Utrecht. Fourth biggest town in Netherlands. The birth place of the best volley of all times. Marc van Basten. And the place where I interviewed Mr. Egon Jurišić. A goalkeeper who came from the youth program of VK Primorje and later replaced his hometown of Rijeka with Italy’s Trieste, Catania and one more club I forgot its name. After 7 years in Italy Egon decided to go “over the pond” to Brazil where he has just won his first Brazilian club championship with his new club Pinheiros.
So you are probably asking yourselves how did these two goalkeepers met in Utrecht. Simple. After the end of his season in Brazil, Egon has decided to visit his friend from their Catania days, Dutch National player, power forward like no other, filled with 110 kilograms of pure Sex appeal, Thomas Lucass. Thomas lives in Utrecht together with his girlfriend. You might have heard of her, Sabrina van der Sloot. Right now I live in Dusseldorf which distance is 20 euros by train from Utrecht. In the beginning I didn’t know what to expect from all of this. This is my first interview with another brother goalkeeper. I don’t know what is this going to look like. I hope that a fight doesn’t break out haha. He picks me up at the Utrecht Centraal. What are we gonna do? I personally wanted to go to one of the famed dutch coffee shops, but Egon doesn’t smoke and he wants us to go over to Sabrina and Thomas’ place where he is sleeping at. Okay then. Would have been cooler to do an interview in a coffee shop, but never mind. Next time. Small talk in the car and we reach Thomas’ apartment. Or is it Sabrina’s apartment? I don’t know. Anyways, we sat there and started to talk. About everything and more. A lot of our personal stories and Water Polo occasions were very similar. Relations with the people. Crazy goalkeeper attitude and everything that comes with it. Pavić or Vićan. A bit of sadness from the both of us because Obradović doesn’t play for the Croatian National team anymore. You know, the usual topics. But there is one “situation” which Egon doesn’t like to speak about. Egon, who through some family roots also has an Italian passport, was once actually called to a training camp with the Italian National team. Campagna this and that. Serious stuff. Somehow in all of that our Egon has sent friend request to the legendary Stefano Tempesti who basically ignored him. Didn’t even pressed no. He just left our Egon hanging in the mid air with his friend request. Cold haha. Meanwhile this One-block-wonder (Me 🙂 ) got a friend request from the man himself. After all the social media drama and interviews that followed that historical moment in water polos history, legendary Stefano sent me a friend request. Nobody forced him. Of course I have accepted him and now we are Facebook friends. I am still to get a single like from him, but oh well. You just cant have it all. Egon really isn’t one of those people who is jealous of my view-count, my likes and my instafame, but this with Mr. Stefano really stings him haha. During the entirety of our conversation when we spoke about our water polo qualities we were always honest one with another. We didn’t try to devalue each other, or put each other down so that the other one feels better about himself. None of that. But, like I mentioned already this thing with Mr. Stefano still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of our Egon. So, with that being said, of course that I am going to start this interview with exactly that question haha.
Greetings Egon. Welcome. Everybody inside of the water polo world knows how much Mr. Stefano means for our Sport. Everybody knows what an honor it is for one goalkeeper to receive a friends request from Mr. Stefano himself and everybody understands that it is not a shame when somebody like him ignores your friend request. So for those people who are not so close to our sport could you try to explain and rationalize yours fully justified jealousy, not to say bitterness towards me?
-Before I answer to this rude and completely unnecessary question I will greet your respected readers. Look, I also copied Stefanos bald hairstyle and still nothing. Be it as it is, but still you, as the most media exposed goalkeeper/influencer this last year, came all the way from Düsseldorf to Utrecht to interview me. You came to interview me, I didn’t went all the way to Düsseldorf so that I could get interviewed by you. So what does that tell you? And one more thing. I saw on Instagram that I have more followers then you, so basically with this interview I am doing you a favor. Probably more of my folks are going to read this interview then yours.
Haha, alo Egon. It’s okay to jab here and there, but there is no need to punch below the belt and bring the followers in all of this haha.
–It’s your own fault, or maybe I am still a little bit bitter because of this „Tempesti situation“. Sorry Tomo’s followers. It is not your fault that the one you follow is the way he is haha.
Never mind. They forgave you. Now, let us stop speaking about me and how influential I am and let us go back to speaking about the goalkeeper Greats. We spoke a bit about differences between Pavić and Vićan. We have yet to finalize that debate. Now you have that opportunity. Lets take the years when they were in their “Prime”. According to you who was a better goalkeeper, 2007 Melbourne Frano Vićan or 2012 London Josip Pavić?
