Since the attack on Red Star (Crvena Zvezda) players in Split, the hottest topics in the water polo circles in the Balkans haven’t been the results of the Regional League, but an uncertain future of the competition. The Regional League is, maybe, close to falling apart.
The Croatian police have caught some of the attackers. The case has been under investigation. A lot of clubs and organizations, politicians… have reacted after the brutal attacks. One of the most important statements was the one that was issued by the LEN.
LEN condemned the incident
Even though this repulsive assault happened at a non-LEN-sanctioned event (before a Regional League game), the European Swimming Federation feels necessary to underline how important is to prevent any similar incident in the future, especially in the city of Split, future host of the 2022 LEN European Water Polo Championships.
“European Aquatics have always shared the values of mutual understanding and acceptance of the respective nations” LEN President Paolo Barelli said. “Sport is uniting and not dividing, athletes and teams can be rivals but never enemies. LEN is committed to apply these principles and expect to be appreciated by everyone, every time, everywhere.”
LEN strongly hopes that this distasteful act of a small minority will not influence the existing peaceful sport relations of Serbia and Croatia.
Letter from Belgrade
Eight Serbian clubs which compete in the Regional League held a meeting in Belgrade on Wednesday. The conclusion of the meeting was that the Serbs won’t play in Split or its surroundings until the end of the season:
As a conclusion of this meeting, it was decided for Serbs not to play in Split until the end of the current season, as well as in the pools located 200 km away from Split because of safety reasons. It is unacceptable for Red Star to visit Split at this time, which was supported by other clubs from Serbia that compete in the Regional League. We hereby request you to understand the situation and change the places of the scheduled matches.
There are three clubs based in Split (Jadran, POSK and Mornar) and three in the towns located 200 km away from Split (Galeb Makarska, Solaris Sibenik and Zadar 1952). The air distance between Split and Dubrovnik (where is Jug located) is 165 km. But, the road from Split to Dubrovnik by car or bus is 230 km long.
Letter from Zagreb
The Regional League Board (which is composed by representatives of the four national water polo federations – Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Slovenia) still hasn’t answered to the Serbs’ letter, but the Croatian Water Polo Federation, as well as its vice-president and the chief executive Perica Bukic, responded immediately. They announced that the request of the Serbian clubs couldn’t be accepted.
For the Croatian Water Polo Federation, and I am convinced for all the Croatian clubs, it is completely unacceptable that our 7 clubs (Jadran, Mornar BS, POŠK, Jug CO, Solaris, Zadar 1952 and Galeb MR) play only the away matches…I believe that it is not in the spirit of partnership and sporting relations to make such radical decisions without any consultation with other member federations of the League, and above all with the Croatian Water Polo Federation which is directly involved.
Regarding all the above, if the clubs from Serbia are ready to play in the ending of this season as it is predicted, we will support this position.
However, if the Serbian Water Polo Federation wants to no longer play in Dalmatia, it is obvious that the league in the former format will no longer exist. The Regional League is created on a joint initiative. That is how we formed the league, and that is how we can end it – Bukic wrote.
After the Croat’s statement, Viktor Jelenic, Water Polo Federation of Serbia president said:.
We didn’t write to our colleagues from the Croatian Water Polo Federation but to the Regional League Board. We want to learn the Board’s opinion. It is very important for us that LEN reacted.
Meeting in Belgrade on Monday
The new episode of this case is scheduled for Monday. February 18th might be the crucial day for the league’s future. The Regional League board will hold the meeting in Belgrade on Monday afternoon and will discuss the problems.
Important matches in Zagreb, Belgrade, Sabac
In the shadow of the meetings, announcements, and statements, a very important games were played.
Mladost Zagreb defeated Jadran Split in the most important match of the day. After a rain of goals in the first two quarters, Mladost was three steps ahead of Jadran 8:5. By the middle of the third period the Zagreb-based side , led by Milos Cuk and Lovre Milos (4 goals each), added two goals for a 10:5 lead, which proved vital. Jadran wasn’t able to catch the big rival. Mladost recorded a 14:12 win.
The big Serbian derby was played in Belgrade where Red Star and Partizan faced off.
