Times are changing! More than 30 years ago, the German water polo players were European champions at the 1989 European Championships in Bonn. At the Continental Championships in Budapest, which has been running this weekend, a similar success is more than unlikely for both German men and women. Marko Stamm (31), one of seven Berliners in the line-up of the German Swimming Association (DSV) and leading player in the selection of national trainer and father Hagen Stamm, believes that "all public holidays of a year must fall on one day".
In Budapest, however, the Germans are not interested in titles, but rather in the Olympics: only the winning teams can win a direct ticket to the tournament in Tokyo, although the men are enough to reach the semi-finals because of the already qualified Serbs, Italians and Spaniards could. However, a place in the last Olympic qualification tournament in Rotterdam in March is more realistic for the Germans, for which, depending on the overall entry of the competition, ranks eight to ten will suffice. Four tickets for Tokyo will then be awarded in Rotterdam.
The DSV has had good experiences with this last qualification opportunity. In 2004 they finished second in Rio and later at the Olympic Games in Athens the fifth place, which was the last real top result of the once so strong DSV water polo players. In 2008, they even won the qualification tournament in Oradea, but had to be content with tenth in Beijing. The men missed the climax in 2012 and 2016.
A third absence at the games would be catastrophic, says national coach Hagen Stamm, who after his first term (2001 to 2012) and the subsequent personnel and financial mistakes of the association has given the "savior" again halfway since 2017. "Water polo faces the question of existence, unless something is finally changed consistently in the structures and in the promotion of young people," Stamm has been warning for years.
His motivational skills were recently the anchor with which the ship could still be held in the storm. He benefited from the fact that there are also problems in other, former top nations. »If we have a good day and bad days, if everything fits and we are in the best possible line-up, we can create surprises. But woe if it gets stuck in one of these components. Then a flop is also possible with us, «says Stamm.
This was shown in the preparation for the European Championship, when several important players were missing injuries and worrying defeats against small water polo nations like France and Georgia were the result. Reaching the quarter-finals and thus having the chance to finish eighth is still realistic for Stamm. In the preliminary round you have to be at least third in the group. A project in which there are no easy tasks with opening opponents Croatia this Tuesday, difficult-to-play outsider Slovakia in the key match on Thursday and ex-European champion Montenegro on Saturday.
It will be even more difficult for German women. They also want to keep their already small chance of participating in the Olympic qualification tournament, but have already fallen behind in their group. The 4:13 defeat against Italy on Sunday was clear, but a small encouraging result compared to the bankruptcies of past years with always more than 20 goals conceded. As expected, there was nothing to be won against defending champions Netherlands on Monday, who showed at 23: 3 how far the DSV women still have to reach the international top.
This is how the first verse of Bob Dylan's protest song "The Times They Are a-Changin '" – written in 1964, of course, in a completely different matter – reads like a motivational hymn for German water polo: "Come on, gather people wherever you go / and admit that the water around you has risen / And accepts that you will soon be soaked to the bone. / If your time is worth something to you / you'd better start swimming or sink like a stone / because times change. «
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