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[WATER POLO LEGENDS] Madaras Norbert: “I Was a Water Polo Player and I Will Always Stay One!”

The News comes from vlv.hu about the parting of the water polo legend — Madaras Norbert. He completed his athletic career as a double world and Olympic champion that marked the Hungarian water polo. Norbert looked back on his career and spoke of his future plans and tasks. Below, you’ll find an extended interview!

Madaras Norbert — The Parting of The Legend

Is your decision final? Or might it be reversible?

We can say it is! But, obviously, if anyone in the team is injured, especially the left-handers, I won’t be only standing beside the pool. There’s a possibility I come back into the pool next year if it’s really much needed. But officially, Champions League Final Eight were my last matches.

Did you know that when you came to the Bela Komjadi pool?

Actually, I knew it since January, I’ve just left some space for myself to think it over. But as the season progressed, I was more and more sure this will be my final season, and I knew I’m going to end it here.

It could have ended weeks ago, but these times were quite busy ones and I was nervous about the decision. In the fifth match, I was worried about winning and that meant it was over for me.

Was your leaving emotional in the final match of your career?

It was not. I’m not the kind of person, plus I was sure of my decision. Even though it wasn’t the Olympics I chose as my final match, it was a pretty good match on my end.

As I knew my last days were approaching, having last training and playing last games, I went to Bela Komjadi to conceal my career. Now I think it’s kind of funny, after all, that I finished the last training and the game with a goal. These were my last shootings.

When I walked to the pool right before the game and warmed up, I met with Gábor Kis, who came from the other side. Floating next to each other, he asked me: “The last one?” And I nodded to him. We smiled at each other and he said: “Enjoy!” To this, I replied: “I will…” Indeed, now that we are talking about this, I remembered Czech Sanyi for a moment. It was an open secret everyone knew about.

What are you going to do now? Since water polo was your life, do you feel a little shaky?”

I wouldn’t use that word. I know a different kind of life begins for me now. I’ve been here since I was six years old when I came to the pool for the first time, and I’ve been in the water since. I know a lot is about to change, but we’ll see what happens.

Saturday was my last day and we celebrated on Sunday at the Groupama Arena. The next morning, I woke up and asked myself: “Am I still a water polo player?” At that moment I knew I still was and I’m very proud of that. Even without all the medals, it’s what you think of yourself is what’s important. Of course, I realized I wasn’t going to score goals anymore. As hard as it was to admit it, I will miss certain experiences and moments to which I got used to. For now, I don’t know how will I be able to make it up for it.

Let’s talk about your career — there’s a lot to go through…

It was excellent in every aspect of it — I could not have done it any better. I think my farewell was perfect for everything I ever was in water polo could be seen in that match. After the final games, I realized I was joking when I said the water polo world cannot be left behind. All I needed was a good ending to my career.

This five-match final was my last big hit. The last of the many, where I gave everything I had into the game. I wanted to win! Because the big champions would stop it and I wanted to finish it as a champion!

Even some of the tricky moments were great. The last goal was practically the ball clipping out of my hand. It’s funny to look back on the luck that followed me throughout my career, helped me to score my last goal. In any case, this was our last goal, and we won one of the decisive matches in my career.

If you think about luck as something that comes by and helps younger players, I just smile because I don’t believe it. If you play good enough and deserve it, it will help you. Yes, I was lucky again, and it helped us win the game. Moments like these marked my career and I will always remember them with a smile.

Madaras Norbert and Márton Szívós

I did everything I could about the last goal of my career and it paid off! This reminds me of a match we played two years ago in the Champions Finals, also our 5th game. At the end of the third quarter, we had the ball on our side and there were only seven seconds left. I went for a shot. We had only 1% of scoring that one, and it turned out fine — the ball ended in a net. I believed in that shot and it happened!

All in all, I played a lot, did a lot of training, and never missed out because I trained as much as I can in the last 32 years. With a bit of no sense, I always went forward, I did not even enjoy the special moments. I remember winning the Olympics and after a week or two I went to Recco. I started working immediately (something that was not healthy), but I was like this: I instantly forgot about my achievements, went to the get the next ones. After many years of this, it finally caught up with me.

You have a certain effect you leave on everyone around you. Everyone loved, honored, and appreciated you. And they knew Madaras Norbert not only as a good player but also as a person who would unite the whole team and help. It is difficult to sum up these facts, looking from the outside: your behavior, your culture, your quick comprehension, your selflessness, your trustworthiness … This mentality has helped you throughout your career and has taken you forward.

That’s true. It really did.

How did you develop that state of mind?

