The legend of the Romanian water polo Cosmin Radu has retired after a just finished season.
He finished his career in an excellent way. Mladost won the title of the Croatian champion after a thrilling final against Jug. The fifth match was ended after a penalty shootout, and Radu scored the last goal in the series for Mladost’s first title in the Croatian League after 13 years.
Radu was born in Bucharest in 1981. He started playing at the senior level for Rapid Bucharest in 1997. Cosmin won four titles of the Romanian champion with Rapid in a row (2001-2004), and was voted the best scorer of the league twice.
Between 2004 and 2011 he played in Italy, for Florentia. In 2011 he moved to Croatia, where he played for Mladost (2011 – 2013 and 2017 – 2021) and Primorje (2013 – 2017).
Playing for Mladost, Radu won three Croatian Cups (2012, 2020, 2021), two titles in the Regional League (2019 and 2020) and finished his career winning the mentioned national league. As a player of Primorje, he lifted six trophies in two seasons – he was the Croatian champion twice (2014 and 2015), and won two national Cups and two titles in the Regional League in the same years.
He played for the national team for more than 20 years. Radu debuted for Romania in December 1999, and his last match for the national team was this year at the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Rotterdam. His most important achievements with the national team were 4th place at the 2006 European Championship, 5th place in the 2010 World Cup, 6th place at the 2005 World Championships, an appearance at the 2012 Olympic Games, etc. Radu was the best scorer at the 2011 World Championships.
In an interview with Total Waterpolo, Radu evoked memories of his great career and told us something about his plans for the future.
Your first club was Rapid Bucharest. How did they even start playing water polo?
“I started when I was 10, even though my parents used to take me to the pool earlier, during the summer. They took me to water polo because I was curled up and I always fell, and you can’t fall in the pool 🙂
I’m kidding, I was lucky because a family friend was playing water polo and so I decided to give it a try.”
Have you always been physically dominant?
“Well, I wouldn’t say dominant. But in Romania, they’re all pretty short so I’ve always been a head taller than everyone.
In the beginning, of course, I played on the right side because I am left-handed. But, at the European Junior Championships in Maribor in 1996, in the game against the Spaniards for 7th place, we had some problems with the team,. My longtime coach Răzvan Mustață put me to try to play in the center. Since then, I have continued to play in the center-forward position. I was lucky that he used to play center, so he taught me well 🙂 “
When did you realize you could play water polo at a professional level?
“Since I was a kid. Once, the coach showed me pictures of his good friend and his teammates who played in Italy. And then I knew I wanted to play water polo and go to Italy.
I was aware that I was talented, but I always listened to the coaches. When they told me I needed to do something. They harassed me a little, but I went on.”
Did you have moments in your younger days when you wanted to give up?
“As far as going out and those things that draw you in your puberty days, I didn’t have a problem. But, the first time the coach told me to swim ten times 100m, I really thought I would give up 🙂 Swimming workouts are always a problem 🙂 ”
Your boyhood dream came true and you arrived in Italy, at Rari Nantes Florentia. Can you tell us more about that?
“I went to Italy when I was 22 because my parents always told me that it was important to finish college first. So after graduating from the Faculty of Economics, I had several offers from various countries, but Italy was my wish. Even then I thought about how to play my whole career in Italy and then come home and work in a bank. Who would take me to work in a bank at the age of 35 without work experience ?! I was really silly.
As for Florence, I chose that club because my colleague from the national team Kadar Kálmán already played there and he told me how things were going there and that they had a great coach Ricardo Tempestini. I really appreciate him because I learned a lot about tactics. Every day was like I was six hours in school 🙂 I spent wonderful seven years there. We were like family, and I really learned a lot.
I want to mention another important person in my development. It was Dušan Popović. He was in the club at that time and taught me many technical details that are the legacy of Partizan’s water polo school. I even had a desire to become a coach while I was working with him so that I could pass on to new generations all that I had learned.”
Years in Croatia
After seven years, you decided to leave Italy. The new destination was Croatia.
“Although it was wonderful in Italy, the financial situation forced me to have to find another environment at the age of 29. But from the current perspective, I’m not sorry at all. I went to Mladost, and I thought I would stay there for seven years 🙂 After seven years of playing for Rapid Bucharest, then seven years for Florence, it was logical for me to stay for seven years in Mladost. However, after two years, there were financial problems there, and the invitation of Primorje Rijeka, a mega team at that time, arrived.”
Primorje – the best team I played for, Rijeka is my second home
What was it like playing in that team (Varga brothers, Sandro Sukno, Frano Vican, Paulo Obradović, Xavi Garcia…)?
“It’s the best team I’ve played for. It was a lot of fun, and there was a great desire to win every game. Admittedly, sometimes it would be good if we had more than one ball in the pool, but it teaches you that you have to use your opportunities 🙂 By the way, Rijeka is a beautiful city. It is my second home, and today I enjoy going there, and I will always carry beautiful memories from that period.”
How do you comment on the trend in water polo that has been going on for years, that most big club projects end up with financial problems?
“In my opinion, the biggest problem is that water polo clubs in these eastern countries are mostly funded from city budgets. And when that funding channel closes, then there come the problems. And the other problem is that water polo as a product cannot be sold well.”