– I have had the luck to work shortly with both of them, so I have some background for my opinion. In the last 20 years few goalkeepers have made an impact within our sport which will be embedded in water polos history, and them two are definitively in the top 5. There is also Šefik, already mentioned Tempesti and from the newer generation definitely Bijač. Now with that being said, I still would like to separate Frano Vićan from the rest of them. His approach and professionalism had me in awe, and on top of that the story surrounding his infamous “Black Notebook” brings my respect towards him to a higher level.
(for those not informed Frano Vićans infamous „Black Notebook“ is a piece of Water Polo lore. Frano had a small notebook in which he wrote the information and tendencies that certain players and teams had)
Personally I lean a bit more towards the Pavić side, but Okay. Holland is a free country. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. And now let us leave the goalkeeper Greats alone and speak a bit about you haha. Up until your 22. year on this planet you were faithful to your childhood club, VK Primorje from Rijeka. The following 7 seasons you have spent in Italy. Could you describe us your transition from a young guy to whom Primorje was everything and more, to a professional player inside of the cruel Italian league. How do you now look at all of those years spent in Italia. In retrospect would you change anything? Do you think that you could have made some smarter decisions? Maybe some other 22 year old is reading this interview and would love to play water polo, travel the world and with some luck from the Water polo Gods maybe even earn some money along way. From your experience what do you think that young water polo players around the world should know before they give professional Water Polo a go? Basically, where did you fucked up and you don’t want somebody else to do the same mistakes as you did?
It was very hard for me to accept that as a young and up and coming goalkeeper I was not getting any real playing opportunities at my home club. With that same energy of wanting to prove myself I went to Italy. In the end that turned out to be a decision that changed and reshaped my life. Many say that a life of a foreigner is same as a life of an ogre, it has many layers, but to be honest, now when I look back at that period I feel like those were the most beautiful years of my life. About my five years in Trieste I could go into infinity and especially about our not so nice ending, but I will try to keep it short. I was always sentimental towards sports. I never appreciated those artificially built teams in which you buy 15 individuals and then win something because you spent more money then the team who took the second place (maybe that way of thinking has also helped build my disappointment with the situation that happened at my home club and which eventually made me leave my club). I saw Trieste as an amazing story where something was being built from ground up. That first year I was accepted wholeheartedly and I really enjoyed every moment. Through the following years a solid team was formed and we were able to reach Serie A of the Italian Water polo. Over time we had regularly more then 1000 fans attending our games which was our biggest victory. I felt very proud having a small part of that whole situation and family. Every story has an ending and my story with Trieste was not any different. Due to certain circumstances, after 5 years Trieste and me went our separate ways. First I went to play for Muri Antichi and then for Nuoto Catania. Those five years left me disappointed in sport and some people. Then I realized and accepted that I should not take so much to heart, because in the end I went there just as a mercenary. My seven years in Italy we could sum up with two words. Happiness and disappointment. To us, the people within the sport, it’s still hard to accept that our sport is semi-professional and because of it full of unbelievable schedules, pilled debts, under payed players and with unclear game rules. The life of a professional living abroad is simple. A lot of expectations to deal with, so you can only end up as a hero, or a zero. That’s exactly why I already spoke about the disappointment. Somehow, where ever I have played, I left with either money being owed to me, or something else was in the air. That’s when you reach that other side of the sport, with which you just have to find your peace with. That second experience of disappointment I felt in Italy was probably the last drop that made me go to the other side of the world and play in Brazil.
And the best advice? The way I look at water polo today is that everyone of us tries to get the most for himself. In most cases Water Polo can’t bring you some financial stability, but it can bring you a beautiful life which can open you a lot of doors and it’s up to you to decide which doors to walk through.
In the end water polo gave me the greatest riches one could ask for. Except those bad experiences which make you and teach you, there are truly amazing moments which a person experiences as an athlete. For example, in the last 6 years I have had an opportunity to live together with people of 6 different nationalities. From Croatians, Italians, Brazilians, Americans, Dutch and now to my Cuban roommate. You can gain a lot as a human from those experiences. Even now, as we are doing this interview, we are in the apartment of a friend who played with me in Catania. We don’t play together anymore and I started to miss him, so I had to come and visit him.
After 7 years spent in Italy you decide to go to Brazil. How? Isn’t that a little bit too far away? How have you adjusted to your situation? Could you tell us a little bit about some of the similarities and the differences between the European and South American water polo, if one could even make such comparisons?