From the year 1999 onward, I have always watched others how they play and think. And I developed my opinion on everything — both good and bad. I don’t intend to change the world, but only shape my relationships with others. I loved, and still love, what I’m doing and have always enjoyed training. If I had to name something that helped me become what I am, I’d say it’s humility.

Can you tell us more about it?

Humility is something you can rarely see in the world of water polo today. Even though I’m not a fan of that, I understand that it’s a part of our world. There were a lot of good exampled from which I have learned and I don’t even want to start the list because I will surely miss someone. I consider players and coaches as a part of my family. I know they will be here whenever I need them.

Also, sometimes I tend to think about my life if I wasn’t a water polo player or even any kind of athlete. The thing is I think I would still be the same. There are some general attributes you need to master, no matter what you are dealing with. Maybe I wasn’t the best player ever, but I have impressed some with my playing. I may not be the greatest shooter of all time or the best swimmer, but I was good at everything and I developed slowly. I think I can judge my character pretty well because I’m objective. And I still haven’t met a person more realistic and objective than I am. Thus, I make my own judgments. I never lie to myself because I know the way I am.

The point is that I want to do everything that’s in my power. I want to be demanding of myself and affect my environment. That can sometimes be difficult for people around me.

The strange thing is that this kind of behavior is rarely tolerated in today’s world. But you’re loved everywhere. How do you explain this?

I do not know, but it might have something with me being a good water polo player. And I’ll be the same in my next job and I look forward to motivating others to think alike.

It might go smoothly because I think the world would like it and tolerate it, but some may be overwhelmed. In daily life, if you are looking for money for your business, it can be though. On the other side, if you shoot a goal and you are a good player, you will see that you are a part of the team, and even if you make a mistake in life, you will be protected as long as you benefit your team. Well, I did not need such things, I was a trouble-free and good player at the same time. I was a good example for everyone.

Let’s go back to your field: Eger, BVSC, Vasas and from there, a very long period in Recco and then Szolnok ending now at Fradi. Are you staging your career or is it a genuine story?

In 1999, while I was still learning, I played for Eger. Then, my professional world became my home and became a BVSC player. Even in Eger, I played two seasons in OB1 where I played most of the games, which was great for me. After came the “other world.” I got the opportunity to play in Euroleague and have reached the finals. On that day, I became the player I am today. With all mine advantages and disadvantages.

What were your disadvantages?

I’ve always taken water polo seriously and behaved well. Because that’s was all I ever wanted. I used to say I was a water polo player for the first time, second and third time – and that was the way it was. Even in my surroundings, everyone had to subordinate everything, but I think that’s the result of my success. When someone starts explaining to me that “that’s the way it’s supposed to be”, of course, it might, but only for a while. However, I’ve been able to play since 99 so far, because of that. I knew if I did not think that way for just two weeks, I would start sinking. I knew I had to do things my way.

We are talking about 18 to 19 years during which I played 15 championship finals, “only because” I was in Recco for two years in the international team, otherwise, there would be more. I’ve always been asking myself if I was in the right place, and that was my disadvantage.

Did you miss a lot of things because of that?

Yes, I missed practically everything else. I haven’t had a free summer for two decades. Didn’t have much free time either, so I still don’t have a decent hobby. I was a water polo player, and that was everything I had. I learned a lot and met a lot of people, but it was still just water polo. To whoever is reading this, don’t think I’m exaggerating, it’s true, that’s how it works. If you want to be the best at something in a long run (not just a few years), it takes a lot of time. This is not a complaint, don’t get me wrong, for I am a really proud water polo player.

It’s clear that water polo is a way of life. Was it tougher at the end?

Yes. By the time it was all done, I realized I was quite older and then there’s my family. These two things bothered me the most. I have to rest more — I’m not 20 years old anymore — I have to take more time to heal and it became more difficult to play in certain games.

I’ve been fed up with expressions like “this is an important match.” I started looking at it as an exaggeration. The question is: “What is important to me?” It didn’t really matter to me if we won the championship title or not — that didn’t affect my career as much. If I fail, I would still be the Olympic, world and national champion. There is always a need for motivation, which became harder to find for me. Of course, I always managed. This year, I had an opportunity to be the captain and I enjoyed it.

If you had to pick one thing in your career, what would be your biggest achievement?

It’s been pretty nice for the last 20 years. But if I had to choose one thing? Being a Hungarian water polo player! I am proud of my predecessors and I am a good example for the offspring.

But it’s really hard to point something out, first as a swimmer and then as a young water polo player. If you watch the past eleven years of water polo legends and see how good they were, you’ll find my name there. Four times! (Two Olympics and two World Championships.)

