Water polo: "Water polo is the last team sport in the alphabet"

The days when the national team of German water polo players celebrated their last great successes, such as the European Championship victories in 1981 and 1989, are long ago.
 Hagen Stamm, at that time still a player, is now the coach of the national team.
 He has a problem: water polo has no presence in this country. Germany is following countries like Hungary or Croatia, where sport has a very different status.

       By Javier Cáceres, Berlin



    A German like Hagen Stamm can use the German water polo again. That means: the Hagen tribe, who became the icon of his sport in the eighties. The game, like everything else in the world, has become "faster and faster," Stamm says, and if there is one thing that is essential to being competitive, it is that a water polo player can scratch the 100 meters in 55 seconds. As he was then, when he was among others twice with the German team European champion and at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, the bronze medal hung around the still-powerful neck. On the other hand: Hagen Stamm, 58, has never really gone away and could not have done without. Stamm is even back in the national team, as he did between 2000 and 2012. And he dreams of grabbing one of the four starting places for the next World Cup starting on Tuesday at the World Cup in Berlin with his team.


    In purely arithmetic Germany has a 50:50 chance at the home tournament – the field comprises eight teams. And if the chance should be seized, an absence at World Cup tournaments would be over, which lasts much too long: at the last two World Cups 2015 and 2017, the Germans were just as little represented as in the last two Olympics. The opponents, however, are established forces that come across as superpowers: the World Cup Second Hungary, which will be the German kick-off opponent on Tuesday night, plus Japan and Australia, which finished in the top 10 in the World Cup. And yet there is reason for hope, says Stamm.

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"We played a good European Championship and, with ninth place, got the maximum of what I had calculated before," Stamm looks back on the tournament in Barcelona in July. Hungary even managed a 4: 4, "the biggest surprise of the entire European Championship ever," says Stamm. The rejuvenation process was completed, the squad found only Twens. Alone: ​​For his team, it would be very difficult to have to play the European Championship and the World Cup, ie two highlights in one year. "A German team has to balance their deficits with their heads and motivation," explains Stamm. And that means to trim your head to a "one hundred and twenty percent willingness to perform".


    The deficits stem from the fact that other countries have a completely different water polo culture. Before the World Cup, the German team was among others in the training camp in Croatia and once again noted why there is a pool of players is greater: in the Adriatic are water ball goals anchored, felt as far as the eye can see. Such conditions are a long way off in Germany, even in Berlin, although Spandau water enthusiasts have in the past brought most of the national titles to the city. The water ball court, which was promised decades ago, has always been a dream, the result: water polo players and swimmers compete for training opportunities. This raises the potential for newcomer problems as if they were not big enough anyway.