goal-getter, a first class shooter, who is too modest to admit it: “Đogaš is the real goal-getter”, he says. Maybe because he is also a playmaker, a player who scores and “packs”, something like Bošković, or the Hungarian Kasas, the Serb Vujasinović... Be as it is, wherever Samir goes, the harvest of trophies begins. He started swimming in Primorje at the age of 8. The doctor had recommended it for his poor posture. After two years he took a summer break and was left out of all the clubs, so he switched to water polo. “I wasn’t all that good anyway, everything I achieved I achieved through practice, not talent”, he revealed later. During his younger years he was coached by people like Afrić, Rendić, Dabović, Pajalić, Bibanović. It was an excellent generation, Vlado Vujasinović and they grew up side by side, they were superb in the younger categories, winning the national Cup and the Championships. Frane Nonković included him in the first team at a time when Primorje was fighting for survival. Samir remembers his first match, “It was in Kopar, I even scored a goal”. Then and probably every time since. His top score per match was 14 in junior competitions and 10 in senior competitions when he played in the Champions League qualifications for Brescia, and 14 is also the number on his cap. As a child he started playing wing, but moved to outside attack later. He moved from Rijeka to Split because of his personal ambitions, “I wanted to see if I was ready for something greater”. It turned out he was, of course. Mladost also sent him an invitation, but POŠK made a more substantial offer. At the age of 23 everything changed, he left Rijeka, married Hayam, who is a blend of Istrian and Egyptian (her father is from Alexandria). He has two daughters, Sara is 11 and into volleyball, Ema is 5 and is a gymnast. He is a family man and family was

the reason he terminated his career in Brescia and returned home, to Rijeka. – The separation was just too great; we couldn’t go on like that anymore. He remained in Mladost for only one season before venturing to Italy, winning the LEN Cup. – Jug was too strong at the time, although we tried on three fronts, as Mladost usually does. Many players left Mladost at that point, and only Vrbičić and I joined the ranks. Zoran Mustur, the coach of Brescia, called him and never regretted it. His first year in the national team was not something he likes to remember. They finished last in the 1997 World Cup in Greece, and in the European Championships in Seville, it was he who shot the last four meter penalty, the one resulting in a counter-attack and a goal which gave the Russians bronze. – I remember it well even today, the referee who gave the 4 meter signaled for me to take the shot right away, I wasn’t ready because I was a bit distracted and my shot was bad, the ball barely made it to the goal. Maksimov saved the shot and passed it on for a counter-attack and they scored a “golden goal”. There are other matches that he remembers for bad things, like in Kranj, “When we couldn’t receive our medals, hear to the anthem or see our flag hoisted, and all due to the rioting in the stands. I still feel bitter when I think about it. And I was the team captain at the time”. That is why it all came together in the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, “I will never forget the match with Hungary”. But also, “nor when I won the championships playing for POŠK against Mladost; we won by 8:6, and I scored five goals, just like when I scored four goals for Brescia against Recco in the final of the Italian championships, I was the best scorer in all five matches.”

When asked about the coaches that defined his career he will point out Roje, “He took our talent and his knowledge and made something great out of it”, and he also mentions Mustur, Matutinović, Rudić and Silić. Josip Vezjak has helped him as a player a great deal in his career, and he has a great relationship with centers Smodlaka and Hinić, “That’s my job, to keep them busy”. He likes and appreciates players who play for the team like Sarić, Oreb, Fatović, Alen Bošković, Burić, Franković, Joković, Čirić, Vrdoljak... He has not been spared from injury. During the first match of the Olympic tournament in Athens, Smith broke his sternum with his knee; while playing for POŠK, his fifth metacarpal was broken; while playing in Italy, he got a thumb in his eye, resulting in 14 stitches on the white of the eye and 6 external stitches, and he was close to having his cornea damaged and losing his eye. Barač has an interesting hobby – he likes making models of wooden ships. – It relieves me of stress and tension. It can take hours. Even days; it took him seven months to make an Egyptian galley, and one ship with three masts required 26,000 knots to be tied – with tweezers, “because our water polo hands are huge, and fingers too thick for such small scale work”. He does not have a single model at home, he gives them all away. He has one wish left, to enroll to study history once he has stopped playing, because, “it’s never too late for learning, especially since I didn’t have the time while I was playing”. After he finishes playing, he wants to start coaching, “I will enroll in Coaching School; I’m really interested in that, I believe I have a lot to give to kids”. If he is able to pass on only a fragment of his rich water polo knowledge, it will be a great treasure for the generations lucky enough to call him their coach.


Little Kova became infected with water polo at the age of 10 in POŠK, where he stayed for a year as a pioneer and then – gave up. He came back when he was 12 and a half, led by hand by his brother Ivo. His brother’s friend, the coach Momo Ćurković said: “Come on kid, jump in and show me your game…” and that is how it all started. Ćurković was from Poišane, a place near the Church of Our Lady of Poišane, where older boys used to hang around and play football. Younger boys used to watch and take orders, and sometimes, if there was enough time before dark, they played “ball” too. His brother kept checking to see if Neven went to practice for the first month, but when Neven found new friends, he did not want to leave. At the age of fifteen, he played for POŠK and took part in the historical win over Partizan. His career as a player did not last for long, until he was 18, when Miro Ćirković invited him for the preparations of the Yugoslav junior national team. Unfortunately, he broke his navicular bone in the joint of his right fist, while playing indoor soccer, which he played actively at the time and which is still his great love. The therapy was long and it marked the end of young Kova’s player career, but also the beginning of his coaching career. He continued playing for Biograd, which was at the time led by some good coaches, Miljenko Gaćina, Zlatko Šimenc and Mile Nakić, and he learned his coaching vocation from them. He went through all the ranks of competition, from Croatian Third League, through the Second to the First League in the period between 1983 and 1985, when he was both a player and a coach of the senior team. Momo Ćurković is the person to thank for his coaching career, because he, at the end of his studies in 1984, enlisted Kova to be his assistant for basic preparations of the team that had Bebić,

Lušić, Bratić, Kaurloto, Milardović, Gabrilo playing at the time... They practised on Hvar because Split did not have proper conditions yet. He was also in charge of the POŠK water polo school in 1986, inheriting Mišo Asić as the coach of POŠK. The water polo philosophy of Toni Petrić, an expert in basic preparation, helped him a great deal in his beginnings, and right up to this day he still mentions professor Zlatko Šimenc. – His player vision was fascinating for me; he was the first to introduce “the second goal post” opening. In those days, the youngest and the weakest players were sent to the goal posts. He became the coach of Jadran in 1989 and won the last Yugoslav Championships against Mladost, thus returning the title to Split for the first time since 1954. In the Champions Cup Jadran bettered Savona in Trieste, where they were playing because of the war in Croatia. That European title was the first international trophy for Croatia after its independence. Kova still remembers the never-ending bus rides and the recognition of Croatia, which caught them somewhere around the Netherlands, where they were going to play the Polar Bears. After Jadran, he returned to POŠK, helping the club not to fall apart between 1992 and 1994. He gave a new boost to work with younger generations. He perceived the 1994 invitation from Dubrovnik as a huge honor, something that had and still has a special value for him. Working with the late Đuro Kolić, but also Jug’s president Branko Bazdan, he set the foundations for Jug’s water polo school, created small goals for the 12 year olds, invited kids to play, rounded up coaches…

We started off against the strongest: the Spaniards, who, a year before, not by their merit, had taken the Olympic gold from us. Our team was extra motivated. The 8:7 score suggests a tough match, and it was. Hinić scored a goal six seconds before the end. We leveled the score with Hungary at 7:7, and torpedoed the Netherlands and Slovakia with identical 9:3 scores, ending the competition in B group as the first team in front of Hungary and Spain. We bettered Greece in the quarterfinal by 5:4, with this match serving as a warning, because we were losing by 4:2 at the end of the third quarter. However, the warning proved insufficient. Once again, Yugoslavia woke us from our dream of gold, this time in the semifinal with an 8:7 win. They managed to get their revenge again and to return the favor from the World Cup two months earlier with interest. Their counter-offensive proved fatal. Our opponents took a 3:1 lead; our team returned and took over by 4:3 thanks to Barać’s goals. We had three leads in that match, but it was not enough for victory. The bronze medal match brought another face-off with the Russians, just like in the World Championships in Rome three years before. And this match was similar to the first; we lost


Neven Kovačević es A Coach with Nerv of Steel

28th, 1957 Date of birth: July Place of birth: Split uated coach Occupation: grad POŠK ter polo in 1967 in Started playing wa 86 Biograd -19 76 19 ; -1976 POŠK Playing career: 1969 -1992 Jadran; 86-1989 POŠK; 1989 Coaching career: 19 Jadran; 1997-2002 94-1997 Jug; 1997 1992-1994 POŠK; 19 2004 Mladost; 2005 team; 2003 POŠK; Croatian national m coach Iranian national tea Šibenik; since 2005 a coach): national team (as Trophies with the nships in Havana pio am ior World Ch – gold in 1997 jun pionships in r European Cham – silver in 1999 senio Florence pionships in ior European Cham – silver in 1994 jun Bratislava hips in Istanbul ropean Champions Eu ior jun in ze on – br club (as a coach): Trophies with the dran) pionships: 1992 (Ja – European Cham an) dr (Ja 91 nships: 19 – Yugoslav Champio 94 (Jug) – Croatian Cup: 19 ŠK) p: 1986 and 1987 (PO Cu n ea an – Mediterr

after extra time by 8:7, after the “golden goal”. In two extra times, each team scored a goal, and in the last, played until the “golden goal”, our team and the expert staff made a grievous mistake. Barać took a (still at that time) four meter penalty shot, missed and the ball rebounded for the Russian counteroffensive. Three Russians attacked our goalkeeper and only one player Vrdoljak. That goal that meant that they celebrated and we were left in disbelief with another “wooden medal”. It was a pity because no one outplayed us in that championship; we practically brought ourselves into that situation through unreasonable mistakes and loss of concentration. In club water polo, Mladost was still dominant, although they failed to take the Croatian Cup. It went to Jug, led by Neven Kovačević, with the following line-up: Balić, Vranješ, Vukčević, Rilović, Kržić, Iveković, Lynn, Ivaniš, A. Bošković, Jovica, Gill, Fatović, Karaj and Rajčević. Jug also defeated Slobodna Dalmacija led by Mile Rebić, and the most common question after those matches was – why isn’t Fatović playing for the national team? At the end of the season Neven Kovačević returned to Split and took over Jadran in August.

This coincided with the return of Goran Sukno to Jug, in the position of Sports Director. Jug then won the national Cup, defeating the untouchable Mladost in the final, and the City gave them a spectacular reception. Jug played in Europe twice, making it to the Cup Winners’ Cup semifinal, and making a definitive comeback. His assistants were Tomo Udovičić, and then Emil Nikolić, who later became the first coach of Jug. In 1994, he won a silver medal in the junior European Championships in Slovakia after only a month of preparations, and a year later, he lost the medal with that same generation in the World Championships in France, due to a fight in the match with Italy, which resulted in disqualification. It was later proved that the Italians caused all the havoc but it was already too late. He returned to Jadran in 1997, playing the LEN Cup final and losing the second final match. He did not lead the team in that match due to a red card, which he was given by the “malicious referee Petronilli”, he says. He did not end the season in Jadran, being replaced by Bruno Silić, whom he, in turn, replaced as the national team coach. After the national team, he returned to POŠK in 2002, staying there until 2003, and in 2004 he became the coach of Mladost. He did not stay for long: “I didn’t get to see the long sleeves, the Cup final, several Championship and Champions League rounds” in the second part of the 2005 season he transferred to Šibenik, from where he went to Iran, where he is in charge of all national selections. In that period he has won two medals in the Asian under 18 Championship – in 2005 in Thailand and in 2007 in Indonesia.

Mladost took its sixth consecutive national championship against Jadran, and the interesting fact is that after the third match only Zdeslav Vrdoljak congratulated the team from Zagreb while others tried to find reasons for the defeat in the referees, the temperamental coach Matutinović first amongst them. Mladost beat Jadran by 10:5 and 9:6 in the final, the third match, losing the second in Split by 8:7, thanks to Vrdoljak who scored the winning goal. The play-off quarterfinals saw many problems. The match between Slobodna Dalmacija and Primorje turned into a soap opera after Hinić’s goal was overruled which caused a great deal of discontent. Also, Slobodna Dalmacija had a chance to use Mladost’s flagging motivation after the European Final Four. They played on the Sava only a few days after the Zagreb team returned from Italy and missed the chance to win, leveling at 7:7. They did not get another chance, losing to Mladost in Split by 12:7. As we have already said, Mladost played in the Blue Group of the Champions’ League against Barcelona, Vasutas and Novak, finishing as the first team in the group without a single loss and a 6-0 score. April saw the first Final Four of

the Champions’ League, and Mladost was given Bečej as its semifinal opponent. Bečej had just replaced its coach Orlić with a new one, Stamenić. But it did them no good, Mladost won by 6:5. However, in the final, the hosts, Posillipo, were better in a match that was difficult to control in the pool, as well as in the stands, where “sparks” were flying. The boys from the Sava lost by 10:7. The key factor was the game with an extra player and one less player. Mladost played with the following team: Vićan, Padovan, D. Kobešćak, Herceg, Jerković, Štritof, Glavan, Damjanić, Vegar, Bukić, Maksimov, Rogin and V. Kobešćak, and the coach was Ozren Bonačić. Mladost had a three week preparation period before the Final Four, and some of the players claimed they lacked match practice in that period, which later proved to be true. In April 1997 the HVS assembly met and a new president, Tomislav Družak, was elected instead of Zdravko Hebel. The interesting fact is that he was nominated by Jadran, despite the fact he was the president of Mladost. It must have been his other function, as director of the Privatization Fund that prevailed. The vote ratio was 20-14 in his favor.


> BOŽO VULETIĆ, the coach of Mladost, which came only third at the Euroleague Final Four in Zagreb

1998 Australian F in Maths The previous year was a year of mixed feelings. The trauma of Seville and the lost bronze medal in the European Championships was somewhat, but not altogether, relieved by the junior gold in the World Championships in Havana. With all due respect to the proverb that the young are our future, success in the world of sports is rated on the senior level, the best every country has to offer. After every failure in life, as well as in sports, the best – and probably the only – remedy is turning a new leaf. And of course, even harder and more enduring work to rectify all the shortcomings noticed and form improvement. Our players entered 1998 with high hopes and the will and desire to prove that the spirit of the Olympic silver medal, and the ability for the highest achievements, was still present in Silić’s troop. Seville was supposed to be just an insignificant moment, one we tripped over and took a slight fall, but nothing more and grievous than that. That line of thinking had its reasons. Only half a year after the European Championshipa, the World Championships were to take place. While Europe was still heavily coated in ice and snow, we left for the sunny summer of Australia. And so our players spent the New Year 1998 together. Perth, the capital of Western Australia, was waiting for the Globe’s best teams. The Championship was already set to commence on January the 7th. Coach Silić, criticized for the obvious lack of a leader within the team in the previous competition (European Championship in Seville), reactivated the old captain Perica Bukić, a man in the peak of his form, who had been left out of the list for the competition in Andalusia for no good reason. That was a time of an unnecessary loss of direction, losing the line until we eventually completely lost our way. Apart from Bukić, Silić also brought in the goalies Školneković and Perčinić, and Kržić, Hinić, Vrdoljak, Herceg, V. Kobešćak, Glavan, Rogin, Štritof, Vrbičić, Smodlaka, Barač and Ivaniš.


We opened the competition with a defeat against the Russians (6:4), but due to an easy, weak group with New Zealand (19:3) and Kazakhstan (19:4) we finished the group competition second and made it into the second round. A new group with us, Russia, the third ranked Kazakhstan, and Hungary, SR Yugoslavia and Italy, was formed. In the new group we first lost to Hungary (9:8), and the story which unfolded afterwards was one of the strangest stories in the history of Croatian water polo, and sport in general – a textbook example of an F for maths. We needed to win in the match against Yugoslavia to ensure our semifinal appearance, but our expert team “calculated” that a draw score would also suffice. Ikodinović went through Herceg and put the ball into Školneković’s net for a final 9:9 in the last second. A moment later, one of the strangest scenes unfolded in the pool: both teams celebrated with their hands in the air, looking at each other a little confused at why the other side was celebrating. Unfortunately, maths was against us, because the creators of “the Perth theorem” had inexplicably forgotten that in the case of a tie score, the opponent also gets a point!? It was the deciding factor that kept us out of the semifinal… Disbelief, rage, consternation were all mixed in the moment. It became apparent by then – this was Silić’s goodbye as the national team coach. Ivica Blažičko clearly hinted, as he was checking-out from the TV broadcast, that the helm of the senior ship should be given to a younger helmsman, “one who would know how to forge a gold”. It did not end with only allusions, the name of a young expert from Split, Neven Kovačević, was mentioned loud and clear. Croatia was left to play for placement between 8th and 12th place, a task achieved with convincing wins over Brazil (17:6) and Slovakia (12:3). Upon returning to Croatia, Silić was relieved of his duties. He will always be remembered for the first Olympic water polo final as well as four and a half years spent as the national team coach, which will, until Ratko Rudić, be the longest period of

vić Dragan Matutino Born for Trophies

rd uary 23 , 1954 Date of birth: Febr Place of birth: Split polo coach Occupation: water Mornar ter polo in 1964 in Started playing wa -1981 KPK Korčula 78 19 -1977 Mornar; -1988 Playing career: 1966 -1987 Mornar; 1987 81-1984 KPK; 1985 94 Spanish -19 90 19 ); Coaching career: 19 ain 90 Montjuic (Sp -19 88 19 ); ain (Sp Barceloneta m coach; 1998-2000 French national tea 95 19 h; ac nikos co m tea national ara (Italy); 2003 Eth (Greece); 2002 Pesc s co pia 2005 ; ym an Ol dr 01 Ja POŠK; 20 ach; 2004-2005 k national team co va nal Slo tio 04 na 20 ); ina ce (Gree abia); 2006 Ch Al-Ittihad (Saudi Ar 08 -20 05 20 t; os ad Ml team coach a coach): national team (as Trophies with the s in Perth (Spain) rld Championship ) – silver in 1998 Wo s in Athens (Spain an Championship pe ro Eu 91 19 in r – silve lona (Spain) pic Games in Barce – silver in 1992 Olym (Spain) a lon A Cup in Barce ) – bronze in 1991 FIN s in Sheffield (Spain hip ns pio ropean Cham – bronze in 1994 Eu (as a coach): Trophies with club 99 (POŠK) – Euro League: 19 ornar) nners’ Cup: 1986 (M Wi p Cu an – Europe d) hips: 2007 (Al Ittiha – Asian Champions ) ŠK (PO 98 19 s: hip ns – Croatian Champio 00 (POŠK) – Croatian Cup: 20

A quick glance at Dragan Matutinović’s CV is sufficient to draw some definite conclusions. The public, of course, remembers him for his coaching success; as for the playing part of his career, he would be best described as “a very good bench player”. He played for the B national team in the World Student Games and Spartakiade. He already displayed his coaching tendencies during his days as a player. While he was playing for Mornar, he coached the “kids”, and in KPK he was both a coach and a player. Already in the first year of his professional coaching career, he won the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Mornar! While this huge success was being celebrated on Spinut, the restless lad “escaped” to Zagreb and took the helm of Mladost. However, he stayed on the River Sava for some ten days, but he remained in Spain for a full seven years: three years in Barceloneta and four years as the Spanish national team coach. This is where he achieved the success of his career – laying the foundations of a strong national team, rejuvenating the selection, giving a chance to Estiarte, Rollan and others. He took medals, the most valuable one being the Olympic silver in 1992 in Barcelona, after which he was received for an audience by King Juana Carlos. The Spaniards still have not forgotten these achievements and he is still very popular in Barcelona. However, his favorite successes came in his hometown of Split. When he led Mornar to a win against Catalunya in the Cup Winners’ Cup he was on top of the world. He was particularly proud that he achieved this with players raised within the club. The man born to lift trophies was also successful with POŠK. After POŠK broke the winning streak of Mladost in 1998, taking their first Croatian Championships, they had cause for celebration the following year too: in Naples, POŠK defeated the hosts Posillipo and Bečej to take the title of Euro-

pean Champion. He often used to say that POŠK’s team in Naples was the best club line-up Croatia has ever had. And he did not only have their player qualities in mind; he was convinced that they were a team of great athletes and good men. – They were my soldiers. Good men, all of them! Captain Mario Oreb was the most important individual in that line-up – a true captain, who knew how to speak on behalf of his club even at a reception given by President Franjo Tuđman at Pantovčak. Several months later, Matutinović received another great acknowledgement, again in Naples: he received a Golden Cap as the European coach of the year. Relentless Matuta “coined” another gold

in Arabia: with his Al-Ittihad he became the Asian Champion in 2007. Upon returning from Kuwait, where the final took place, he received a royal welcome! Matuta does not hide the fact that he would trade all his trophies just to be the Croatian national team coach. Maybe some will not agree when we say that Matuta is fair, despite his temperament, which has got him into a great deal of trouble both as a player and a coach, but we completely agree with him that the success of the Croatian national team in major competitions can only be measured in – medals. This is precisely the reason why he often used to be critical towards the players and coaches.


> VITOMIR PADOVAN, one of the “silver pieces” from Florence (a detail from the European Championships Croatia – Greece) NEVEN KOVAČEVIĆ at the helm of the Croatian national team

time someone has occupied that spot. Neven Kovačević took over the helm. In the domestic competition, Mladost, up to that point an untouchable champion winning all the national championships so far, was about to be dethroned. However tragic this loss might have been perceived in Zagreb, the fact remains that a new name on the winners list enriched the Croatian water polo scene and the national championship was finally to become more exciting and better in quality. POŠK from Split found a new strong sponsor (Slobodna Dalmacija) the year before. Some famous reinforcements were brought in (Šimenc, Barač, A. Bošković). The coach Mile Rebić did a great job in putting the team together and starting to rehearse the orchestra, but the winning notes were not played until the charismatic Dragan Matutinović arrived, former Spanish national team coach. The children of Split shone brightly, some new water polo names like Sarić, Kunc, Oreb gained prominence. Just before the final, an affair exploded with Šimenc being expelled from the club, all because it became a common knowledge that Dudo had already arranged for his return to Mladost. Be it as it may, POŠK deservedly celebrated, terminating the six year supremacy of the Frogs, and the city under Marjan organized an unforgettable welcome on the seaside promenade for their champions. For Mladost, it was only one of two severe blows that season. The team, now coached by Božo Vuletić, was the host of the Champions League Final Four tournament. After losing the final in Naples a year earlier, Tomislav Družak, the club presi-


dent, revolted by the referees said: “If you have to host the Final Four in order to win the tournament, then the next one will be in Zagreb!” And so it was. The open-air pool next to the River Sava, was host to the best four teams on the Old Continent on the 5th and 6th July, 1998 – the Italian representatives Pescara and Posillipo, the Russian Spartak Lukoil from Volgograd and the host Mladost. The tournament will, however, be remembered, as a complete fiasco. A sadly small number of spectators, incredibly huge swarms of flies, preventing those few spectators from breathing freely, and for the first and only time so far, the host of the tournament did not manage to make the final. Mladost played inexplicably badly against Pescara in the semi, losing by a football 4:2 score, finding some comfort in the convincing triumph over the Russians (19:11) in the third place match. Posillipo defeated Pescara by 8:6 to become the champion. For Pescara it was the last achievement worth mentioning. Today that famous club is competing in the Third Italian League… Of course, the (too) calm Božo Vuletić had to resign from his post as the Zagreb team’s coach. That was not the only European disappointment for Croatian club water polo. Jadran from Split played the LEN Cup final against Partizan. The first match in Belgrade ended in a promising 8:8 score, and in the return match on Poljud, on May 18th 1998, the score again was a football one, 3:1 for the guests. 1998 was a year of bad mathematicians, changes of national team coaches and football scores in European matches. Except for POŠK, everyone else in Croatian water polo would like to forget this year altogether.

1999 The Florence Silver The new national team coach, Neven Kovačević, made his first choice of players in the beginning of 1999 in the Mladost Trophy Hall on the Sava. During the press conference he repeatedly emphasized the importance of returning the lost national team cult, but already his list of candidates caused quite a stir. Šimenc, who was not in the team a year earlier, returned, but Perica Bukić was again left out. The legendary captain of the 1996 Atlanta team never played for Croatia again, even though he was on his finest form. So the year that will be remembered as one of the most exciting and best covered by the media, started with harsh words between Bukić and Kovačević. True, not everything that was written was positive and affirmative for the sport, but after a long time, water polo was discussed, written and talked about. The League had 12 clubs, which now, unfortunately, seems unthinkable. Some of the teams in the First League were Zadar with Lušić, Opatija (Kvarner Express) with Premuš and Franković, and apart from Jug, the City also had Dubrovnik Water polo Club, the former Bellevue, with Volarević, Bjelofastov and Brkić, while the capital boasted almost as many clubs as Split. Apart from Mladost, Zagreb also had Aurum osiguranje with Vegar, Damjanić, Jerković... Mladost, reinforced by Šimenc and Vrbičić, full of energy, and desiring to regain the national title, and POŠK now under the new name of its even stronger sponsor, Splitska banka, and with the perpetually electrified coach Matutinović, were the favorites for the title. That year was marked by fantastic water polo. Jug continued its post-war rise, Primorje still had Hinić, and the stands were often too small for all the spectators. But all that was in the shadow of the conflict between Mladost and POŠK and every match between those two clubs was categorized as a high security risk. Some football matches between Hajduk and Dinamo were “a piece of cake” compared to

the relations between the Sava and Zenta at the time. Even the normally composed coach of the Frogs, Ozren Bonačić, told the press on his own accord, that they were cheating him in Split by shortening his attack time on the scoreboard. In February that year, in the first away game of Mladost in Split, the match ended in a fist fight. But it was not a fight among the fans; coach Matutinović assaulted Šimenc, the police intervened, and the media was full of photos of Dudo’s bruised eye. Mladost looked extremely powerful in the pool that year. It was one of the strongest line-ups for the Frogs in their history and the fans were quick to recognize it. There were not many home matches with less than a thousand supporters, even against the weakest teams. Finally Mladost won the double crown, defeating Jug in the final. But that was not it. They impressively won the Cup Winners’ Cup, defeating Olympiacos in the final. It was already clear after the match in Zagreb, a 13:4 win for Mladost. The voyage to Pirej was merely a field trip and even a convincing loss (10:6) on May 11th, could not spoil the celebration. But, a true sensation was yet to come. As the previous year’s champions, Splitska Banka made it to Champions League Final Four tournament. It was supposed to take place in Bečej, but due to the NATO bombings of Serbia and Montenegro, it was relocated to Naples. Posillipo, the home team, was already preparing for a third consecutive title and celebration. The team from Split – objectively, without many odds – deemed qualifying for the tournament a huge success. And then, in the semifinal, a shock for the host. POŠK, which lost Roman Polačik already in the first quarter, who was excluded with the right of replacement, had the best two days in the history of the club. Posillipo were on their knees at 7:6, and the team from Split was about to face Bečej in the final. The


following day, on June 5th, the Serbian champion was also defeated (8:7) – POŠK was the European champion! We must also not forget that the players from Dubrovnik won a trophy in their first outing onto the international scene: they won the Mediterranean or COMEN Cup. With three major European club trophies we greeted the summer, and the national team coach Kovačević entered it with exactly 100 days of preparations. Florence, in the heart of Toscana, was host to the European Championships, taking place from 2nd to 11th September. Croatia was represented by the following team: Školneković, Padovan, Đogaš, Šimenc, Letica, Štritof, Smodlaka, Ivaniš, A. Bošković, Barač, Hinić, Vićan, V. Kobešćak, Jerković and Sarić. The high potential of Kova’s Croatia was nowhere to be seen after a first round victory against Slovakia (9:7), but already after a second round win against Rudić’s Italy (7:6), it became clear that something big was going on. We lost to Hungary in the final stages of the match, the end score was 6:7, and then Greece (9:6) and Slovenia (9:4) served as a warmup for the quarterfinal. Yugoslavia was waiting for them. Just like in Perth, and just like every time against that team, the match was full of tension and emotions, but extremely fair in the pool. After the first half-time we still had a 4:3 minimal lead. In the third quarter our rival caught up and leveled to 5:5, and in the end of the last quarter it was 7:7. Overtimes… a real nail-biter at this point. There were no goals in the first overtime, but in the second, two balls were placed into Jovanović’s net for a final 9:7 and an open path to the final, because waiting in the semifinal was Greece again. Greece was again easy work – 10:7, and the medal was here! The second in the history of the independent Croatia. On Saturday, September 11th, 4,000 spectators in the stands of the Costolli pool witnessed a festival of water polo, a match that was later proclaimed the most beautiful match of the year by LEN. Personally we would have preferred an ugly game with a different outcome. After a spectacular opening and our 3:0 lead, the Hungarians did not lose their heads, which often used to happen to their teams in similar situations earlier. Another element was Peter Biros, the Hungarian from Primorje Rijeka, who played the match of his life. Until then he had never scored more than four goals per match. But ob-


To describe Dubravko Šimenc in a page or two of a book is a mission impossible. His temperament alone would account for many more pages. His statements, media outings, goals, matches, clubs… Without any doubt, he was one of the greatest in the world of water polo. But then again, a great player who gave to the game and received back much less than he was supposed to. He won all the trophies known in water polo, made it to the pedestal with every club he played for. And again, almost every time, his departure was controversial… Bonačić assigned him to play point and that is where he remained his entire career. His shots were strong, devastating, ripping the nets and breaking the goalposts. He loved, more often than others, to “set up” his co-players, to assist, using both his hands with equal skill. As an outside player, he was not rough, quite the contrary – he did not know how to “fight”. Today he says he would not change anything in his career except, “I would be a better diplomat, minding my tongue and what I say”. He says that two coaches, among the plethora he worked with, left a permanent mark on him: Rudić due to discipline and Stamenić due to his water polo knowledge. Rudić once said you have to know how to handle Dudo. And really, he will admit he has character flaws, nothing malicious, just temperamental, emotional maturity coming to him later than others. Two anecdotes by the late Croatian coach, Bruno Silić, provide a great description. Both had to do with the Atlanta Olympics. In Nashville, where our team had two weeks of preparation for the Games, he was not sure he would be in the best line up. He waited with trepidation until the last moment. – Dudo has so much energy and should never be too secure because he then subconsciously uses it in a wrong way. This way, I had him under control so to speak, and he returned it in the best possible way, in the Games – Silić explained. Scene two: on the day of the Games Opening Ceremony, he was in the Olympic Village, with a group of athletes who were, together with the American athletes, supposed to greet President Bill Clinton. And while the others just stood and watched, Šimenc approached the American president, shook hands, and had a talk with him. The following day, news came from the president’s entourage that the president of the USA was retelling the encounter over and over and Šimnec’s gratitude for Clinton’s support to Croatia. That is Dudo, a great athlete, with the curiosity of a child, a heart large enough to fit a pool inside, with stands too. A player with a soul. He started playing at the age of 9. “It was logical”, he says, “I kept listening my father’s stories about water polo”: his first coach was Duško Baždar, and after him Vlado Hrestak. A point of interest is that Dudo never trained as a swimmer, but, “I often watched brothers Miloš and the Ševo brothers train, so I copied their moves and turns in the water”. He had a fling with handball too, also a part of his family heritage. He trained at the Kutija šibica sports hall, and his coach was a Vilim Tičić. Apart from handball, he also tried rugby, athletics and tennis. He is a true scion of the Sports Park Mladost. Handball cost him somewhat though: in 1987 he did not participate in the World Student Games in Zagreb due to an ankle injury. While playing

Dubravko Šim

Defender with

handball for Rudeš in the inter-communal league, he stepped on Ivo Glavinić’s foot. He always liked to work out in a gym, and even today he mentions Marijan Žižanović, “a superb basic preparation coach who later started working with Mirko Filipović, the Cro Cop”. He became part of Mladost’s first team in the 1982/83 season. He remembers those first games and tough away matches, like those in Montenegro or Šibenik, “Definitely the worst pool, a combination of the sea and chlorine, my eyes burned, it was awful”. While we are on the subject of eyes, we must mention his worst injury ever – in 2002 during a match between Savona and Posillipo when he almost lost an eye, leading to surgery, a lengthy recovery and in the end an artificial lens. His vision has been worse in that eye since then, but that did not stop him from playing four more seasons, following rehabilitation. Unfortunately he did not have a large-scale, grandiose farewell match, although he announced, dreamed about and deserved it. His favorite club trophy is the European Champions title with Mladost won on the Sava in 1989 against Spandau 04: – I scored the last goal at the end, under a foul, half a second before the end. He fondly remembers his return to Mladost and the three trophies in the 1998/99 season. He still cannot get over the gold lost in Atlanta.


a Devastating


Date of birth: No vember 2nd, 19 66 Place of birth: Zagreb Occupation: pr ofessor of phys ical education Started playin sciences g water polo in 1975 Playing career : 1975-1992 Mla dost; 1991-1992 Italy; 1993-199 Jadran Split; 19 4 Pescara, Italy 92-1993 Volturn ; 1994-1995 Co 1995-1996 Pesc o, mo, Italy; 1995 ara; 1996-1998 St . Julian, Malta; PO ŠK Split, 1998-2 2000-2002 Savo 000 Mladost, Za na, Italy; 2002-2 greb; 003 Mladost; 20 2003-2004 Chia 03 Los Angele vari, Italy; 2004 s, US A; -2 00 5 Cremona, Italy Italy; 2006 Nept , 2005-2006 Bo unes, Malta, 20 gl iasco, 06 -2 00 National team 7 Medveščak, Za career: 200 mat greb ches for SFRY Croatia (1992-2 (1986-1991), 15 004) 0 matches for Coaching care er: 2006-2008 M edveščak (sen junior team co ior team assista ach); 2008-200 nt coach and 9 Mladost (coa 2009 Mladost ch of the wom (junior team co en’s team); sin ach) ce Trophies with the national te am: – gold at the 19 88 Olympic Ga mes in Seoul – gold at the 19 86 World Cham pionships in M – gold at the 19 adrid 91 World Cham pionships in Pe – gold at the 19 rth 89 FINA Cup in Berlin – gold at the 19 90 Goodwill Ga m es in Seattle – silver at the 19 96 Olympic Ga m es in Atlanta – silver at the 19 85 European Ch ampionships in – silver at the 19 Sofia 89 European Ch ampionships in – silver at the 19 Bo nn 99 European Ch ampionships in – silver at the 20 Florence 03 European Ch ampionships in – silver at the 19 Kranj 91 Goodwill Ga mes in Barcelon – silver at the 19 a 91 Mediterrane an Games in At – silver at the 19 hens 93 Mediterrane an Games in Cann Trophies with es the club (as a pl ayer): – European Ch ampion: 1989 and 1990 (Mla – European Cu dost), 1992 (Jad p Winners’ Cup: ran) 1994 (Pescara) – LEN Cup: 1996 and 1999 (Mla (Pescara) dost) – European Su per Cup: 1989 (M la dost) – Mediterrane an Cup: 1988 an d 1991 (Mladost (Como) ), 1993 (Volturn o) and 1995 – Croatian Cham pionship: 1992 , 19 99 – Yugoslav Ch and 2002 (Mla ampionship: 19 dost) 89 and 1990 (M – Maltese Cham ladost) pion: 1995 (St. Julian) and 2006 – Croatian Cup: (Neptunes) 1999 (Mladost ) – Italian Cup: 20 05 (Cremona) – Yugoslav Cup: 1989 (Mladost ) – Maltese Cup: 1995 (St. Julian) Trophies with the club (as a co ach): – Croatian Cham pionships: 2008 (WWC Mladost – Croatian Cham ) pionships: 2007 (Medveščak yo unger juniors) – If we had played another 100 matches with the Spaniards, we would have won each and every one – he comments on that (un)fortunate final – We made a mistake in looking for Silić on the bench then. The quarterfinal against Yugoslavia in the Atlanta Olympics was one of his most impressive matches. He played flawlessly, with so much strength, selfconfidence and motivation. In the Athens Olympics he made another one of his dreams come true, he carried the Croatian flag, leading all the Croatian athletes in the Opening ceremony, with a boyish smile on his face, waving the flag like an olive twig. Family is sacred to him, which is why he chose number 4 on his cap, because it, he says, symbolizes family. Earlier, his family used to be his mother, a former volleyball player, father, a water polo and

handball player, and his sister Iva, a synchronized swimmer. Today that family is his wife Ira, his biggest support in life, and two daughters, Nika and Karla, both volleyball players. And number four also reminds him of his house, his home. A guy from Zagreb, the descendant of Zagreb school of water polo. A brilliant player and – a huge child. And a great man at the same time, however impossible it may sound. Omnipresent in social life. Someone once said about him, “There isn’t a social event in Croatia to which he isn’t invited”. Without him, that event simply would not be complete. This is the best proof of his popularity with people.


