If we were to use boxing terminology, Andrija Prlainović would be called the Undisputed Water polo Champion of the World! He is the current winner of World Championship, European Championship, Hungarian National League, an Olympic gold medalist and winner of the Champions League. He found the time between practices to share his thoughts for Total Waterpolo.
You are entering the prime of your playing career and we can’t find a gold medal you haven’t won yet. What motivates you to keep working this hard, despite all your success?
A lot of people ask me that. I probably think like most athletes and people do: That you need to use every opportunity you get in life and use the potential that you have. I believe I have a lot of good years in front of me, I entered the mature stage of my playing career and I am enjoying water polo more than ever. I may have won every title there is, but I still want to win and play the best that I can.
We have become accustomed to the dominance of Serbia in recent years. In the Super League, the Americans and Italians were very close to you. Did Gocić and Nikić leaving the team, cause a loss of experience, which is important in strong matches?
We were two matches behind in that tournament. We were losing 4:0 against the Italians in the final. That was not usual for us, but that tournament was a good reminder that other teams have not stopped playing and that they want to beat us. I want to remind that Mandić and Jakšić weren’t there as well, yet we were satisfied with the outcome, because we demonstrated our compactness and range even under those circumstances, what led us to win the World League.
Regarding Gocić and Nikić, they were definitely the heart of this team. They are irreplaceable both in the pool and outside. With their experience and calm attitude, they added quality and value to the whole team. It is impossible to replace these players, and we shouldn’t even try. Fortunately, we have enough high-quality young players that are not yet at the level of Gocić and Nikić, but who will certainly progress thanks to playing for the national team, and who deserve to be here.
You will have an easier opening against JAR, and then you’ll play against Spain and Greece. Usually, you grow in performance as the tournament progresses. What is the plan this time, since losing in the group could potentially mean a match against Hungary before the final?
I think opening against JAR will be an easier training. Our goal is to be the first in the group. It would definitely give us more room to breathe and an easier opponent in the quarter-final. It is true that we tend to be better as the tournament progresses. Given his previous success, I believe that coach Savic and his staff will also prepare the form for the last three matches.
A final game between Hungary and Serbia on Margetsziget would definitely be a magnificent game. Do you see it happening? And what other national team do you consider to be a dangerous opponent?
Hungary – Serbia is probably the biggest classic of water polo. These are countries that have been winning a lot in the last 20 years. It would definitely be a spectacular game. But it will be a great game for us, no matter who we end up with in the final. I do not want to diminish the chances of other teams, primarily Croatia and Italy. I think that these four teams can be considered favorites, mostly because they changed the least number of players since the Rio Olympics. There are many changes in other teams and we need to see how this will affect the results. Of course, I am not ruling out the possibility of some team surprising everyone and ending up in the final.
Regardless of the outcome of this championship, it’s a fact that Serbia has been at its highest level for a long time and the question is, when will it stop. What is the secret?
It is difficult to explain in a few sentences. Everything started in Rome when the core team was created – Pijetlović brothers, Mitrović, Filipović, Aleksić and me. Later additions to the team were a great fit. Current examples are Ranđelović and Jakšić, who are currently the youngest, and they play a very important role.
We are a very homogeneous group. From the goalkeeper and players to the headquarters. There is no individualism, different players shine from game to game. And I think that it is precisely this teamwork attitude that is responsible for all the success we have achieved.
Serbia is actual World and European Champion, Olympic and World Leauge gold medalist and first favorit to regain the title. We can’t wait to see, if can they do it again. Thank you Andrija and all the best for your future carreer.