I’m very proud of the teams for which I played. I always liked my teammates, and with the majority of them, I’m still good. They were great friends, whether I’m talking about clubs or the national team. The team would not have won three Olympic Games if the players were only players, my colleagues were my friends, and we were a very good community.

Likewise, I remember the 2013 World Championship. I’ll tell you honestly, I’ve been reluctant to “let go” to the old companions, but I found my new motivation. It was my last choice for me and the whole sport. It was different than old gold, unexpected, there was something extra in us that brought us out of the many similar teams who could have won.

What is the biggest thing that troubled you in your career?

Two things — I do not know how to start and I do not prioritize.

There is a weird feeling that grips me, not often and only in big games. I get on the bus or get in the car or I’m there and then this is an inexplicable feeling an average person cannot imagine. It’s about being here, going to the battle with my club or a country, and this is a good, almost uplifting thing, and now you have to live it. I’ve never seen this in any other area. I guess it’s a state of mind. I do not think this is the case in everyday life. The success in your job or a good exam in school would be the closest, but it’s hard to describe it.

And a bit different, but the similar feeling is coming up at an important goal, with assists after winning. Well, that I’ll miss. By the way, I did not have a lot of this, it’s not something one experiences every week, maybe three to four times a year. But I feel it when sometimes and I really like it. Excitement, adrenaline. In addition, most of my matches went well, sometimes it was hard with my mind was troubled, but I still had a lot of inner peace inside me. I have no idea whether I will feel like that in the future.

What about the second one?

The lockers’ room atmosphere. This, I cannot compare to anything. Where there is a good mood, the players will know what I’m talking about. We are together, as a team, we have a hard-to-reach common goal — to experience this feeling everywhere. We have an opponent, a tough one — and then we start to win. But this is not to be seen as a drama because we even joke about it. That’s the feeling I rarely get because water polo wasn’t just a hobby for me.

Well then, it’s inevitable that we talk about the future. At the press conference, it was announced you will pursue another career near the pool.

I’ll get out of the water, but I will not get away from the pool, for I’ll be a president. That’s what I knew since January. We’ve already agreed to it, so I’ve been in quite a rush since then — got a lot of emails, stated my opinions, and made decisions. It was necessary because I did not want to start the job without knowing anything, and then a series of things waited for me, which was hard to change.

It was not easy at the time, but now I say everything was well done. We won the Eurocup and the championship. I had double loads, I did not always go home between two workouts, and I worked hard. It’s necessary to understand the things around the club, the operation, and processes. I talked with coaches, players, prospective players (my own companions!). I thank all of them for this.

Being concerned about it, it surely affected my situation, be it a player, current manager or office worker. There were no conflicts because I did both jobs flawlessly. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a water polo or any other sport that someone is playing in a professional team, fighting for a league title while negotiating with your which players are coming next year.

It was interesting to see things with a new set of eyes. I already knew them as a player, but this was different. For example, I’ve seen how much they work for our success, how much they give to the team, just so everything can work well. The team behind the players cannot score goals, but they’re doing a very important job.

It seems you already have enough confidence to lead the Fradi…

Yes, it seems so. That’s why I thanked everyone who helped me get here.

I had a couple of terms they honored. They didn’t want me to get out of the pool and disappear. Instead, we agreed it will be great for me to continue my career here. I like the fact I would have new responsibilities. There are a lot of ideas I can now accomplish, and they are all focused on water polo — the thing I know the best. After I played my last match, I had a feeling I belonged anywhere and was afraid of leaving the pool behind.

So I’m glad I got this. And I’m not talking only about the men’s team, but also the women’s. A lot of things will change in the future, and I will surely leave my mark on those changes.

After the final match, Varga Dani said he thinks a great Fradi era begins now, both in Hungarian and international water polo. And it starts with you?

Yes, it can really start with as a leader and I already feel an obligation. Especially since now I can’t help my team in the water. We will play in the Champions League next season, and for years to come, Ferencváros will certainly be a very good team.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I would like to thank everyone who helped me or took part in my career. Coaches, friends, anyone…

I played twenty-one senior seasons and have many people have to thank and I will do it! But three most important of them, and they’re not in the water polo world. Three women who have certainly determined and helped my destiny evolve.

The first one is my grandmother who brought me to the pool as a toddler and watched me grow day by day in the early years. I wasn’t used to swimming and I might not even get into the pool if it wasn’t for her.

The second is my mom who was almost raised me by herself and spent most of the time she had to influence me. She helped me with everything I needed and I thank her for that.

The third one is my wife, who has been adapting to my life for a long time, educating the kids, and enduring it when the times were tough, was it a match that night or if was feeling unwell from a tiring session. Every sportsman has someone to help them get through, and my family was beautiful. I thank them!

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