DUBRAVKO ŠIMENC AND PERICA BUKIĆ in 1990, with the National Champions’ title


viously it was written in the stars that that was his day. He scored five goals from six attempts, taking the greatest merit for the Hungarian 15:12 win and their celebration. Our northern neighbors defiantly chanted “Benedek, Benedek” towards the domestic fans in the stands, as a sign of support for their co-player and the best Hungarian player who was – the Hungarians are convinced to this day – framed by the Italians during the Italian national championship season for drug abuse, and was thus eliminated from the Championships. But even without the great Tibor, Hungary proved that they were playing the best water polo of that time, and deservedly took the gold to Budapest. And we... the bitterness of defeat and a lost final was still present in our camp for a while, but the Florence silver, forged by Kova, returned faith in our water polo team. The taint of the 9th place in Perth was washed away, and the story of the year in which our clubs shone was complete, because the fact remains, that despite all the club’s success, the value of a sport is predominantly rated through its national team results. And we finally had that. Three years after Atlanta, we finally had a medal. And the timing was right too, just a year before the Sydney Olympics. We qualified for those Games precisely because of this European silver. When Hungary won the FINA Cup in Sidney, they handed us our Olympic visa. We were to be going Down Under again. Not to Perth this time, but a little bit further, to Sidney, with the halo of European vicechampions and with a legitimate claim on one of the medals.


> MARIJO OREB Tomislav Rogin, scorer of three goals for Mladost in the Final Four semi-finals in Bečej

2000 The Sidney Flu Quite contrary to its success, victories, medals and trophies, it was precisely in that Olympic year that water polo started having problems with lack of money. It did not seem all that grave at first, but to those who knew how to look, these were the clear signs of a huge storm approaching. The first to be swept away was the president of the Water Polo Federation, Tomislav Družak. National team players were determined to collect a four-year old debt. The sum in question was 2 million for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic silver medal. In the meantime, the silver medal from Florence was also due, and the HVS treasury was empty. Senior preparations with the Hungarians for Sidney in Sisak were canceled and even participation in the Olympics became questionable. It all led to Družak being dethroned on April 1st 2000 and Zdravko Hebel, who had been president from 1995 to 1997, was reelected. Money and debt issues were the introduction to the Olympic year. It was only the beginning of the problems. In the domestic Championships, Mladost was affected with similar problems, but another team started to rise, announcing the beginning of their era, the reign of Gruž. Jug from Dubrovnik recovered after the gloomy years of war devastation as refugees, their inability to train in their bomb ruined pool. Balić, Volarević, Smodlaka, Kržić, Fatović, Ivaniš, A. Bošković were in their prime. Karač, Vranješ and Pecotić also developed into respectable players and alongside the Hungarian Tamas Molnar, a respectable team was created. That Jug became the Croatian champions for the first time, while POŠK took the Cup. The team from Split managed to complete their triptych in three years – the Championships, the Euro League, and the domestic Cup. Mladost on the other hand – not surprisingly if we consider everything that had happened in the club that year – did not win a single trophy.


In Europe, our clubs did more than well. To prove that point, Jug won the LEN Cup and for the first time in history we had two representatives in the Champions League Final Four tournament in Bečej – POŠK and Mladost. In the semis, the host Bečej easily defeated POŠK by 6:4, and surprisingly, Mladost managed to sink BVSC from Budapest with an identical score, with 3 goals by Tomislava Rogina for our opening 3:0 lead. But Mladost was not able to take the extra step. In the final they were inefficient in the extra player game (2:13) and suffered an 11:8 defeat. The summer was intended for preparation – but that was only the plan. First we suffered a tough blow: the marijuana affair (a year later we wrote about the “marijuana affair – part one”). Namely, during the preparation period, a doping test showed traces of marijuana in Mario Oreb. Although cannabis is not a stimulant, that did not lessen the multiple damage done to water polo. Oreb was eliminated from the national team, the public discussed “the pothead players” and no one remembered the Florence silver anymore… The last week of September came and the water polo tournament in the Games commenced. We had a really difficult group, but we played with astounding ease, and we played well. We won against the USA (10:7), Greece (9:5), a great Hungary in an amazing display (8:7), Yugoslavia managed to get off the hook (4:4) and in the last match in the group, the Netherlands (11:7). Croatia played the most beautiful, the best water polo in Sidney. All the experts agreed that we were not only the greatest favorites for the winners’ pedestal, but for the title. But no one knew what was “cooking” within the team. The temperature was high, and we mean that in the literal sense of the word. The players were not vaccinated against the flu prior to their departure to Sidney, and according to Murphy’s Law, the trouble appeared at the worst possible place and time. With each match, during the groups, a player or two would pick it up, but

somehow we managed to get through. But, on the eve of our quarterfinal match against Spain, which was a “be or not to be” match, three quarters of our team were bedridden! Their bodies exhausted from previous matches did not respond to antibiotics or infusions anymore. Drained, sick ad powerless we went into the pool against the Fury. Manuel Estiarte and his team knew how to take advantage of that, winning by 9:8. Spain went on to fight for the medals, and Croatia, just like two years earlier in Perth, was

living through hell. Messages from the homeland went as far as saying, “Let them swim home”. After losing to the USA (8:7) and defeating the host (10:8) we ended the tournament 7th, a result that was to throw Croatian water polo into a state of severe apathy. JUG, winners of the LEN Cup JUG, CROATIAN CHAMPIONS FOR THE FIRST TIME – Karač, Drobac, A. Bošković and Balić (from left)


Zdravko Hebel odlazi iz HVS u HOO

The team leaving for Fukuoka to the World Championships Zdravko Hebel leaving the Croatian Water polo Federation for the Croatian Olympic Committee

2001 Jug on the Throne, but Croatia on her Knees After the election of Zdravko Hebel as president of the Croatian Olympic Committee, Branko Bazdan from Dubrovnik became the acting director of HSV, for one year. It was the worst possible moment. Money issues were creating increasing pressure and the belief of fans and public in the water polo national team’s ability was fading with each day. The first league was reduced to 10 teams, eliminating Aurum osiguranje and Zadar. Those who remained entered the tenth, jubilee Championships burdened with problems. The list of those who abandoned ships had never been longer. POŠK lost the greatest number; ten players and coach Matutinović were gone. The team that had been the European champions only two years before was reduced to nothing. The team from Zenta could now only fight for the title of Champion of the city of Split. Jadran’s situation was even graver; it was on “life-support”. From 2001 until the present day, the city under Marjan, a breeding ground of excellent, talented players, the pearls of Croatian water polo, has been unable to put together a team that would be significant in the national championships. What to say about Dubrovnik or Šibenik, which lack the basic necessity for this sport – a pool? On the eve of the championships it was questionable how many clubs would be able to withstand the entire season financially. In these conditions, Jug proved what it had hinted during the previous season. In peace and quiet, relying on its own resources, with a great deal of work and the entire city to back it up, it displayed dominance in the Croatian pools. For the first time in history, the double domestic crown went to Gruž in the 2000/01 season.


Things were somewhat better in the European competitions. For two reasons. Mladost was competing in the LEN Cup; the competition there was not so strong and the team from Zagreb had a strong motive, to win the only European trophy still lacking in their Trophy Hall. They managed to do so by two wins over Brescia in the finals, which was the last trophy for coach Bruno Silić. Jug, on the other hand, was trying to prove itself in the Euro League, just as it had in the domestic competitions. Not only had they qualified for the Final tournament, they organized it. In a setting not seen in the Euro League before, on “old” Gruž, in front of 5,000 spectators, they were simply too strong for the competition. First, they defeated the current European champions Bečej by 10:9, in the semifinal on May 18th 2001. For Bečej, it was their first defeat in two years, even though they had an 8:7 lead at the beginning of the last quarter. Karač, Fatović and Kržić with three goals each and Ivaniš with one, took Jug to the verge of repeating their 1981 success and their first European star. The next day, Jug and 5,000 spectators faced Olympiacos led by Matutinović from the bench, and another offspring of Split, Teo Đogaš, in the pool. A minute and a half before the end, Ivaniš scored for a 5:4 lead, a minute later Đogaš leveled the score, and in the last seconds, the Greek goalie Voltyrakis, ensured the drama of overtimes for the Greeks, who were playing with one fewer player at the time. Overtimes brought two more goals by Smodlaka and Fatović, but also two goals from the Olympiacos captain, Chatzitheodorou. Then, seven seconds before the end, Jug’s center Mile Smodlaka appeared, scoring for an 8:7

Celebration of Jug fans after the Euroleague finals in Dubrovnik THE COACH AND CAPTAIN WITH A EURO-TITLE – Veselin Đuho and Elvis Fatović

lead and the second title as the best European club for Jug! It was the best Croatian water polo moment of the year. The national team’s year was very rich, even exhausting. In less than two months the European Championships in Budapest and World Championships in Fukuoka were due to take place. The end of the summer was reserved for the Mediterranean Games in Tunisia. The team representing us in Budapest was: Vićan, Kunac, Oreb, Letica, Đogaš, Smodlaka, Ivaniš, Barač, Hinić, Primorac, V. Kobešćak, Sarić and Volarević. Objectively, no one gave our national team much chance, a point of view supported by the national team coach Kovačević, who said that making it to the best four teams would be a huge success. Medals were not mentioned as an option. It started with a shock. In the first round, Slovakia scored a historical win – 10:9 against Croatia. We found comfort in France (12:3) and Russia (8:6) which was beginning its descent. But we drew against Greece (7:7), and even the weak Germany (9:9). Croatia had its best match against Spain in the quarterfinal (7:6), after a huge lead of 4:0 at the end of the first quarter. Statistically, we were in the hunt for medals, but in truth, anyone who watched the remaining two matches on the Margit Sziget knew we did not stand a chance. Not in the semifinal against Yugoslavia (6:8), nor in the third place match against Hungary with 7,000 domestic supporters (9:12). With our game much weaker than the final placement would indicate, the fourth place seemed good if compared to the display by our team at the World Championships in Japanese Fukuoka.

In pitiful conditions, with a handful of spectators at the pool, most of them there by chance, Croatia made an easy job of Japan (8:2) and Australia (8:6) in the first group, but already against Spain we suffered our first defeat (4:6). In the second part and the new group we defeated the Netherlands (12:3) and the USA (11:5), but already the match against Russia, a team on our level, proved devastating (7:8). Completely demoralized by another failure in a major competition, we ended up in the “comfort group”, where we marred our result further with a loss to Greece (12:11), and then the USA (10:9), ending the Championships as eighth. But that was not the end of the bad news. First, there was another marijuana affair: in September, in the Mediterranean Games in Tunisia, we had a second player testing positive for cannabis in only two years – this time it was – Višeslav Sarić. As for the result, we finished fifth. Only fifth in the Mediterranean – and that fifth place was won with a victory over Slovenia! Of course, nothing could save the national team coach Neven Kovačević any more. The new ship captain was going to be Jug’s Veselin Đuho, who, however, would not be employed professionally by the Federation, due to a lack of money. Đuho remained Jug’s coach, but was also the national team coach. At the end of that year, on Saturday, November 17th, HVS gained its new president. Martin Sardelić received 68 votes, and his opponent Ronald Lopatny 58. This ratio shows just how fragmented the water polo organization was at the time. In a nutshell – difficult years.


2002 Perica Bukić’s Farewell Match In contrast to the previous year, 2002 brought serenity to the pools. Apart from the FINA Cup, there were no major international competitions. And even that competition would not be remembered for good. Croatia participated in the FINA or World Cup, which featured the eight best teams from the previous World Championships, with a new national team coach and an altered and somewhat strange team. The preparations were short because we lacked time for anything longer and more serious. It was a time of poverty, a point illustrated by the fact that our players, instead of wearing national team or any kind of water polo shirts, wore shirts sponsored by a, not very well-known, brand of clothes. They looked like a group of random people from the street who just happened to wear the same shirts, and that is precisely how they played. Our rejuvenated team of Volarević, Franković, Vranješ, Herceg, Premuš, Štritof, Primorac, Đogaš, Milaković, Kunac, Hinić, Perčinić and Koljanin played four matches. They lost three – against Italy (6:5), Spain (7:4) and the USA (12:10) – and played one tie with Greece (7:7). We were, of course, last, in eighth place. As far as the national Championships is concerned, the 2001/02 season commenced on January 12th 2002. It was the latest start in history of the Championships, but also the latest start in Europe that year. Only the summer League in Malta started later. There was also some symbolism in the whole thing. The previous year, 2001, with some exceptions, was a year best forgotten. There was nothing better than to wait that year out and start a new one with the hope of something new, something better and of better quality.


In Croatia, Mladost and Jug set themselves apart in terms of quality. The rest of the League was nowhere near them. Mladost proved better, taking the double crown. Jug, as if they had become a little too relaxed, made it to the Euro League Final Four in Athens, but lost the semifinal to Olympiacos very convincingly by 8:5. They lost the third place match the following day too. Posillipo from Naples was better by 8:7 and Olympiacos won its first European Championship title, defeating Honved by 9:7 in the final. Above all else, this year will be remembered for the farewell match of Perica Bukić, the water polo player with more trophies than any other in the world and a member of the Hall of Fame. Although he had said goodbye to the pool a year earlier, replacing it with the position of director Mladost, on November 12th 2002, without any exaggeration, the most spectacular non-competitive water polo match was organized in Zagreb. The match between Mladost and the World was the final act of the truly great saga about the number 10 cap which left its mark on the world of water polo. Crowded stands at the pool next to the Sava, the TV-broadcast and most of all, the names of the world aces who came from all over the world, say it all – Massimiliano Ferretti, Dr Tamas Molnar, Dubravko Šimenc, Theodoros Chatzitheodorou, Aleksandar Jerišov, Revaz Čomakidze, Igor Hinić, the now late Jesus Rollan, Gergely Kiss, Tibor Benedek, Fabio Bencivenga, Mile Smodlaka, Zsolt Varga, Ryan Bailey, Vjekoslav Kobešćak, Vladimir Vujasinović, Renato Vrbičić... Princes coming to bow before the King. Life had to start all over again, and we had to get used to water polo without Perica Bukić in the pool.

< A SPECTACULAR GOODBYE – The match between Mladost and the World Team at Bukić’s farewell ceremony Departure of the game’s greatest


On the eve of the European Championships in Kranj, Zoran Roje was appointed selector (Lušić, Hinić, Fatović, Štritof and Šimenc sitting

2003 Another Final, but also Riots and a Penalty 2003 was eventful, filled with excitement and success, but also sorrow and disbelief. That year, the Croatian Water Polo Federation had a new president, Nikola Grabić, a former mayor of Split. Let’s start at the beginning. In the 2002/03 season, the First League still had ten clubs. Before the season started, Solaris changed its name and became Šibenik, but all its home games were played outside Šibenik. The pool in Crnica was in the initial phases of building, or rather, renovation. Although we were expecting it, and it was even announced, no third club emerged to contend for the title, so we were still witnessing the race for predominance between Mladost and Jug. The changes in the two clubs were, interestingly, purely cosmetic. Pecotić left Gruž and was replaced by Vlatko Burić from Mornar. Šimenc and coach Bonačić returned to Mladost, while Herceg and Sarić left. With this duality of power, the trophies were divided accordingly: Jug took the Cup and Mladost took the Championship. In Europe, Mladost participated in the Final Four in Genoa: losing to the host club, Pro Recco, the future champions, in the semifinal by 5:4, and winning the third place match against Spandau 04 from Berlin (6:5). However, the last match of the national Championships, the fifth final play-off match in Gruž, between Jug and Mladost, greatly influenced the outcome and results of the summer that followed. The Frogs managed to win the title in the heart of Gruž, but the Jug and national team coach, Veselin Đuho, assaulted the referees verbally and behaved inappropriately at the end of the match, pouring oil onto the flames. Đuho kept kicking cones into the pool, chairs flew, one of the spectators attacked Mladost’s Milaković and the police intervened. It was an ugly scene, which resulted several days later in Đuho’s dismissal and Zoran Roje’s appointment as the


national team coach – among other things, due to extremely strong public pressure. The national team lost its coach on the first day of preparations in Split and only three weeks before the start of the European Championships in Kranj. In the meantime, Russia, and then France, cancelled previously arranged sparring matches with our team, leaving them with only three unofficial matches against the weaker Slovenia, before the start of the European Championships. But that wasn’t all. On the last day of preparations, the day before the departure for Kranj, Ivo Ivaniš withdrew from the national team, although he was included in the 15-strong squad for Kranj. Ivo believed that he was only included to make up the numbers and that in most matches, he would be the 14th or 15th player, and not get to play, so he packed his things and left. In these far from idyllic circumstances, Roje took fifteen brave, but well chosen and at that point, really the best players that Croatia had to offer to the continental Championships. When selecting the players, we stopped dividing them according to age, and the unnecessary “rejuvenation process”. The simple formula was for the best to go. Roje did not alter Đuho’s team much, although some of the players were there because of Roje, which was especially true of Damir Burić, who was Roje’s big idea. The team that set out for the Slovenian Alps was Volarević, Vranješ, Burić, Šimenc, Premuš, Štritof, Smodlaka, Đogaš, Vićan, Barač, Hinić, Fatović, V. Kobešćak, HercegI and Franković. Never before had there been so many players from Rijeka in the national team – five and the coach! The first round brought torment and trepidation. We defeated Germany by 12:11, with Franković scoring 11 seconds before the end. The following day, Slovenia proved a much easier task (9:4), but Spain gave us a wake-up call (3:6). We didn’t stand a chance;

our inferiority in the left wing was all too obvious. The team coach was grilled by the press for leaving Vjeko Kobešćak out of play. In the fourth round, against Italy, he was back in play. The Croatian machine finally started rolling; our overseas neighbours were defeated (6:3). The fifth round against Greece, who had by now proved that they were not a team to be underestimated, was dramatic. Their resistance was broken after overtime (8:7). The quarterfinal brought an easy match with Slovakia (10:6), but also slight concern. The following day, on June 13th, we were to face powerful Hungary which, along with Serbia and Montenegro (the new name of SR Yugoslavia), was the sovereign ruler of the world pools in those years and the team against whom we had the worst record. Unlike Budapest two years earlier, when the Hungarians toyed with our team in the third round match, this time we witnessed a completely balanced match between brilliant opponents. The Hungarians twice had a two-goal lead (1:3 and 5:7), but Roje’s boys kept coming back, taking the lead in the final part of the match and finally winning after a goal by the superb Fatović, a minute and a half before the end (10:9). The water polo giants, Hungary, had fallen. It was like defeating Brazil at football. Croatia was in the European Championships final! Our third final since independence, we hoped it would be third time lucky. On June 15th the streets of Kranj were teeming. Almost 5,000 Croats poured in that morning, taking over the little Slovenian city and surprising the incompetent organizers, who did not have enough police officers. If truth be told, some of those “fans” were actually football hooligans, who had not come to cheer for the Croatian players so much as to settle the score with local Serbs, who had spent the previous few days molesting Croatian fans. Several hours before the match started, the city was gripped by rioting, as our fans clashed with the Slove-

nian police. The start of the final match between Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro was delayed. But down in the water, the players played a fair match in spite of the tense atmosphere. Roje’s players were better, superior and had the constant advantage, until they snapped in the third quarter. Two and a half minutes before the end, when Kobešćak passed the ball to Smodlaka, who scored for 7:4, we thought, “That’s it! The gold is ours” But we hadn’t noticed what was happening in the stands. A large group of Croatian fans erupted at that moment; breaking through all defensive cordons, and attacked the smaller group of Serbian fans. All hell broke loose. The match was stopped, police cars and ambulances howled, torches, bottles and fists were flying everywhere, blood and fear spilled all over the stands, and the mounted police intervened. Play was resumed after some 20 minutes, which served our opponents, who needed to calm their ranks after a three-goal deficit, more than it did our players, who kept scanning the stands, fearing for the safety of their family and friends. Serbia and Montenegro managed to reduce the gap to 7:6 by the end of the third quarter, and levelled the score at 8:8 in the fourth. A minute and a half before the end, Burić hit the goal post from two metres, and ten seconds before the end, Šefik in goal miraculously saved Hinić’s all too easy shot. Overtime! Psychologically, our opponents now had the upper hand, and they took advantage of it. Šapić scored for 9:8. Yes, we won the silver, but we lost the gold and a lot more besides. After that sad evening and the even bigger riots that ensued after the match ended, for days after the final, no-one mentioned the players and the medal they had won. The press discussed the riot, arrests, hooligans and damage caused. But the Croatian Water Polo Federation received a record fine of



Vjekoslav Kobeš Figo of Water Polo

th ary 20 , 1974 Date of birth: Janu eb Place of birth: Zagr ist om on ec n: r 2008 tio pa Occu d ended his caree ter polo in 1983 an wa g yin pla d rte Sta 07 Mladost, Zagreb Club career: 1983-20 national team: Trophies with the Atlanta Olympic Games in – silver at the 1996 hips in u Florence ropean Champions Eu 99 19 e th at r – silve hips in Kran. ropean Champions Eu 03 20 e th at r ve – sil mes in Canet Mediterranean Ga – silver at the 1993 mes in Izmir Ga n Mediterranea – silver at the 1997 Trophies with club: d 1996 pionships: 1991 an – European Cham 99 19 p: Cu nners’ – European Cup Wi 01 20 p: – LEN Cu Cup: 1996 – European Super p: 1991 1997, – Mediterranean Cu , 1994, 1995, 1996, nships: 1992, 1993 pio am Ch n tia oa Cr – 1999 and 2002 . and 2006 93, 1994, 1998, 1999 – Croatian Cup: 19 nships: 1990 – Yugoslav Champio

The Water Figo. That is only one of the nicknames that followed Vjekoslav Kobešćak in the media during his impressive career, rich with trophies. This was an allusion to the Portuguese football player Luis Figo and his “balls with eyes”. However we think this comparison is not accurate. With all due respect for the football player mentioned, he was nowhere near to building such charisma in his sport as Vjeko did in water polo. After all, we are speaking of a multiple Olympian, a man with 233 matches for the Croatian national


team, ranking him into the top 5 players with most matches for Croatia. We are speaking of an athlete who has won, at least once, every club competition he entered with his original and only club he ever played for, Mladost from Zagreb. With as many as 20 senior club trophies, Vjeko Kobešćak is next to Ozren Bonačić, Perica Bukić and Ratko Štritof, in the quartet of players with most trophies won in the history of Mladost, one of the most successful European clubs. And if Mladost is, in international terms, a synonym for water polo, then Vjekoslav Kobešćak is one of the synonyms of Mladost, its recognizable symbol. – I came to Mladost, to the pool and my first practice with my older brother. Basically, Dario was the driving force, and with a lot of teasing from him and his friends, he introduced me to water polo. That is what Vjeko said, remembering 1983. A decade or so later, Vjeko had the chance to tease his brother, having outmatched him in the number of appearances for the national team, but also in the key roles he eventually had in Mladost. Vjekoslav Kobešćak earned his place in water polo history all by himself, through his game,

approach, athletic life and respect for his opponents. Maybe for someone else it would be an aggravating thing to be the son of the first president of the national water polo organization. Maybe that player, who would make it into the national team, would be treated differently, under suspicion that he was there “only for his last name”. But this is not the truth in Vjeko’s case. His forte was his nice soft hand, perfect timing for a surgically accurate pass with unusually good play overview, always one step, look or stroke in front of his opponents. That was the crucial quality that makes the difference between a player and a virtuoso. Vjekoslav Kobešćak was the latter – a virtuoso with the ball in the water. – I am proud of having spent all these years, my entire career in only one club; and not just any club, but Mladost. I am proud to be a part of the history of that club. Yes, there have always been offers, maybe even a latent desire to go abroad, but… Mladost fulfilled all my professional ambitions – said Vjekoslav Kobešćak in the summer of 2007, while Croatia was still celebrating its world water polo gold, and the time when, quietly and unobtrusively, the way he always behaved outside the pool, one of the game’s greatest ended his player career. The greatest number 13 in the history of Mladost, an icon of the Frogs, has stayed with his club. As coach to younger generations, then as the sports director, today he is building his coaching career, working with the first, senior team.

Teo Đogaš

ra The Water Cob, 1977

He was the top scorer for the Croatian national team for a long time. A water cobra. Already during his active playing career, he earned himself the status of one of the best Croatian water polo players of all time. There are not many Croatian players who can claim that they have won the world championships both as a junior and as a senior, as well as being the top scorer on both occasions! This fact alone gives Teo a place in Split’s Sports Hall of Fame already now. And to actually make it into this institution in “the city of sport” is an honor deserving a deep bow. He is the true heir of the tradition of Split’s brilliant water polo players from the second half of the 20th century, like Lušić and Bebić. His basic player quality, that earned him global glory and which set him apart from the others, is his shooting. He has the moves of a true master; something that needs to be seen because it can hardly be described in words. All the goalies of this world unsuccessfully tried to understand the secret of his shots. It was impossible! It was so fast and simultaneously so sudden and unpredictable, with several sub-variations: “the frog”, or “the wag”, “the hold” into the near upper or far low corner or under the goalie’s arm. Yes, that shot was the closest to a cobra’s attack. Not much can be done. At the same time, Teo is a man of huge emotional charge. He is the true Mediterranean type, with no average, no apathy. Defeat and injustice can devastate him, but if you want to celebrate victory, he’s the man to be around, because he is the heart and soul of the party. When the national team coach Zoran Roje left him out of the list of passengers for the Athens Olympics, he wept like a little baby after the practice in the pool in Poljud. He did not even hide his emotions in front of the press. He showed his

th bruary 19 Date of birth: Fe Split Place of birth: an aphic technici gr n: io r at Occup 1989 in Morna on lo po er at w g in ay an; 1998-2000 pl dr d Ja te 8 Star nar; 1996-199 or M 6 200299 -1 89 -2002 Pescara; Club career: 19 os, Athens; 2001 ac pi m since ; ly st O 1 do 00 la 04-2008 M POŠK; 2000-2 004 Jadran; 20 -2 03 20 n; lu So 2003 PAOK, tor 2008 Cattaro, Ko am: the national te urne. Trophies with onship in Melbo World Champi 07 ence. 20 or at Fl ld in go – ampionship Ch an pe ro Eu anj. – silver at 1999 pionship in Kr European Cham – silver at 2003 club: Trophies with : 1999 (POŠK) ue ag – Euro Le (Cattaro) – LEN Cup: 2010 (Mladost) pionship: 2008 ) – Croatian Cham 2006 (Mladost d 200 (POŠK) an p: Cu n tia ) oa os – Cr (Olympiac pionship: 2001 – Greek Cham ) os ac pi 01 (Olym as both junior – Greek Cup: 20 n player who w tia oa Cr ly on e s: th Interesting fact and 2007) champion (1997 ld or w or ni se and

other face when, three years later, he played in the World Championships semifinal against Serbia in Melbourne. When our eastern neighbors were inches from defeat, he showed his joker face while still in the water. – For the last 3-4 minutes I chatted with the Serbs. I spoke to them and teased them, especially Ćirić. I couldn’t fathom why there were pushing so hard when it was obvious they couldn’t win if we played that match for another hundred years – he told the reporters afterwards. And that is Teo: a sporting spitfire, with the positive connotation, of course. Water polo has been and remains the first sport of choice for him. He started at the age of 12 in the Mornar pool, coached by Davor Carević. Mornar was also the first stop in the imposing list of clubs he moved through during his playing career. He is one of the rare players from Split who can boast playing for all three clubs under Marjan. In the year of the Atlanta Olympic water polo silver he transferred to Jadran, where he was to remain for two years before moving to POŠK. Matutinović needed a player in his team to fill the opponents’ nets, and Đogaš, at this point with the halo of junior world champion seemed a perfect choice for something that would end in the climb to the European club throne in Naples. After winning

the Champions’ League in 1999 he was to win the national Cup too, and in the summer of 2000 he moved to Pirej. With Olympiacos, he dominantly won a double crown in Greece, but also played in another Euro League final. This time, Jug proved to be a too great an obstacle in Gruž. Already next summer, the migratory bird flew to the Apennines, to the famous Pescara. It was a year Teo would like to forget. – They weren’t fair to me in any single detail. I remember them as bad people. All the more reason to always give my 120 percent in matches against them. That is how Teo spoke after only a year in Italy from where he took another trip to Greece, this time to a much weaker team, PAOK from Solun. He was facing stagnation in his illustrious shot maker career, and he finally returned to his own Jadran in 2003. His restless spirit could only handle one year in one place, and while, in the summer of 2004, his co-players were at the Athens Olympic Games, an invitation came from Mladost. He went on to win another cup there, but more importantly, he settled down, started a family and… slowly, but deservedly returned to play under the national flag. He hoisted that flag on the highest pole Down Under in April 2007.


At the beginning of the 1990s, when Andro Knego, one of the most successful Croatian basketball players of all times, captain of Zagreb’s Cibona and SFRY national team player, had his farewell match, someone wrote that Andro would be shorter than his 211 centimetres if he were to hang all the medals he had won around his neck. We are sure that Elvis Fatović, the legendary captain of Dubrovnik’s Jug, would have similar problems. Fatović won a total of 19 club titles, two of which were with Mladost and the others with Jug. As a junior, when he played for the national team of the former state, he became the junior European Champion, and then the junior World Champion. As a senior, playing for Croatia, he won the silver medal in the 2003 European Championships in Kranj. He won another silver in the Mediterranean Games. Although he never won any Olympic medals, “I will regret it for the rest of my life”, he used to say, the success of his career was not diminished one bit. And he played twice at the Olympic Games; in Sidney in 2000 and in Athens four years later. The last trophy he won as a player was the Croatian national title in June 2007. Fatović, the captain of Jug from 1996, did not hoist that trophy alone, but with Kržić, another legendary Jug player and trophy winner.

100,000 Euros from LEN, which was ludicrous, because they had not organized travel for the fans or the European Championshipa. No one from LEN headquarters even reprimanded the Slovenians for organizational deficiencies. All these ugly things needed to be forgotten quickly. We had to pull ourselves together and start again, as quickly as possible. In less than a month, on June 12th, the World Championships in Barcelona were scheduled to start. Compared to Kranj, where he had taken 15 players, coach Roje was supposed to eliminate two players for the World Championships. Those two were Premuš and Herceg. There was no need for bigger changes because the team had quality and was playing well. We finally had a team capable of going up against the best. We proved it in the first round in Barcelona, which was a derby between Croatia and Hungary. In the end, the result was a tie (7:7) but the Hungarians were satisfied with that score, after playing catch-up throughout the entire match. Wins against Canada (13:3) and Romania (12:9) were routine, although the Romanians did press us a bit at the end of the third quarter (7:9). However, discontent with the Federation leadership smouldered among the players. They believed that the arrangements concerning player rewards for the medal from Kranj had not been honoured, and boosted by their excellent play against Hungary, captain Samir Barač called a press conference the day before the round of 16 match against Australia, during which he brutally attacked the leadership of the HVS and its president. On the morning of July 20th, Nikola Grabić, at the time in Barcelona, received copies of the national press from Croatia, and read the not exactly kind words of our captain. Grabić was furious, but he hid his fury because the match was due to start at noon. And then – what a shock!


The crowd in Gruž stood and applauded at that moment for a long time, much longer than it usually did on such occasions. It was an expression of gratitude to Fatović and Kržić for all the joy they had brought their fellow-citizens during their careers and in the last match they played at Gruž, the pool they first swam in as boys, at the beginning of the 1980s. They used to stay after water polo practice to watch Jug’s seniors. They dreamt of playing for the first team one day, with Fatović dreaming that dream in Cavtat, swimming in the sea and shooting a yellow ball in Ivica Moretti’s school of water polo. He came to Gruž in 1994 and started playing for the first team three years later. Coach Đuro Savinović put him in an outside position, later moving him to the other side. He shot without hesitation and with deadly accuracy. For a full twenty years, Fatović was a role-model for others. He will continue to be that, thanks to many video archives of Jug’s great matches, in which he played key roles, and through the stories of those who watched him from the stands, admired him and enjoyed his mastery, goals and assists. And there were truly many such people, across Europe and the world, during those years. His greatest quality was his calmness. His hand never shook in the pool, and he was the master of the situation in the locker room. But more importantly, he did not only have great player qualities. He remained great in everything.

Elvis Fatović

The Role-Model of th

e City

Date of birth: May th 8 , 1971 Place of birth: Dubr ovnik Occupation: water polo coach Started playing wa ter polo in 1980, en ded his player caree 2008 r in Player career: 1980 -1984 Cavtat; 1984 -1993 Jug; 1993-19 Mladost; 1994-2007 94 Jug National team caree r: 128 matches for Croatia Coaching career: Ju g since 2008 Trophies with the national team: – silver at the 2003 European Champio nships in Kranj – silver at the 1997 Mediterranean Ga mes in Bari Trophies with club (as a player): – Euro League: 20 01 and 2006 (Jug) – LEN Cup: 2000 (Ju g) – European Super Cup: 2006 (Jug) – Croatian Champio nship: 1994 (Mlad ost), 2000, 2001, 20 2005, 2006 and 20 04, 07 (Jug) – Croatian Cup: 19 93 (Mladost), 1994 , 1996, 2000, 2002 2004, 2006, 2007 an , 2003, d 2008 (Jug) Trophies with club (as a coach): – Croatian Champio nship: 2009 and 20 10 (Jug) – Croatian Cup: 20 09 and 2010 (Jug) – Adriatic League : 2009 (Jug) Awards: – best athlete of Du brovnik (twice) – winner of the Dr . Franjo Bučar natio nal annual sports – awarded the orde award rs of the Red Danic e Hrvatske with th Portrait of Franjo e Bučar and the Red Hrvatskog Pletera – “Yellow Cap” of th e national Sports Herald (Sportske no in the 1999/2000 se vosti) ason.

Completely lacking in concentration and with a lackadaisical attitude, our players played the worst match of the year, and one of their worst ever. Australia, a band of strong swimmers but nothing more, demolished the medal favourites and European vice-champions by 6:10! Shock and consternation. We were again pushed to fight for placement between 9th and 12th place. These world championships were clearly not meant to be for us. In the end we finished 9th, convincingly sinking Germany (7:3) and Russia (8:3) in the two remaining matches. To this day, we are convinced that the Croatian national team was ready for a medal, that it was playing the best water polo in the world at the time and that it had one, only one bad moment in Barcelona. But the timing of that one moment was awful. Impressions mean nothing when the facts and numbers demonstrate something completely different – we were ninth in the world, unlike our cadets, who won the bronze medal in the European Championships in Istanbul. Upon the seniors’ return from Barcelona, president Gabrić demanded Barač’s head, banning him from the national team for one year. Then, on August 16th. terrible news arrived. National team player, Ivo Ivaniš, drowned in a diving accident near the small island of Bobar, near Cavtat. Ivo, who was so talented and so calm, had left us for good. All things considered, we did win a silver medal that year, but we also lost a national team coach and a national team captain, a battlefield was opened between the players and the Federation, we lost face against Australia, and we received a record fine from LEN, unmatched in water polo history. Not too positive, on the eve of an Olympic year.


