The stage is set for another outstanding spectacle, the 35th LEN European Water Polo Championships in Split. And that stage will be exceptional – for the first time since the water polo continental showcase became a stand-alone event in 1999, the ‘summer edition’ shall be held indoors, in the magnificent Spaladium Arena, the site of a series of outstanding sporting spectacles.
Split and the Spaladium Arena is ready for the kick-off of the 35th European Water Polo Championships. As head of the organizers Renato Zivkovic said at the opening press conference since they had earned the right to host the event in 2018, they had to overcome the impacts of the global Covid pandemic and now those of the ongoing war – but with the support of the Government, the city and their partners, they were able to deliver everything they had planned.
“Despite all these difficulties, we remained calm, solved the problems the best possible way over the last six months, though this was very demanding,” he said. “But now what matters is that we have 28 teams here, 92 matches to play in 15 days – two pools were constructed, the arena is dressed up and everything is ready for the great show. I hope that everyone will enjoy the next two weeks.”
“I’ve been here for many events, handball championships, concerts, but for me, the Arena looks the most beautiful now and it would be nice if the pool could stay forever,” said Milos Mracevic, talking on behalf of LEN as Bureau Member and water polo liaison. “We can’t wait for the start of the competition and to pass the floor to the main stars of the event. On behalf of LEN President Antonio Silva and First Vice-President Josip Varvodic, we are all grateful to the Croatian Water Polo Federation for what they have done in the last year, and the enormous efforts they’ve put in to have a successful event in Split. I’m sure that in the end everyone will leave with the most positive impressions.”
LEN Operational Manager Marco Birri highlighted that 34 broadcasters will have live coverage of the championships and LEN also offers free live stream of each game with on-site commentary. “On our new platform, which is available through our website, we’ll feature even more content, while you may relive each and every goal scored in Split by visiting our live scoring site where the goal clips will be featured almost immediately as the game progresses.”
The championships begin with the first two rounds of the women’s tournament on Saturday and Sunday while the men’s tourney starts on Monday.
Quotes from the protagonists
Dejan Savic, head coach, Serbia’s men’s team
“Our roster is new, even compared to the World Championships, we had the highest number of changes together with the Croatians. We had some injuries which were unpredictable but those will not influence our ambitions and goals here. Some may say we are too ambitious, knowing the team composition, but we have to appreciate the history of Serbian water polo, so we always have to aim to be the best. I’ve never asked for an alibi, neither as a player nor as a coach – but I keep telling, that for us it’s always the Olympics which are in the focus, to qualify and then reach the best result there. Here we just want to make sure that the team grows, as everything is just a step towards Paris. “We had the privilege to test the venue with our Croatian friends last evening and it’s beautiful. We know we’ll have the top level here – Croatia, Serbia, and Hungary are the best organizers when it comes to water polo events.”
Ivica Tucak, head coach, Croatia’s men’s team
“We had the privilege to play a practice game with Serbia in this beautiful venue – congratulations to Renato and the entire organizing team who worked on this wonderful project. I’m sure we’ll have a fantastic championship here in Split.
“As for the team, everybody will give his absolute top to represent the country in the best possible way. We have ambitions but we have a completely new team compared to Tokyo. Going through all the changes and forming a new team is never easy, and we also had to deal with injuries and sickness, so we’ll miss a couple of players. Still, we proved our strength at the World Championships and at the warm-up tournaments, we have a lot to offer, and we have the same goal as always – that is, reaching the semis and playing in the medal round. It’s difficult to predict anything but we are ready to play in this beautiful city, in front of our fans, show our best and go as far as we can.”
Anni Espar, player, member of Spain’s title-holding women’s team
“We loved both medals, the gold from the last Europeans and the silver from the Olympics – obviously, the Olympic medal has a bigger weight even if it’s just a silver one. We came here to show that we are the best, we are ready to be among the best in this Olympic cycle too. Hungary, Italy, Netherlands – any team can beat anyone here, so we have to fight hard in every game to prove ourselves and keep playing on the highest possible level.”
Laura Ester, goalkeeper, member of Spain’s title-holding women’s team
“Thanks to the good results we achieved over these years, the country really supports women’s water polo and our national team. But of course, as the men could finally win the world title, now they are in the media spotlight. That’s fine after all, they pretty much deserved it.” Aljosa Kunac, assistant coach, Croatia’s women’s team
“The coronavirus knocked on the door and we had to send two girls away. The preparations weren’t that easy as ours is a young team, and many players were in Belgrade at the U18 World Championships, but now we have the full line-up so we could practice together. We are expecting some good results at home.”
Press release and photos courtesy of LEN