Partizan had a 3:2 lead three minutes from the end of the second quarter. Red Star, the home team in this match, responded with three goals to go 5:3 up deep into the third period. The hosts maintained the 2-goal gap until the end of the quarter (6:4). Partizan missed a lot of man-up situations. Aleksandro Kralj, Red Star goalkeeper, showed excellent saves in crucial moments. The hosts took control and earned a 7:4 lead in the 27th minute. A minute later Partizan came close for the last time (5:7). Red Star scored three goals in three consecutive attacks for an unattainable 10:5 advantage with two minutes remaining on the clock. In the end, the score was 10:6.
This was the first Red Star’s win over Partizan after a long winless series (8 Partizan’s wins and 2 ties).
Jadran Herceg Novi took all three points in Sabac, but it had big troubles before defeating the Serbian club. Sabac dominated the opening minutes. The hosts led 4:2 early in the second period. Jadran produced a 5:0 run and built a 3-goal cushion (7:4) in the 16th minute. Sabac couldn’t recover from that shock. Jadran collected points with a 10:6 victory.
Jug defeated Mornar by 9 goals (19:10). The title-holder grabbed an early 3-goal lead (4:1) and maintained it by halftime (7:4). In the third minute of the 3rd period, Jug increased its advantage to 5 (10:5) and there was no way back for Mornar. Both defenses didn’t “work” well this evening but Jug’s win was never in danger. The top scorer was Jug’s Russian Danil Merkulov (6 goals).
Primorac convincingly defeated last-placed POSK. Everything was decided in the first half of the match. Primorac rushed to a 7:1 lead and kept a big advantage until the last buzzer (13:7).
Regional League 2018/19, A1 Group, 14th round
Crvena Zvezda10:6 Partizan
(2:1, 1:2, 3:1, 4:2)
Crvena Zvezda: Tankosic 2, Vasic 2, Popovic 2, Sulc 2, Zezelj, Ilic.
Partizan: Vickovic, Kasum, Korolija, Radulovic, Andrejevic, Radanovic.
Mladost 14:12 Jadran S
(2:1, 6:4, 3:3, 3:4)
HAVK Mladost Zagreb: Mi. Cuk 4, Milos 4, Radu, A. Petkovic, Anzulovic, Fabris, Biljaka, Kharkov.
Jadran Split: Power 4, Krapic 2, Zovic, Butic, Pejkovic,Viskovic, Setka.
Sabac 6:10 Jadran HN
(3:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:1)
Sabac: M. Jankovic 2, Toholj, Velkic, Rogac.
Jadran Herceg Novi: Dj. Radovic 3, M. Petkovic 2, Popadic 2, Obradovic, Banicevic, Averka, Spajic.
Jug 19:10 Mornar
(4:2, 3:2, 5:3, 7:3)
Jug: Merkulov 6, Garcia 4, Bobic 2, Benic 2, Macan, Fatovic, Lozina.
Mornar: Buric 3, Vrdoljak 2, Butic 2, Uvodic, Calic, Zivkovic.
Primorac 13:7 POSK
(3:1, 4:1, 2:2, 4:3)
Primorac: Matkovic 4, Crepulja 3, A. Petrovic 2, Grgurevic 2, M. Perkovic, Stanojevic.
POSK: Bezic 2, Ostojic, Vukic, Bebic, Divkovic, Kurir.
1 Mladost (CRO) 14 – 37
2 Jadran HN (MNE) 14 – 33
3 Jug (CRO) 14 – 32
4 Jadran S (CRO) 14 – 28
5 Mornar (CRO) 13 – 19
6 Sabac (SRB) 14 – 15
7 Crvena Zvezda (SRB) 13 – 14
8 Partizan (SRB) 14 – 11
9 Primorac (MNE) 14 – 10
10 POSK (CRO) 14 – 3
A2 League, 13th round
Group 1 – 6
Solaris – Budva 8:8
Radnicki – Primorje 10:10
Nais – Vojvodina 9:7
1 Solaris (CRO) 13 – 34
2 Radnicki (SRB) 13 – 32
3 Budva (MNE) 13 – 29
4 Primorje (CRO) 13 – 25
5 Nais (SRB) 13 – 25
6 Vojvodina (SRB) 13 – 21
Group 7 – 12
Cattaro – Medvescak 12:8
Valjevo – Zadar 1952 7:9
Galeb – Koper 9:11
7 Valjevo (SRB) 13- 17
8 Zadar 1952 (CRO)) 13 – 16
9 Koper (SVN) 13 – 13
10 Medvescak (CRO) 13 – 9
11 Cattaro (MNE) 13 – 7
12 Galeb (CRO) 13 – 0