IT STARTED BADLY – Igor Hinić’s eardrum was pierced in the last practice before the start of the Athens Games

2004 Silić’s Death, Beaten and Humiliated in Athens The year started sadly: on January 18th, Bruno Silić left us for good. He had been fighting off illness for a long time, but in the end it prevailed, ruthless to the core. Never again would we see the joyful, smiling face of our legendary national coach from Atlanta, a place with which he was synonymous. We will remember him for Atlanta, his jokes, his generous, friendly spirit, and his endless love of pools and water polo. Only a few days later, the national team, a team he loved so much and which he led for four and a half years, travelled to Rio de Janeiro. A pre-Olympic tournament for Athens was taking place on Copacabana. As the tenth team from the World Championships in Barcelona, we needed to prove that we belonged in the Olympics. We had no problems. A little warm-up for starters – Romania (7:5) and an odd result with Germany(3:2), but from there on everything went smoothly – Canada (12:4), Poland (8:2), Puerto Rico (18:1), then again Romania in the semifinal, but this time with a sensational score (12:0). In the final, Germany fared better (6:1). But never mind, we got the job done. We had made it to Athens. The 13th season of the National Championships introduced some novelties. Not only did the Championships start on a Wednesday for the first time, and took place earlier in the year than ever before, in mid October, but the three-part system of play was introduced. After the end of League competitions, teams were divided into the Super League and the Survival League, and after that, Champion play-offs and Survival play-offs took place It appeared that the traditionally strong Mladost and Jug clubs would have a third name to contend with – Jadran Deltron. Their coach, Matutinović, and a rich sponsor had managed to compile an interesting list of players (Đogaš, Oreb, Sarić, Vrbičić, young Miho Bošković, borrowed from Jug, and young Antonijević who was also maturing as a player). But problems


arose – the results nowhere near matched the investments and Matutinović did not stay on the bench of the Split club to the end of the season. No one paid any attention to the fourth team, Primorje from Rijeka. There, coach Željko Tonković, continuing the legacy of Roje, had a team that was more than potent – Car, Burić, Franković, Tiškivski, Premuš, Kancijanić, Beltrame... Primorje was the hit of the season, driving Mladost crazy in all their encounters and eventually eliminating them in the National Championship semifinals. The Frogs were going through their greatest crisis in the history of independent Croatia, while in Rijeka, water polo suddenly became the number one sport. But despite their quality, they were not strong enough to jeopardize the masters from the City. Jug easily took the double crown. Primorje, on the other hand, reached their peak by getting to the Final tournament of the competition that year, played for the first time under its present name, the Euro League. This success was somewhat marred by the absence of the Italian clubs, who refused to play Euro League matches at weekends, when the Italian Serie A was traditionally played. In the Hungarian capital, Honved defeated Rijeka in the semifinal (7:6), and the Hungarians later took the crown. Primorje bettered Jadran from Herceg Novi in the match for third place (9:7). This result remains to this day the best European achievement of the club from Costabella. The junior national team won a silver medal at the European Championships in La Valetta, but the eyes of the public were turned towards the senior team. The departure for Athens was filled with hope, enough to rise up to Olympus, but we were also aware of our weaknesses, the unfinished stories of previous years and our unfulfilled expectations. We were not swelling with optimism as we had been in previous years. After a public and completely unnecessary debate concerning who should bear the Croatian flag in the Opening Ceremony, that honour was bestowed on Dubravko Šimenc. Little did we know or think that this was to be the finest moment and

Mile Smodlaka The Crucial Player

the club win two European Championship titles, one LEN Cup, one Super Cup, and y 1st, 1976 ar nu six national Championships and as many Ja : th bir of Date national Cups. lit Sp : th bir of ce Pla 85 19 in lo po In Split, they had given up on him, even ter wa 09 ttaro since 20 Started playing 1997-2009 Jug; Ca ; an dr Ja though he was in Jadran’s senior team at 97 -19 85 Club career: 19 atches for Croatia m the age of 15 and a junior representative 212 r: ree ca m National tea for Croatia, in the best seven line-up at the : m tea l na tio na urne lbo Trophies with the Me in s junior European Championships in the hip ns World Champio Florence – gold at the 2007 in s hip Netherlands. When his junior career came ns pio am European Ch Kranj – silver at the 1999 in s to an end, they told him he was lazy, “too hip ns pio am European Ch – silver at the 2003 Bari lazy to live, let alone play”. in es m Ga n ea an Mediterr – silver at the 1997 They did not consider him an asset when he came to Jug. He was a player who Trophies with club: 01 and 2006 (Jug) needed to learn and prove himself. He – Euro League: 20 attaro) quickly proved he was not lazy. Mile – LEN Cup: 2010 (C p: 2006 (Jug) Cu d r an pe 07 Su 20 , an worked around the clock and it soon 06 pe 20 ro , – Eu , 2004, 2005 nships: 2000, 2001 pio am Ch n became apparent that someone in tia oa Cr – 09 20 d his birthplace, Split, had made a huge an 08 20 , 07 2009 (Jug) 20 04, 2005, 00, 2002, 2003, 20 mistake, much to the joy of Jug, which – Croatian Cup: 20 had for years been lacking players in the (Jug) centre position. ard Awards: l annual sport aw njo Bučar nationa Fra He never failed in Jug’s big matches. . ait Dr rtr e th po e of th er – winn e Hrvatske with He played with burning fevers, injuries r of the Red Danic de Or e th ed ard – aw tskog Pletera va Hr d Re e and back pain. He never complained, th d t poll of Franjo Bučar an in the Večernji Lis ar Ye e receiving treatment when injured to th of r ye – Water Polo Pla help his teammates. Đuho, his coach ) e novosti) (several times during his first five seasons in Jug, orts Herald (Sportsk Sp l na tio na e th – winner of used to joke before matches: “Yellow Cap” “Smodlaka’s ill, he’s feverish, that’s a good sign; we’re going to win!” With his strong legs, no-one could sink him. He could hold a two-metre perimeter. Technically ag“Smodlaka came to Gruž, and along came the ile. The turn. “Dry leaf.” So many goals scored, and trophies” might summarise Jug’s success at the so many of them decisive. Although slow, so that beginning of the new millennium. his fellow-players had to cut off counter-offensives This imposing player came to Jug from Split at the for him, he was irreplaceable. The water would end of the 1990’s. Thereafter, Smodlaka helped foam for two metres around him and Smodlaka

the greatest achievement of Croatian water polo in Athens that August... Things went wrong even before the Olympic tournament started. During the last training session before the competition, in a practice match with Spain, a clinch between Hinić and Dani Moro resulted in a pierced eardrum for our centre. Without his contribution, we lost our first round match to the USA (7:6). We scored our first goal in the third quarter from a four-metre penalty (Fatović), but by that point, the Americans had already put three balls in Vićan’s net. Even worse, Samir Barač was severely injured. Smith smashed into his rib with a knee, and the fractured rib stopped only a centimetre short of his heart. Against Hungary, we were without Hinić and Barač, and our opponents took an easy, early 5:1 lead, though the final score narrowed the difference (10:8). The third round brought a third defeat, this time to Russia (9:8). At this point, we lost Premuš, who also had his eardrum pierced. This meant that Croatia had only Smodlaka in the centre position for the remainder of the tournament. Battered and demoralized, we also lost to Serbia and Montenegro (8:11). It became clear we would return home with our tails between our legs. No one was really interested in victories over Kazakhstan (5:4) and Egypt (12:1. We finished the tournament with two more defeats, to Italy (11:7), and then Australia (8:7), achieving our lowest placement ever in the Olympics – tenth. The water polo castle was tumbling down in full view, the public was mocking us, there was no money coming into the Federation cash register, no one wanted to sponsor losers and

would either finish Jug’s attack with a goal or earn an extra-player situation. For years, he was the player who tipped the scales, the centre with the “the best in the world” written next to his name; in the national team in tandem with Igor Hinić, and in Jug with Nikša Dobud for his last couple of seasons. Three medals with the national team – two European Championship silvers and a gold medal in the World Championships – the crown of his career. He always played his top game.

there were fewer and fewer players who wanted to play under the national flag. It goes without saying that Roje was no longer the national coach. At that time, no one wanted to take water polo seriously; there was no solution, or vision for how to proceed. Nothing, except for one man. Seeing that things had gone too far, Perica Bukić, the player with the most trophies in the history of the sport and the legendary Croatian captain, started gathering his former coplayers (Goran Sukno, Milivoj Bebić and Duško Klisović) and forming an expert team. His idea was to bring back and appoint the best coach in the world – Ratko Rudić as the national coach. He had a vision for recreating Croatia as a world water polo force to be reckoned with, and in order to achieve what he had in mind, he contended for the presidency of HVS. On November 21st 2004, he won overwhelmingly, with the support of all the relevant stakeholders, and was elected president. A Board of Directors was formed with representatives from most First League clubs. Less than a month later, Ratko Rudić returned from America, signing a four-year contract on December 16th. “I have returned to put Croatia back on top of the world.” Rudić’s statement sounded too bold to be taken seriously. Many believed it was made in the Christmas spirit, full of good cheer. Yet overnight, without a single match being played and without a single victory, there was a great change in the atmosphere in Croatian water polo, a change for the better, of course. It had been only four months since Athens, where we were beaten and humiliated.


OPENING OF THE OLYMPICS IN ATHENS – Dubravko Šimenc carrying the Croatian flag MATCH JUG – VASAS


2005 A Step Away from the Throne It wasn’t all smooth sailing. The consequences of inadequate work, the lack of inventiveness and certainly a lot of bad results have year after year impoverished Croatian water polo. So in the championship season 2004/2005 there were two clubs less, but also two more pools – however contradictory this may sound. Finally the pool in Utrine in Zagreb was built, and the one in Crnica in Šibenik was reconstructed. However, owing to the lack of funds, Gusar from Mlin and Kvarner from Opatija could not start the First League. There were only eight clubs in the championship. Those eight sold few players, and bought even fewer. In that respect, suffice it to say that in the summer 2004, therefore, in the eve of the season 2004/2005, Mladost, otherwise a synonym for frequent replacements of players, was a record-holder with merely five new players and the same number of those who left. In local waters, this was the era of Jug. The group from the Croatian south ruled superiorly, winning yet another championship. Mladost was right next to it, but all the others with their quality were unfortunately miles away. It was expected so much more from Primorje, however, Rijeka club was also – or, better said, again – struck by the lack of means, and this had to be reflected, in one way or another, in the pool. In the national team Rudić was just picking up the threads, examining the situation, visiting all the clubs and environments. And he immediately ordered playing in all possible competitions, in all age groups. So, after many years of absence that summer we returned to the World League, FINA’s competition which had never really entirely taken hold in a serious way, but which served us very well in that situation to coordinate the team, educate talented young men and gain experience. Rudić did not sit still for long. A little after New Year, already on 4th January 2005, he took the Croatian team to the Italian city of Imperia, in the immediate vicinity of the French border. That is where we quite easily secured the appearance at the World

Championship in July over Byelorussia, Slovenia, Romania and (sweet victory) Italy. We were also successful at two World League tournaments in Belgrade and New York, as we secured our appearance with those results at the final tournament of this competition, again in Belgrade. The victory over the Hungarians (9:7) in New York in the final round of the tournament there will particularly remain in our memories. However, the leading story that year was Montreal and an almost cursed competition for us –the World Championship. The largest city Quebec was seen by: Pavić, Burić, Pavlović, Antonijević, Vranješ, Franković, Primorac, Đogaš, Bušlje, Komadina, Hinić, M. Bošković and Volarević. Therefore, it is obvious that Rudić decided to bring fresh blood into the team. They realized two easy victories within the group – Canada (19:4) and Romania (6:4), but also a crushing defeat from Hungary (10:4). The interesting thing is that it was the same group, equal opponents as two years earlier in Barcelona. But that is not all. In the eighth finals, we had the same opponent – Australia. It was not to be trifled with. It was pay back time. At the beginning of the second quarter it was as much as 7:0, but in the end our boys had mercy and were satisfied with a triumph of only four goals (10:6). Quarter-finals was performed with the greatest ease. True, the Russians took the lead 2:0, but Franković scored twice, then Đogaš and Vranješ for a turn into 4:2. The match ended with our victory 6:4. By entering among the four best teams in the world, we repeated the success from Rome in the far 1994. So, it took us eleven years. In the semi-finals Serbia and Montenegro was better (5:4), then we missed the bronze medal in the dramatic overtime with the Greeks (10:11). And we were so close to the medal then. Only four seconds before the end of the fourth quarter Đogaš in a counterattack scored for 9:8, but nine seconds before the end Christos Afroudakis tied the score. In the overtime, the other brother Georgi Afroudakis scored only 11 seconds before the end for 11:10 and the first Greek medal at great water polo competitions.


Let’s begin with a salute. Ratko Štritof is the player with the most trophies in the history of Mladost, the water polo giants! He has won 25 trophies in 16 senior seasons with The Frogs. In doing so, he has surpassed even Ozren Bonačić (in terms of trophies only), Perica Bukić and Vjekoslav Kobešćak. In sport, we are rarely aware of the magnitude and importance of an athlete before the pinnacle of his career. As we review this hero’s story, we are taken aback, to put it mildly, at the range of his achievements. Ratko Štritof is one of the heroes of recent Croatian water polo, and an all-time Mladost hero. This certainly carries some weight. With four European Club Championship titles, only one of which was not with the Zagreb club, Štritof joined the list of Croatian water polo legends like Stipanić, Bonačić, Hebel, Z. Šimenc, Jeger and Bukić – the only players with four European championship titles. Štritof is also one of those players who has won every club competition in which he has competed. He has been a champion in three different states (Yugoslavia, Croatia and Italy). He participated in the first Olympic finals in the history of Croatian water polo, one hot summer evening in 1996, against the Spanish in Atlanta. And it all Started in… Rijeka! “Let’s say that it was a combination of circumstances. My father was doing his military service, while my mother, who was heavily pregnant, remained in Rijeka, where I was born.” At the beginning of the 1990’s he was an integral part of Mladost’s new blood who, after the departure of older, more experienced players like Šimenc, Damjanić, Milanović, Miškulin, Popović, took over the club colours, and at a time when noone had any faith in them, started a whole decade of supremacy by this club, in local and European waters. The 1996 European crown would have been unimaginable without him, just like the Top Teams Cup three years later, and the 2001 LEN Cup. Over a period of time, through hard work, he turned into one of the best full-backs in the world. Few centres ever got to play their fill when he was around. They might have swallowed some water, but they found it hard to win a ball, or get into a position to score. In 2002, Štritof was voted water polo player of the year in Croatia. After the Euroleague Final Four in Genoa in 2003, he went abroad for the first time. The call of the

richest club and the European champions at the time, Posillipo, was strong, as was their substantial financial offer. Two years later, he subdued Naples and won Europe for the fourth time. In the finals of the Euroleague against Honved, only twenty seconds before the end of overtime, it was Štritof who scored for the championship trophy of the continent. Vesuvius erupted, and the legendary pool of Scandone chanted its approval of Ratko Štritof. What an honour! Later, he spent a season on Sicily, then came back for a year to Zagreb before returning to Italy. There, , in 2009, in beautiful Florence, Tuscany, one of the greatest Croatian water polo players of all time, twice team captain, from 2001 to 2003 and with Rudić in 2004, ended his playing career. Ratko Štritof – the player with the most trophies in the history of Zagreb’s Mladost! This sentence says it all…

After the match, sadness among the players, but Rudić was calm, and not at all dissatisfied. He kept repeating that Croatia would be ready for a medal only at the next World Championship in Melbourne. True, a week later he admitted that we could have won the precious metal around the neck in Canada if only one of the attacks with a player more had been realized. It was precisely that part of the match that was bad. In the semi-finals, for example, 3-12, and for the bronze 5-11. Not even a month later, another fourth place was won, this time in the World League, the final tournament in Belgrade. That is where Rudić was obviously angry. First at the organizers and top FINA officials, who changed the rules hour after hour in order to throw Croatia out of the finals, although they deserved it with their game. Then he got angry at his own players who misused his trust and in the evening on the eve of the match for the third place they went out to party in Belgrade and the following day


Ratko Štritof

The Mladost Pla yer with the Most Trophies

Born: January th 14 , 1972 Place of birth: Rijeka Occupation: tra nsport engine er Playing career : 1982-2003 Mla do st; 2003-2005 Po 2005-2006 Syra sillipo, Naples; cusa; 2006-200 7 Mladost; 2007 Naples; 2008-2 -2 00 8 Posillipo 009 Florentia, Firenze Trophies with the national te am: – silver at the 19 96 Olympics in Atlanta – silver at the 19 97 Mediterrane an Games in Bari – silver at the 19 99 European Ch am pionships in Fl – silver at the 20 orence 03 European Ch ampionships in Trophies with Kranj clubs: – European Ch ampions: 1989 , 1990 and 1996 (Posillipo) (Mladost), 2005 – European To p Teams Cup: 19 99 (Mladost) – LEN Cup: 2001 (Mladost) – European Su per Cup: 1996 (Mladost) – Mediterrane an Cup: 1991 (M ladost) – Croatian Cham pionships: 1992 , 1993, 1994, 19 1999, 2002 and 95, 1996, 1997, 2003 (Mladost ) – Croatian Cup: 1993, 1994, 1998 , 1999 and 2002 – Italian Cham (Mladost) pions: 2005 (Pos illipo) – Yugoslav Ch ampionships: 1990 (Mladost – Yugoslav Cup: ) 1989 (Mladost )

they lost to Germany (8:10). The same Germany they had crushed two days earlier 15:8. The junior team won honours in Argentina by winning the silver medal at the World Championship in Mar de la Plata, and the cadets also returned with the same shining medal from the European Championship in Sofia. By the end of that year, at the beginning of the 2005/2006 season, a great novelty was introduced into the world water polo. There was no four-meter penalty, and a penalty from five meters was adopted. The time of attack was reduced from 35 to 30 seconds. The place of performing penalty was reduced from seven to five meters, players were forbidden to block with both arms, and the corner from a player was abolished, unless it was intentional. These basic changes of water polo rules were supposed to raise the popularity of this sport in the whole world, as well as gain at speed, attraction, and larger number of scores.


SRĐAN ANTONIJEVIĆ JUG– at the Top of Europe The eve of the match between Croatia and Italy at the 2006 European Championships in Belgrade The Croatian bench at the European Championships in Belgrade

Jug’s Victory and Problems in Belgrade It was Jug’s year, in every way. The best in Croatia and Europe. Actually, the only others who managed to take a trophy were Mladost, who won the National Cup a few days before Christmas 2005. The finals of this competition were played for the first time as a four-team tournament in Zagreb. In all other competitions, Jug managed to go the furthest and ascend the highest throne. To be honest, in the championships, they had to put some extra effort into five difficult, uncertain matches, but their real domination was confirmed at the final tournament of the Euroleague, which was held in Dubrovnik for the second time. The pool in Gruž had been perfected, not just “smartened up”, fully restored and finally covered with a retractable roof. Three Italian clubs were the guests of the Dubrovnik team – Pro Recco, Posillipo and Savona. The Italians sent their three best water polo destroyers, but they had no chance against the Jug battleship. First Savona was outplayed in the semi finals (9:8) with a victory shot by Nikša Dobud nine seconds before the end, and the same fate befell Pro Recco. Before full stands, Jug players took a 3:0 lead, the Italians drew level at 7:7, and in the last five minutes, Smodlaka scored twice for Jug’s third European title. At the end of that year, on 20th December, Jug overcame yet another Italian team, Brescia – the LEN Cup winners at the time – 12:8 in their own pool, and thus won the Super Cup. In the summer of that year, Šibenik hosted the World League tournament, and the newly restored Crnica pool had its international premiere. However, when it comes to water polo, the nation pulsated to the rhythm of the primary competition, the European Championships in Belgrade, at the beginning of September.

Rudić took the following team to the capital city of Serbia: Volarević, Burić, Pavlović, Antonijević, Vranješ, Štritof, Marković, Đogaš, Premuš, Bušlje, Bošković, Pavić and Joković. Ratko Štritof was returned to the team, but owing to overwork, and some lack of motivation, there was no centre forward tandem (Hinić – Smodlaka), and Barač and the injured Franković were missing, as were Komadina, Primorac… The team had been rejuvenated with a few debutants such as Joković and Marković, and with new centre forwards, Pavlović and Premuš. Again, there were problems scoring with one player more, but also with slow passing of the ball. Therefore, it was no surprise that we lost any chance of fighting for a medal after the third round. First, defeat by Italy (9:8), then Hungary (16:11), then two ties in a row – with the Greeks (10:10) and the Germans (9:9). The only victory within the group was against Slovenia (19:8). In the consolation group, we beat Slovakia (12:6), Russia (10:7) and, in the end, Germany (11:7). Being seventh in Europe has never been considered a success by Croatian water polo. While the team was still in Belgrade, the word in Croatia was that “Rudić has brought nothing good, no progress”, and that he was “lagging behind the times”. The president of the Federation, Bukić, stood firmly behind his selector, convinced that in six months time, Melbourne would be a completely different picture. Meanwhile, Rudić and the officials of the Croatian water polo Federation adopted a completely different approach towards the national team: they stopped experimenting, once and for all, for example by bringing fresh blood into the team. The national team had to live up to its name and be a worthy representative of the best a country has to offer, regardless of age, looks, or wealth. These were the foundations of the preparations for Melbourne 2007. Srđan Antonijević


2007 World Champions In the future, in a few years or more, whenever a group of friends at the pub or at home starts telling water polo stories, Melbourne 2007 will be one of them, if not the most important one. This was the year we became world champions! For the first time, hopefully not the last. This first planetary success will always have a special place – because it was the first. Better still, the gold at the World Championships in Melbourne was just one in a series of many great trophies won that year. Yet it did not seem likely. Few people, not even the greatest optimists, expected such an epilogue. This time, Ratko Rudić was utterly determined to take his 13 best, readiest players to Australia. Age was not important; quality was the only standard. So, after nine years, Zdeslav Vrdoljak was called back to the team, as captain. The colours gathered again: Hinić, Barač, Smodlaka and Vićan. Along with five returnees, Pavić, Burić, Bušlje, Kunac, Marković, Đogaš, Joković, Bošković also set out for Down Under. This combination of youth and experience started out from Zagreb on 8th March 2007 on their third campaign to the sixth continent, where in Perth and Sydney in earlier years we had not exactly distinguished ourselves. Now everybody took their injections and had enough equipment and sponsors. In a nutshell, all the necessary preparations for success were carried out. The only thing left to do was jump into the pool. A big “only”. We could not have wished for a better group, considering the opponents and the order in which they were arranged. We started with South Africa (13:5) for warming up, especially captain Vrdoljak with his five goals. The host Australia, with minor ups and downs (from 6:2 to 6:6), was defeated in the end (10:6) by four goals from Bošković, and finally, Rudić’s former students, the USA, were also beaten (10:8). In that match,


JUG – Croatian champions and Cup winner in 2007 Croatian fans in Melbourne NO WAY THROUGH – Frano Vićan, one of the heroes of the Melbourne World Championship finals against the Hungarians > No way to Croatian goal LET THE CELEBRATION BEGIN! – we are world champions!

Miho scored “only” three goals. This victory secured our first place within the group and a direct placement in the quarterfinals. The Russians had not experienced such embarrassment for a long time (13:3), after 8:1 at half-time and three goals by Vrdoljak. The semi-finals brought Serbia “to their knees”. Our eastern neighbours had had a similar experience to the Russians two days earlier. Never have Croatian and Serbian water polo players played a match with so little uncertainty as on that evening, 30th March, before the unfurled flags of many Australian Croats. It was 6:2 at half-time and in the end a convincing victory (10:7) for the finals. Miho Bošković distinguished himself with three goals, a man who was also one of the greatest discoveries of the World Championships and listed among the top seven players. The first Croatian medal at world water polo championships. Its colour was determined on the final day, 1st April, in the match against the Hungarians. It was a day when the Croats were not joking. Vićan defended the goal and Joković and Marković scored. First Vićan spectacularly defended Szivos’ counter attack, with the Hungarian lead in the final quarter and the result 6:7. Frano knocked the gold right out of Hungarian hands, and young Maro Joković hit the closer corner in a counter attack for a tie and overtime. In overtime, Pavo Marković distinguished himself and took Croatia into the lead (9:8), to victory, to the top of the world! The whole country was on its feet, except the thirteen players in Melbourne and their coach. They were – in the pool.





MAGNIFICENT RECEPTION OF THE WORLD CHAMPIONS – the overcrowded Zagreb square, Trg Bana Jelačića, welcomed the Croatian water polo players The Croatian national team, Sportske Novosti Team of the Year 2007. With the trophy: Smodlaka, Đogaš, Vrdoljak, Bušlje and Kunac. > President of the Republic of Croatia, Stjepan Mesić, holding a reception for the World Champions Confetti for the champions


Australia, the same country in which we had been ninth or tenth, now resounded with the sounds of the Croatian anthem, the flag flying from the highest mast. There are moments in sport which are emotionally overwhelming. This was one of those moments. The return of the champions was spectacular, something that many generations of Croatian water polo players had never witnessed. The main reception was organized on the main square in Zagreb, Trg bana Jelačića, but there were also receptions on the docks in Split, Stradun in Dubrovnik, and Korzo in Rijeka… The golden water polo players were commemorated on stamps and proclaimed the best team of the year (of course), while Rudić was named best coach of the year. A month later, on 12th May, Ratko Rudić was officially inducted into the water polo Hall of Fame, and later that summer the news arrived from Fort Lauderdale, Florida that another Croat from the 2008 generation, Perica Bukić, would be inducted there as well. It was not only the seniors who won medals that year. All the Croatian teams which competed returned home with a medal. At the World Championships in Long Beach, California, the under-20s national team won the bronze medal after victory over Serbia (12:8). The junior team (under 18s) also won the bronze at the European Championships on Malta, beating Greece (10:4). At the unofficial world championships in Obrenovac, the cadets (under 15s) won first place by beating Serbia in the finals (7:5).

In the local championships, Dubrovnik’s Jug still dominated, by winning the new double crown, while another, third team appeared as a contender. It is true, Šibenik did not manage to threaten the supremacy of Jug and Mladost, but in the LEN Cup they were a sensation, when they reached the finals with the Russian Sinteza from Kazan. On 9th May, they lost the first match (12:10), but two weeks later won the return match, unfortunately with too small a goal difference (10:9), although close to the end they were leading by three goals. This was the greatest European success in the history of the Šibenik club and yet another indication as to how important it is to have one’s own pool for training and matches. Success was not over, as Jug made it for the third time in a row into the Euroleague final games and for the second time in a row into the finals. In Milan, in the semi-finals, they beat Partizan (18:17) after a thriller of five-metre shootouts, but in the finals, on 23rd June, Pro Recco proved the better team. Miho Bošković was proclaimed best player of the final tournament, just as he was proclaimed best European water polo player in 2007 by LEN at the end of the year. The entire year was crowned in Split at the Days of Croatian Water Polo, during which Jug beat Mladost in the finals of the tournament. The year 2007 deserves a special place in the Croatian water polo album. Now and forever.


Damir Burić It all started with an arm fracture in 1994, when Damir was training as a handball player. In order for the fracture to heal more quickly and more thoroughly, the coaches sent him swimming. And what does a handball player miss when he is thrown into water? A ball, of course! The boy was in love with water polo, but at that moment, according to the doctors, that sport was out of the question. But, faith interfered here: it was precisely then that the Pula Water polo Club was founded in the city… The crucial thing happened in 1997, when he was noticed at a small tournament in Istria by Željko Tonković, a diligent assistant of Zoran Roje. Ha talked him into transferring to Primorje. Burić matured in his way of playing in Kvarner, year after year he perfected his game and he started to attract more and more attention. A fantastic success for a young player from Rijeka, which was, realistically speaking, in the water polo world, living in the shadow of the clubs from Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik. Three weeks before the World Championships in Kranj, Roje took over the helm of the national water polo team and called Burić to defend the national colours. The Croatian sporting public, those who only follow water polo superficially, reacted with disbelief: Who is this? That same person played excellently at the European Championships. Not at all fascinated by the rival’s centres, he contributed immensely to winning the European silver. A year later, with Primorje, he realized the greatest European success in the history of the club – third place at the final Euroleague tournament in Budapest. Of course, Rijeka became too small, too restricted for Damir, so in the summer of 2005 he moved to Zagreb and started playing for Mladost. His extreme strength and height, which help him in his quality defence, were in time supplemented with a forceful, destructive hit. Of course, he had that before, but it increased precisely at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne.

Igor Hinić

The Kvarner Giant

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Igor Hinić, “the Kvarner giant”, a world-class centre and a water polo player any club would want in its team. Therefore, it is no wonder that at the end of the century, he received an “immoral offer” from Roma, an offer he could not refuse. “It was a contract I would not have been able to get anywhere else.” Igor started swimming when he was eight, and at ten, he transferred to water polo. “It was a classic situation, I was a bad swimmer, and everybody else did the same”. Why swimming? Because his sister Mira, a year and a half older, also swam; at the time, Primorje was the strongest swimming club in the country, so their parents found it convenient to enrol little Igor and drive them together to and from Kantrida. At ten, he switched to water polo, under coach Ivo Rendić, and later under Zlatko Bibanović. “Rendić was an excellent swimming expert, while my water polo career started with Bibanović”, said Igor many years later. As a child he played all positions, later on he defined himself as a centre, and at fifteen, made the first team. Actually, a year later he played in the B league, and then there was a great changeover in the generations in Primorje, younger players filled the empty spaces. It was a good generation

and somehow a logical sequence of events. In that generation, along with Hinić, Burburan left a solid impression. Up to the age of 14, Igor flirted with handball, playing for the local club, Pećine, and for his school, of course. When he finally had to decide, he did not hesitate for a minute, he preferred water polo, and as he said himself, the club was larger. But handball remained in his heart, and even in the family, as his sister Mira married the Croatian national handball team player Alvaro Načinović. It is a pity Igor did not continue, as Zlatko Šimenc did, to play both sports. “Oh, no, I was never an athlete of such calibre”, he says, modestly dismissing the possibility. He spent eight years in Italy, which completely charmed him; he learned the language, but also gained many friends, and came to love the country and its culture. He spent seven years in Brescia, which he remembers as an unforgettable experience. “It was a good life”. Igor is a very rational type, he is not a man of big words, and there has never been a breath of scandal about him. There are two matches that he points out as his favourites – strangely enough, the gold medal in Melbourne in 2007 is not one of them, although that match is also, of course, a good memory. The

Like everyone in Cavtat, in the summer – on the beach, in the winter – in Gruž three times a week. In the beginning, he trained in judo and table tennis in parallel. Not for long. His father Jakša was the Jug goalie in the 1980s. He won the Yugoslav Championships four times, and celebrated with Savinović, Đuho, Sukno, Milat, Boško Lozica and others the winning of the national cup twice. But his father was not the decisive factor in 10 year-old Miho’s decision to play water polo. “There was no other choice”, said Miho, “the whole Cavtat was in the pool, and so was I.” Until high school, he was just one of many, but then he distinguished himself. He had to work harder and harder. He was required to do so, because “he was going places”, as many around the Gruž pool were saying. Miho had a hard time coordinating school with sport. He did not want to neglect his education under any circumstances. Of course, he had already replaced his Cavtat cap with a Jug cap. “It is always like that, the best of Cavtat go to Jug.” It was nothing new, just a confirmation of something that was normal in Cavtat. Aljoša Lončarić welcomed him to Gruž. He first played for the cadets under his leadership. His first score. Then again for Cavtat. At the Croatian B championships. “We played in Korčula. I threw the ball. I did not even see it enter the goal. I was drowned after the shot.” Already he was dreaming of playing for Jug some day and then for the national team. “Jug is every boy’s dream. Being a member of Jug means being somebody in the City”, said Miho. He was 18. Gruž was burning. Jug were the champions of Europe. Bečej fell in the Final Four semi-finals, and Olympiakos in the finals. During the celebrations, Miho went to Split. “I went to university and was lent to another club. In Jadran I had room for development and playing.” He bided his time. He was aware that at 18 it was hard to get an opportunity to play for Jug. “I would have been the 13th or the 14th player, and would have got a minute or two in the game, and one cannot develop like that.” Realistic towards himself and others, he was not angry to be leaving. He spent three years in the team from Zvončac.

“Just as leaving was the right thing to do, returning home was also right”, he said. The loan was not over yet. Jug decided that Miho was good enough. The rest of the story is well known. Jug were the champions of Croatia, the winners of the Croatian Cup and participants in the Euroleague Final Four in Naples, in that first real senior season with Jug for the boy from Cavtat, Miho Bošković. The following year, 2006, everything went Gruž’s way. Bošković and his team celebrated the titles of European and Croatian champions; they won the European Supercup and the home cup. “The Year of Jug” said the daily papers. Never before in club history – four titles in one calendar year with the Jug team. Miho Bošković was one of those most responsible for these victories. Then came the 2007 World Championships in Date of birth: Nove mber 11th, 1983 Melbourne. Croatia was golden, and the only Place of birth: Dubr ovnik Croatian gold player in the World ChampionStarted playing wa ter polo in 1993 ship top team was Miho. In Milan, he was Club career: 1993-19 the first Croat ever to be named as the most 96 Cavtat; 1996-20 01 Jug; 2001-2004 Ja dran; 2004-2010 Ju useful player in the Euroleague Final Four, g; 2010 Vasas MVP. At the end of the same year, LEN, the EuTrophies with the national team: ropean Swimming Federation, decided that – gold at the 2007 World Champions the Croat was the best water polo player of hips in Melbourne – bronze at the 20 09 World Champio the year. A Croat for the first time in history . nships in Rome – silver at the 2009 World League in Po And again, the award went to Miho. dgorica – bronze at the 20 10 World League in “I would like to thank my co-players. After all, Niš – silver at 2010 FIN A Cup in Oradea water polo is a team sport”, he pointed out. Trophies with the He is famous throughout the world, his club: – Euroleague: 2006 destructive hit is his best weapon. He is an – European Super excellent attacking player with a fantastic Cup: 2006 – Croatian Champio feeling for a shot. A leader. He confirms ns: 2001, 2005, 2006 , 2007, 2009 and 20 – Croatian Cup: 20 this day after day in Jug, because it is not 10 04, 2005, 2007, 2008 , 2009 and 2010 easy, he has to be the in the right place Awards: at the right moment, and score when it – Voted the best Eu ropean player in 20 is most necessary, which Miho does it in 07 by LEN – Večernji List news pa per Water Polo Pla the best possible way. He is the Mozart yer of the Year – winner of Yellow Cap Sportske Novo of water-polo. He did not neglect his sti newspaper award – Sportsman of th e City of Dubrovnik education for one moment. What he – MVP Euroleague Final Four 2007 in learned at the Academy of Music in Split, Milan he proved to everyone during the Days of the Croatian Olympic Board in the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb. He sat the caps of Jug and of the national team, at down at the piano and played. And of course, he almost every opportunity. thrilled the crowd. Just as he had while wearing

one he remembers best is winning the Croatian Cup with Primorje. “At the time, it seemed an unattainable success”. The celebration lasted for weeks, they ate and drank, celebrated and sang. The second match that is seared into his memory was the victory over Yugoslavia in Atlanta in the 1996 Olympic quarter-finals. “That was a great victory, and a fantastic game, the national offensive was quite strong at the time.” He does not want to talk about his way of playing – “Let others judge that.” He even does not like to speak about his strengths in the game, and even less about his faults, if he has any. He made the national team for the first time in 1995, under selector Silić; for the European Championships in Vienna he was among the 15 players, and by the following competition, he was among the magnificent thirteen. As a child, he was not much of a worker, as he himself admits, but later he started to understand the value of and the need for training. He did not suffer any serious injuries, except when he “had problems with my shoulder and my knuckles used to get dislocated”. “Zoran Roje left a profound impression on my career, he planted the basics of water polo in

me.” He does not want to emphasize anyone else, “I learned something new from everyone.” He got the number 11, for which he is famous, at the beginning of his career completely by accident, because it was available, and later he was offered that number in every club. He got along with everybody, he is that kind of a person, but he played mostly with Barač, whom he “understood well, even with my eyes shut”. Other co-players with whom he especially liked to play were Vrdoljak and the goalie Vićan. Hina has two daughters, Gaia, six and Anja, four, and both of them, just like their father, are swimmers. He would prefer it if they played volleyball – “It is an excellent sport for women”. Igor adores diving and fishing, so in his summer house in Osor he has two wooden boats, four and six metres long. He goes long-line fishing, but he also

Miho Bošković

The Mozart of the Pool

has experience with the net and hook, and used to dive with a harpoon, but never with oxygen tanks, “I fish by free diving, as much as I can, but I cannot go very deep”. He can boast catching a 13-kilo conger eel and a 7-kilo dentex. His wife does not like his diving, “because I always go alone”.