– I ended up in Brazil completely accidentally. One season in Trieste I have played and lived with Gustavo „Grummy” Guimaraes (Brazilian). On one occasion he called me to come to Brazil and play one tournament for his club and since then stuff have somehow aligned on their own. I really liked it there and they needed a goalkeeper as a long-term solution. We were able to reach an agreement very fast. I found Brazil interesting as a new platform for my life and for my water polo career. I needed a new challenge. I wanted to try and pour this little experience that I have into my new club. I just wanted to try and start over somewhere else. So far, so good. Everything is going good and I am very satisfied. The team and club have accepted me immediately and already after one year I became the captain of the team. That meant a lot to me. Everyday I am trying really hard to work with the kids around the club and give them some of my knowledge.
In the times before the Olympic games in Rio, Brazil was going through a big expansions which affected a lot of sports, water polo included. A lot of money has been invested to make something over night, but the common sense tells you that with that attitude, in most cases, nothing good comes. (here I would like to go back to my Primorje which is now, after all the success, in the second league). In Brazil is not anything different. After all that euphoria and the money spent, water polo in Brazil again fell down to a badly organized league with not enough coaches who could teach the kids how to play water polo and sports the right way.
I am more of the opinion that clubs, just like players, go through their ups and downs. The only thing is that, with clubs, these cycles last a little bit longer and pull more elements with them. Even if a certain club has a low ranking, the structure and the system within the club should be enough to make a club function perfectly normal. Rijeka has always had, and will always have players of the highest caliber. With or without the Varga brothers. I think that once few water polo generations pass we will be able to see the full influence of that era on the Primorjes legacy. But enough of my rambling haha 🙂 Could you explain us all a bit, how does a club like Pinheiros function?
– Haha, sure. What type of club Pinheiros really is, is really hard to explain to the people back home in Europe. Pinheiros is a club that counts more then 40 000 members. A club that employs more then 5000 workers. It has around 38 sports (don’t quote me on this one) and more then 60 participants on the last Olympic games. It is a great honor to be a part of such a collective. Its a very peculiar feeling when I enter the gym in the morning and there you see few “medals” from different sports and every one is doing their own training program which is completely different for each of them. In Brazil professional water polo league is very bad organized. They have failed in organizing one league which will last eight or nine months like it is in Europe. Instead they are organizing two separate leagues and each of them has its own final 6, or final 8 at the end of the half year. Water polo in Brazil is the same as it is in all of these, for water polo, exotic countries. Here and there you could stumble on a kid with some talent, but generally they play individually and defense is being heavily neglected. It simply not being thought. Water polo is being played mainly by the rich folks, because these clubs are enormous complexes and they are usually the only ones that have access to these places. That fact alone limits the number of kids. It’s just that in most of the countries playing sports is a secondary thing. People have more important things to do with their lives. Sport life is there to be participated in as something to build you up as a human being and to bring you pleasure. Back home on Balkan we have it differently. To us sports are the most important thing in the world and kids are being thought the wrong values.
With all that being said, I also want to add one interesting fact. In the last few years one of the best water polo player of the world is a Brazilian. Filipe Perrone.
Yeah, and Trinidad and Tobago had Dwight Yorke. What does that mean haha?
– Haha. I mentioned Perrone to make people understand just how meaningless talent really is and that the system and hard work is the only thing that matters. Perrone had the luck of going to play in the Spanish league very young and there he acquired the needed technical and tactical knowledge. Generally speaking, Brazilian players posses a lot of talent, but that’s not enough if you don’t have a healthy working system.
Tell me more about this Brazilian league. Who else is there? How many tournaments have you played so far? I saw that you won some trophies, but how were you playing? How challenging is the Brazilian league?
– Brazil has three different competitions. Sao Paulo Championship, National Championship and there is also the „Brasil Open“. „Brasil Open“ is the final tournament of the best clubs with allowed reinforcement from, mostly, Europe. Each club is allowed to acquire two foreign players. So everybody has a possibility to improve their teams significantly. Last year we were lucky that a big number of foreign players came to play, so that in those 10 days the local youth players could see just how big the difference in quality between the local players and European professionals really is. I would love if those players could be used even more and maybe have some seminars or some daily water polo camps which could help in the development of the Brazilian water polo even more.
We must understand that the only way to save this sport is through globalization. We can’t have only five, six countries playing water polo professionally and then pump our chest up saying we (Croatia) are among the best four countries in the world. I mean are we supposed to lose to the Dutch who play their championship in a 25 m pool and most of them train three to four times a week? Or should we maybe lose to the „Aussies“ which have few players who are trying to „learn“ water polo in Europe, whilst all the other guys play the Australian Water polo League which lasts four and a half months?
