The match corresponding to group A of the European Water Polo Championships Barcelona 2018 that will take place tonight between Italy and Hungary will have an interesting duel between two coaches, who as players, were Olympic Champions in the past: Antonio Campagna for Italy and Tamás Märcz on the Hungarian side. The Italian coach took the gold medal home in the unforgettable 1992 Barcelona Olympics after defeating Spain in the final, while the Hungarian coach won his gold medal in Sydney 2000.
There are several coaches at Barcelona 2018 that enjoyed successful careers as players. Another example of this is Miki Oca, coach of the women’s Spanish team, who was crowned Olympic Champion in Atlanta 1996 with the Spain squad that was coached by Joan Jané. A curious fact is that Oca played in the 1992 final against Campagna’s Italy.
Adding on, another coach who is worthy of a mention is Dejan Savic, architect of the Serbian squad that has been dominant in the world of water polo over the last decade. He didn’t have the opportunity of winning a golden medal as a player at the Olympics, he was runner up in Athens 2004, but he managed to win every other major international water polo competition in his days as a player, while also racking up an impressive 444 appearances for his national team. He is regarded as a legendary player, and as a coach he has won the European Championships, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games.
Furthermore, other coaches who won a silver medal at the Olympics at some point are the Georgian Revaz Chomakhidze (with Russia in 2000) and the Montenegrin Vladimir Gojkovic in 2004. In the case of the current coach of the Spanish team, David Martín, he was runner up at the World Championships in 2009.
On the other hand, coaches in the women’s tournament didn’t have the same success in their playing careers as those former players who are now coaching some of men’s teams. The most notorious one, aside from Miki Oca, is the German coach, Anja Skibba, who made 97 appearances for the German side, but never managed to win any major competitions.
Finally, several of the coaches have had successful spells in charge of their teams. Giorgios Morfesis from Greece, took his team to the final of the World Championships in 2011, Attila Biró from Hungary, guided his squad at the European Championships Budapest 2016 to the golden medal, and Fabio Conti, who lead the Italian side in 2016 when they returned home with a silver medal from the 2016 Olympics in Rio.