Zdeslav Vrdoljak is an indispensable part of Croatian water polo, quiet and shy in private life, but a roaring fire in the water, which seems incompatible, but is in his case very, very natural. By “roaring fire”, we do not mean to imply he was aggressive or impudent – those would be, in his own words, his faults. If he has any. Young Zdeslav first started swimming at the age of seven, which was quite natural in his native Split bay of Spinut. His home club was Mornar, always in his heart, but he also mentions Zagreb’s Mladost as his second home, where he played excellently and left a permanent mark. In the end, his two years spent in Mladost at the end of the 1990s were somehow the dearest in his career. His father, Daniel, was the president of Mornar at the end of the 1980s, and Daniel’s sons Dario (1987) and Marin (1999) started following in their father’s footsteps. He made Mornar’s first team in 1987, after the club had won the Top Teams Cup a year earlier and there was a generation changeover. At that time, he acquired his legendary number 2 cap , which he later doubled to number 4 when he arrived in Italy. After that, and until his final days as

a player, he played on the right wing. No-one else from his generation in Mornar managed to carve out a career, which proves that his first coach, Brane Zovko, was right to come to Bačvice and take him away from swimming with friends. Because young Zdejo always preferred the company to the training sessions. Luckily, he quickly understood what had always been crystal clear to his coach, that he was a diamond in the rough. Bruno Silić included him in the national team for the first time for the World Championships in Rome, for which he is extremely grateful, although he admits that he did not really play his fill then. But every beginning is hard. He has bad memories of Rome and the defeat against Russia in the struggle for the bronze, which was repeated three years later at the European Championships in Seville. These were not his worst matches, though. An especially bad moment was the LEN Cup finals against Partizan in Split, when he played for Jadran. “We played 8:8 in Belgrade, and in Split everything was ready for celebration, with lambs on the spit, and then, we lost by an unbelievable 3:1! God, what sadness, all of Split was in tears, and we cried the most.” Of course, Zdeslav remembers better days. The finals and the gold in Melbourne are among his brightest memories. “That result marked all our careers, although we had had some great matches earlier, for example, the victory over the Italians at the Olympic Games semi-finals in Atlanta, which th arch 15 , 1971 was also a terrific game.” Date of birth: M 8 Split dost; 1995-199 la His career was plagued by an M 5 99 Place of birth: -1 94 r; 19 nar; 87-1993 Morna unusual illness. The diagnosis, after 2005-2007 Mor ; va do Club career: 19 Pa 5 00 POŠK; 2001-2 1 00 -2 98 all kinds of suggestions, from cancer 19 ; Jadran st do la M to glandular fever – was chronic 9 00 -2 2007 nal team: tio fatigue syndrome. Right after the na e th ith a Trophies w mpics in Atlant missed LEN Cup finals against ly O 96 ne 19 ur e bo th el – silver at onships in M pi am Ch Jadran. ld or e 2007 W

ljak Zdeslav Vrdo d Worl Captain of the Champions

– gold at th clubs: Trophies with (Mladost) ampions: 1996 – European Ch ladost) (M percup: 1996 ) – European Su d 1997 (Mladost an 96 pions: 19 – Croatian Cham 2000 (POŠK) – Croatian Cup:


“At the time, I had infections in both ears, owing to stress and nerves, and I had a temperature for over six months, because of psychological and physical exhaustion. At the age of 30, I was ready to give up water polo, I had no motivation.” After two seasons in POŠK, he moved to Italy, where he admittedly did not prosper financially, but his playing style was regenerated. He learned the language, discovered the purpose of studying, and on his return, enrolled in the Coaching College in Zagreb. He has coaching ambitions, but he is systematic, so he would like to start with younger categories, not being one of those who aim for high positions right away. Zdeslav is a quiet person, a family man, a real captain who likes to gather his co-players after training session for socializing away from the pool. His weekend house in Vinišće is his “bolt-hole”, where he makes things from stone or wood the whole day long. Not sculptures, but useful items, like tables or fences. He says his family is his greatest success in life, and it is no secret that he is an excellent cook. So, he enjoys a glass of good wine and a chat, the opportunity to cook for his friends, any kind of food, not just grilled fish. Among the players he played with, he mentions in particular Siniša Školneković and the entire Mladost generation with which he won two Croatian Championships, the Top Teams Cup and the Supercup. Unwilling to praise himself, but appreciating a compliment, he describes himself in a brief sentence, “I swim quite well, I have a good overview of the game, shots and assists”. That is all. And Zdeslav is truly a orchestrator in the water, his assists are strategic, he prefers to pass the ball rather than score. That is why everybody likes him, for to his immense loyalty and unselfishness. And, yes, in the end, he always jumps in the pool feet first, he never dives head first, and he has a particular way of tying his swimming trunks. Why? Not even he can remember the real reason…

Frano Vićan

Croatian Octopus

th 1976 , Date of birth: January 24 k vni bro Du th: bir Place of Jug; 1994-2003 Mladost; Playing career: 1989-1994 4-2006 Nervi, Italy; from 200 y; 2003-2004 Chiavari, Ital 2006 Jug al team: Trophies with the nation Championships in rld Wo 7 200 the – gold at Melbourne ean Championships in – silver at the 1999 Europ Florence nj ean Championships in Kra – silver at the 2003 Europ i Bar in s erranean Game – silver at the 1997 Medit bs: clu Trophies with 1996 (Mladost) – European Champions: g) 6 (Mladost) and 2006 (Ju – European Supercup: 199 st) ado – Top Teams Cup: 1999 (Ml st) ado (Ml 1 200 p: Cu – LEN 2 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 200 – Croatian Champions: g) (Ju 7, 2009 and 2010 and 2003 (Mladost), 200 7, 8 and 2001 (Mladost), 200 199 7, 199 – Croatian Cup: g) 2008, 2009 and 2010 (Ju

In the 2007 World Championship finals in Melbourne, the Hungarians were leading 7:6, and in a counter attack, Marton Szivos found himself in front of Frano Vićan. In 97% of cases, this would end in a goal. But not when “Saint Frano” was in goal! Although the Hungarian tried to trick him, Frano reacted like a panther and defended the indefensible. Later, Croatia tied in a counter attack, and in overtime they won (9:8). The Croatian water polo players became the world champions, and Kraš candy factory awarded the hero of the finals and the entire 2007 championships in Melbourne, Frano Vićan, with 90 kilos of Domaćica, his favorite biscuits. Frano gave away most of them to children’s homes. He said of the sure-fire shot at goal he defended: “How did I defend that? Hm, how indeed? You see a man coming right at you and you try to outsmart him. Luckily, that time I succeeded.” Even the Hungarian selector, Denes Kemeny, always stingy when it comes to compliments for players outside his team, took his hat off to the “Croatian octopus”. “When you have such a goalie, the team can play much more easily. He was excellent!” Croatian immigrants in Australia were also thrilled with Vićan (they chanted, “There is only one Frano!”), because he really performed wonders in goal and was more and more spectacular from one match to the next. Therefore it is no wonder that one Australian Croat suggested granting Frano the status of defender of Croatia. Vićan, on the other hand, pointed out something that people outside the team could only have guessed, “I will always remember the atmosphere within the team. I cannot remember there ever being so much combined energy in the national team, and our captain Zdeslav Vrdoljak was most responsible for that. He was the best captain I ever had!” Frano pointed out.

Although the gold medal from Melbourne was his greatest sport success, it was not the only one, because Frano can boast of two European silver medals with the Croatian national team and the Champions Cup (with Mladost), two Supercups (with Mladost and Jug), Top Teams Cup and LEN Cup (both with Mladost), and as many as seven titles as the Croatian champions… In a nutshell, there is no title in club water polo that this fantastic goalie does not have in his trophy cabinet. He started rather late by today’s standards: at 13 in Dubrovnik Jug (he started as a swimmer, and before water polo, played handball for three years). He was a goalie for the Croatian junior team, but won true recognition in Zagreb’s Mladost, where he arrived as an 18-year-old (mostly because of his studies), and with whom he won 13 trophies in ten years (he also got married in Zagreb). “The time I spent in Zagreb was one of the best periods in my career. In the beginning, I learned from Školneković, and I am very proud of the 1999 season, because I was a goalie and Mladost won everything there was to win, in a dominant way. The coach, Ozren Bonačić, played a crucial role, because he took a different attitude towards the team, and we paid him back it in the best possible way, with excellent games”, says Vićan. After that, life took him to the Italian Chiavari, then Nervi. After spending three years in Italy, at the age of 31 he returned to Jug and fulfilled his life-long wish to defend for Gospari (The Gentlemen). He defended for the Croatian national team (a total of 146 matches) at the Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008, but he was not there in Atlanta in 1996, when they won the silver medal. “At the time I was not the first goalie in Mladost, so I could not have been in the national team”, says Vićan.


Aljoša Kunac

Swimming Runaw a


Date of birth: Augu st 18th, 1980 Place of birth: Split Club career: 1992-20 01 POŠK; 2001-2002 Rome; 2002-2003 nia; 2003-2004 Ne Catarvi; 2004 Al Ittihad, Saudi Arabia; 2004 Jadran; 2006-2008 -2006 Nervi; 2008-2010 Ca ttaro, Kotor Trophies with natio nal team: – gold at the 2007 World Champions hips in Melbourne Trophies with clubs : – Euroleague: 1999 (POŠK) – LEN Cup: 2010 (C attaro) – Croatian Champio n: 1998 (POŠK) – Croatian Cup: 20 00 (POŠK) – Saudi Arabia Ch ampion: 2004 (Al Ittihad)

Split has produced many great, top swimmers for Croatian swimming. At the end of the 1980s, another swimmer of such world potential came of age. His specialties were backstroke disciplines. And then… this young man, Aljoša Kunac, disappeared from swimming without a trace. Everything else remained the same – the pool and the club (POŠK). Not a year passed before the first water polo medal was shining in the home of the Kunac family: with POŠK he won the title

of national champion among the young cadets. They went down in history as the first champions of the independent Croatia in that age group. In 1998, his first year as a senior, he was among the youngest first team players, headed by Dragan Matutinović, with whom he won the title of senior Croatian champion, ending the superiority of Mladost from Zagreb. That was only the beginning, the first year of POŠK’s bright triptych. In the following two years, there would be a few cups

He was nine years old when his dad brought him to the pool in Gruž. He started playing, he played his first games with the young cadets and he became one of the better Jug players. Pavo Marković is a born scorer. He has confirmed this match after match. He already won the flattering title of the best player and scorer in final championship tournaments and cups in younger age groups, and medals with the young junior, junior and senior national teams. At the age of 20, he found himself under the cap of the senior national team for the first time, in the finals of the World League in Belgrade, where he also played on his first European Championships. He will not remember those two competitions for good, but he will never forget his debut at the World Championships. “Joković was on the right as I was making a counter attack. It was us 4 against 3. I thought to myself – will I shoot or pass the ball to him?” Pavo Marković remembered the overtime in the

finals of the World Championships against the Hungarians. He threw the ball and scored. Croatia took the lead 9:8. The result did not change until the end. Marković is a modern player. He plays excellent defence; his shot is precise and strong, positively impudent in the game and he can make a counter attack. He confirmed all of this in the overtime of the World Championship finals when he scored both goals for Croatia. Besides that, he is a good swimmer. A complete player. He had his debut in the first league under the cap of Gusar, and his first appearances for Jug at the end of 2003. In five seasons in the Jug first team, he won as many as ten trophies, two per season on average, and has become one of the leading scorers. He received his greatest individual award in 2007 – when he was shortlisted as the best scorer in Europe, but the flattering title went to his co-player Miho Bošković.

more: in Naples in 1999, they were a sensation as they won the title of European Champion, and a year later, they won the national cup. The basic characteristic of this full back is stopping the most dangerous rival players. Kunac is a water polo commando. Until Melbourne, he had won one medal in national team competitions. It was a silver medal at the European Cadet Championships in Maribor in 1997. He first performed for the senior team in 1999, but until the arrival of Ratko Rudić he had not settled.

Pavo Marković A Born Scorer

th 1985 Date of birth: April 20 , k vni bro Place of birth: Du 2003 in ; 2000-2003 Gusar; since Jug 000 4-2 Club career: 199



al team: Trophies with the nation urne Championships in Melbo rld – gold at the 2007 Wo rld League in Niš – bronze at the 2010 Wo bs: Trophies with clu – Euroleague: 2006 6 – European Supercup: 200 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 4, 200 n: pio am Ch n – Croatia 2010 9 and 2010 4, 2006, 2007, 2008, 200 – Croatian Cup: 2003, 200

Goalies are usually strange people, loners in team sports. Everyone changes, backs, centres, left and right wings will swim for at least a minute in the pool during the game, regardless of age and years of service, but goalies – that is an entirely different story. One defends and the other cheers for him from the bench. Josip Pavić is a peaceful, quiet family man. The birth of his son Ivan changed both him and his wife Nera a great deal. “Marriage not so much, but the birth of our son yes”, admitted Josip, a fantastic goalie, and not just owing to his 196 cm in height, but also owing to the way he blocks his goal. Josip started playing water polo when he was ten years old; he had to change two buses from the school in Brda to get to training sessions with Jadran. However, at the time, all of his friends from the neighbourhood went there, Koljanin, one of Josip’s dearest neighbours and co-players, was one of the first. That year Jadran became the European champions, the euphoria in that sport city was enormous, and water polo seemed like a logical solution for the young boy who had grown so quickly, although until then he had trained as a football player, just like any other boy from Split with the Hajduk Football School in the club Dalmatinac. However, as it was obvious already then that he was going to be quite tall, and he had some back problems too, swimming was an alternative. In the end it was not swimming, but water polo. He has been in the goal since the very beginning, which does not bother him. “What can I do, somebody has to do it?”, this short, but true sentence defines part of his character. He is a phlegmatic person, but only until he jumps into the water, then he turns into a hot-tempered octopus with a hundred tentacles. In Jadran it was nice while it lasted, his first coach was Branko Bjelanović, who left a great mark on his career, and guided him like an older brother. Once Bjelanović, today Bonačić, a coach whom he appreciates immensely. It was a fantastic young Jadran generation, they won everything they could in the younger categories, but unfortunately, they did not stay together to the end. Josip enrolled at the university in Split, at the Economics Faculty, and he continued to study even when he transferred to Mladost. “Why would I change when I know all the professors there”, he said in a laconic manner. Mladost called him a season earlier, but he hesitated, in the end he gave in because of ambition. “I have a lot to be grateful for to Jadran, I reached the national team when I was still there”, he will always have a few nice words to say about his parent club, as well as Mladost. “I was given an excellent reception in Zagreb. It was obvious at every step that this was a great club, especially when we travelled abroad. Luckily, it did not take me long to adjust, because I came from a large club which was the champion of Europe. I am sorry that we did not win more trophies on the Sava, we were a good team.” He liked to play most with Koljanin, Vrbičić, Vrdoljak and Oreb. He particularly cherishes the gold medal from Melbourne, although:

“Unfortunately or not, it depends, I did not defend In his modesty, he forgot to mention that he demuch, Vićan was excellent.” fended two five-meter penalties after the tie in He still remembers those days, just as if it were the regular part of the match, as well as after two yesterday: overtimes. He prefers games in outdoor pools, “Phenomenal, what a gang, everything so relaxed, “The atmosphere is better, although weather no nervous cramps, an excellent atmosphere since conditions may be crucial for a victory, like the Sydney a week earlier. I shiver with delight just sun, for example”; actually, he really enjoys when I think about those days, I had the honour of floodlights. He studies for a hobby, and he likes being part of that team. And then, the reception in to play indoor football. His most favourite food is Croatia…” his mother’s gnocchi, “My wife will kill me when Josip has excellent control over his temperament she finds out”. Generally speaking, sport is his and calm, “You have to, otherwise, you are lost”, but life; he follows other sporting events in Croatia he also has a database of players, he follows their and the world as well. habits, shots, movements… He has a gold from the 2007 World Champion“People say that the smart one writes it down and ships in Melbourne, gold from the 1999 junior the fool remembers. Well, I remember all the habits European Championships in Sophia and silver of players, so that in a given moment I know where from the 2001 junior European Championships they will shoot, because it all comes down to a in Istanbul. kind of automatism. That is why I watch replays of matches in a different way than my co-players, I am interested in something else”, said Pavić honestly, not even minding the cap with the allegedly unlucky number 13 on it. “It suits me, really, I only believe in God, not such stories. When Vjeko Kobešćak stopped playing for Mladost, I took that number.” Date of birth: Janu ary 15th, 1982 As many other water polo players, he Place of birth: Split also has some rituals before the match. Occupation: econ omist “I have about a million rituals, one of Playing career: 1999 -2005 Jadran; since them is jumping feet first and tying my 2005 in Mladost cap under water.” Trophies with the He mentions as his favourite match the national team: – gold at the 2007 Wo one between Mladost and Partizan in rld Championship s in Melbourne – bronze at 2009 Wo April 2008 in Zagreb, the match that rld Championship s in Rome – silver at the 2009 decided which team would go to the World League in Po dg orica – bronze at the 2010 Euroleague Final Four. World League in Ni š – sil ver at 2010 FINA Cu “Great atmosphere, wonderful audip in Oradea Trophies with club: ence, fantastic setting.”

Josip Pavić

A Database in His


– Croatian Champio n: 2008 (Mladost) – Croatian Cup: 20 05 (Mladost) Awards: – Water Polo Playe r of the Year 2005


Maro Joković Gusar Child

st 1987 , Date of birth: October 1 k vni bro Du Place of birth: Gusar Mlini; 1999-2001 Playing career: 1995-1999 Bellevue; since 2001 in Jug al team: Trophies with the nation Championships in rld Wo 7 – gold at the 200 Melbourne rld League in Nis – bronze at the 2010 Wo in Oradea – silver at 2010 FINA Cup Trophies with clubs: – Euroleague: 2006 6 – European Supercup: 200 2005, 2006, 2007, 4, 200 n: – Croatian Champio 2009 and 2010 7, 2008, 2009 and 2010 – Croatian Cup: 2005, 200

He was eight years old when he appeared at the pool in Mlini. In the summer, Božo Koprivica worked with the young boys from Župa. Everybody trained as water polo players, and for a short while Maro added basketball. Why not, when he was the tallest in the class? Members of Gusar trained in the sea only during the summer. They did not have a pool, so in winter there was no training. Just now and then, sometimes in the pool of the Astarea Hotel. Therefore, at the age of 12, Maro transferred to Bellevue, the city rival of Jug, which played in the first league. In this new environment, he played for junior categories, and when Bellevue, then under the name of Dubrovnik PRO CRO, closed down, he came to Jug. His qualities were noticed rather early, so already after a few days he was registered for this transfer. They told him to bring two pictures and a birth certificate, which meant that they would register him as their player with the Croatian Water polo Federation. In the cadet team, he took the right position. A year later, he was already playing for both the cadets and young juniors. When he was at young juniors age, he was playing for the junior


team as well, and at 16 he registered his first appearance for the seniors. His European debut was in Kupari against Olympico from Nice. He was 17 at the time. Emil Nikolić, who gave him the opportunity, pointed out, “Maro will be a great player”. Maro had already won the junior world silver in 2005 in Mar de la Plata and bronze in 2007 in Los Alamitos, just as he won the silver twice at the junior European Championships in La Valetta in 2004 and Sophia in 2005. Ratko Rudić took him to the European Championships in Belgrade in 2006 and kept him in the national team a few months later in Melbourne. At less than 20 years old, the kid was the world champion. Who does not remember his goal against the Hungarians in the World Championship finals? For years, Joković had developed with Ognjen Kržić. He learned a lot from the legendary Jug left side player. When in the summer of 2007 Kržić ended his career rich in trophies, Joković took the number 5 cap, which had belonged to Kržić for years, and continued to “sign” assists and scores in the pool with his left hand.

Andro Bušlje

A Star for the N

ext Century

Date of birth: Ja nuary 4th, 1986 Place of birth: Dubrovnik Playing career : since 2003 Ju g CO Trophies with the national te am: – gold medal at the 2007 World Championship in Melbourne s – bronze medal at the 2009 Wor ld Championsh Rome ips in – silver medal at the 2009 Wor ld League in Po – bronze at th dgorica e 2010 World Le ague in Nis – silver at 2010 FINA Cup in O radea Trophies with the club: – Euro League : 2006 – European Su per Cup: 2006 – Croatian Cham pionships: 2004 , 2005, 2006, 20 and 2010 07, 2009 – Croatian Cup: 2004, 2006, 20 07, 2008, 2009 – Adriatic Leag and 2010 ue: 2009

A child of the Grad (or City – the local name for Dubrovnik) and a man of the south, he became the European Champion (with Jug CO) at the young age of 20, the World Champion (with Croatia) at the age of 21; at the age of 23 he won another world medal, the bronze in Rome. There are not too many young sportsmen and sportswomen who at such a young age have carried so many ‘kilograms’ of precious metals around their neck. The signs of this kind of future could be observed during junior competitions, while he was winning the bronze and silver medals at the 2001 and 2004 European Junior Championships in Istanbul and La Valetta, just like the silver at the 2005 junior WC in Buenos Aires. Although, that is nothing in comparison with all those ‘tons’ that he carries in water, on his shoulders, neck, back, in a giant fight with the greatest centres of the world. Andro Bušlje was very young when he became the lead player not only in his club but also for the national team. In this role, at 21 he already had the status of one of the best defenders in the world. His basic characteristic, holding on to the opponent’s centre player, is not his only quality. Not so often does one see ‘bombs’ like his from outside positions. His shoot is thunder-like, forceful. No matter how strong and tall he is, he still impresses with agility, speed, and even more lucidity, a sporting intelligence he uses to outplay much older and more experienced players. There is an interesting story about Andro from 2001. No, he did not win the Euroleague because he was only 15, although... That year, he was at the swimming-pool during the Final Four games in Dubrovnik. He was, that is, behind the goal. The kid collecting balls. Nobody could have ever thought back then in the packed Gruž audience that one of those ball collectors would only five years later win the same tournament with Jug – the Euroleague winner. Or that only seven years later he would be one of the 13 courageous ones saluted by the entire nation for their venture to Melbourne. Remember, at only 20 and a few years now, Andro Bušlje has deserved his place in this book on the first century of Croatian water polo. We have no doubts that someone will also write about him in the book about the second century of Croatian water polo.


2008 Soaked Beijing Moustaches The 2007/2008 championship season will be, for a start, remembered by the fact that it was the first season since Croatia gained its independence without four great water polo players: Vjekoslav Kobešćak, Elvis Fatović, Ognjen Kržić and Joško Kreković said goodbye to their caps. And, at the end of the season, in spring 2008, another great player, the winner of the Olympic silver in Atlanta, Renato Vrbičić. Mladost water polo players after four years managed to break Jug’s winning streak and win their tenth title as Croatian champions. In Europe, both our clubs made it to the final Euroleague tournament in Barcelona. For the second time after Bečej in 2000 we had two representatives among the four best teams. Jug was for the fourth time in a row in the Final Four, and Mladost was there after five years. However, before the results, Croatian water polo, obviously still on the wings of the Melbourne Championships, took an important victory in the spring. The LEN Congress in Eindhoven, Holland, on 23rd March 2008 entrusted Croatia, specifically the City of Zagreb, with organizing the 29th European Water polo Championships. It seemed that the Croatian metropolis won over the winning joint candidature of Hungary (Debrecen) and Romania (Oradea). On that day, Zagreb became the second Croatian city after Split in 1981 to host the best male and female water polo players of the Old Continent. In the national championships, Gospari (or the Dubrovnik club) from the south and Žapci (or Frogs from the Zagreb club) from the north dominated that season. However, the Dubrovnik team was better, more convincing in victories during the season. Mladost had a dangerous balancing act in the semi-finals of the national play-offs. They were even defeated in their first match in Zagreb against Šibenik (7:6) and were on the verge of dropping out of the struggle for the title. On the same evening, on 19th March the then coach Miki Damjanić was relieved, and Ozren Bonačić was named the expert and saviour. That proved to be the cru-


cial moment of the season. Just a few days later they played a draw in Belgrade against Partizan in the first quarterfinals of the Euroleague, then they beat Šibenik twice, and placed themselves in the finals of the Croatian championships. Moreover, in a thriller of five-meter penalties in the return game of the Euroleague quarterfinals, they beat Partizan in the finals on the Sava, and thus placed themselves in the Final Four. All that in just three weeks! Full of rapture and revived self-confidence, during the season Zagreb players managed to do something that few people could have believed. In four final matches against Jug, they managed to win three times (once in Gruž) and crown themselves with the title of national champion. In such an atmosphere of celebration, they were preparing to travel to Barcelona for the Euroleague Final Four, where another Croatian representative also managed to place itself. Specifically, Jug was better on two occasions than the Athens Olympiacos. Taking Jug’s strength into account, now additionally stimulated by the loss of the national crown, and the triumphant campaign of Mladost with their coach Bonačić, Croatia dreamed of the European finals in chequered caps. The duel of Mladost and Jug, two Croatian clubs, for the European throne was a rerun of the clash between Mladost and Jadran at the beginning of the 1990s. The main Catalonian city welcomed the participants of the great tournament completely unprepared in organizational terms. They played in the outdoor pool in Montjuico, which would not have been so bad by itself, if it had not been pouring with rain in Barcelona for those two days (9th and 10th May). The organizers were persistent – the match will be played in the open, in the cloudburst and ice-cold strong wind. It was a pity, because it was primarily water polo as a sport that was deprived from the start. Unfortunately, the hoped-for Croatian finals failed to take place. Jug beat Vasas from Budapest in the semi-finals with excellent playing (11:6), but Pro Recco was too strong for Mladost (9:6). In the third finals between the same opponents in a row, the Ital-

< Arrangements before the EC game in Malaga, 2008 > RATKO RUDIĆ

ians were better, luckier and more agile for the second time and beat Jug in the overtime (13:12). In the unimportant struggle for third place, Vasas beat Mladost (8:6). The club season was over. However, the real excitement was yet to come. After all, this was the year of the Olympics. As an overture, a continental review in the south of warm Andalusia. From 4th to 13th July Malaga was the host of the 28th European Championships. The selector Ratko Rudić took almost the same players to Spain who had won the world crown in Melbourne a year earlier. The second goalie, Pavić, remained at home owing to injuries, so the entire burden of defence was left to the reliable Vićan, while another young bright hope of Jug, Sandro Sukno, found his place in the team. The group was very difficult – Croatia, Hungary, Spain, Monte Negro, Greece and Slovakia. They were defeated by the Hungarians in the first round (10:9), but they returned to the game by celebrating against the Spanish hosts (11:7). In the third round, they beat Montenegro, although the final result (7:6) does not reflect their true strength, as the result in the middle of the second quarter was already 4:0 for the world champions. The Slovakians were passed easily (15:5), while they only had a little trouble with Greece (10:10). They secured the quarterfinals, in which they beat Italy (8:7). This result also suggests a dramatic game, although it was not so. After the second quarter, the result was 4:2, after the third quarter 7:4, and the only thing they had to do was finish the game in a routine manner. We fell in the semi-finals, beaten by Montenegro, debutants who would two days later become champions of Europe. We were leading the game on only two occasions, in the first and second quarters, but the opponent managed to tie the score. In the second “half-time”, the best rival players had to abandon the game owing to personal fouls (Ivović, Jokić, N. Janović and Tičić), but that evening, on 11th July, the Croatians were not meant to celebrate. In the end, Montenegro won 9:7. Two days later Croatia entered the pool with the Hungarians to fight for the bronze. That day, 13th July, proved to be unlucky for Rudić’s chosen players. A bad start of the game (4:1 for the Hun-

garians at the beginning of the second quarter), and then the return until half time (5:5). The first Croatian lead was registered in the final quarter, but the Hungarians tied the score and took the match into overtime (13:13). In the first part, one ball got behind Nagy’s back, but the problem was that in the second part of the overtime the Hungarian goal was intact, and Vićan was overcome two times – 14:15. The Hungarians were happy to win the bronze, and we went to the Beijing Olympics without a medal. The Montenegrins, who beat the Serbs, went there as European champions. It is true, there were bright moments for the Croats in Malaga. It was there that Perica Bukić was officially enlisted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, on the evening before last of the European Championships. For the second year in a row, after Ratko Rudić in 2007, a Croat entered that select society. Finally, the leadership of the Croatian Water polo Federation left Malaga with the official LEN flag – a sign that Croatia and our capital city were to be the hosts of the next European water polo championships. The team from Melbourne was ready for Beijing. The goalie Pavić returned, the young Sukno dropped out of the list of travellers, so the following thirteen landed at the foot of the Great Wall – Vićan, Burić, Bušlje, Vrdoljak, Kunac, Joković, Smodlaka, Đogaš, Marković, Barač, Hinić, Bošković and Pavić. On the way to Beijing, Croatia won first place at the tournament in Singapore, and all players decided to grow a male ornament under the nose – a moustache! This nice and amusing expression of togetherness was noticed by the lens of all the cameramen and photo-reporters of the world. The failure from Malaga was no longer mentioned. After all, the selector Rudić himself emphasized the whole time, even before the European Championships in Spain, that during that year he was interested primarily in the game, fitness, and the effect of the Olympics. If we are to judge by the introductory matches – fitness was timed perfectly. Within its group, Croatia easily won Italy (11:7). Just to warm up. Then followed the struggle for, as we believed, first place in the group. On the other side, mighty Serbia was full of stars who were about to say goodbye to the team


THE CROATIAN NATIONAL TEAM AT THE 2008 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS IN MALAGA – Sandro Sukno, Miho Bošković, Igor Hinić, Samir Barač, Pavo Marković, Teo Đogaš, Mile Smodlaka, Maro Joković, Aljoša Kunac, Andro Bušlje, Damir Burić, Ivo Brzica and Zdeslav Vrdoljak


(Vujasinović, Šapić, Ikodinović, Šefik, Nikić...). In the pool, however, there was only one team – Croatia. Not just in the pool. Every Croat in China came to the stands to watch the water polo “clash of the world” and to cheer for the team wholeheartedly. The entire basketball and handball teams, all our Olympic athletes who were not performing on that day, at that moment, were there with a song on their lips and water polo caps on their heads. The boys in the water repaid them in the best possible way. They beat their great opponent in a magnificent way, so that the Serbian expert headquarters would have been satisfied with the final result (11:8). Within the group they did not have any problems with the Germans (13:5), even less with the Chinese (16:4), but the fourth round… That brought us trouble and a shock. The defeat by the Americans (7:5) pushed us to second place in the group and then in the elimination matches, in quarterfinals, this brought us to the European champions, Montenegro. Once again, the quarterfinals proved to be a bugbear for the Croatian water polo players. Montenegro rightfully celebrated with 7:6. In a second, all hopes for an Olympic medal were gone, even though there had been even stories about Croatia as a candidate for the highest placement, especially after the fantastic victory over Serbia. They also lost the match for fifth place to Spain (11:9). The summer after the triumphal 2007, would best be overslept, thrown into oblivion. The Beijing moustache of our players got soaked. Sixth place at the world review of the best athletes would be an excellent success to many. But not for these water polo players. We were accustomed only to medals from them, so anything less than that is considered a fiasco. The redesign of the team was announced after Beijing. Great players said goodbye from the team – the captain Vrdoljak, then Smodlaka, Kunac and Đogaš. We will not judge or remember them by one tournament, even though it was the Olympics. We remember them for years, a decade (and more) of excellent games, a great contribution to Croatian sport and, of course, the world crown from Australia. Let’s go on!



Farewells before departing for the EC in Malaga and the 2008 Beijing Olympics: Bušlje, Dobud, Hinić, Marković, Sukno, Joković (top row); Burić, Brzica, Kunac, Bošković, Smodlaka (middle row); Vrdoljak, Vićan, Barač, Đogaš (bottom row)


2009 A Triumphal Beginning of a New Century An entire century is behind us. A century of Croatian water polo. The year 2009 was the first year of the second century of this sport in Croatia. The post-Olympic year, after the Beijing disappointment at the Games with the goal set high but unachieved, was special in every way. A year full of excitement, great achievements, hosting major competitions and, what is most important in top sport – medals. It was the year in which a new competition was established, the Adriatic League, in full. The year in which the senior team underwent a major shake-up, in which we said goodbye to some of the greats of the game, but in which we still remained on top, with new players. Also, it was the year in which the great fan of water polo and the former Federation president, the creator of the European Mladost, Celestin Sardelić, left us prematurely. The year in which we hosted the greatest water polo competition so far, a competition in which our juniors became world champions in Šibenik, and the players up to 20 years old were European champions. The year of new challenges and successful answers to the newly emerged situation. But, let us take one step at a time… The first days of the calendar in 2009 brought the first gathering of the seniors. The World League and the group with the Russians, Germans and Spanish initially served the selector Ratko Rudić to coordinate the replacement players, as the beginning of coordination of the almost new team for the World Championships in Rome, where we were to defend the Melbourne gold. To be more specific, the captain Zdeslav Vrdoljak, the goalie Frano Vićan, the centre Mile Smodlaka said goodbye to the national team colours, and the selector no longer counted on Aljoša Kunac and Teo Đogaš. In principle, these were all


expected difficulties, but the true shock came at the beginning of March from Dubrovnik. The golden left Maro Joković ended up in hospital, owing to a thrombus discovered in his left hand, luckily on time, but Maro could not play for the entire year! This was a shock which had a significant influence on the team’s appearances in 2009. “There is only one place in the team, there is only one player for whom there is no replacement, and that is Joković”, said the selector Rudić, a day after the news arrived from Dubrovnik. Unfortunately, that was not nearly the end of all the health troubles. In the spring, Jug CO, and Croatia with it, lost without Pavo Marković, a wing with an excellent shot, and extremely important to the club at the end of the season, and to the team on the eve of the World Championships. Out of thirteen “pieces of gold” from Melbourne, there were now only six. Less than half! Enthusiasm and optimism dwindled in a moment. We could not afford to lose one more. Samir Barač resolved some doubts, as after staying in the team, the selector entrusted him with the role of captain. Still, “crippled” in this way, Rudić’s chosen players crashed through the World League group, with all three home victories in Rijeka, Šibenik and Dubrovnik, as well as celebrating as guests in Moscow and Berlin. They only lost the last match, irrelevant for the final placement within the group, in Las Palmas against the Spanish, where Rudić took a combined set of players. Some of the “new kids” attracted attention, first and foremost, Sandro Sukno, Paulo Obradović and Petar Muslim. In the first half of the year, this became really prominent in club competitions. Jug CO from Dubrovnik deservedly won first place in the Adriatic League, the greatest club water polo competition. The League, which was founded by the national federations of Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro, and

FRACTURED FINGER – the goalie Josip Pavić defended the entire World Championships in Rome with an injury


THE MOMENT OF DECISION – the crucial score by Igor Hinić for the bronze against the USA at the 2009 World Championships in Rome MEDAL –We won the bronze at the World Championships in Rome > IN THE FINALS OF THE CROATIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: Jug CO–Mladost

whose premiere edition was primarily implemented (both in terms of finances and organization) by the Croatian Water polo Federation. Although deprived of Joković’s and Marković’s services, Gospari took the first trophy as the winner of the Adriatic League to the City, against the fiercest competition from Jadran from Herceg Novi and Primorac from Kotor. In the Euroleague, the most elite continental club competition, we had as many as three representatives – Jug CO, Mladost, and what was surprising, Šibenik NCP. Dubrovnik and Zagreb players went right through to the end, to the final tournament entrusted to our Rijeka and the wonderful new swimming complex on Kantrida. Before Rijeka, we will remember Wednesday, 22nd April for a long time. That late afternoon and evening, in two different parts of Croatia, our two greatest clubs, Mladost and Jug CO, played, one after the other, return games of the Euroleague quarterfinals. Zagreb players were catching up the three goal difference from Piraeus against Olympiacos, and Dubrovnik players welcomed Partizan with two goals less from Banjica. Full pools, TV-cameras, with the timetable moved on purpose so that one game would follow after the other. Croatia pulsated to the rhythm of water polo. While one team played in Zagreb, Dubrovnik wholeheartedly cheered for Žapci (or Zagreb Frogs). When the Gruž water became choppy, the foot of the Zagreb mountain Medvednica resounded with cheers for Jug. The epilogue? Just like Hollywood! Mladost won with five, and Jug CO with four goals difference. “Both of them fell”, and Croatia would for the third time in history have as many as two clubs in the Final Four. And in Croatia at that, in Rijeka, on 22nd and 23rd May!