Where would you rank yourself as a goalkeeper and as a player inside of it? Dumb question I know, but try to give me an “objective“ answer 🙂
– In the last year and a half we have won all three competitions and all three times I was named the best goalkeeper. That would not be such a spectacular success if one of my „rivals“ for those awards was not, the one and only, Slobodan Soro. I must admit that that presented a big satisfaction for an „average“ goalkeeper like me 🙂
You have played on two continents, in three countries, for five clubs. You speak four languages. How have you applied your experiences in working with kids? Have you already coached somewhere in the clubs for which you have played?
– Yes I have. I already had some interests in training kids, so as I was playing for Trieste, I was already coming to youth training to help with the kids. Later I worked with the goalkeepers in Catania. Now I am taking it even more serious and I am really trying to help the kids in Brazil. I am trying to find new ways to give them at least some of my knowledge that I have collected over the years. I have had the privilege to work with a lot of world-class coaches (Rudić, Campanga, Roje, Nikolić). On few occasions when I had some free time over summer, I would try to find places and clubs to train and learn from. I went on purpose to Herceg Novi to learn from their coach Vladimir Gojković, and once to Dubrovnik so that I could work with Vjekoslav Kobeščak. I am trying to teach kids not only the technical part, but I am trying to install in them dedication towards anything they do (in this case Water Polo), but always reminding them that they need to enjoy and have fun as much as they can.
Except victories and defeats that teach us life, according to you what is the biggest value of one sport for the development of a child?
I already spoke about the sense of responsibility that sports awakes in us. Physical activity is also an element that is very important in the development of a child. Building a sense of a “Team Spirit” is very important for every child because that’s how they learn to function inside of a group. From a lot of people I got a feedback that sport really helped them whenever they would have a job-interview. Basically if you play sport, you wont be unemployed 🙂
People say that the most basic difference between goalies and players is that goalies need more time to mature. Old school of trainers like Vlaho Asić and late Bata Orlić have said that a goalkeeper becomes a goalkeeper once he is 24 years old. You are 31. How do you feel? Do you think that the best goalkeeper years are behind you, or do you take inspiration from athletes like Branislav “Bane” Mitrović who had in his 30s elevated his game to a whole new level? Could it be that the best is yet to come?
Uf, this question brings back a lot of pain. When I was in Primorje with 18 or 19 years, my coach Zoran Roje would always tell me that you become a goalkeeper with 25, 26 years. I was young and driven and though that I knew everything. Him saying me that used to drive me crazy. Now I understand him. There is some truth to what he was saying. Goalkeepers truly do grow with years and you do get the needed stability and security, which are the most important qualities a goalkeeper can have. So I must also say that Zoran was right on that one. As far as my career goes I don’t have big goals set for me. Like with Mitrović I also have noticed a big development on my part when it comes to knowing myself and my body. That enables me to prepare my body even better then I did before. With that being said I hope that Ivica Tucak and Allesandro Campagna are reading this and that they know that I stand ready 🙂 🙂
Both to Tucak and Campagna haha? Exactly because of these stuff I do love the 21. century. So there is still oil in the candle haha? Although that too will once go away. Are you afraid of the Water Polo retirement? What are your plans once that black day comes? Do you plan staying close to water polo, or are you just going to leave it all as it is and go to the office to eat the shits all of us mortals have to eat?
Uf, the curse of not being able to play water polo until 100 is killing me 🙂 Before it used to worry me more. I used to think that once I stop playing, I would completely remove myself from water polo. Now, I think differently. Through the years I have somehow started to like the idea of staying withing the water polo, once I stop actively playing it. To give back to the sport that gave me so much, but at the same time I am starting to have a lot of new ideas that I would like to bring to fruition. As we speak I am working on bringing the kids from Brazil to Croatia. To train a bit, to see how things function in Croatian water polo and also to see our beautiful country.
…My train leaves at 17:45. I look at my watch and saw that it is almost 16:00. Egon sees me checking my watch and asks me when does my train leave. 16:45 I answer. I said goodbye to Thomas and Sabrina / Sabrina and Thomas and Egon took me back to Utrecht Centrall. 16:30. We said our goodbyes. I open my phone and google Coffee Shop near me. Haven’t been in one for a while. I usually don’t smoke, but I do love me a good Coffee shop. Lets hope that one of these days we could enjoy these blessings around the whole of Europe. I went back to my train and put my ear phones in. I played a song from a band called Azra. The name of the song was Balkan. You know what, maybe Branimir Stulić was right.