We dreamed of Croatian finals for the European champion. And we saw the struggle of our two clubs in Rijeka, but… for third place. In the semi-finals Pro Recco beat Jug CO by 9:6, and Primorac from Kotor beat Žapci (Mladost) 11:9. We could only find a little comfort in the fact that Boris Pavlović from Split played for Primorac, who later became the champions of Europe, while the coordinator of the younger players was another Croat, Emil Nikolić, who would a few days afterwards become the new coach of Mladost. In the national championships, Jug CO easily won the title with 3:0 in the final series of the play-offs against Mladost. Everything was ready for the crown of water polo competitions that year – the team, its preparations, and the appearance at the World Championships. First, the road took us to Podgorica. The Montenegrin capital city was the host of the final tournament of the World League. We beat Australia 9:6 in the warm-up, but the hosts “cooled us down” in the second round with a convincing 12:7. In the third round, we paid that back to South Africa with 12:3. The semi-finals brought a clash with Serbia in which Croatia almost repeated the former games with the same opponent from Melbourne 2007 and Beijing 2008. The final result of 7:5 for Croatia seems little in the light of the play of Rudić’s boys that evening. In the finals, again with the Montenegrins, we had a far more indecisive match than in the second round. In the end, the hosts celebrated 8:7, but this silver from Podgorica gains importance if we mention that this was the first Croatian medal at this competition, established in 2002. It is a pity they could not have enjoyed that silver more, because already at the first training sessions in Dubrovnik after Podgorica, the Croatian headquarters were shaken with new troubles. Captain Barač ended up in hospital with

his back impacted and had to miss the Mediterranean Games in Pescara, and the versatile Petar Muslim, definitely the discovery of the season, dropped out for sure. It seemed that every new day multiplied the problems of Rudić’s headquarters, which were mostly of a medical nature. The water polo tournament at the Mediterranean Games was to serve as the final check before the World Championships in Rome. Croatia, crippled, decimated by injuries and illnesses, calmly solved the first three matches to its own advantage in Pescara. They consecutively beat Greece 14:3, Spain 11:10 and Turkey 14:6. But, in the semi-finals, the Serbs repaid for the defeat in Podgorica with a high victory, 14:8. Croatia fought for the bronze against the Italians, the hosts of the competition. The last words are crucial – the hosts of the competition. To be more specific, in the rain, windy and cold weather, the dreariness of the match for the bronze was made additionally ugly by the administrators of justice. With the score at 9:9, at the end of the match and during the Croatian attack, they did not call a foul to our benefit, but vice versa. In the counter attack, the referee “awarded” the hosts a doubtful, to say the least, five-meter penalty. The Italians did not miss such an opportunity and a second before the end they won, owing to the penalty. We were a little angry, we felt deceived, however, Pescara had to be buried in memory, because… Rome was at the door. The culmination of the season. From 17th July to 2nd August the city on the Tiber was the host of World Championships in Water Sports, to which Ratko Rudić took the following thirteen players: Ivo Brzica,

Damir Burić, Miho Bošković, Nikša Dobud, Ivan Buljubašić, Srđan Antonijević, Frano Karač, Andro Bušlje, Sandro Sukno, Samir Barač, Igor Hinić, Paulo Obradović and Josip Pavić. The thing that marked the months of preparations did not leave Croatia in Rome either – problems with injuries. Only a day before their arrival in Rome, at the training session with the Italians in Trieste, the goalie Pavić suffered a fracture of the little finger on his left hand, but that information was successfully hidden from the press by the selector and his headquarters, together with the players, and revealed only after our last match in Rome. On arrival in Rome, Bušlje had a fever and had to stay in the hotel room for two days, Buljubašić had problems with neck pain, and the last three matches we played at the championship were without Srđan Antonijević owing to a back injury. That was a very important issue, as he was supposed to replace Joković on the right. Luckily the group presupposed at least two easy matches. And that proved to be true. Against Brazil 11:2 and against China 15:5, in the first and third rounds. However, the real job followed in the second round. On the other hand, Montenegro, the then European champions, the team that had beaten us twice a month and a half earlier, the team which had beaten us in the semi-finals of the European Championships in Malaga. At insufferable heat, an inappropriate time of the match around noon, Croatia in a fantastic performance “boiled” the Montenegrins with 11:5. We ensured the first place in the group, and just like in Australia two years earlier, a direct placement in the quarterfinals. There, owing to our serious and disciplined approach, the Romanians could not do anything else but congratulate the better team for their success at the end of the match. With 7:5, Croatia placed itself in the semi-finals, where it met with


Serbia. It was precisely then, in the semi-finals, that all the magic was lost, that is everything good that had adorned the team till then. For the first time, one player more was bad, for the first time we received a large number of goals, for the first and the only time the goalie Pavić was not himself, and none of the co-players was especially prominent that day. In an uncertain game, with elements of a dramatic end, Serbia, who, in all fairness, was the better team for most of the game, in the end celebrated with 12:11. At that game, we lost any chance of defending the world gold, but the Roman story was not over yet. If we missed gold and silver, we still had the fight for the bronze. A medal, regardless of its colour, was set as the basic goal before arrival in Rome in 2009. The Americans were not our only rivals in that struggle. We ourselves were a bigger problem. The unpleasant tradition of winning fourth place, of losing the last matches at great tournaments, created a mental barrier greater and more dangerous than all the lucidity of Tony Azavedo and the other Americans. That is how the match started – nervously, and the Americans were leading with a goal or two, as well as dictating the game. All kinds of thoughts were running through the players’ head, their hands were not still. Until the third quarter and the turn-


around of the result, our lead and finally, the victory at 8:6. We were third in the world, we won the bronze! The joy of the players, jumping into the pool and their song show more than anything else what and how much this medal meant from a sporting, as well as psychological point of view. For the first time in history, the senior team won the bronze, which means that they finished a great tournament with a victory. For the first time Croatia won a medal at two consecutive competitions, it climbed onto the throne twice. “I won the Olympic and world gold, but this bronze is one of my most favourite and greatest medals, a great success I achieved in my career as coach”, said selector Ratko Rudić in Rome after the match. In a situation where the team was changed, rejuvenated, without as many as seven players from Melbourne 2007 and with the additional “hospital” during the preparations and championships, a situation in which they had to improvise and change the roles of a few players, the selector’s words can be understood. That is how it was at the beginning of August on the Roman Foro Italico. However, this month will also remain registered in Croatian water polo as the most fruitful 30 days

< ROME 2009 – the last arrangements

in history, because at the end of that month, the juniors went two steps further, higher, to the top place. In the same month, two world championships – two medals. To be more specific, Šibenik was host to the junior European championships, the greatest water polo competition since gaining independence. In the overtime of the finals, on 30th August, against Greece, the Croatian juniors, under the leadership of selector Ivica Tucko, took the lead two seconds before the end with the goal by Marko Ivanković, and with the result 9:8 they plated the newly-redesigned pool in Crnica in gold! In seven days, the same number of victories. For the second time, our juniors became the champions of the world, after Havana in 1997. A month or two later, a new gold landed in Croatia. At the U20 European Championships in Chania, Greece, the team, headed by the young expert from Split, Ivan Asić, were very convincing in winning the title of European champion! If we add the silver won by the student team under the leadership of Zoran Roje at the World Student Games in Belgrade to that, we can safely say that 2009 was one of the richest years in terms of medals, and one of the most successful years ever. An excellent introduction to the second century of Croatian water polo.


2010 Europe Has Come to Zagreb The year of the European championships! In the history of Croatian water polo, 2010 will be remembered for all times, first of all by the tournament of the twelve best male and eight best female teams at the continental review in the Croatian capital. The entire year has in water polo been dedicated to one goal only – to host in Zagreb, in Croatia, the home of the world club icon Mladost, the best of Europe. The idea and the first wish of the Croatian Water polo Federation was to organize the European Championships at the Zagreb Arena, a magnificent structure at Lanište in Zagreb, which can take 15,000 spectators. In the case of water polo, that would be a bit less, about 12,000, owing to the installation of a pool, which would take away some of the capacity. The wish was to give European water polo something new, something that had not been seen before: a review of masters with the ball under water under the roof, in the modern 21st century arena. That would no longer be just a championship, but a sporting, as well as a social spectacle. Unfortunately, the Croatian Water polo Federation found themselves rather isolated with that wish. The lack of will, desire, and money to a certain extent, but mostly the lack of feeling for the national benefit and the creation of an extremely positive image, for which Zagreb and Croatia would have been remembered for years to come, closed the doors of the Arena for water polo players. It was decided in the spring – the European Championship will be played on the Sava, more specifically, in the open-air pool of Mladost near the Sava. True, that place has an immeasurably greater symbolism and carries much more water polo weight than the Arena. This is the home of HAVK (or Hrvatski akademski vaterpolo klub or Croatian Academic Water-polo Club) Mladost, the club with the largest number of titles as European champion (7), the club which has won all the European trophies, cups and championships. The club that yielded a few dozen players, coaches which created not only Croatian, but also world water polo history. That is a mythical place of this sport. The Wembley of water polo.


The draw of the European Championship groups, held on the main Zagreb square, Trg Bana Jelačića, on 21st May, in the presence of the LEN leadership, CWF and city authorities, was already spectacular, suggesting a festival of water polo in the Croatian metropolis from 29th August to 11th September. But, of course, the European Championships was not the only thing considered that year. Water polo was played. Traditionally fantastic and not without success. The Croatian national team continued to line up successes in the World League group. True, in January the Greeks celebrated in Athens, but only after five-meter penalties (17:16), in other words, Rudić’s students came back from Greece with a point. In February, they beat Macedonia in Varaždin (12:9), and in March, after a long trip to Kirisia, they also defeated Russia (12:7). One round before the end of the competition in groups, Croatia secured first place in the group and an appearance at the final tournament of the World League in Niš, Serbia. The match of the last round of the group, at the end of June in Dubrovnik against Greece, was merely a formality. In local, club waters, this still meant the competition between Mladost and Jug CO. After dramatic finals of the national cup in Zadar, played a little before Christmas in 2009, the Dubrovnik players celebrated after overtime against Mladost (12:11), and they continued fiercely in the Adriatic League. First by a mile, with only one defeat and a tie, with 22 victories, they gained the right to host the Final Four, where Mladost from Zagreb also managed to place itself. It was precisely these two teams that met in the semi-finals. Jug CO was better again (10:9), but they could not win the trophy in the finals against Jadran from Herceg Novi (11:8). In the Euroleague, Mladost got stuck in the groups, while Jug CO once again managed to place itself in the final tournament, organized by Pro Recco, but in Naples. Our champion was not lucky: first a defeat in semi-finals against Primorac from Kotor 11:10, and then again the struggle for third place by Partizan from Belgrade 15:14, only after five-meter penalties. The end of the 2009/2010 season was marked by the traditional final duels between Mladost and Jug CO. Zagreb players

The book you are holding in your hands was largely his work! Renato Živković, as the General Secretary, the first operative of the Croatian Water Polo Federation, and right hand to the President Perica Bukić, supervised, took care of and provided all that was necessary for the creation of this retrospective of the first century of water polo in Croatia. At the same time, Renato took over and performed excellently the very demanding job of Executive Director of the 2010 European Water Polo Championships in Zagreb, which is a responsible and complex task, especially at the same time as a global financial crisis. His love for sports, especially for water polo, which he played successfully in combination with completing a Masters degree in economics was of exceptional importance for the success both of the Croatian Water Polo Federation, and the 2010 European Championships in Zagreb.

Renato Živk ović T he Chief Exec

utive of CWF

Date of birth : July 8 th, 1966 Place of birth : Split Occupation: masters of ec onomy Playing care er: 1983-199 1 PO ŠK Split; 1991-1997 To urcoing (Fra nc e) Coaching ca reer: Tourco ing 1997-200 4 Trophies wit h the club: – Cup Winne rs’ Cup: 1984 (POŠK) – European Super Cup: 19 84 (POŠK) – Mediterrane an Cup: thre e times winne r

offered not only excellent defence, but they almost surprised the favourites, the hosts. With two home victories in Zagreb (7:6 and 14:12), they gave Jug a hard time even in the matches in Dubrovnik, which they narrowly lost after losing the lead in three quarters of the match (9:8 and 12:10 for Jug CO). The final series ended with the fifth match, which was played masterly by the Jug players, and they celebrated with 14:9, defending their title, and won their jubilee 30th title of national champion. In was 19th June 2010. Two days later the calendar summer began. The summer of the team and the European Championships in Zagreb. The greatest water polo competition in independent

JUG CO – Croatian 2010 Champions EMIL NIKOLIĆ – the coach of Mladost

Croatia. Summer, which began with two medals in just two weeks. Bronze in the World League in Nis, Serbia, and silver at the FINA Cup in Oradea, Romania. Our first medal ever in this competition. What a start of summer!!


04 C L U B S

> Photograph taken on Jug’s 10th anniversary, 1934

VK Jug The Sixth Fortress of Dubrovnik After World War 1, many coastal towns saw the formation of teams in bays and swimming areas; teams that competed in various skills, especially during the summer months. Some of them later evolved into sports associations. There is mention of several such associations in Dubrovnik at that time, mostly sports associations with swimming sections or exclusively swimming associations: Jug, GOŠK, Građanski (Kolorina, Šulić cove), Penatur (Pile) and the swimming section of the Neptun rowing club (Posat below the Ploča Gate), but there were also some “wild” clubs. Their activity was to diminish in time, with only Jug maintaining continuity. The sports club “Jug” (pronounced “yoog” – South) was founded as a football club in 1921, and the Regal county government in Split approved its rules in March 1922 in Act 662/22, thus enabling the founding assembly to take place on April 30th that same year. The name Jug (South), proposed by Zdenko Šapro and Ante Miličić, was accepted as it represented the geographical position of Dubrovnik. The swimming section was founded in 1923, when Rudi Reš, an experienced swimmer and water polo player from Sušak came to Dubrovnik to Danče and suggested it to the football club Assembly. The first public water polo game took place on June 28th 1924, when Jug and Pentaur faced off at Porporela. Jug won by 3:0 with the following line-up: Riko Drobnić, Ljubo Merlo, Ante Zakarija, Rudi Reš, Luka Zlošilo, Toni Depolo and Mirko Braida, who scored all three goals. The reserve teams also faced off, leveling a drawn score of 2:2. Several weeks later, on July 20th, Jug played Jadran from Split, and managed, in front of 1,000 spectators, to defeat the current national champion by 2:1. The win over the national


champion, who won the title in 1923 under a different name, Baluni, came as a first class surprise. The state championships in Split in 1925 will be remembered by the first appearance of the water polo club Jug and their triumph, the title of Champions of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In their first match in Split, on August 8th and 9th, Jug defeated Karlovac by 8:1 (5:0 half-time) playing with the following lineup: Dinko Fabris, Ante Zakarija, Marko Dabrović, Rudi Reš, Mirko Braida, Ivica Dabrović and Zdenko Šapro. Their first historical appearance at the national championship was supposed to be against Krka from Šibenik, but the team did not show up. Jug took their 3rd round win with a 3:0 walkover since their opponents Victoria did not play. The team from Dubrovnik beat Sombor by 3:2 (2:2) in the semi-final, and they defeated the host of the championships, Jadran, by 2:0 (both goals by Šapro, one from 4 meter penalty). The final against Jadran was interrupted in the 7th minute of the first half because the referee, Malešević, was pushed into the sea (by Jadran vice-president Paško Bettini) and the disciplinary referee subsequently registered a 3:0 score in Jug’s favor. The decision was overruled after Jadran appealed and the Swimming Committee decided that a rematch was to take place, but this time in Dubrovnik. Since Jadran did not appear, the game was registered as a 3:0 win for Dubrovnik – and this time the decision was final. The historical first state championship title was won with the following line-up: Dinko Fabris, Ante Zakarija, Marko Dabrović, Rudi Reš, Ivica Dabrović, Zdenko Šapro and Mirko Braida. It is worth mentioning that the title was won, except for Rudi Reš, by young men aged 14 to 19 years. As it says in the records, on their return voyage to the City, the players were already celebrating with numerous tourists, and when they reached Gruž, they were greeted by people crowding the promenade, city music, laurel wreaths, flowers and songs. The city major was also present and gave a speech praising the players and making allusions to the return of Dubrovnik’s former glory…

It is often said that the players “won” Dubrovnik itself in 1925. It is also interesting to note that the people of Dubrovnik took every opportunity to identify intimately with Jug. They proved this in 1926 when the national swimming and water polo championships took place in Dubrovnik for the first time. The participants were greeted in the City decorated with flags and festively illuminated. A Venetian night with fireworks was organized on Kumanovo, the most luxurious liner of Dubrovačka plovidba and the citizens escorted the guests on their departure. Jug started the 1926 season with victories in the Dubrovački podsavez championship. They were better than the British navy team (7:0 and 10:0). It was their first meeting with a foreign team. The first trip abroad was not as successful for the swimmers and the water polo players. The team lost to W.A.C. and Hakal in Vienna. A number of Jug players played in the Yugoslav national team between the two wars. At times the entire Jug team was also the national team of Yugoslavia. During the first national team’s match at the First Slavic Championship, in Belgrade in 1927, four players from Jug also participated: Dinko Fabris, Marko and Ivica Dabrović and Mirko Braida. At the 1927 European Championships in Bologna, Dinko Fabris, Ivica Dabrović and Mirko Braida took part. However, Jug refused to let its players play in the Second Panslavic Championship in Prague in 1928, due to, in their opinion, a poor choice of players. In the third and last Panslavic Championships in Warsaw in 1929, five Jug players took part: Dinko Fabris, Mirko Braida and brothers Marko, Ivica and Jozo Dabrović. The spirited Ivica Dabrović often found himself in unusual situations. He made a name for himself in 1927 when he scored

the first goal in the history of the national team. During the European Championships in Bologna, he was a whisker away from being escorted from the pool by the “carabinieri”, and in 1929, during the trip to Poland, he saved a child from drowning in medicinal mud, in the nick of time. The club from Dubrovnik was the proponent of what was known as “swimming water polo” which was in stark contrast to the predominant static water polo of that time. This style incorporated fast swim-ins and a number of passes. Since the national team consisted mostly of Jug players, this style was adopted by the national team too. Players who were to later become the backbone of the team for years to come were gradually introduced into the first team. In 1928, a 16 year old, Jozo Dabrović, who brought greater mobility into the game, first played for the team; in 1929 Vinko Cvjetković had his debut, and in 1930 we find Željko Statinger and Zdravko Samardžić in the team. Ante Bibica and Drago Betner already played for the team earlier and were to play again after a break. During the twenties, Duško Ucović, Iso Prčić, Karlo Cilić and Ante Matić occasionally played for the team. The 1929 National Championships saw the following line-up: Dinko Fabris, Marko, Ivica and Jozo Dabrović, Vinko Cvjetković, Iso Prčić, Mirko Braida and Ante Matić. The swimmers and team performed in Trieste in 1929, and in 1930 the first friendly competition between Split and Dubrovnik took place, and in 1931 an Adriatic championship was organized. The desire for a greater number of competitors resulted in a change of competition format, and junior national championships in swimming and water polo were also organized. The junior water polo team won the national championships title in 1930. The players who won the title were: Drago and Luka Ciganović, Jozo Dabrović, Drago Betner, Stijepo Duvnjak, Alfred Bradarić, Milan Lugar, Drago Jelić and Matić. The juniors of Jug took eight national titles altogether. The results of the state championships in 1930 indicate the sheer predominance of the senior team. The defeated teams listed Victoria from Sušac (13:0), Primorje from Karlovac (15:0)


and Jadran from Split (5:0). During the thirties, other small swimming and water polo clubs in Dubrovnik ceased their activities and local competitions were no longer organized. That is when Jug started to make its name on the international scene. Marko Dabrović stopped playing in 1930 and Mirko Braida in 1931 when he left Dubrovnik. These departures from the original line-up did not weaken the team; quite the contrary, new players from the junior team were ready to take their place, bringing dynamics and creativity. Team practices on Danče were a spectacle both for players and viewers. Everyone eagerly expected the next practice or match.

The Beginning of International Affirmation Victories over the Hungarian B national team (2:1 and 5:1) in Dubrovnik in 1931 were the first step in Jug’s affirmation on the international level. After playing in Trieste the following year (9:1, 5:0), a match against EWASG from Vienna (3:1, 3:1) was organized in Dubrovnik. The best player of Jug and the national team between the wars was the centre forward Luka Ciganović. He made his first appearance for the Jug junior team in 1928. Since regulations only allowed for adults to play in the senior team, Ciganović had his debut in the first line-up in 1932. At the same time, Luka Ciganović was an excellent free style and backstroke swimmer, and national champion and record holder in swimming. Relations with Jadran were often tense, especially in 1933 when Jug defeated Jadran 7:0 in Sušak. The score 7:0 was painted in huge characters on the ship taking the players back to Dubrovnik. The players could feel the reaction of people in Split very well when the ship docked in their city. The tension was even higher in 1936, which was marked by a fierce dispute


between Tonči Nardeli and Zdravko Birimiša, resulting in Jug’s boycott of the junior national championships in Split. There were many fights and reconciliations and they all resulted in the extraordinary friendship of the generations in question. 1933 saw two teams from Hungary, the Olympic champion at that time, play in Dubrovnik. Jug defeated MTK 3:0 and 4:1, and played 4:3 and 6:0 against Ujpest Tornom Egylet (UTE), the Hungarian champion. The team line-up was: Milivoj Ćurlica, Zdravko Samardžić, Ivica and Jozo Dabrović, Luka Ciganović, Željko Statinger, Marko Bibica and Vinko Cvjetković. The people of Dubrovnik knew how to cheer for their favorites and celebrate their victories. After the 6:0 victory, people carried players on their shoulders. The festivities on Stradun were relentless. The success of Jug against, by all reckoning, the best team in the world, who were undefeated for five years, was news that reverberated internationally. The only two players left from the original team were no longer in the standard first line-up. Ivica Dabrović gradually stopped playing and the goal keeper Dinko Fabris was replaced by Milivoj Ćurlica. Dinko Fabris started playing again later. Luka Ciganović became a standard team member by the mid 1933 season and remained in that role for two decades to come. Seven players of Jug: Ante and Marko Bibica, Zdravko Samardžić, Vinko Cvjetković, Jozo Dabrović, Luka Ciganović and Željko Statinger, together with goal keeper Mihovilović from Jadran, played in the national team at the European Championships in Magdeburg in 1934, winning fifth place. That same year, Dubrovnik hosted two major events. In a match between the national teams of Yugoslavia and Austria, the home team took victory by 6:1. The following day, with Milivoj Ćurlica as the goal keeper, the teams of Dubrovnik and Vienna faced off, with Dubrovnik winning 3:0. At the celebration of the tenth anniversary of Jug’s first match, the teams of Magdenburg and Jadrana took part. Playing Magdeburg, a club which boasted four German national team representatives, Jug suffered its first home defeat (3:4 and 3:3).

< Dubrovnik’s Jug in 1925 Jug – Hajduk 3:1, 18th September 1948, Ciganović scoring the third goal Jug 1951: Stanković, Kačić, Fabris, Štakula, Goesl (standing); Kvokal, Ciganović, Ivković (squatting)

By the mid thirties, Luka Ciganović was already a national legend in swimming and water polo sports. Not only is he considered the forerunner of the modern water polo movement, but also the most talented swimmer of his time. He set his first record in Paris in 1935 in the 100 m backstroke (1:14.0). That same year he improved the 100 m freestyle (1:00.4) and the 400 m freestyle (5:10.4) records. His best result in his favorite discipline, the 100 m backstroke, came in 1938 (1:11.2). His duels with another swimming ace of that time, Draško Vilfan, a member of Ilirija from Ljubljana, were keenly followed by the public eye. Luka Ciganović did not have a coach and his weak points were his turns. By winning fifth place in the European Championships, Yugoslavia earned the right to take part in the Kleber tournament in Brussels in 1935. Miro Mihovilović from Jadran and Dinko Fabris from Jug alternated in the position of the goal keeper. All the other players, Vinko Cvjetković, Zdravko Samardžić, Jozo Dabrović, Marko Bibica, Luka Ciganović and Željko Stantinger, were members of Jug. The reserve players Bogdan Tošović and Mirko Tarana were also from Jug. Their performance at the tournament was not successful. However, they made a better impression upon their return. First, Jug defeated the French champions Tourquin (4:3) at home, and then the national team defeated France in Paris 3:2. Dinko Fabris was the goal keeper. Marko Bibica and Zdravko Samardžić, who were suspended for disciplinary reasons, did not play in these two games. However, Mirko Tarana and Bogdan Tošović, both members of Jug, did play. If it had not been for that unforeseen case, those reserve players probably would not have made it into the Olympic team the following year. The Yugoslav national water polo team first took part in the Olympic Games in Berlin 1936. The players who were the members of the Olympic team were Vinko Cvjetković, Mirko Tarana, Luka Ciganović and Željko Statinger. At the end of the 1936 season, matches with Triestino (11:1, 7:1) and the very good team MAC from Budapest (3:2, 2:2, 2:2) were played n Dubrovnik. The new players for Jug were Mato

Kunčević, Žarko and Drago Veramenta. It was the first year since the founding of the club that none of the Dabrović brothers played. In 1937 Jug won its 13th and last consecutive title as national champion. At that point, all the necessary steps were being taken to make it possible to build an indoor winter pool. There was no mention of the new 50-meter swimming lane, which had often been mentioned since the 1930s. Dubrovnik swimming club (DPK) which later changed its name to Croatian swimming club (HPK) was founded in Dubrovnik. The temporary practice pool for the club was in the eastern part of the Banje swimming area, next to the Excelsior Hotel. Its juniors were very successful; they took third place in their first national championships in 1938, and came second, after Jug’s swimmers in 1939 and 1940. The players particularly distinguished for their good games were: Željko Radić, Pero Simatović, Tino Glavić, Tonko Kulušić and Ivo Stela. Jug has only been the national swimming champion once, and that was in 1937. It was also in 1937 in a match against Czechoslovakia that the Jug team was the same as the national team for the last time. The celebration of victory on the first night (4:3) was long and noisy. The next day a new match between Dubrovnik and Prague was played (2:2), with the same line-up which had won the thirteenth championship: Mato Kunčević, Viktor Hajon, Vinko Cvjetković, Zdravko Samardžić, Luka Ciganović, Željko Statinger and Bogdan Tošović. Two days later, another match was played between Dubrovnik and Prague (3:1). Miljenko Orlić played instead of Vinko Cvjetković. At that time, the relationship among the water polo clubs was brought to a new low. Victoria, Jadran and Ilirija insisted on the introduction of a new national league championships, but Jug and other clubs did not agree. As a result “the league clubs” did not participate in the 1937 championships in Dubrovnik, and Jug boycotted the next championships in 1938 in Ljubljana. Nevertheless, Jug’s candidates for the national team match with Italy showed up at Bled. These paradoxes served no one. Since


the Bled match (1:1) the number of Jug players in the national team was smaller. Only Zdravko Samardžić, Luka Ciganović and Bogdan Tošović played. In a rematch in Trieste, two matches were played between the national teams of Yugoslavia and Italy. Yugoslavia won both by 4:3. There were no Jug players in the first one, and all four goals were scored by Boris Polić from Victoria. Zdravko Samardžić, Luka Ciganović, Bogdan Tošović, Željko Statinger and Ante Baica played in the second match, together with two players from Jadran. However, the greatest of all victories achieved was the reconciliation of the swimmers and water polo players. In 1939 a new national league system championship in swimming and water polo was introduced, with the participation of Jug, Jadran and Victoria, and in 1940, Ilirija and ZKP from Zagreb joined the league. That is when Split (1939) and Zagreb (1940) were given their concrete swimming pools. A point of interest is that Jug, who was against the introduction of the league system, became its proponent after the war. Jug was first defeated by a home team in 1939, and the defeat came from Jadran (3:2) in Split. The players who took part in this inglorious event, which was bound to happen eventually, were: Vojo Ucović, Miljenko Orlić, Zdravko Samardžić, Teo Dinković, Luka Ciganović, Željko Statinger and Bogdan Tošović and Jug had to settle for second place for the first time since its foundation and the only time before the war. The Dubrovnik team wanted the title, having relinquished it without a fight the year before. This was the season which saw the last pre-war international match played in Dubrovnik. Jug played with a team they knew well, the Hungarian national champion UTE (3:2 and 2:3), and one of the players in the team was Lovro Štakula, at the time known as an extraordinary sprinter. The league system of competition brought the quality of swimming and water polo to a new level, creating greater interest in swimming in the country and improving the relationship between the club managements. However, there were some incidents where Jug was only a witness and not a participant. One of those


happened in 1940 when a referee was tossed into the sea, similar to what happened fifteen years earlier. Jug won its fourteenth national trophy in the last pre-war season. Ten players took part in eight league matches in what was to be the reclaiming of the lost title: Mato Kunčević, Viktor Hajon, Ivo Štakula, Zdravko Samardžić, Teo Dinković, Luka Ciganović, Željko Statinger, Bogdan Tošović and veterans Jozo Dabrović and Drago Betner. That same year, in a match against Hungary, Teo Dinković had his debutant performance side to side with Ciganović and Samardžić. Water polo players were considered swimmers for a considerable period after the war. However, this notion stems from the different situation during the pre-war period. There was not a single player who did not represent Jug in swimming, at least in junior competitions. At joint events, every water polo player wanted, expected and was proud to represent his club, even if in the second or third relay. Some of the pre-war players, such as breaststroke specialists Miljenko Orlić and Vojo Ucović, are listed as water polo first line-up players, and we forget about their even longer careers in swimming. Jug ended the 1940 season with a host of extraordinary young players. The pre-war period is often rightfully called Jug’s golden era. September 1940 brought the first international competition in swimming and water polo between the national teams of Croatia and Hungary in Split. The Hungarians were better at swimming, 23:13, while the water polo match was left drawn at 3:3. Jug’s swimmers and water polo players, Lovro and Ivo Štakula, Luka Ciganović, Zdravko Samardžić, Teo Dinković, Branko Žižek and Blago Barbieri also took part in this event. However, Luka Ciganović, Zdravko Samardžić and Branko Žižek refused to take part in the parade, where they were supposed to wear jogging suits with the Croatian national coat of arms on their chests. This led to a heated discussion in the newspapers, resulting in Ciganović and Samardžić, as well as management members Toni Nardelli and Milan Ratković, being expelled by the General Assembly of the Sports club Jug in October 1940. The assembly

unanimously decided that the official name of the club was going to be the Croatian sports club Jug. Dr. Ivo Smolčić was elected president of the club. Not long after that all the club activities on Danče and the old city harbour ceased. The water polo players had not been active since the beginning of World War II, and in 1942 the two city clubs, Jug and the Croatian swimming club merged into one – Dubrovnik Swimming club. Many members of Jug perished during the war, and many left Dubrovnik after the war. During the first post-war sporting event in Zagreb, which took place from 16th to 19th August, 1945, the Dubrovnik team participated in many sports, water polo and swimming included. In the autumn of 1945, the sports club Jug was restored despite some resistance towards the club’s historical name, which was now Fiskulturno društvo Jug. The opponents of the traditional name proposed Jedinstvo as the alternative option. Jug played its first post-war game against Jadran in Herceg Novi on August 4th, 1946. Jug won by 4:0, with the following line-up: Vinko Duboković, Petar Kačić, Branko Stanković, Andro Beusan, Jakica Ferera, Lovorko Reljić and Milo Lučić. However, they would have to wait for their first post-war trophy until 1949. The first championship tournament took place in Ljubljana at the end of that month. Jug came in second, sharing that spot with Mladost. The rematch tournament took place in Rijeka the following month. Jug won and took the championship title, with a three point advantage over Mladost from Zagreb and without losing a single match. Jug defeated the following opponents: Primorje 2:0, Mladost 3:2, Enotnost Ljubljana 7:1, Proleter 11:1, while the score with Hajduk was a draw, 1:1. The first post-war champions were: Dinko Fabris, Ivo Štakula, Branko Stanković, Vlado Ivković, Lovro Štakula, Matko Hrvoje Goszl, Željko Standinger and Luka Ciganović. Jug was to repeat its success for the following two years, and Hrvoje Kačić and Matko Goszl were to play for the national team in the 7th European Championships in Vienna, winning

Captain Elvis Fatović Ognjen Kržić A packed Gruž stadium The coaches agree on instructions, Veselin Đuho and his assistant, Emil Nikolić Fans’ torches blazing at the old pool in Gruž, Dubrovnik

bronze, the first medal won by the players of Jug and the national team in a major competition. However, as far as Jug was concerned, it would take another 30 years for the club to win another championship title. What is more, Jug even dropped out of the first league in 1964 and it took two years for them to return. Those decades remain marked by the Jug players’ success in the national team. Vladimir Ivković Salko, alongside Dubrovnik’s Ivo Štakula, won the Olympic silver in Helsinki in 1952. Vladimir Ivković later, with Hrvoje Kačić, won the Olympic silver (Melbourne 1956), as well as the European silver (Turin 1954). This success was equaled by Pero Katušić and Hrvoje Kačić (Budapest, 1958), Luko Vezilić (Jönköping, 1977). Vezilić, a remarkable goal keeper, went on to win world bronze (Berlin, 1978) and Olympic silver (Moscow, 1980) together with Boško Lozica. 1980 was a special year in the club records. After the first part of the championships, Jug was the only undefeated team. The trend continued until the 16th round when Jug played their only rival, POŠK Brodomerkur from Split. The Split team bettered Jug by 10:9. Not long after that Jug managed to defeat the current champions Partizan in their home pool in Belgrade by 9:7, and the senior team took, after twentynine years’ waiting, another national championship title, when


> In front of the city walls, December 2004 On top of Europe in 2006 after the final defeat of Pro Recco 9:7 in Dubrovnik

g Club name: Ju 23 19 , d: de un Fo atian Champion : 2005/06. (Cro on as se rd co d Re pion an European Cham Croatian Cup, r Cup). European Supe titles (1980, pean Champion ro Eu 3 : an Trophies 000), 1 Europe ), 1 LEN Cup (2 les tit on 2001 and 2006 pi am Ch , 30 National 6) 00 (2 p cu r 32 Supe 30, 1931, 19 , , 1928, 1929, 19 27 19 , 26 , 19 5, (192 40, 1949, 1950 , 1936, 1937, 19 35 19 , 34 , 19 01 , 20 33 , 19 85, 2000 , 1982, 1983, 19 13 ), 1951, 1980, 1981 10 and 20 06, 2007, 2009 2004, 2005, 20 81, 1983, 1994, 19 s( le tit inner National Cup W , 2007, 2008, 03, 2004, 2006 20 , 02 20 , 00 1996, 20 ue winner title 1 Adriatic leag ), 10 20 d an 2009 (2009)

Primorac from Kotor defeated POŠK Brodomerkur in Gruž in the round before the last. Jug had won 18 out of 22 championship matches, three matches were a draw, and only one was lost. The 1980 championship title was won by: Luko Vezilić, Đuro Savinović, Dubravko Staničić, Božo Vuletić, Veselin Đuho, Boško Lozica, Niko Matušić, Luko Vuletić, Goran Sukno, Ivica Dabrović, Antonio Milat and Gojko Vukašinović under the guidance of coaches Trifko Banđur and Blago Barbieri. This success on a national level meant that Jug, for the first time, earned the right to compete in the Champions Cup, and in their first attempt, they already made it to the final tournament. Jug lost the first match of the final tournament played in Kupari against the German Spandau 0:4. In the second round, Jug bettered the Greek Ethnikos, and after Vasas defeated the German team, Jug had the opportunity to win the European champions title by beating the Hungarian team. They managed to fulfill the task by scoring an emphatic 8:2 win against the European champions, Vasas. Under the guidance of coaches Banđur and Blago Barbieri, the line-up achieving this historic win was: Milovan Tomić, Đuro Savinović, Dubravko Staničić, Božo Vuletić, Veselin Đuho, Boško Lozica, Niko Matušić, Luko Vuletić, Goran Sukno, Ivica Dabrović, Antonio Milat and Gojko Vukašinović. Over the next five years, the club won four more national champions titles and two more national cups. The 1985 national championship title was Jug’s last title as Yugoslav champion. It would take another 15 years for the club to win another trophy. To compensate, Goran Sukno, Veselin Đuho and Božo Vuletić, all Jug players, achieved the greatest success in the history of Dubrovnik sport by winning the Olympic title with the national team in Los Angeles in 1984. Sukno and Đuho were to add World championship silver to their collection of trophies two years later, in a historical final match against Italy in Madrid. Veselin Đuho was the team captain in the Olympic Games in Seoul where the national team managed to defend their title. The start of the first national championships in the independent Croatia was set for June 19th 1991, but due to recurrent


attacks on the City, the Croatian water polo federation allowed Jug to play their home matches in the first part of the season outside Dubrovnik. The team played and lost their first match against Jadran from Split 16:13. At the end of the championships, prior to play-offs, Jug was ranked fourth, with five wins, five losses and four draws. Mladost bettered Jug in the playoffs, so they were forced to win third place against Mornar from Split. Since Mladost was the Croatian Champion, and Jadran European Champion, Jug’s third place meant the team would represent Croatia in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Jug played its first match under the Croatian flag against the Austrian A.T.S.E. in an elimination tournament in Amsterdam, winning the match by 18:5. After almost two years’ exile from their city (the last official match played in Gruž was on May 29th, 1991) Jug finally played in the championship semis in front of their home crowd. The current European champion, Jadran was defeated 12:9. Jadran was better in the return match in Split by 19:9, and the deciding game was interrupted with Split leading 10:8. The reason for the interruption was that someone from the audience hit referee Brkljačić on the head with cigarette lighter, 45 seconds before the end of the third fourth. In 1994, under the guidance of a new coach, Neven Kovačević, Jug won its first Croatian trophy, the national cup, and Dubrovnik celebrated after a nine year wait. Jug defeated Slobodna Dalmacija in the quarterfinal, Jadran from Split in the semis, and Mladost in the final. Jug won the first game in Gruž 14:11, and Mladost returned the favor in Zagreb 8:6, which was insufficient for the team from Zagreb to take the cup. The first Croatian title was won by: Maro Balić, Mario Bijač, Đani Pecotić, Hrvoje Herceg, Đuro Musladin, Božo Lujo, Emil Nikolić, Miho Klaić, Alen Bošković, Pero Jovica, Miho Bobić, Elvis Fatović, Ante Režić, Milan Vasić and Tomislav Jurišić under the guidance of coach Neven Kovačević and his assistant Tomo Udovičić. Two years after that, in 1996, another Croatian cup title was won, this time against POŠK (Slobodna Dalmacija).

Ognjen Kržić and Maro Balić won the Olympic silver medal in Atlanta that same year. For the first time, Croatia was on the winners’ podium in the European Championships. The silver medal was won in Florence in 1999 and the players from Jug who participated in this success were Ivo Ivaniš, Alen Bošković and Mile Smodlaka. The beginning of the new millennium brought a new string of successes for Jug. That success has continued until the present day and a great deal of credit for this goes to the club management, with one distinguished character – captain Ante Jerković, who later became an honorary president of Jug. His knack for management and his dedication to sport laid the foundation for the Jug we have come to know through the first decade of the new millennium. It all started with winning the LEN Cup on April 8th 2000 against Pescara. That same year, Jug also won their first title as Croatian champions. That marked the 23rd national title altogether and first after a 15-year wait. The club finished the year by winning a third title, the Croatian Cup. The year after that, Jug reached the throne of Europe by defeating Bečej and Olympiacos after extra time at the Final Four tournament, in front of 6,000 people. The winning team consisted of Goran Volarević, Tiho Vranješ, Đani Pecotić, Igor Računica, Ognjen Kržić, Mile Smodlaka, Dragan Medan, Ivo Ivaniš, Alen Bošković, Andrej Bjelofastov, Pero Jovica, Elvis Fatović, Frano Karač and Maro Balić. The coach was Veselin Đuho. The first decade of the 21st century saw Jug confirming its supremacy with 7 national championship titles, 7 national cups, one European championship and one win in the Super Cup. The last two trophies were won in 2006 and the winners of the third European title were Goran Volarević, Andrija Komadina, Miho Bošković, Igor Računica, Ognjen Kržić, Mile Smodlaka, Pavo Marković, Andro Bušlje, Frano Karač, Nikša Dobud, Nikša Drobac, Elvis Fatović, Davor Car and Maro Joković, coached by Emil Nikolić. This was also the decade when Jug played in the Euro League Final Four eight times, and six of those appearances came

consecutively (2005-2010). However, August 16th, 2003 will be remembered as the days when a national team player, Ivo Ivaniš, died in a diving accident. The national team won silver in Kranj in 2003, with Jug players Goran Volarević, Tiho Vranješ, Mile Smodlaka and Elvis Fatović participating. The greatest water polo success in independent Croatia came in Melbourne in 2007, when they won the World championship title. Players from Jug in the winning team were Frano Vićan, Maro Joković, Mile Smodlaka, Pavo Marković and Miho Bošković. The “golden era” of Jug that lasted until World War II is now being repeated in the first years of the third millennium. Alongside Minčeta, Revelin, Lovrijenac, Bokar and Sveti Ivan, Jug, in time, has become the sixth fortress of Dubrovnik. LITERATURE 1. Moretti, S. (1981). Povijest plivačkog i vaterpolo kluba Jug. Dubrovački horizonti, 21 (13), 147-176. 2. Petković, M. (1978). Prikaz djelovanja sportskog kluba Jug u Dubrovniku (1923-1977). Dubrovački horizonti, 18-19 (10-11), 96-109. 3. Petković, M. (1981). Vaterpolo reprezentacija Jugoslavije između dva rata (1927-1940). Povijest sporta, 47 (12), 115-124. 4. Vetma, A. (1961). PK Jug 1961. povodom 20-godišnjice ustanka. Dubrovnik.


HAVK Mladost The Olympus of World Water Polo Since its foundation in 1946 as the water polo section of the swimming club with the same name (after the communist authorities forbade the name HAŠK – Hrvatski akademski športski klub or Croatian Academic Sport Club) the Croatian Academic Water Polo Club (Hrvatski akademski vaterpolski klub or HAVK) Mladost has known only success. There were of course unavoidable downfalls in the history of the club, often caused by objective circumstances, but there have not been any long-term trophy droughts for the Frogs. Mladost, for example, was never below 5th place in the Yugoslav championships and is the only team, next to Jadran, never to drop out of the first league. After a relatively unsuccessful initial period (which was dominated by Jadran and Mornar from Split and Jug from Dubrovnik), Mladost lived through a kind of renaissance when their winter indoor pool was finished in Daničić Street in 1959, when they finally got a roof over their heads. They first won the Yugoslav winter championships in 1960 and 1961 (the Cup was not played at that time) and then in 1962 they became the national champions for the first time. In the first unofficial European championships in Strasbourg, Mladost came second. The players who achieved this success were: Stipanić, Hebel, Bonačić, Šimenc, Trumbić, Janković (later transferred to Partizan), Jeger, Jonke, Žužej, Fulgozi, Verži, Legradić, Poljak and Žagar. Their coach was Dr. Juraj Amšel, and Marijan Žužej was his right hand (something like a coach in the water). In 1963, a new club, Partizan from Belgrade, strengthened by many Croatian players stepped onto the Yugoslav and European water polo scene. Over the following decades, Mladost and Partizan were to be arch rivals on both the Yugoslav and the European scenes. The team from Belgrade was more suc-


cessful until 1967, but that year marked the start of one of the most successful periods for the club from Zagreb. In a very short time span, Mladost won three titles as Yugoslav champions and 4 European titles (three in a row). The players who managed to achieve this feat have become legends of Mladost, but also of Zagreb, Croatian and European water polo. They were: Stipanić, Trumbić, Bonačić, Šimenc, Jeger, Žužej, Poljak, Jonke, Pozojević, Račić, Hebel, Lopatny, Matošić, Kruz and Mikac. It is interesting to note that Ivo Trumbić was both a player and a coach and that he contributed greatly to the success of that period. However, the team was led from the bench especially in the most important matches, by Aleksandar Seifert, who thus became one of the most successful water polo instructors in the world. Mladost won its first European Champion title in 1967 without suffering any defeats. The team eliminated CSK Moscow in the semis and bettered Dinamo from Bucharest in the final. The match in Zagreb ended 4:2 in favor of the Frogs, and the Bucharest score was 4:4. The following year, the team’s final opponent was Dinamo from Moscow (Dinamo from Magdeburg was eliminated in the semis). The score in Belgrade (Mladost could not play in Zagreb) was 7:3 in favor of Mladost, and the Moscow score was 4:4. The opponent in the third final in a row was the Italian Pro Recco (Barcelona was eliminated in the semis). Mladost won in Belgrade by 5:3, and lost in Genoa 3:2. The next year (1970) Mladost came in second in the final tournament in Belgrade, having the same number of points as the leading Partizan, but with a lower goal differential. The club from Zagreb won its fourth Champions cup in 1971 when the final tournament was played in Hvar. The Frogs managed to defeat all their rivals, but the key proved to be the win against Pro Recco (4:2). After that famous generation of players fell apart, Mladost did not record its next success until 1975. As the finalist of the National Cup, Mladost participated in the Cup winners’ Cup and won (defeating all opponents in the final tourna-

Mladost in 1967 – Bonačić, Verži, Jonke, Hebel, Jeger and Žužej (standing); Stipanić and Z. Šimenc (sitting) Mladost players in Ljubljana, 1976, with the European Supercup trophy


Two Mladost goalkeepers, Zdravko Hebel (left) and Karlo Stipanić Mladost, 1955 > Mladost, Yugoslav champions in 1990

ment in Šibenik, the key win being the one against OSC from Budapest). Following that success, Mladost managed to get the better of its great rival Partizan 11:10 in the first European Super Cup played in Ljubljana. This marked a great success for the coach Zlatko Šimenc. The winning team players were: Hebel, Sedlar, Bonačić, Lopatny, Franjković, Galijaš, Bolfan, Hadžiskerlev, Pavljak, Polić and Poljak. In 1985, Ivo Marković, who came from the Sports Association Mladost, became the secretary of Mladost. The legendary secretary of the Frogs, who received “20 orders” from the then president, Celestin Sardelić, proved to be a valuable asset and soon became an indispensible wheel in the Sava water polo machine and some sort of icon. Celestin Sardelić performed exactly the same in his role as president. He became the creator of another great European Mladost, of a generation that was, at the end of eighties and the beginning of nineties, to become by far the best team in Europe, and consequently in the world. This successful period of the team from Zagreb came after the historical 1987 World Student Games when Zagreb was given a beautiful and functional roofed pool on the Sava. Also, in May 1987, Mladost gained what would later prove to be a valuable reinforcement. Perica Bukić transferred to Mladost from Solaris. There were also changes in the management, and the new operative director was the agile Vlado Kobešćak, a great water polo enthusiast, and later, after Croatia became independent, the first president of the CWF. Mladost started to achieve its first results in 1988. Under the guidance of the Slovak coach Ladislav Bottlik, they won the Mediterranean Cup in Athens, and then also the national cup, winning against POŠK from Split in the final. In the 1987/88 season, Mladost changed coaches three times. They started with Dragan Matutinović, but when he left for Spanish Montjuic (lured by an excellent financial incentive) in October, VLado Jeh became the new coach. After a good international start, Mladost suffered two defeats in Belgrade (particularly shocking was the defeat to Crvena Zvezda) so, Ladislav Bottlik, who was at the time the coach of the Czechoslovakia national team, was called in, and Jeh became his assistant.


Where the game is concerned, Mladost was significantly reinforced in the summer of 1987 by the transfers of Perica Bukić from Šibenik and Josip Vezjak from Jug. With goal keepers Lončarević and Slovenian Lašič and other players like Tomislav Paškvalin, Dubravko Šimenc, Damir Vincek, Miroslav Vlašić, Mladen Miškulin and Milorad Damjanić, the Frogs heralded the true renaissance of water polo in Zagreb. After being away from their city due to the lack of a pool, when they played their matches in Ljubljana, first league water polo returned to Zagreb on November 14th 1987. On that date Mladost scored a win against Jadran from Herceg Novi, 23:8 in the second round of the national championship. More than a thousand spectators watched the match in the new pool next to the River Sava, and the president of Mladost-Obuća, who was also the president of the Water Polo Federation of Yugoslavia, Celestin Sardelić pointed out: – I am thrilled that after long years of stagnation, I am here witnessing the restoration of water polo in Zagreb. Zagreb, Croatia and Yugoslavia, and especially the national team need Mladost to be strong. We must do everything in our power to turn the excellent conditions we inherited after the World Student Games into continuous action to develop water polo. We wish to bring the people of Zagreb back to the pool, to have the stands as crowded as they are tonight. Under a new coach, Duško Antunović, Mladost won two more national and European titles in the following two years and reached another Super-final (beating Pescara in two matches – 12:11 and 11:7). 1989 was the year when Mladost won its sole Yugoslav Cup. As if they knew that they would not get another chance at it. Mladost won every competition it entered that year. The return match in the Champions league final against Spandau from Berlin was particularly spectacular, after the Hungarian Vasas was eliminated with two semifinal wins. After losing the first game in Western Berlin by 10:9, Mladost played by the Sava on November 26th 1989 in front of almost 4,000 people, winning the trophy after extra time (9:8 and 11:9). Scoring 5 goals, Dubravko Šimenc may have played the match of his life.

In the second Champions Cup win (1990/91 season) Mladost bettered the Italian Canottieri in both games (CSK from Moscow, which had almost the entire national team of USSR playing, was eliminated by two wins in the semis). Mladost won against the Italian team in Zagreb by 10:7, and by 11:10 in Naples. The lineup for Mladost was: Popović, Miškulin, Šimenc, Vincek, Erjavec, Damjanić, Bukić, Vidumansky, Vezjak, Lašič, Rukavina, Filipović and Katić, and for the second Champions Cup the line-up was reinforced by Igor Milanović who transferred from Partizan. In the summer of 1991, while the war in Croatia was already beginning, a number of players from Mladost left to play abroad. Nevertheless, Mladost managed to win another international trophy in the autumn of that year (October 2nd to 6th) in a tournament in Izmir in Turkey. For the second time in history, Mladost won the COMEN or the Mediterranean Cup. The team from Zagreb defeated the Greek Glyfada by 4:3 in the finals, and that tournament will be remembered by the triumph of Antunovič’s Frogs, but also because this was the first official water polo tournament where the Croatian national flag was hoisted. Following that win, the team, reinforced by national team members, went on a promotional tour of California. The Croatian anthem was played and its flag hoisted at Stanford University. Together with greetings and tokens of support, the players returned to Croatia with a large quantity of medicine, a gift from Croatian expatriates. Soon afterwards, Duško Antunović became the first national team coach and Boško Lozica became the coach of Mladost. Under his guidance Mladost Auto Hrvatska became the first Croatian national champion by bettering Jadran Koteks in the finals with 2-1 in matches won. The third final match brought more than 3,000 people to the pool next to the Sava (Dražen Petrović among them). The Frogs won by 9:8 in extra time, after the match ended in a 7:7 draw after regular time. Mladost also won the Croatian cup with the following line-up: Lašič, Žagar, D. Kobešćak, Huljev, Bosnić, Štritof, Vincek, F. Antunović, Vegar, Bukić, Cimerman, Vezjak, V. Kobešćak and Rebić.

After that, the team was reinforced by the Ukrainian Andrei Bjelofastov and a new goal keeper Siniša Školneković. Apart from that, a new generation of players matured, led by Ratko Štritof, and Dario and Vjeko Kobešćak. Alongside Bukia, the Croatian athlete with most trophies won, with the reliable Vezjak, Vincek, Rebić and Vegar, Mladost went for its seventh European title in February 1993 in an all-Croatian final against Jadran Koteks. Mladost won the first game in Zagreb by 8:7. The entire Croatian political elite watched the game, led by the president of Croatia Dr. Franjo Tuđman, and the vice-president of the Croatian parliament Stipe Mesić. However, in the return match at Poljud on February 1993, in a match that was labeled the sporting event of the decade, Jadran won after extra time by 6:4, since the score after the regular time was 5:4. The interest for this game was so huge in Split that forged tickets appeared. What the team from Zagreb failed to do then, it managed to do three years later when they were renamed Mladost Hrvatska Lutrija. With Ozren Bonačić in the lead, the Frogs managed to win the continental cup in 1996 without a single defeat (2 wins against Barcelona in the semis), thus becoming the club with most European titles. Their opponent in the final was a strong team of Hungarians, Ujpest Torna. The majority of the work was already done in the first match in Budapest (March 23rd) with a 7:4 win. Great defense countered the Hungarian attack. Večernji list labeled the playing of the Frogs “atomic water polo”, and the report from the game was entitled “Bukić and Školneković give the Hungarians something to think about”. Školneković saved 12 out of 16 balls that were shot towards his goal, while Bukić scored 4 goals out of as many attempts, interrupted three home team attacks and passed the ball to his co-players excellently. A week later, the score in Zagreb was 6:6 which was enough for the seventh European star for the club from the Sava. That year, Mladost (for the third time in club history) won the European Super Cup, and the Croatian championships for the fifth time in a row, defeating Jug from Dubrovnik in the 2 final


games (10:7 in Zagreb, 9:9 in Dubrovnik). Their opponent in the European Super Cup was Roma. In an away game in Rome (April 20th), Mladost leveled the score at 8:8, and week later in Zagreb celebrated with 10:7 in front of their home crowd. The team line-up was: Školneković, Vrdoljak, D. Kobešćak, Huljev, Bosnić, Štritof, Jerković, Damjanić, Vegar, Bukić, Rogin, Ivaniš, V. Kobešćak, Vićan and P. Sardelić. The team from the Sava was the best Croatian team in the following 1997 too. To earn another championship title they defeated Jadran, led by Dragan Matutinović, by 9:6. Hence, Mladost won the first six Croatian championships, only to have that string interrupted in 1998 by Splitska banka (POŠK). Mladost played in another European final in 1997 (the second in a row), but were defeated by Posillipo 10:7 in the Final Four tournament in Naples (introduced for the first time that year). Prior to the final defeat, they defeated Bečej by 6:5 in the semis in a game full of tension. The club management, however, was not satisfied with this result, so Ozren Bonačić was relieved of his duties, and Božo Vuletić became the new coach. The following summer (5th – 6th of July 1998) Mladost (then named Mladost Hrvatska Lutrija) was the host of the European Final Four, but failed to turn that advantage into a new European crown. The Frogs lost to Pescara 4:2 in the semi-final which took place in the open pool. Mladost could not penetrate Pescara’s zone and even the superb performance of the goal keeper, Frano Vićan, who had 14 saves, could not help them. The crown went to the Italian Posillipo, and Mladost defeated the Russian Spartak Lukoil 19:11 to win third place. This failure resulted in another change of coaches, Božo Vuletić stepped down and Ozren Bonačić took back the mantle again. Bone was once again successful: in the 1998/99 season, Mladost again won the double crown in domestic competitions (the championship and the cup), but also the Cup winners’ cup. The trophy was practically in their hands already after the first final match on April 27th in Zagreb, with Olym-


piacos. Mladost achieved a high win of 13:4 in front of a home crowd of 3.000 people, making the rematch in Athens on May 11th 1999 a pure formality. This success was achieved by: Perčinić, Padovan, D. Kobešćak, Herceg, Vićan, Štritof, Vrbičić, Glavan, Primorac, Bukić, Varga, Rogin, V. Kobešćak and Šimenc. The following season, Mladost came second in the championships (second to Jug) and second in Europe. In the Final Four tournament in Bečej (26th to 27th of May 2000), where Mladost was joined by POŠK, the team from Zagreb defeated the Hungarian BVSC by 6:4, but were defeated in the final by the home team, cheered on by 4,000 spectators and trumpeters from Dragačevo, by 11:8. The club records hold a special place for 2001. That year, led by a new coach, Bruno Silić, the team won the LEN cup, completing their trophy cabinet. In the semis they achieved two wins against the Hungarian Vasas. The first came on Hungarian soil by 12:7, and the second was an 11:4 win (Štritof scored 5 goals), and in the finals they bettered Brescia. The first game was played in Zagreb and the score was a 9:6 win in Zagreb’s favor; in the return game, on April 7th in Brescia, they managed to defend their advantage with a minimal 8:7 defeat (Štritof and Bukić three goals each). The stands of the pool in Brescia, which can accommodate a maximum of 400 people, were crowded with twice as many people wanting to watch the match. Among the 50 fans of the Croatian team was Celestin Sardelić, the Croatian ambassador to Slovenia at the time, and of course, the former Mladost players, Tomislav Paškvalin and Dubravko Šimenc. Paškvalin, who played for Brescia a long number of years, received a special award from the club. The Frogs played with the following line-up: Vićan, Jakovac, D. Kobešćak, Perčinić, Komadina, Štritof, Vrbičić, Benić, Primorac, Bukić, Z. Varga, Rogin, V. Kobešćak and Barač. Goran Fiorentini Jovanović, Ikodinović, Gočanin and Mirko Vičević played for Brescia at the time, and their coach was Zoran Mustur.

< European champions in 1989, after defeating Spandau of Berlin in Zagreb Mladost at the last Yugoslav Championships, 1991 With the Croatian Cup trophy, December 2001

The trophy room on the Sava was then complete. It came as no surprise when Mladost received, in Budapest on November 1st 2003, the newly founded yearly award from the Association of European Water Polo Clubs (AWPC) – The Bela Komjadi Trophy. The award goes to the best and most successful European club, which thus made the greatest contribution to the popularization of this sport worldwide. During the first decade of the 21st century, Luka Miličić made a great contribution to the club management in what was a difficult period due to changes to sports financing. Miličić was the club president, a successful entrepreneur but, most of all, a water polo and Mladost enthusiast. He worked hand in hand with Professor Dr. Boris Labar, who was the president of the Health Committee of the Croatian Water Polo Federation for a number of years. Over the last few years, Mladost has not been as successful. Jug from Dubrovnik has taken primacy in the national championship, taking four titles in a row. Mladost managed to take the national titles in 2003 and 2008 (with Bonačić as the coach), and their last triumph was the win in the National Cup in 2005 (also with Bonačić as a coach). The third millennium started well with Bruno Silić. In the 2001/02 season, Mladost won the championship and the cup. However, due to illness, Silić had to back down (unfortunately, he later died prematurely on January 18th 2004), so the Frogs were again under the leadership of Bonačić in the 2002/03 season, when they won another national championship. In Europe, Mladost came in third – losing the semis to Pre Recco (the consequent winner) by 5:4 in the Final Four in Genoa (16th to 17th of May), even though they had a score of 4:4 and an extra player in offense 37 seconds before the end. Mladost defeated Spandau in the third place match by 6:5, but the club management labeled that result insufficient. Milorad Damjanić was the coach in the new season, but, just before the end of the championship, he was replaced by Dragan Matutinović, who led the team in the last three matches. However it was too late to do anything. In that season, the team that proved to be fatal for Mladost both in the national

Club name: Mlad ost Other names: Mlad ost Auto Hrvatsk a, Mladost Obuća, Mladost, Mladost Dukat CO Founded: 1946 Presidents: Borko Vranjican, Bogdan Srdar, Ratko Karlo Celestin Sardelić, vić, Vlado Kobešćak, Zdravko Čumbrek Družak, Ante Čičin , Tomislav Šain, Luka Miličić Club’s Hall of Fam e – coaches: dr. Ju raj Amšel, Aleksa Zlatko Šimenc, Vl ndar Seifert, ado Hrestak, Dušk o Antunović, Ozren Bruno Silić Bonačić, Club’s Hall of Fam e – players: Karlo Stipanić, Ozren Bo Zlatko Šimenc, Ivo načić, Trumbić, Zoran Ja nković, Miroslav Ronald Lopatny, To Po ljak, mislav Paškvalin, Perica Bukić, Dubr Šimenc, Vjekoslav avko Kobešćak, Ratko Štritof, Siniša Školn Frano Vićan, Dalib eković, or Perčinić, Zdeslav Vrdoljak, Teo Đoga Burić, Josip Pavić š, Damir , Igor Hinić The players with m ost trophies: Karlo Stipanić, Ozren Bo Zlatko Šimenc, Zd načić, ravko Hebel, Miro sla v Poljak, Ivo Trum Lopatny, Marijan bić , Ronald Žužej, Marijan Po zojević, Damir Vin Miškulin, Milorad ce k, Ml aden Damjanić, Mladen Erjavec, Dubravko Perica Bukić, Ratko Šim en c, Štritof, Dario Kobe šćak, Vjekoslav Ko The coaches with bešćak most trophies: Al eksandar Seifert, Antunović, Ozren Duško Bonačić Record season: 19 95/96. (European Champion, Croatia Champion, Croatia n n Cup and Europe an Supercup) Trophies: 7 Europe an Champion titles (1967, 1968, 1969, 1989, 1990 and 19 1971, 96), 2 Cup Winner s’ Cups (1975 and LEN Cup (2001), 3 19 99 ), 1 European Supercu ps (1975, 1989 and 2 Mediterranean 1996), cups (1988 and 19 91), 16 National Ch titles (1962, 1967, ampion 1969, 1971, 1989, 19 90, 1992, 1993, 19 1996, 1997, 1999, 94, 1995, 2002, 2003 and 20 08), 7 National Cu titles(1989, 1992, p Winner 1993, 1997, 1998, 20 02 and 2005), 5 Yu Winter titles (1960 goslav , 1961, 1962, 1964 and 1970)

championships and the Euro league (in quarterfinals) was Primorje from Rijeka. The total score between the team from Rijeka and Zagreb was devastating for the Frogs: Primorje – Mladost 5.5-0.5 (a draw and five losses). Nothing like this had ever happened to Mladost, nor had they ever been outplayed like this by any rival before. During the 2004/05 season, Neven Kovačević unsuccessfully tried to pull Mladost out of the quick sand, so on Christmas Eve 2004, the alarm bell was sounded and Ozren Bonačić was once again called to the rescue. Under his guidance, Mladost played in the play-off finals, but succumbed in the fifth game to Jug in Gruž. The title seemed within the Frogs’ grasp after they had won in Dubrovnik on May 9th by 11:8, taking a 2-1 lead (the first two matches were also won by the guest teams). Mladost completely dominated the third game, receiving applause even from Jug’s fans. – Well, I’ve lived to see this too. Being applauded in Dubrovnik! – said Ivo Marković, the secretary of Mladost. However, Mladost failed to make good use of their match points, neither the first one in Zagreb, nor the second one in Dubrovnik. The Frogs lost the match in Zagreb by 11:10, and the deciding match in Dubrovnik was on the brink of irregularity. The deafening noise of sirens made it impossible to hear the referees’ whistles. Coach Bonačić could not keep his players calm and the team lost 14:10. The following season, Bonačić led Mladost in winning the Croatian cup. In the final, which was played on December 22nd 2005 in Zagreb, Mladost defeated Jug by 11:9, ending the two year wait for a trophy. The championship went to Jug again, albeit after a neck and neck fight. The winner was decided in the last fifth game of the play-offs final, this time on the Sava with a score of 9:10, after Dubrovnik led the series by 2-0 and Zagreb leveled to 2-2. In the Euro League Mladost came in third in the group after Posillipo and Honved (who were beaten in Zagreb by 13:10). Later, in the 2006/07 season, Mladost once again tried with Veselin Đuho, but the attempt was once again unsuccessful,


so he was replaced by Damjanić in April 2007. Prior to that, Đuho was in the cup finals against Jug. After the Dubrovnik team inflicted one of the toughest home defeats on the Zagreb team by a 13:5 victory, Mladost had to settle for a bitter win of 10:9 in a return match on December 23rd 2006. Damjanić failed to win the trophy at his second attempt. Jug once again defeated Mladost in the play-off finals (3-2), even though once again Mladost had a 2-1 lead and match point in Zagreb. However, the fourth match was lost by 8:3, and Jug won the fifth match in Dubrovnik by 11:8. The next year, after the 7:6 defeat by Šibenik in Zagreb, in the first semi-final play-off match, on March 20th 2008, Damjanić was relieved of his duties, and Ozren Bonačić once again became the coach. Bonačič created a miracle and led Mladost to its tenth national championship. The Frogs already won their third game against Jug in the fourth match in Zagreb after five meter penalties (13:11). Pavić managed to save 5 meter shots from Joković and Marković, while Mladost players displayed more precision at the other goal, just like against Partizan in the Euro League quarterfinals (both matches, in Belgrade and Zagreb were drawn). The goals were scored by Vrdoljak, Antonijević, Karač and Franković. In the Euro League final tournament in Barcelona (9th and 10th May) the conditions were anything but regular. The play was in the open and rain complemented by a strong wind did not let up throughout. Unprepared for such conditions, Mladost suffered a 9:6 defeat to Pro Recco in the semifinal, and then again in the third place match by 8:6 to Vasas. The 2008/09 season marked the beginning of the Adriatic water polo league with teams from Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia. Mladost, led by coach Ozren Bonačić, was strong in this and all other competitions, but not excellent. There were no new trophies in the trophy cabinet. They played in the cup final, and for the fifth time in a row they came up against Jug. The Dubrovnik team hosted the final tournament and they knew how to make good use of the advantage. Mladost defeated Primorje by 16:8 in the semis


(December 19th 2008) and Jug bettered ŠIbenik by 12:5. In the final, two days later, Mladost lost to Jug 16:8 in front of 2,800 spectators at Gruž. The score however does not reflect the true power ratio in the pool. The score was the result of several referee errors which proved harmful for the Zagreb team. The moment when the referees made a crucial error which influenced the end score happened 25 seconds before the end of the second fourth, when a head-on collision between Frano Paškvalin and Nikša Dobud was settled by refereeing an ejection foul for Paškvalin; Jug received a 5 meter penalty shot and Mladost had a player deficit for four minutes. Angry with this kind of treatment, Mladost players refused to take their silver medals, which were left in Dubrovnik. Perica Bukić threatened that, in the future, the Cup final would be refereed by foreigners. Mladost came in fourth in the Adriatic League, three points behind Jug, which won. The two teams met again in the national championship play-offs. Jug led the final series by 2-0, and after that, the teams met in the third final game in Dubrovnik on May 30th 2009. The Frogs started the match very well with good counteroffensives, even leading at half time by 4:2, but in time, thanks to a very good Bošković, the home team scored a 10-7 win. – I was convinced we were going to win today, especially while we were in the lead. The opportunity was there but we made too many individual errors – said coach Bonačić, who was already on his way out if the club management had a say in it. The name of Bonačić’s successor, Emil Nikolić from Kotor, was already known during the European final four at Kantrida. It must have been hard for Bonačić to lead the team, knowing the fact that he was going to be rejected, but Mladost functioned pretty well in the semifinal against Primorac on May 22nd 2009. – Unfortunately, we weren’t good enough for the excellent team from Kotor tonight. We started the match badly, went down 2:0 and were forced to play catch-up with the Montenegrin team. Some refereeing decisions didn’t work in our favor

Joined hands – coach Silić and the Mladost players Winning the Croatian Cup, December 2005 The coach walks on water – Ozren Bonačić Firm block by Štritof, goalkeeper Vićan and Vrbičić Careful trophy collectors

and didn’t help us to level the match – said Bonačić at the time. In the second semifinal Pro Recco defeated Jug by 9:6, so instead of facing-off in the European final, Mladost and Jug Squared off in the third place match. Jug won by 14:13. The title of European champions unexpectedly went to Primorac from Kotor, who beat Pro Recco after extra time by 8:7 (7:7). In the new season, Mladost played under a new coach, Emil Nikolić, reaching and playing a neck and neck Cup final in Zadar (December 20th 2009). The Frogs bettered Primorje from Rijeka by 9:4 in the semis, while Gospari defeated Mornar by 18:10. In an exciting final in front of the full stands of the Višnjik pool, the Zagreb team, thanks to their great defense (Pavić had 15 saves, one 5 meter penalty among them) managed to be in the lead throughout the match. Four minutes before the end, the score was 10:8, however the Dubrovnik team managed to level the match, so extra time was to ensue. Following a major drama, and Jug coach Fatović’s ejection, the match was decided by Sando Sukno’s goal three seconds before the end

of the second extra time, marking the first lead by Jug in the match and a final score of 12:11 (10:10), which meant that Jug successfully defended the Cup title. – Everything but the playing of my players in the final was irregular. The conditions of play were irregular, and the referees failed to sanction that – said Nikolić after the match. The defeat in Zadar left a mark on the psyche and confidence of Mladost, and it took them a while to return to the play and results they had in the beginning of the season. However the Frogs succeeded again. By the end of the season, Mladost was playing better and better, ensuring a place in the final tournament of the Adriatic league in Dubrovnik, and pushing Jug to a fifth match in the national championship play-off finals. Mladost even had the chance to win the trophy in that final series, since on two occasions they narrowly lost matches already won in Dubrovnik. In the year of recession and the beginning of club recovery, Mladost played above all expectations. No one expected them to win trophies that year and they came an inch from it on two occasions. This only proves the old hypothesis – you should never write-off Mladost. It is still the “Olympus of the world water polo”.


VK Jadran The Cradle of Water Polo in Split Jadran, the oldest water polo club in Split, was founded in Baluni Bay. After having played water polo for pleasure, in the sea in Bačvice, Firule, in the city port, Fabjan Kaliterna brought the game rules from Prague. On the foundations of the “republic” of Baluni, in the west part of the port of Split, the first winning club in Split and Dalmatia started emerging. The constituent meeting of the Pomorsko športsko društvo Baluni took place in the Sokolski dom in the premises of the Olympic subcommittee on September 23rd 1920. The club’s foundation was initiated by the Paško brothers, Frano, Ivo, Oskar and Milan Bettini, Joško Miler, Danilo Majić, Petar Šerić, Ante Gabrić, Ante Raić, Gjerman Gjadrov, Bogumil Doležal, Fabjan Kaliterna, Rudi Bičanić and others. The first President was Frane Aljinović. The club opened its premises in Balun Bay on July 24th 1921. The building of the premises was funded through member donations. The pool was one hundred meters long and it stretched from north to south, with starting blocks and a turning point. Many decorated boats attended the opening and the premises were blessed by Father Ivo Delale. The first public water polo match after World War One was played on July 22nd 1922 in Split during the first Podsavezno swimming and water polo championships. The match between the Baluni and Firule teams ended with a 5:1 win for Baluni. The second national championships in Belgrade on August 6th 1922 were marked by success for the Split team. Baluni with the following line-up: Ante Pilić, Oskar Bettini, Hrvoje Macanović, Duško Žeželj, Milan Bettini, Nenad Ožanić and Danilo Majić came in second. Upon returning from the championships they played an international match with the team of the British ship Brionny. The victory went to the superior host team by 9:0.


Hrvoje Macanović, one of the first coaches of the club who introduced the players to the new style of swimming (free style) and water polo, also played in this period. In 1923, Baluni participated in an international water polo tournament in Zagreb, organized by HAŠK on Maksimir Lake, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their club. Baluni played their first official international match in the final of that tournament against Hakoah from Vienna. After 3:3 in regular time, the guest won by 5:3 after extra time. In the third national championships, which took place on 2nd and 3rd September 1923 in Sušak, Baluni won their first national championships. This success was achieved by: Ante Pilić, Andro Kuljiš, Mirko and Duško Žeželj, Ante Roje, Zlatko Mirković and Nenad Ožanić. In mid June 1924, Baluni changed its name to the Yugoslav sports club Jadran. The new president of the club was Pavao Britvić. In the state championships on 9th and 10th August 1924, Jadran came second. After their match against Victoria (2:2), Jadran appealed and, due to some irregularities, the match was annulled. However, Jadran refused to play again because they were not allowed to bring several new players into the team. On the night of April 18th 1925, the club premises vanished in a fire. Since the barrack was insured for the sum of 200,000 dinars, the club started building new premises in a cove where the sports marina of the Labud Sailing club is situated today. Despite the setbacks, in the beginning of September 1925, the national swimming and water polo championships took place in Jadran’s pool. During the match between Jadran and Jug, at a point where the Dubrovnik team had a 2:0 lead, the referee Malešević was tossed into the sea. The match was stopped and a new one was supposed to take place in Dubrovnik. However, the team from Split never went to play that game so the title went to Dubrovnik. In 1926, the financial situation in the club was so bad that neither swimmers nor water polo players participated in the national championship. Jadran merged with Triton from Firule

Jadran players in 1928

in mid April 1928. However, most members of Triton returned to their original club Firule, so this merger did nothing to strengthen Jadran. In 1929 national championship in Ljubljana, Jadran came in second. The team line-up was: Zlatko Mirković, Srećeko Čulić, Andro Kuljiš, Ante Roje, Zdravko Birimiša, Mirko Mirković and Kruno Bešker. They defeated Victoria by 6:1, ljubljansko Primorje by 14:0, Bob from Belgrade by 3:2, and lost to Jug by 3:0. One sports event from 1931 was long remembered by the people of Split. Initiated by a former Jadran swimming coach, Hungarian Nandos Nandor, a match between Jadran and the Hungarian B selection took place in August 1931. It was the first swimming and water polo match played during the night under the lights. The guest proved better by 4:2. The 1932 season kicked off with an important international match. Jadran hosted the famous Ferencvaros Torna Club from Budapest. The team from Split won one game by 3:2, and lost the second by 2:1. Jadran’s juniors won the national title in 1933. Coached by Zdravko Birimiša the team line-up was: Mihovilović, Zabukovšek, Pavičić, Cviličević, Čičin Šain and Marović. They defeated Jug by 4:2, Ilirija by 2:1 and Victorija by 4:1. The club met a financial disaster in 1934, so they didn’t participate in the national championship in Ljubljana. In the national championship in 1935 in Maribor, the following team participated: Miro Mihovilović, Filip Bonačić, Branko Petrone, Vojko Pavičić, Ivo Giovanelli, Krsto Pasinović and Niko Nonković. In the night between 20th and 21st of April 1935, the premises of the club burnt down again. It was decided that the new club premises will be built in the cove in neighboring Zvončac. During 1936, eight cabins were built, the pool was dug out, showers were installed, a wall towards the cemetery was erected, water pipes were placed and temporary stands were built too. In 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Miro Mihovilović, Filip Bonačić and Ivo Giovanelli participated as members of the Yugoslavian national team.

The seventh junior national championship took place in 1936 in Split, on the new pool in Zvončac. Giovanelli, Franceschi and Brajnović had a particularly distinguished role in winning another junior championship for Jadran. Jadran managed to end the domination of Dubrovnik in 1939 by winning another national championship. After the terrors of war, Jadran was restored as early as 1945. The team managed to win the national championship in the following three seasons – since 1946 until 1948. The first champions of Yugoslavia were: Mihovilović, Bakašun, Giovanelli, Katunarić, Majić, Brajnović, Bonačić, Radić, Štakula. Jadran won its fourth Yugoslavian championship in 1954. That year they were triumphant in both junior and senior competitions. Three years later, they repeated that success in both competitions. Jadran won its sixth national title in 1960. V. Duhović, Cipci, Trumbić, Nardelli, Šestanović, Ježina, Kaliterna, S. Duhović, Roje, Franceski and Rossi played for Jadran at that time. It was inconceivable then that Jadran will have to wait for its next national title for 31 years. Those were the “hungry years”, the imitation of life, during which they once even fell out of the first league. When in the beginning of the nineties Jadran regrouped again, when Cipci was joined by Mitrović, Bezmalinović, Šestanović and the rest of the crew in the management, Jadran saw the inflow of money. The existing player line-up of Posinkovi, Bratić, Kreković, Bezmalinović, Duhović, Savičević, Močan, Budimir, Nardelli, was reinforced by Kržić, A. Vasović, Vrbičić, Vičević. Coached by Neven Kovačević, Jadran managed to win the Yugoslavian championship in 1991. It was the last Yugoslavian championship where all Croatian clubs participated. The war that ensued meant the stagnation of Croatian sport. Jadran was the only active club in those first war years, so they reached an agreement with Mladost, bringing Perica Bukić and Dubravko Šimenc from Zagreb. Despite training and playing all the matches outside Croatia, Jadran became the European Champion.


The title was one in 1992 against Savona in Trieste which became Jadran’s home pool. Jadran played with the following line-up: Posinković, Bratić, Kreković, Močan, Šimenc, Duhović, Bukić, Nardelli, Budimir, Savičević, Vrbičić, Kržić, Bezmalinović, Vasović. Next year, Jadran defeated Mladost in the Croatian final of the Champions Cup and won the title for the second time. Ježina, Pavlović and Hungarian international player Doczy played instead of Bukić and Šimenc. The team was coached by Mišo Asić. Those were the years of celebration, pride and excellent water polo. Jadran’s wins all over Europe were the best possible manner of representation for Split and Croatia. They kept spreading the truth about the war in Croatia. They were the first Croatian ambassadors. It wasn’t easy to live under the “be the best” pressure. Two final games of LEN Cup in May 1998 marked the end of the “great European Jadran”. After a promising draw of 8:8 in Belgrade, Partizan defeated Jadran in Split by 3:1 in front of a huge crowd. Jadran’s wings were broken. However, the club from Zvončac remains great, like it always has been, and, we are certain, will always be.

Finishing the Zvončac pool Jadran in 1934 Jadran’s arena in the sea during the 1930’s > Jadran in the finals of the Winners’ Cup in Trieste Jadran, the only Split water polo club with two European Championship titles


Club name: Ja dran Other names: Baluni, Jadran Koteks, Jadran Deltron, Jadran Eurosplit, Jadr SD an Founded: Sept ember 23, 1920 Coaches of th e first team: H rvoje Macanov Janoš Halsz, M ić, Zdravko Birim iro Mihovilovi iša, ć, Imre Keress Vučetić, Zden i, Ante Roje, Rena ko Mihovilovi to ć, Iv o G io Gordan Hatze vanelli, Petar , Ante Senjanov Nadali, ić, Petar Didić Petar Selem, M , Ante Garoful itjan Bonačić, ić, Ivica Cipci, Dam Toni Petrić, Sini ir Čorić, Ivo Bu ša Vukičević, Vl čević, aho Asić, Neven Vuksanović, Vi Franceschi, Bo nko Lozina, Br ško un o Cvitan, Đuro Penović, Brun Cirković, Feđa o Silić, Maksim ilj an Jurić, Neven Ko Kovačević, An vačević, Joško te Bratić, Fran e Mitrović, Ivan Kasas, Dragan Milardović, Zo Matutinović, Si ltan niša Duhović, Jurčević, Marija Vojko Šegvić, n Smoje, Nikol M ate a Stamenić, Vi Dvornik, Mate nko Rossi, Din Jurčević, Mirs o ad Zajmović Presidents: Fr ane Aljinović, Leonid Franić Doležal, Josip , Pave Britvić, Čulić, Marin Le Bogumil mešić, Juraj Bu Zdravko Birim ble, Ante Gab niša, Alfred Br rić, aj no vić, Renato Vu Marko Čolak, četić, Mile Ivan Ivo Giovanelli čić, , Iv ic a Cipci, Toni Pavl Ježina, Niko Be ović, Dabiša zmalinović, D ar ko Še Milo Stanić, M stanović, Nikša islav Polić, Ro Giovanelli, ko Andričević The players w ith most trophi es: Mislav Bezm Posinković alinović, Renc o The coaches w ith most trophi es: Neven Kova Asić čević, Vlaho-M išo The player with most perform an ces: Radovan The coach with Miškov (324) the longest tr ack record: Zd seasons) ravko Birimiša (7 Club’s Hall of Fa me: Miro Mihov ilović, Veljko Ba Giovanelli, Mar kašun, Ivo ko Brainović, Iv ica Cipci, Toni Bezmalinović Nardelli, Misla , Niko Bezmal v inović, Frane M Šestanović itrović, Darko Record season : 1991. – Yugosl avian and Euro titles pean Champi on Record win: Ja dran – Polet 14 :0 in 19 Trophies: 9 Nat 54 ional Champion titles (1923, 19 1948, 1954, 1957 39, 1946, 1947 , 1960 and 1991 , ), 2 European (1991 and 1992 Champion title ) s


Club’s name: M ornar Other names: Mornar Adriaco lor, Mornar Br Founded:1949 odospas . Coaches: Božo Grkinić, Bruno Cvitan, Joško Franjković, Vink Bučan, Tomo o Rosić, Zvonim ir Kreković, Fe Dragan Matut đa Penović, inović, Pero Ba rtičević, Joke Čurković, Dav Kovačević, Mom or Troskot, Mic čilo a Zajmović, Vo Mihaljević, Mla jko Šegvić, Ozr den Hraste, Jo en šk o Kreković Presidents: M iljenko Tomić, Mihajlo Todoro Petar Mušikić vić, Benko Mat , Mladen Graka ulić, lić, Božo Žarkov Roko Huljev, Jo ić, Neško Dulov sip Bepo Kesić, ić, Bo že n Pivalica, Nik Stipe Despot, ola Krželj, Vinko Rosić, Iv o Nakić, Rena Peterlin, Vicko to Vučetić, Ivic Batinica a The players w ith most trophi es: Renco Posi Vrdoljak nković, Zdesla v The coach with most trophies : Bo žo Grkinić The player with most perform ances: Joško Ko seasons in the vačević (14 First League) Most goals: Zo ran Družeić (3 80 goals) Club’s Hall of Fa me: Božo Grkin ić, Lovro Rado Jani Barle, Zvon nić, Vinko Rosi imir Kreković, ć, Renato Vučetić Record season , Zdeslav Vrdo : 1961. – Cham lja k pi ons (14 10 3 1 46 Record win: O :24 22 points) ctober 14th 20 07 . M ornar Brodospa Uimart (Finland s – Turun ) 29:0 Trophies: 5 Nat ional Champion titles (1952, 19 1961), Cup win 53, 1955, 1956 ners’ cup (198 and 6) Middle-Euro pean cup won (1953)

> Deni Marinković (8) and Zoran Filipović (2) in front of the opponent’s goal Mornar’s first team in the Jadran pool in 1949 – Lovro Radonić, Božo Grkinić, Boris Škanata, Vlado Polić, Darko Šarenac, Božo Vuksanović (standing); Dinko Rizzi, Bruno Cvitan, Stjepo Duvnjak, Nikola Trojanović, Duško Pandur, Mišo Vidović (squatting) National champions in 1952 and 1953 – Grkinić, Duvnjak, Šarenac, Franjković, Štakula, Brajević, Cvitan (standing); Trojanović, Kos, K. Radonić, Vuksanović, L. Radonić and Vilović (squatting) National champions in 1961 – Jakov Matošić, Ante Matošić, Lovro Radonić, Vinko Rosić, Uglješa Čavlina, Jani Barle (standing); Zvonimir Kreković, Josip Jović, Miomir Ercegović (squatting) Celebration in Poljud in 1986, after winning the Cup Winners’ Cup

VK Mornar Predecessors of Professionalism Since the first day of the existence of water polo club Mornar, back in 1949, one question was often asked, “Were the players of Mornar predecessors of professionalism in Croatian water polo?” Truth be told, there weren’t any negative characteristics of professionalism (no manager) but the club did function under the patronage of naval forces and their start was forceful. In their first season, they played in the Second league and winning a tournament in Korčula, qualified for the First league (6 clubs). Since 1952 until 1961 they won five national championships. Those were the golden years for the club from Spinut in Split. The players who won these trophies during this period were: Šarenac, Grkinić (coach and player), Radonić, Štakula, Vuksanović, Franjković, Duvnjak, Cvitan, Škanata, Kos and Brajević. In 1952, Mornar was the winner of the first Middle-European cup played in Vienna. They won their last Yugoslavian championship in 1961 with more or less a new line-up, with old aces Radonić, Franjković, and young Rosić, Barle, brothers Jakov and Ante Matošić, Z. Kreković, Jović, Čavlina. The years of crisis were to follow and in 1980 Mornar even fell out of the first league. However, it would seem that precisely this degradation into a lower rank brought back the enthusiasm. Joke Kovačević, who was at the time playing for Jadran, returned to his original club and after a year in the Second league, Mornar returned to the First league, and it kept improving, not only on national, but also on the European scene... Their single European trophy, the Cup winners’ cup, came in 1986. In his coaching debut, Dragan Matutinović formed a young and very promising young team which almost proved to be the best team of national championship in their first season together. Apart from winning the European title, they narrowly lost the national championship. That was truly the golden year of Mornar whose ties to the Navy were not as strong as they used to be. Their sponsor was Adriacolor from Split, and that was the name under which they played in Europe. Matutinović played with the following team: Posinković, Filipović, N. Matošić, Zovko, Bezina, Katić, Šegvić, Marinković, Hraste, Trg, Katunarić, J. Kreković, Novaković, Bučan.


The Cup winners’ cup was, without any doubt, the greatest success of this club. The final in Barcelona was played against Catalunya with the end score of 4:4, and the revanche match in Split ended with a 6:4 score in Mornar’s favor. The interesting fact from this match is that the spare goal keeper in the Spanish team was Jesus Rollan, who will be the best Spanish and world goal keeper in the years to come. After a great celebration in Split, Mornar played the Super cup final in Zürich against the European champion Spandau 04. That match became a historic match in the records of world water polo. After a 7:2 lead for the Germans, the team from Split managed to turn the match around and take an 8:7 lead, only to lose 10:8 after the team from Berlin scored three consecutive goals in the finish of the match. It wasn’t a match for the faint-hearted. Unfortunately, the heart of Alfred Franjo Balen, Spandaua 04 coach from Zagreb, didn’t make it. Hot from the excitement, he jumped into the water to celebrate the new trophy with his players. That proved to be fatal because he suffered a heart attack and died in a hospital the following day. It is difficult to claim that the match in question turned the history of Mornar around, but the truth is that after that match the team dispersed. The first to leave the club was coach Matutinović who coached Mladost for a short while before moving to Spain where he coached several clubs and, for almost five years, the national team. The players moved too. Flipović and Katić transferred to Mladost, and the two most promising players, Posinković and Kreković to Jadran. The years that followed were difficult. Mornar turned into a club which forms young perspective players for other, richer clubs, so the new stars, Zdeslav Vrdoljak, Teo Đogaš, Danijel Burić, Slavko Letica, soon left the club. The newer history of Mornar brings forth a new name, but this time that name is not a coach or a player. It’s the club president, Vice Batinica, who has, with his Brodospas, been the chief sponsor of the club since 1995. The experienced entrepreneur is not too ambitious, he doesn’t crave for trophies. He regularly fulfills his financial promises made at the beginning of each year. He stays out of the coaching and expert matters. It is precisely because of good financial situation in the club, that Mornar Brodospas has been achieving solid results during the last few seasons. A new generation of players is emerging, some of which are already on the national team candidate list.


POŠK The Golden Zenta “It is our honor to inform the brethren club Jadran that we have founded the Swimming Youth Sports Club (or Plivački omladinski športski klub – POŠK) in Split.” With this letter the members of POŠK have announced the beginning of the work of the swimming and water polo association in Zenta, an area in Split, on April 11th, 1937. Truth be told, during the first years, the swimmers were more active. At the end of 1936 an initiative to legalize the club was put into motion. Individuals who put the initiative into action were Petar Šerić, Nenad Ožanić, Darko Prvan, Tonko Gazzari, Đuro Bjedov, Franko Katavić, Vice Viličić, Vinko Ružić... Initiative board for club constitution was founded, club rules were put together and a plan to build the club barrack and a pool was drawn. The assembly was opened by Petar Pjerin Šerić. He spoke of the water sports tradition on Bačvice and Firule. Đuro Bjedov, the father of the renowned swimmer Đurđica Bjedov, spoke of the activities of former clubs Firule and Triton. After accepting the club rules, Jerko Čulić was elected president and Petar Pjerin Šerić and Josip Košćina vice-presidents of the club. Frano Samardžić was elected secretary, Nenad Ožanić treasurer and Đuro Bjedov technical administrative clerk. The first board members of the club were Tonko Bibić, Toma Bradarić, Franko Katavić, Seka Kuzmanić, Bruno Mandić, Mate Palavršić, Žarko Radovčić and Ante Šarić. Water polo team played their first game on POŠK day, on July 23rd 1939. However, the real water polo activity commences after the World War 2, i.e. in 1952, when POŠK was restored. Three years afterwards, POŠK won the Croatian championship and earned the right to play in the Second federal league. Ivica Dabrović from Dubrovnik was the first coach of POŠK water polo team. Coaches on Zenta work with all age groups, and in 1957 the pioneer team wins the Croatian championship. Club’s crown success came in 1960. After five years in the Second league, POŠK beat Primorje from Rijeka to qualify for the First league. POŠK defeated the team form Rijeka which had the fa-


mous Ivica Jobo Curtini in its ranks, by 3:0, which meant that Split, along with Jadran and Mornar, got another first league team. This historical feat was achieved by: Šibenik, Jurišić, Čerina, Vukičević, Asić, Kesić and Bagat. Milivoj Bonačić was the coach. Next year, the team form Zenta leaves for its first international tour, to Eastern Germany. Great atmosphere came to a halt in 1964, when POŠK managed to avoid sliding down into the Second league by a last round win in Dubrovnik; however, they weren’t as lucky the following year. After five seasons in the first, POŠK was once again in the second league. But when the team qualified for the first league again in 1968; they soon became one of the water polo greats. Coach Vlaho Mišo Asić created a miracle, a master-piece on Zenta. The water polo expert created a team from neighborhood players. It was the “kids from the block” team. They were all born and lived in Zenta and Firule. If there had been enough money and expert good sense to reinforce the strong home team with two or three top players, POŠK would have been able to dominate any team in the world in the beginning of the 1980s; but they remained within their own limits. Nevertheless, POŠK’s golden generation with club legends Damir Polić, Milivoj Bebić, Deni Lušić, Ante Bratić and others managed to win two Yugoslavian cups. They had some great results in Europe in those years. They won the Cup winners’ cup in 1981 and 1983, but their international peak came when they won the Super cup final against the European champion Pro Recco, in a neutral pool in Barcelona. Guided by coaches Momčilo Čurković and Toni Petrić, POŠK played the final with the following line-up: Bratić, Lušić, Polić, Trumbić, Gabrilo, Bebić, Jovanović, Milardović, Kaurloto, Andrijić, Vegar, Živković, Jokić. They played, without any doubt, the most attractive water polo of their time and there are hundreds of reasons why these artists of the game never won the national championship. Everyone on Zenta has their own opinion on the matter, but all things considered, the guilty parties should be looked for within the club’s own ranks. POŠK won the national title as late as 1998. That marked the only national triumph of a team that now played under the name of its

POŠK team with the European Champions trophy and coach Matutinović and director Bebić 1983 Yugoslav Cup winners


Club name: PO ŠK Other club na mes: Brodomer kur, Slobodna Founded: 1937 Dalmacija, Sp litska banka Coaches: Ivica Dabrović, Stje pk o D uv Bonačić, Ivo Ju njak, Bruno Cv rišić, Siniša Vu itan, Milivoj kičević, Vlaho Momo Čurkov Mišo Asić, Nev ić, Toni Petrić, en Frančeski, Neven Kovače Rebić, Damir Po vić, Miro Trum lić, Dragan Mat bi ć, Mile utinović, Duško Živković, Ivan Antunović, Re Asić, Siniša Šk nato ol neković, Vinko Presidents: Je Rossi rko Čulić, Vink o Ru žić, Ilija Čolovi Mandić, Stanko ć, Hrvoje Čulić Ferić, Stjepko , Frane Bradarić, Ante Pero Čerina, Vi Krstulović, Miš nko Matijaca, o Čupić, D ar ko Šimunović, M Marić, Ante Bu iro Trumbić, Zv šić, Davor Barb onimir arić, Ivo Ferić, Knezović. Tonči Blagaić, Boško The player with most trophies : Deni Lušić The coaches w ith most trophi es: Dragan Mat Čurković utinović, Mom čilo The player with most perform an ces: Damir Po The coach with lić the longest tr ack record: Vlah Club’s Hall of Fa o Mišo Asić (14 me: Milivoj Be seasons) bić, Deni Lušić, Mandić Vlaho Mišo As ić, Frane Record Year: 19 99. – European Champion an Record win: 19 d Croatian Cu 77 Cup game PO p ŠK – KPK 39:1 Trophies: 1 Eu ropean Cham pi on title (1999), 2 Cu and 1983), 1 Eu p winners’ cups ropean Superc (1981 up (1983), 3 M (1985, 1986 an editerranean d 1987), 1 Croa Cup titles > At the reception in Split Town Hall tia n Ch ampion title (1 (1999) and 2 Yu 998), 1 Croatia goslavian Cups 1980 Yugoslav Cup winners n Cup (1980 and 1982 )

“Matuta’s boys” return to Split from Naples in 1999, Europe’s best Deni Lušić – a POŠK legend

sponsor Slobodna Dalmacija. This was the period of great water polo restoration on Zenta. After a 15 year wait, the time has again come for success and trophies. The club president Ante Bušić had the money and the know-how. First he formed an expert team. Milivoj Bebić became the sports director, Dragan Matutinović the coach. The team was reinforced by a group of top quality players: Dubravko Šimenc, Alen Bošković, Teo Đogaš, Samir Barač, Slovaci Roman Polačik and Aleksandar Nagy. Things took off to a great start. After winning the Croatian championship in spring of 1999 they achieved another magnif-


icent success in the Champions league Final Four tournament in Naples. It was a first class surprise and no one believed that they will defeat the strong team of Posillipo in the middle of Naples on Posillipo’s Scanone pool. POŠK brought out their best game and not only had they eliminated Posillipo, but they managed to defeat a very strong Bečej in the final. In their defense of the European throne, they came back even stronger. Although two heroes from Naples, the goal keeper Dragan Rebić and the top scorer Alen Bošković had left the club, POŠK was joined by Siniša Školneković, the best goal keeper at the time and excellent national team players Joško Kreković and

Zdeslav Vrdoljak. The first match of the Euro League Final Four in Bečej proved crucial not only for the outcome of the tournament, but it also had great impact on the end of the season in national championship and, unfortunately, the club’s future. Bečej simply had to win and the referee assistance proved to be the decisive factor. Barač’s goal that was annulled decided the match. The water was later stirred in the national championship final between POŠK and Jug; the team from Dubrovnik eventually won the gold and the team from Split didn’t show up for the medal ceremony.

That marked the beginning of the end for the great club from Zenta, because upon the team’s return from Dubrovnik, Splitska Banka cancelled the sponsor contract with the club and the president Davor Barbarić resigned. The years to come will prove to be even more difficult. POŠK suffered a great downfall and with the cash register empty, the players dispersed. It is a great shame if we consider what Zenta meant for Croatian swimming. Some of the Croatian greatest swimmers like Đurđica Bjedov, Duje Draganja, Milivoj Bebić, Deni Lušić started their careers on Zenta...


VK Primorje The Breeding-pool of Talent Primorje from Rijeka cannot boast of any post-war national champion titles, but it has had a long line of successes in the ranks of players and coaches that sprang from it. There is a long list of renowned coaches and players who have made it into the Olympic and World Championship finals, and won golden medals in the greatest of competitions. Among the club’s rises and falls, there are especially bad memories connected with the end of 1950s when the team from Rijeka dropped out of the elite national league. This lasted until the 1970s when Frane Nonković, the winner of a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics, returned the club as its coach into the First League. Player and coach, Nonković achieved this success with goal keepers Antonijo Batistella and Marijan Risek; and Josip Matejčić, Boris Koprivnikar, Miroslav Marasović, Ljubo Linšak, Edo Simčić, Dušan Viškanić, Igor Štrucelj, Marin Lovrović, Zvonko Brklajčić, Franjo Nikolov, Davor Miletić and Mladen Filipović. Stroke after stroke, Frane Nonković, kept improving the team year after year. Dejan Dabović, a 1968 Mexico Olympic

champion, was brought in, and the club began to achieve domestic and international success: to be more specific, the Cup winners’ cup final against MGU from Moscow (3:4)for instance. Three years later, Primorje celebrated winning a domestic trophy, the Yugoslav cup, bettering POŠK in Split in the final, after 4 meter penalty shoot outs. Marijan Risek, the goal keeper of Rijeka, saved three penalty shots and thus brought joy to his co-players Pučar, Morić, Dorošev, Matić, Dragojević, Mišković, Roje, Mustur, Ban, Prlje, Dapčić, Marinelli, Ernjak, Pelčić and Grgurić. The new swimming pool at Kantrida became the centre of domestic and international events, and in May 1979, the second part of the FINA Cup was played there. Another rise for Rijeka occurred in 1983 under the guidance of coach Dejan Dabović. The team was successful and they were one of the contenders for the national championship title. The success of Zoran Roje, Sergi Afrić, Ado Dorošev, Marijan Risek, Mladen Mišković, Gojko Dragojević and others was quite resonant. The stands of the Kantrida pool were well

The Primorje team in 1979, which won the national cup and second place in the Championships Water polo legends from Rijeka – Ćiro Kovačić and Jobo Curtini, fourth and fifth from left Rijeka players in front of the Vrata od Pila gate in Dubrovnik. 1940 > Temporary residence in Grčevo. 1971



Finalists of the 1976 Cup Winners’ Cup Coach Zoran Roje with the players With coach Nonković, Primorje was a hit in 2004 and 2005 both in the local and the international arena > Samir Barač

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filled and watching water polo matches before going out to Opatija became a ritual. The team, however, suffered a defeat at home in the deciding match against POŠK, one of only two in the season. They were basically eliminated by the superb Milivoj Bebić, who was perhaps the best player in the world at the time. That is when Primorje had to say goodbye to their national championship aspirations. The next year they managed to win the Mediterranean Cup. They were better than Lazio in the semifinal by 10:9, and they defeated Catalunya by 18:8 in the final. Roje was the final tournament MVP, Risek the best goal keeper and Afrić, with 21 goals, the top scorer of the tournament. Club lived through another rise after Croatian independence. Zoran Roje returned from Naples in 1993 and took over the coaching position which ensured a successful future. Damir Glavan, Igor Hinić and Samir Barač trained under the guidance of this water polo expert and developed into true aces. But the right move proved to be reinforcement with a water polo poet Josip Vezjak and Primorje marched to win the 1995 Croatian Cup. The final was marked by a face-off with Split and a drawn score of 11:11 on Kantrida in a wonderful atmosphere. However, the team from Rijeka was dominant in the return match and won against their great rival by 13:11. Petrić, Vezjak, V and D. Burburan, Šimac, Pejić, Vicić, Benić, Gović, Barač, Hinić, Glavan, Kaid and Vuković with the coach Roje

and director Damir Radonić were given a festive welcome at Kantrida. This team, joined by the Russian Sergei Jevstignjejev, was wonderful in the Cup Winners’ Cup the following season. They defeated Pescara in the quarterfinal (5:9 and 13:8 after extra time in Rijeka). They played Roma in the semis, defeating the Italians in Rijeka by 12:10, but losing in Rome by 14:11. This team celebrated another Mediterranean Cup in 1997, when they defeated Catania by 10:4 in the final in Israel. The new millennia brought a new generation and new successes. Roje became the coach of the national team in 2003, so his assistant Željko Tonković took over the team and started achieving success. In the Euro League, Rijeka managed to book a place in the Final Four in Budapest. They were defeated by the host Honved by 7:6 in the semi, but they managed to win third place by 9:7 after extra time, which was the club’s greatest international achievement. In the final of the national cup, Primorje played against Jug. The first game in Kupari was won by the host team by 12:11 after extra time, and the team from Dubrovnik also celebrated in front of the crowded stands of Kantrida with 12:5. D. Car, Bukovac, Sablić, Beltrame, Brala, Kancijanić, Gudić, Turina, Burić, Franković, Premuš, Tiškivski, Španjol, Roje, Alen Brala, B. Car, Krizman, Vrlić, Deželjin and Frajman were the tools in the hands of coach Željko Tonković in achieving probably the most successful season the club has ever had.


VK Šibenik Crnica of Golden Flare How to start the story of water polo in Šibenik? With a promotion match, played in 1924 against the team of the English battle-cruiser Stuart or with the wooden, improvised swimming pool on Paklen, where children willing to swim and play ball in the water were brought by small war ships until the 1950s? Was the gradual but constant development of what is today Šibenik Water polo Club brought about by the youth work campaign which speeded up the building of an open Olympic pool in Crnica or was it the benevolence of management of the Solaris hotel complex, who in 1971 allowed the water polo players to use their winter pool? It is worth mentioning here not only the local enthusiasts (Anton Baica, Mile Nakić, Bojan Krvavica, Danko Jerković), without whom none of the foundations would have been laid for the renowned water polo school of Šibenik, but also the Hungarian expert Egon Kiss, who had the audacity to push the talented 15-year olds Perica Bukić, Denis Šupa and Sandro Santini into the senior team... We probably would not have witnessed the latest European achievements of Šibenik if, at least informally, Bukić had not returned to his home club in the best possible manner, to help strengthen the team and to build a new, winter pool. For decades, all sports in Šibenik have been in the shadow of rowing and football. Krešimir’s city could not boast of the water polo tradition of Rijeka, Split and Dubrovnik, so it came as no surprise that the foundations of what is today a renowned European club were laid by Anton Baica from Dubrovnik and to a lesser degree by Toni Petrić and Feđa Penović from Split. That is why Šibenik was truly happy when their water polo team made it into the Second League, and they were crazy with joy when their team made it into the First league, 34 years ago. – The children of Šibenik are immensely talented in almost all sports, perhaps the most gifted children I have ever seen. They


just need expert coaching and the results will follow – Tonći Petrić said some ten years afterwards. The best argument for Petrić’s thesis was, without any doubt, Siniša Belamarić Cimpre, a multi-gifted athlete. He was an excellent handball and basketball player and backstroke swimmer, but in the end opted for water polo. He was however, quickly recognized for the talent he was by the experienced Vlaho Orlić Bata from Dubrovnik, and Cimpre soon moved to Partizan where he won a number of club and national team trophies. The more than attractive story from Crnica became a challenge to almost all Croatian experts. Further testimony to this is the fact that as many as five national team coaches were also working as coaches in Šibenik at one time (Nakić, Seifert, Matutinović, Kovačević, Đuho). Mile Nakić from Šibenik is probably one of the rare professionals who have been coaches of national teams in four different countries (Yugoslavia, Greece, Iran, and Slovakia). Nakić was the crucial figure for the first, serious results of the water polo school, when several young men from Šibenik made it to the junior national team: Pavić, Krstačić, Đurđević, Lončar... That team was coached by the late Trifun Miro Ćirković, an expert from Kotor, and Milivoj Bebić, who was later to become the best player in the world, was also a part of that team. Nakić guided the slow but steady growth of water polo in Šibenik. Veterans from Split: Vinko Rosić, Ante Matošić, Pero Jakaša and Vjekoslav Duhović, also made their contribution in the water, and so did some from Zagreb. One worth mentioning is Darko Gojanović, who was from Zagreb but his roots were in Šibenik. Their goals and passes became a part of the promotion of Šibenik into the first league, a promotion also based on domestic forces (Renje, Juraga, Baica, Terzanović, Ninić, Šare). Solaris from Šibenik was not only known for their mercurial competitive rise, but also for the great interest shown by spectators. Important second league matches, like the derby with Triglav from Kranj, were watched from crowded stands. It was a time when the number of indoor pools in the country was smaller than the sum of fingers on both hands. It was no

ik VK Šibenik Solaris, Šiben Club name: ar, Šibenik, rn o M : es Other nam NCP 53. ton Baica. Founded: 19 Krvavica, An an d g o B : ents Club presid te Nakić, ni Petrić, An To : es dar Seifert, h Coac ović, Aleksan rk Je ić, ko an Milivoj Beb Egon Kiss, D atutinović, M an g ra D k , Tuca Grgo Renje Đuho, Ivica ević, Veselin Siniša s: ce an Neven Kovač ost perform m h it w Ante rs The playe Vinko Rosić, ko Karković, at R Dejan , , ić ić ar Belam av Duhov kaš, Vjekosl Ja ro z Pe ei R ć, , ši je Mato Grgo Ren mir Juraga, ndro o it Sa V , ć, ić vi ov Pa Dab r, Robert ča n Lo ć, an g ra , Perica Buki Đurđević, D ica Ševerdija Iv e, p Šu ja is ri And Santini, Den k, Edi Brkić, ić, Ivica Tuca valin šk Pa an Renato Vrbič Perčinić, Fr r o ib al D a, Komadin

< The Solaris team, with coach Nakić, entered the First Division in 1976 Šibenik, 1984 – Aleksandar Seifert (coach), Roko Akrap, Zoran Radovčić, Denis Šupe, Reiz Đurđević, Denis Seferović, Grgo Renje, Bojan Krvavica (director), Dragan Lončar (standing) ; Davor Popović, Perica Bukić, Željko Sladić, Sandro Santini, Siniša Belamarić, Saša Santini (squatting) > Šibenik, 1985/86 – Ademir Bura, Dragan Lončar, Roko Akrap, Blaž Krnić, Perica Bukić, Zoran Radovčić, Jadran Ljuba, Reiz Đurđević, Grgo Renje (coach) (standing); Željko Sladić, Denis Šupe, Ivica Ševerdija, Konjevoda, Nikica Gulin (squatting)

surprise that the city of Šibenik and the Solaris hotel complex were like a small water polo fortress. It is also worth noting, that Mladost from Zagreb and the once brilliant KPK from Korčula came into possession of some of their European titles as hosts in the waters of Šibenik. Šibenik did not become accustomed to the first league company right away. From time to time the club moved from first to second league and vice-versa and spent most of the time in the bottom half of the first league ranking. At the beginning of the 1980s, Solaris transformed from the first league outsider into a member of that high society. The matches in the open-air pool at Crnica were watched by up to 3,000 people. It was a period when sport in Šibenik flourished and when three immense talents of international value came of age: Dražen Petrović, Danira Nakić and Perica Bukić. However, Bukić was not alone in Solaris when it came to water polo skills. He was joined by Sandro Santini, Denis Šupe, Ivica Ševerdija in a team led by the young coach Grgo Renje and who knows if the favoured and powerful Partizan would have made it in the 1984 national championship race with Solaris if YWF had not intervened and forbidden the registration of the goal keeper from Zagreb, Zoran Bajić for Solaris!? Perica Bukić left his home club and city without winning the senior national title, but with a gold Olympic medal from the Los Angeles Olympics, while he was still a member of Solaris. However, the real hardship was yet to come in the form of war! Who in their right mind would take the kids to practice during air raids which, in Šibenik, went on for almost thousand days! There was a dilemma at Crnica whether to continue in almost impossible conditions or to suspend all activity for the time being. Luckily, Edi Baica, the war-time president, and his associates did not opt for the worse option. A small bus drove the seniors and the children to neighbouring Split almost every day. Almost all first league members opened their pools to Šibenik, thus enabling them not only to continue, but also causing their revival. In 1999 Šibenik made Europe tremble for the first time. At the time, only pure luck saved the great Szeged (Fodor,

Molnar, and Steinmetz) in their collision with Solaris. Just like when the battle was fought with Partizan, Grgo Renje was the team’s coach. And in the water, Šibenik was represented by a good combination of experienced players who had returned to the club (Vrbičić, Tucak, Šupe) and talented youths (Perčinić, Komadina, Brkić). Even more impressive was Šibenik’s second European outing when the 2007 LEN Cup trophy was simply snatched from their hands in the final against the Russian Sintez from Kazan. It was a strong show not only for Šibenik but also for Croatia, and Ivan Sukno from Dubrovnik and Fran Paškvalin from Zagreb, both talented youths, were supposed to take part in the triumph of Šibenik that was not to be. However, their experience in the waters of Šibenik was the best recommendation for their return to Jug and Mladost. The talented team of coach Ivana Tucka complicated the 2007/08 Croatian championships. At the time when Šibenik was labeled as an “affiliate of Mladost” and when the help of Perica Bukić was maliciously misinterpreted, Šibenik defeated the Frogs in the play-offs semifinal in Zagreb. However, they had no strength for another strong match, so Mladost resurrected when no one was expecting it. But all compliments to the team from Šibenik. “We are lucky that Šibenik has developed within Croatian water polo. We finally have a third club in the stale race between Jug and Mladost”, Goran Sukno was brutally honest. In short, if there were no Šibenik in Croatian water polo, one would have to invent it, not only for the sake of the club itself and a number of its great players, but also its officials and referees (Bukić, Klisović, Štampalija), its supporters who fanatically fill the stands at Crnica, its water polo school which brings together more than 200 boys and young men, its base, making the league matches an unavoidable part of sporting tourist postcards, the “Bodulska pripetavanja”, an event where the islands Krapanj, Žirje, Kaprije, Prvić and Zlarin compete in water polo matches and because of everything that gives Crnica its additional golden flare.


> Medveščak – hotbed of young talent

VK Medveščak The Only Second League National Champion This is a club from Zagreb that will always be in the eternal shadow of its more successful “water brother” Mladost. But Medveščak is a club with its own history, tradition, good moments, great players and particularly great coaches. It is true that this club had its activities suspended for more than a decade, but without it, Croatian water polo would be incomplete. It is a club that throughout its entire history, and particularly the last two decades, has been working with children from the Zagreb pool, making it a markedly Zagreb club. Medveščak, has its stronghold, a sort of a safe haven, on Šalata, a little hill in the very centre of the Croatian capital, a little above the cathedral. Water polo was played there immediately after World War II in 1946, within the swimming section of Slavija sport club, which was renamed Dinamo that same summer. The instigator of water polo on Šalata and the father of Medveščak was Mirko Mirković; once a national team player, he became the club coach, player and secretary. He had things going his way because that same year works began to build an Olympic pool on Šalata. The pool was opened just a year later, in 1947. From 1948 the club was named Naprijed, and from 1949 they competed in the second league. At the beginning of the 1950s, two players who will leave a mark on the history of international water polo emerged from the club. Their names were Aleksandar Coša Seifert and Alfred Balen. They both started in Medveščak and ended up creating


Club name: Medv eščak Other names: Sla vija, Dinamo, Napr ijed Founded: 1946 Coaches of the fir st team: Mirko M irković, Aleksandar Seife rt, Alfred Balen, Pr edrag Medvedić, Jakov Matošić, Juraj Am šel, Vlado Hrestak, Mladen Kuštrak, Zoran Cu riš, Ozren Bonačić, Davorin Golubić, Tino Vega r, Ivan Asić Presidents: Slavk o Srića, Ante Luče v, Dušan Arneri, Vlado Lonč arić, Ivica Brezović, Zlatko Uzelac, Hrvoje Pe trović, Mijo Rilje, Niko Vikić, Viki Glovacky, Davor Do konal, Borivoj Seve r, Maro Peričić, Ljubo Bušić , Stjepan Brolich, Tomislav Buterin, Tomislav Paškvalin, Petar Se lem The coach with th e longest track re co rd: Vlado Hrestak (11 season s) Club’s Hall of Fam e: Aleksandar Seife rt, Alfred Balen, Ivo Puharić , Miško Mišić, Zdra vko Hebel, Ronald Lopatny, Bruno Spiz, Dušk o Baždar, Zoran Curiš Record season: 19 65/66. (Winter ch ampionship title and qualifying for the First Leag ue) Trophies: 1 Yugosla v winter champion ship title (1966)

and coaching European giants in other clubs. Seifert created a name for himself in Mladost (4 European Champion titles), and Balen in Spandau from Berlin (2 European Champion titles and 8 German national champion titles). This team, together with Ivo Puharić, Dubravk Ježina, Miško Mišić and others, qualified for the first national league for the first time in 1951. They remained there until 1953 when they dropped out due to an administrative decision, even though they finished the season ranked 6th out of 8 first league teams. It was to take another 13 years for them to return to the first league, during which time several interesting names appeared in the team. Miro Ungar, who was later to become a wellknown singer, played at Šalata during the mid 1950s, as did the Olympic champions Ronald Lopatny and Zdravko Hebel. 1961 was an important year in the history of the club which was still playing in the second league, but it changed its name to Medveščak. Another historical moment came five years later. Not even the keenest water polo fans know that this club has one National Champion title. In 1966 the Bears won the Yugoslav winter championships, as a second league team in competition against the much stronger Mladost, Partizan, Jug and clubs from Split! Medveščak is the only second league team to win the winter championships. That same year Medveščak returned to the first league, and all these successes were achieved, under the guidance of coach Coše Seifert, by the following team: Ante Matošić, Božidar Pavešić, Darko Gojanović, Eduard Lutilsky, Osvit Dvoržak, Ronald Lopatny, Daslav Hranuelli, Vojko Mikac, Aleksandar Černi, Ranko Borić and Dražen Katunarić. Medveščak was to remain in the first league until 1968 and make an express return in the following year, only to drop out

again and return again in 1972. The third exit from the first league was fatal. Due to growing financial problems and player dissipation (most transferred to Mladost), the club ceased its activities. This was to go on until November 11th 1984 when a few Mladost players, led by Marijan Šteković, Davor Dokonalo, Bruno Spiz and Fran Gavranović, restored the activities of Medveščak with a Founding Assembly. They played in the second league from 1986, and a year later they had their pool reconstructed due to the World Student Games. In 1988, Medveščak hosted the international cadet tournament, Mali Medo, for the first time, a tournament which, in time, became the most prestigious tournament in the world in that age category. The senior team returned to the first federal league in 1989, prior to the break-up of Yugoslavia. After Croatia achieved independence, Medveščak became a first league teams, a status they have not lost until this day. The Bears have never reached the very top in the senior competition, but the club is renowned for its exceptional work with younger categories, who manage to win the national championships or the cup almost every year. Some of the great players who have played in the national team such as Vedran Jerković, Tomislav Rogin, Hrvoje Šintić, Marko Dragčević, Ivan Kucarov, Hrvoje Brlečić, brothers Borna and Hrvoje Hrestak, Marko Pintarić, Vlatko Večkovec, Dalibor Subota, Žarko Župan, Alan Bojić, Domagoj Čule, Luka Kolar, Mateo Ćuk, Franko Geratović, Petar Juraj Selem learned their skills in the club from Šalata... In 2004 Medveščak moved to Novi Zagreb, to a new pool in Utrine. However, the soul and heart of the Bears remained in their original stronghold at Šalata.


KPK The Smallest Place with a European Trophy The beginning of water polo in Korčula dates back to 1926. The students from Korčula who attended schools in Dubrovnik (Dušan Arneri, Rafo Ivančević, Jozo i Milo Fazinić, Stjepo Marinović and Mladen Foretić) were the pioneers of water polo in Korčula. At first water polo was just one of the games played during the summer break, but its beauty started to attract a growing number of young men in the city’s swimming areas Banje, under Zakrjan, Sveti Nikola, in Strečica. In 1930 the approach to water polo became more serious. The first matches were played with neighbouring teams or teams of battle-ship crews that arrived in Korčula. A president was also elected. He was Svetko Tedeschi Santov and 1930 is considered the birth year of Korčula Swimming Club. It was given its official name seven years later, in 1937, when the Founding Assembly took place and the club was registered according to the valid legal provisions of that time. In the period between 1930 and 1937, the club archives note matches against the Vila Velebita team (a school ship of the Nautical school from Dubrovnik), Orebić Swimming Club, a Royal Navy team, from the submarine flotilla of H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, Royal Navy, Domagojci Swimming Club, Makarska Swimming Club… In 1934 KPK had its first away match against Jadran in Split, and in 1935 played its first night match against Ilirija in Korčula. In 1940 KPK won the water polo and swimming competitions of Splitski podsavez in Jelsa on Hvar, which marked the club’s first success in any official competition. During World War II, sports activities were naturally halted. KPK members Dinko Rizzi and Toni Filippi played for the national team of Yugoslavia in Rome in 1944.


g Club) čula Swimmin ivački klub (Kor pl i sk an ul rč Club’s name: Ko – KPK , Marinko Bojić lice Tedeschi, Founded: 1930 Fe ri, ne Ar ko a me: Goj vić, Peric Club’s Hall of Fa Duško Antuno an Trifunović, od ob ić, Žarko Sl , ov ca ar zi M Boško Lo Veršić, Uroš t bi le Ve Tomić ć, ni Rado ević, Milovan Richter, Perica , Nebojša Jerič ca zi Lo an o Iv pe , ro ca Lozi rs and Eu Lozica, Bojan slav cup winne go Yu – 9 /7 78 19 : Record season p (1978) Cup ’ rs ne in W p Winners’ Cu p Cu (1978) and 1 Cu p Cu l na io at Trophies: 1 N

In 1948 KPK ended the season as fifth in the second league. They were third in the following season and second in 1950. They repeated this success in 1952 when they played with Naprijed from Zagreb to join the higher rankings of national water polo. They failed to win then, but a year later they managed to qualify for the first league for the first time in history. This success was achieved by: Stanko Baždarić, Krešo Petrović, Kristo Radonić, Branko Milat, Gojko Arneri, Livio Ballarin, Mato Maglov, Robert Tomović and Gojko Arneri. In 1954 KPK managed to keep its first league status and Gojko Arneri, Lovro Radonić and Tomislav Franjković played for the national team. In 1955 KPK slid out of the first league and played in the second league in 1958, only to go back up into the first league in 1959. They were to drop out (1960) and return again(1961)in the following years. After being knocked out of the first league in 1962 after a nail-biting match against Partizan, KPK remained in the second league until 1973. Names which regularly appeared in team sheets during those years were: Gojko Arneri, Branko Milat, Livio Ballarin, Mato Maglov, Robert Tomović, Ivo Jeričević, Žak Montina, Martin Šegedin, Felice Tedeschi, Egon Padovan, Žele Milat, Nikica Ivančević, Krešo Petrović, Darko Lozica, Svemir Vilović, Miće Drušković, Žele Sessa, Andro Depolo, Pere Šegedin, Želimir Sardelić, Joško Padovan, Frano Srhoj, Ante Milat... At the end of the 1950s and the beginning of 1960s, KPK’s best players left for stronger teams. The only one to remain stubbornly in Korčula, in strong belief in the recovery of top quality water polo in Korčula, was the famous Gojko Arneri, a former national team player, and a sports and general role model to every young man in Korčula. Even though he lived in Zagreb after graduating from University, he returned to Korčula each summer, playing until 1973 when he was the

< Joint photograph of KPK and Split’s Jadran, 1937 Winners of the Cup of former Yugoslavia, 1978 Winners of the 1979 Cup Winners’ Cup with coach Antunović

captain of the team that managed to return to the first federal league. He was joined in that 1973 by Felice Tedeschi, who had concluded a successful playing career in Partizan from Belgrade and returned to Korčula that year, and by Bojan, Žarko, Ivo, Boško and Jugo Lozica, Mlađan Božović, Klaudio Bojić, Antun Komparak, Jakša Nadilo and Marinko Vilović. Boško Lozica is one of the crucial players of the national team and was, in 1975, the best goal scorer and player in the first league. A year later, KPK finished the championship in third place. In 1977, Duško Antunović, after concluding a successful playing career in Partizan from Belgrade, returned to Korčula, and despite not having a day of coaching experience, took over the club and led it to another third place finish. The following year, 1978, was the year of the city’s greatest sporting success. Korčula swimming club won the Yugoslav Cup, finishing the year as the second club in the first league (with one point less than the champion Partizan) and won the Cup Winners’ Cup in Europe. This success was achieved with 10 players raised in the club, and only two reinforcements, Uroš Marović and Milovan Tomić, from Split. The whole of Europe wrote about the winner of a European trophy from a city with less than 2,500 people. The Yugoslav cup was won in the final tournament in Šibenik, beating Kotor, Mladost from Zagreb, and Jadran from Herceg Novi. “The Golden Caps” from KPK were: the brothers Boško, Žarko, Bojan and Ivo Lozica, Slobodan Trifunović, Marinko Bojić, Nebojša Jeričević, Perica Radonić, Perica Richter, Uroš Marović, Milovan Tomić and Velebit Veršić. The club coach was Dušan Antunović, and the club president, Dušan Kalogjera. KPK won the Cup Winners’ Cup in a final tournament in Kupari in 1979. The team from Korčula came first with two

wins and one defeat. They bettered Canottieri from Naples by 8:5, Rotte Erde from German Hamma by 14:6, and they lost to the Hungarian Ferencvarosa by 10:8, but this defeat did not cost them the European trophy, which was won by the coach Duško Antunović and the following players: Slobodan Bobo Trifunović, Uroš Marović, Velebit Veršić, Milovan Tomić, Nebojša Jeričević, Žarko Lozica, Marinko Bojić, Perica Radonić, Boško Lozica, Perica Richter and Bojan Lozica. Soon after this great success and a huge celebration in Korčula, KPK lost the Super Cup match to the European champions, the Hungarian OSC. Unfortunately, KPK did not have adequate conditions to be active throughout the year (an indoor pool). Several attempts to build an indoor pool failed. Apart from that, the club was unable to keep its best players and after the successes of the incredible 1978 season, the club began to slide. A rejuvenated KPK team managed to end the 1979 season in eighth place. Each new season from then on meant a struggle to remain in the first league, until finally, in 1984, after 11 seasons in the first league; the team dropped down into the second league. The team managed to return to the first league, however, that was their last season in that rank. As the championship was not played in the summer from 1986, KPK decided to withdraw from participation in the first league. That same year they won first place in the second league, but they did not participate in the first league qualifications. After the war, in the age of Croatian independence, KPK is a member of the southern division of the second national league (for a time the united second league) where it has been playing right up until the present day.





Adriatic Mermaids – Women’s Water Polo in Croatia Unlike the men’s world, the history of women’s water polo in Croatia is significantly more modest and shorter. While the first Croatian men with a ball in the water appeared at the beginning of the 20th century, ladies appeared much later. The first female water polo team was founded back in 1981 in Betina on the island of Murter. One year later, Betina women were without rivals, hence without any matches, only to have FWC Vela Luka founded in 1982. Immediately, the two initial female water polo matches in Croatia were played. The Vela Luka women were better, winning in the home match 24:4, but also away in Betina, 16:3. In period from 1987 to 1990, there were all together four female water polo clubs in Croatia: Vela Luka, Jadran-Koteks (Split), Mladost (Zagreb) and FWC Kvarner Express (Opatija). The first official Croatian championship was played In the summer of 1988, with the only participants being Jadran Koteks and Kvarner Express. Then, as well as in the following year, the Split women were victorious. However, the winners of the historic official championship of the independent Republic of Croatia in 1990 were the women water polo players of FWC Kvarner Express. The war, however, extinguished all water polo activity in Croatia for more than 10 years. This was the situation until the first national cup for women was organized in February 2001, in the swimming pool of the Solaris Hotel in Šibenik. Beside Aurum Osiguranje from Zagreb and Gusar from Sveti Filip i Jakov, Splitska banka (POŠK) came with two teams. In the finals, the first team of women from Split beat the Zagreb team 15:9. In July of the same year, in a tournament in Sveti Filip i Jakov, Splitska banka gained its first title of state champions, competing with local Gusar, Aurum Osiguranje and Kaštela. On that 14 July 2001, the first title of Croatian champions was again won by the Split team, which was to reign undisputed over Croatian women’s water polo in that first decade.


Mladost – 2010 Croatian Champions Croatian women’s water polo national team, 2004 > Split’s Bura – Croatian Champions in 2001, with coach Nikša Savin




In 2004, the Split water polo players separated from POŠK and founded FWC Bura. Under Marjan Hill, in those initial years, there was a concentration of quality, but there would not be any competition and consequently no story of women’s water polo without Aurum Osiguranje (later Zagreb), Victorija of Šibenik, Gusar, Primorje of Rijeka, Jug of Dubrovnik, Istrijanka of Pula, Kaštela, Delfin of Rovinj... The first match of the Croatian women’s water polo national team took place in Split, on 6th July 2002. In a friendly match Croatia beat Slovenia 8:3, and in that historic, premier appearance, the Croatian team consisted of: Maja Tešija, Mia Budišin, Marija Serdar, Maja Duduković, Dana Radosavljević, Sani Lemac, Anamarija Reić Kranjac 1, Borka Širola 4, Iva Volčanšek, kapetanica Ivana Primorac 1, Jelena Šarić 2, Žana Ukić, Nina Kozulić and Nataša Anđelić, with the first national coach, Nikša Savin. In August 2007, for the first time the CWA entered the junior water polo team in the European Championships in Greece. The appearance of the Adriatic mermaids - the Croatian women water polo players - in the European senior championship in Zagreb in 2010 was the absolute crown of the female water polo in Croatia.


< Zagreb’s women’s water polo players – winners of the Croatian Cup in 2003, with coach Duško Baždar > Croatian women’s water polo national team, 2010 Croatian women’s water polo has been developing year by year


Croatian Quartet in the Hall of Fame

Since 1965, the American town Fort Lauderdale in Florida has been the home of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a body accepted as an important institution honoring the greatest of the greatest, even by FINA, the International Swimming Federation. In the Hall of Fame, a sort of a Pantheon of undying stars of aquatic sports, in the category of water polo Croatia alone has four notables. How great that number really is, it is sufficient to say that in comparison, our Italian neighbours across the Adriatic, territorially significantly larger, have five water polo players in Fort Lauderdale. Russia and Spain have only one each (Sharonov and Estiarte)... A particular advancement or increase of Croatians has been recorded in the first decade of the 21st century. The first to walk the water polo aisle of fame in the Floridian sun was:


< Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić leaving his handprints and footprints in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, 30th April 1984 Ratko Rudić’s CWF trophy for his induction into the Hall of Fame Ratko Rudić, Bruce Wigo and Manuel Estiarte Ratko Rudić, Perica Bukić and Bruce Wigo

Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić – 1984

Perica Bukić – 2008

The legendary Rijeka goalie, born in Šibenik, is the first athlete in general from the former south Slavic country who was accepted into this Hall of Fame. He was considered the best goalie in the world in the 1950’s. Moreover, he was officially declared the best at the European Championship of 1950 and 1954, as well as at the Olympic Games of 1952 in Helsinki and in Melbourne in 1956.

One year later. After the teacher (Rudić) comes the pupil (Bukić). That is how they have been accepted into the Hall of Fame. Moreover, exceptionally Perica Bukić accepted this honor on European soil, in Spanish Malaga on the occasion of the European Championships. Exactly 40 “large” senior trophies, titles make him the most trophied water polo player in the world. It will be very difficult, if not impossible to get even close to that.

Ratko Rudić – 2007 297 matches alone, played for the national team, would be sufficient for him to take a bow. But, he earned the honor of being accepted to the Hall of Fame primarily as a brilliant strategist. The first coach in the world of sport to win three consecutive Olympic finals, the first to win a medal in four consecutive Olympic Games, the first to win the water polo Grand Slam (Olympic Games, World Championship, European Championship and FINA Cup, one after the other).

Zdravko Ježić – 2010 A unique name in the history of Croatian water polo. From 1950 to 1960, he did not miss a single match in 113 matches by the national team, winning two Olympic silvers in that period. He played in over 400 matches for his home club and he was a captain of the club from Sava (1952-1962).


Laureats OLYMPIC GAMES 1900 Paris, France

1. Great Britain (Manchester), 2. Belgium (Bruxelles), 3. France (Paris/Lille)

1904 St. Louis, USA

1. USA (New York), 2. USA (Chicago), 3. USA (Missouri)

1908 London, Great Britain

1. Great Britain, 2. Belgium, 3. Sweden

1912 Stockholm, Sweden

1. Great Britain, 2. Sweden, 3. Belgium

1920 Antwerpen, Belgium

1. Great Britain, 2. Belgium, 3. Sweden

1924 Paris, France

1. France, 2. Belgium, 3. USA

1928 Amsterdam, Netherlands

1. Germany, 2. Hungary, 3. France

1932 Los Angeles, USA

1. Hungary, 2. Germany, 3. USA

1936 Berlin, Germany

1. Hungary, 2. Germany, 3. Belgium

1948 London

1. Italy, 2. Hungary, 3. Netherlands

1952 Helsinki, Finland

1. Hungary, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. Italy

1956 Melbourne, Australia

1. Hungary, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. USSR


1960 Rome, Italy

1. Italy, 2. USSR, 3. Hungary

1964 Tokyo, Japan

1. Hungary, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. USSR

1968 Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico

1. Yugoslavia, 2. USSR, 3. Hungary

1972 M端nchen, FR Germany

1. USSR, 2. Hungary, 3. USA

1976 Montreal, Canada

1. Hungary, 2. Italy, 3. Netherlands

1980 Moscow, USSR

1. USSR. 2. Yugoslavia, 3. Hungary

1984 Los Angeles, USA

1. Yugoslavia, 2. USA, 3. FR Germany

1988 Seoul, Korea

1. Yugoslavia, 2. USA, 3. USSR

1992 Barcelona, Spain

1. Italy, 2. Spain, 3. CIS

1996 Atlanta, USA

1. Spain, 2. Croatia, 3. Italy

2000 Sydney, Australia

1. Hungary, 2. Russia, 3. FR Yugoslavia

2004 Athens, Greece

1. Hungary, 2. Serbia and Montenegro, 3. Russia

2008 Beijing, China

1. Hungary, 2. USA, 3. Serbia

Perica Bukić, the Croatian flag-bearer during the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 1973 Belgrade, Yugoslavia

1. Hungary, 2. USSR, 3. Yugoslavia

1975 Cali, Columbia

1. USSR, 2. Hungary, 3. Italy

1978 West Berlin, FR Germany

1. Italy, 2. Hungary, 3. Yugoslavia

1982 Guayaquil, Ecuador

1. USSR, 2. Hungary, 3. FR Germany

1986 Madrid, Spain

1. Yugoslavia, 2. Italy, 3. USSR

1991 Perth, Australia

1. Yugoslavia, 2. Spain, 3. Hungary

1994 Rome, Italy

1. Italy, 2. Spain, 3. Russia

1998 Perth, Australia

1. Spain, 2. Hungary, 3. FR Yugoslavia

2001 Fukuoka, Japan

1. Spain, 2. FR Yugoslavia, 3. Russia

2003 Barcelona, Spain

1. Hungary, 2. Italy, 3. Serbia and Montenegro

2005 Montreal, Canada

1. Serbia and Montenegro, 2. Hungary, 3. Greece

2007 Melbourne, Australia

1. Croatia, 2. Hungary, 3. Spain

2009 Rome, Italy

1. Serbia, 2. Spain, 3. Croatia



1981 Split, Yugoslavia

1927 Bologna, Italy

1983 Rome, Italy

1931 Paris, France

1985 Sofia, Bulgaria

1934 Magdeburg, Germany

1987 Strasbourg, France

1938 London, Great Britain

1989 Bonn, FR Germany

1947 Monte Carlo, Monaco

1991 Athens, Greece

1950 Vienna, Austria

1993 Sheffield, Great Britain

1954 Torino, Italy

1995 Vienna, Austria

1958 Budapest, Hungary

1997 Sevilla, Spain

1962 Leipzig, DR Germany

1999 Firenze, Italy

1966 Utrecht, Netherlands

2001 Budapest, Hungary

1970 Barcelona, Spain

2003 Kranj, Slovenia

1974 Vienna, Austria

2006 Belgrade, Serbia

1977 Jรถnkรถping, Sweden

2008 Malaga, Spain

1. Hungary, 2. Sweden, 3. Germany 1. Hungary, 2. France, 3. Belgium 1. Hungary, 2. Germany, 3. Austria 1. Hungary, 2. Germany, 3. Belgium 1. Hungary, 2. Germany, 3. Netherlands 1. Italy, 2. Sweden, 3. Belgium 1. Netherlands, 2. Sweden, 3. Yugoslavia 1. Hungary, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. Italy 1. Hungary, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. USSR 1. Hungary, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. USSR 1. USSR, 2. DR Germany, 3. Yugoslavia 1. USSR, 2. Hungary, 3. Yugoslavia 1. Hungary, 2. USSR, 3. Yugoslavia 1. Hungary, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. Italy


1. FR Germany, 2. USSR, 3. Hungary 1. USSR, 2. Hungary, 3. Spain 1. USSR, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. FR Germany 1. USSR, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. Italy 1. FR Germany, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. Italy 1. Yugoslavia, 2. Spain, 3. USSR 1. Italy, 2. Hungary, 3. Spain 1. Italy, 2. Hungary, 3. Germany 1. Hungary, 2. Serbia and Montenegro, 3. Russia 1. Hungary, 2. Croatia, 3. Italy 1. FR Yugoslavia, 2. Italy, 3. Hungary 1. FR Yugoslavia, 2. Croatia, 3. Hungary 1. Serbia, 2. Hungary, 3. Spain 1. Montenegro, 2. Serbia, 3. Hungary

Melbourne 2007, gold medal winners at the World Championships



1979 Rijeka and Belgrade, Yugoslavia

2002 Patras, Greece

1. Hungary, 2. USA, 3. Yugoslavia

1981 Long Beach, USA

1. USSR, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. Cuba

1983 Malibu, USA

1. USA, 2. FR Germany, 3. Italy

1985 West Berlin, FR Germany

1. FR Germany, 2. USA, 3. Spain

1987 Thessaloniki, Greece

1. Yugoslavia, 2. USA, 3. FR Germany

1989 West Berlin, FR Germany

1. Yugoslavia, 2. Italy, 3. Hungary

1991 Barcelona, Spain

1. USA, 2. Yugoslavia, 3. Spain

1993 Athens, Greece

1. Italy, 2. Hungary, 3. Australia

1995 Atlanta, USA

1. Hungary, 2. Italy, 3. Russia

1997 Athens, Greece

1. USA, 2. Greece, 3. Hungary

1. Russia, 2. Spain, 3. Hungary

2003 New York, USA

1. Hungary, 2. Italy, 3. USA

2004 Long Beach, USA

1. Hungary, 2. Serbia and Montenegro, 3. Greece

2005 Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro

1. Serbia and Montenegro, 2. Hungary, 3. Germany

2006 Athens, Greece

1. Serbia and Montenegro, 2. Spain, 3. Greece

2007 Berlin, Germany

1. Serbia, 2. Hungary, 3. Australia

2008 Genova, Italy

1. Serbia, 2. USA, 3. Australia

2009 Podgorica, Montenegro

1. Montenegro, 2. Croatia, 3. Serbia

2010 Nis, Serbia

1. Serbia, 2. Montenegro, 3. Croatia

1999 Sydney, Australia


2002 Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro

1963/64 Partizan Belgrade 1964/65 Pro Recco Genova 1965/66 Partizan Belgrade 1966/67 Partizan Belgrade 1967/68 Mladost Zagreb

1. Hungary, 2. Italy, 3. Spain 1. Russia, 2. Hungary, 3. Serbia and Montenegro

2006 Budapest, Hungary

1. Serbia and Montenegro, 2. Hungary, 3. Spain

2010 Oradea, Romania

1. Serbia, 2. Croatia, 3. Spain



Melbourne 2007

1968/69 Mladost Zagreb 1969/70 Mladost Zagreb 1970/71 Partizan Belgrade 1971/72 Mladost Zagreb 1972/73 OSC Budapest 1973/74 MGU Moscow 1974/75 Partizan Belgrade 1975/76 Partizan Belgrade 1976/77 CSK Moscow 1977/78 Canotierri Naples 1978/79 OSC Budapest 1979/80 Vasas Budapest 1980/81 Jug Dubrovnik 1981/82 Barcelona 1982/83 Spandau 04 Berlin 1983/84 Pro Recco Genova 1984/85 Vasas Budapest 1985/86 Spandau 04 Berlin 1986/87 Spandau 04 Berlin 1987/88 Pescara 1988/89 Spandau 04 Berlin 1989/90 Mladost Zagreb 1990/91 Mladost Zagreb 1991/92 Jadran Split 1992/93 Jadran Split


1993/94 Ujpest Torna Budapest 1994/95 Catalunya Barcelona 1995/96 Mladost Zagreb 1996/97 Posillipo Naples 1997/98 Posillipo Naples 1998/99 POŠK Split 1999/00 Bečej 2000/01 Jug Dubrovnik 2001/02 Olympiacos Athens 2002/03 Pro Recco Genova 2003/04 Honved Budapest 2004/05 Posillipo Naples 2005/06 Jug Dubrovnik 2006/07 Pro Recco Genova 2007/08 Pro Recco Genova 2008/09 Primorac Kotor 2009/10 Pro Recco Genova

CUP WINNERS’ CUP 1974/75 Ferencvaros Budapest 1975/76 Mladost Zagreb 1976/77 MGU Moscow 1977/78 Ferencvaros Budapest 1978/79 KPK Korčula 1979/80 Ferencvaros Budapest

1980/81 CSK Moscow 1981/82 POŠK Split 1982/83 CSK Moscow 1983/84 POŠK Split 1984/85 Dinamo Moscow 1985/86 Vasas Budapest 1986/87 Mornar Split 1987/88 Posillipo Naples 1988/89 Arenzano 1989/90 Pescara 1990/91 Partizan Belgrade 1991/92 Catalunya Barcelona 1992/93 Pescara 1993/94 Pescara 1994/95 Vasas Budapest 1995/96 Roma Rim 1996/97 Vouliagmeni Athens 1997/98 Ferencvaros Budapest 1998/99 Mladost Zagreb 1999/00 Dinamo Moscow 2000/01 Florentia Firenze 2001/02 Vasas Budapest 2002/03 Posillipo Naples


LEN CUP 1992/93 Ujpest Torna Budapest 1993/94 Roma Rim 1994/95 Barcelona 1995/96 Pescara 1996/97 Ujpest Torna Budapest 1997/98 Partizan Belgrade 1998/99 Ujpest Torna Budapest 1999/00 Jug Dubrovnik 2000/01 Mladost Zagreb 2001/02 Brescia 2002/03 Brescia 2003/04 Barcelona 2004/05 Savona 2005/06 Brescia 2006/07 Sintez Kazan 2007/08 Šturm 2002 Čehov 2008/09 Szeged 2009/10 Cattaro Kotor

1976 Mladost Zagreb 1977 CSK Moscow 1978 Ferencvaros Budapest 1979 OSC Budapest 1980 Ferencvaros Budapest 1981 CSK Moscow 1982 Barcelona 1983 CSK Moscow 1984 POŠK Split 1985 Dinamo Moscow 1986 Spandau 04 Berlin 1987 Spandau 04 Berlin 1988 Pescara 1989 Mladost Zagreb 1990 not played 1991 Partizan Belgrade 1992 Catalunya Barcelona 1993 Pescara 1994 Ujpest Torna Budapest 1995 Catalunya Barcelona 1996 Mladost Zagreb 1997-2001 not played 2002 Olympiacos Athens 2003 Pro Recco Genova 2004 Honved Budapest

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

Posillipo Naples Jug Dubrovnik Pro Recco Genova Pro Recco Genova Primorac Kotor

YUGOSLAV CHAMPIONS 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934

SSU Sombor SSU Sombor Baluni Split SSU Sombor Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik




1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961


Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Victoria Sušak Jadran Split Jug Dubrovnik Croatian national team Jadran Split Hajduk Split Hajduk Split Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik (championships annulled) Mornar Split Mornar Split Jadran Split Mornar Split Mornar Split Jadran Split Jadran Herceg Novi Jadran Herceg Novi Jadran Split Mornar Split

1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987

Mladost Zagreb Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Mladost Zagreb Partizan Belgrade Mladost Zagreb Partizan Belgrade Mladost Zagreb Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Partizan Belgrade Jug Dubrovnik Primorac Kotor Partizan Belgrade

1988 1989 1990 1991

Partizan Belgrade Mladost Zagreb Mladost Zagreb Jadran Split

YUGOSLAV WINTER CHAMPIONS 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972

Jadran Herceg Novi Mladost Zagreb Mladost Zagreb Mladost Zagreb Partizan Belgrade Mladost Zagreb Partizan Belgrade Medveščak Zagreb Jadran Split Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade Mladost Zagreb Partizan Belgrade Partizan Belgrade

Rome 2009



1973 Partizan Belgrade 1974 Partizan Belgrade 1975 Partizan Belgrade 1976 Partizan Belgrade 1977 Partizan Belgrade 1978 KPK Korčula 1979 Partizan Belgrade 1979* Partizan Belgrade 1980 POŠK Split 1981 Jug Dubrovnik 1982 POŠK Split 1984 Jug Dubrovnik 1985 Partizan Belgrade 1986 Primorac Kotor 1987 Partizan Belgrade 1988 Partizan Belgrade 1989 Mladost Zagreb

1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

* due to changes in the 1979 competition calendar, two cups were played

Mladost Zagreb Mladost Zagreb Mladost Zagreb Mladost Zagreb Mladost Zagreb Mladost Zagreb POŠK Split Mladost Zagreb Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Mladost Zagreb Mladost Zagreb Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik Mladost Zagreb Jug Dubrovnik Jug Dubrovnik

CROATIAN CUP 1992/93 Mladost Zagreb 1993/94 Mladost Zagreb 1994/95 Jug Dubrovnik 1995/96 Primorje Rijeka 1996/97 Jug Dubrovnik 1997/98 Mladost Zagreb 1998/99 POŠK Split 1999/00 Mladost Zagreb 2000/01 Jug Dubrovnik 2001/02 Mladost Zagreb 2002/03 Jug Dubrovnik 2003/04 Jug Dubrovnik 2004/05 Jug Dubrovnik 2005/06 Mladost Zagreb 2006/07 Jug Dubrovnik 2007/08 Jug Dubrovnik 2008/09 Jug Dubrovnik 2009/10 Jug Dubrovnik



Publisher The Croatian Water Polo Federation For the publisher Perica Bukić Editors Perica Bukić Renato Živković Miro Hoffman Dean Bauer Ante Rašić Editor-in-chief Dean Bauer Authors Dean Bauer, Ante Drpić, Igor Duvnjak, Anton Filić, Zlatko Karlo, prof. Zdenko Jajčević, Ivo Mikuličin, Pero Ogurlić, Ante Vlašić, Bogdan Vujina Photographs Robert Valai clubs’ archives, personal archives, Sportske Novosti archives English Translation .Aion.. Graphic layout Studio Rašić: Ante Rašić Ana Sladetić Vedrana Vrabec Marko Rašić Lovorka Decker Graphics Ana Sladetić Layout Studio Rašić: Ankica Penava Pejčinović Damir Lepur Print Denona, Zagreb Circulation 1,000 (Croatian edition) 500 (English edition) Zagreb, September 2010

ISBN: 978-978-953-55469-1-7 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the National and University Library in Zagreb under 741649 http:// www.hvs.hr vaterpolo@hvs.hr