You were 36 years old, but you still decided to return to Mladost in 2017. How come you didn’t think about the end of your career?
“I liked Zagreb as a city, and I knew that the way of training in Mladost would suit my age. Thank you Pero Kuterovac! 🙂 Honestly , often moving and packing all things is a big stress for me.
Admittedly, I thought back in 2016 that I would end my career, but I realized that I was still good enough 🙂 ”
You’re still good enough. You could certainly play for 2-3 years.
“Haha, true. I feel I could, but now is still the right time to stop and dedicate myself to working in the Romanian Water Polo Federation”
Could you have imagined a better end to your career than scoring the last goal in the playoffs final for the title of Croatian champion after 13 years?
“Of course not! My best friend is a director, and I told him, “Here’s the script that could win the Oscars!” But when Marcelic defended the last penalty, I just started laughing because I couldn’t believe I had gotten into that situation, and I knew I was going to score a goal. I couldn’t miss such an opportunity :)”
You had one episode when you played the US Open Championship for the New York Athletic in summer 2013, and you were voted the MVP of the tournament.
“My former teammate Andrei Iosep was already there. They knew I was taking a break from the national team that summer and they called me. It was interesting to me because I had never been there. I wanted to see how everything works there. I was in New York for 10 days, and then we went to a tournament in Palo Alto. We had six games, I think, two of them were harder. We won the tournament and ate a burger and drank beer. It was an interesting experience. Americans have a great passion and desire to succeed in water polo and have huge potential, but they lack a professional league so that young players can continue to play and develop after college.”
Many unforgettable matches
The match you will never forget?
“There are a lot of them. It was a long career 🙂
One of these games was the one when we qualified for the Olympics against Brazil. We recorded a big win, but I remember that feeling. I remember the defeat against Recco in the Champions League final, I remember winning the Cup with Mladost, one unimportant game in Florence that we won 13:12… There is a lot of games I will remember forever:)”
If you could, would you change anything in your career?
“To win all the games we lost. : D. I’m kidding, there’s nothing to complain about, nothing can change.
Who is the best center-back that guarded you?
“There are them… Technically, Vujasinovic was a world-class player. The way he controlled my movements, even though he was physically weaker, was top-notch. Ivovic is also great. Buslje is one of them, of course.”
Was it easier for you to play when the defender asked for or avoided contact with you?
Definitely, when he would have contact. Then I could feel him, find an opportunity to attract or turn him around. I remember playing against a Frenchman who swam an awful lot around me. He was fast, and I couldn’t catch him. That drove me crazy 🙂
Radu’s Total Seven
What would your Total Seven team look like, if you pick the players you played with?
“Left side: Sukno, Denes Varga
Right side: Xavi Garcia, Sotani.
Defender: Vanja Udovicic
Center: Igor Hinic – sorry Josip (Vrlic)
Goalkeeper: Frano Vican – sorry Marca (Marcelic)
Obradovic will be quite angry too: D”
Are you afraid you’re going to gain weight now that you stopped playing?
“I’m not afraid because I’m already starting to gain weight: D I’m kidding, I won’t allow myself that. This morning I weighed 104kg, and I was also at 115kg 🙂 Everything starts to hurt me if I don’t train, so I will continue to train.”
Does that mean you might still play?
“And no, I won’t. Although I have an offer, I still won’t 🙂 For now, I won’t for sure, not even in the masters’ competitions.”
Do you remember the first call-up to the Romanian national team?
“The first call-up for the senior national team was in December 2000. It was in Slovenia. I was 18 years old.
I remember the first jump in the pool, but I don’t know who we played against. I remember that I have to remember that moment 🙂 I was lucky or unlucky that we had problems in the center position, so I got an opportunity but I was not good enough at that moment. So it was quite a challenge in the beginning.”
What things do you remember the most in your national team career?
“I think the best four years were after we didn’t qualify for the 2004 Olympics. In that period, we finished 6th at the World Championships in Montreal and 4th at the European Championships in Belgrade. That was the best result with the national team. And then it led to the worst game of my career when we lost to Canada in Romania in the decisive game in the qualifications for the Beijing Olympics. We beat them with a 10-goal difference two weeks earlier, and we were sure we would beat them, but we just couldn’t score anything.”
In Rome in 2009, we had the misfortune of playing with Croatia in the quarterfinals. Maybe we would have some better chances against some other team.
The impressions of the London 2012 Olympics.
“Of course, it is the dream of every athlete to participate in the Olympic Games, and that atmosphere is something completely different.
We failed in terms of results, although we were very close in the group against the Hungarians and the USA. If we had won one game, we would have gone further… We always somehow missed a little to do some miracle, but we were all an awkward opponent.”
Romanian water polo has potential for higher goals
Your career in the pool is over. You have been elected vice-president of the Romanian Federation. What are your tasks and plans for the development of Romanian water polo?
“In addition to finding financial resources, the tasks are to organize all the selections. Where will they train, when, against whom will they play… And strengthen the work in the senior national team and provide them with adequate conditions for progress. We need to be a little more patient until everything is formally confirmed and then we start working hard.
I think we have potential and our plan is to develop Romanian water polo to a level where it can and should be.”
Thank you for taking the time to undertake this interview and we hope you will continue to be successful in your work within the federation. Good luck, legend!
“In the end I would like to take this opportunity say that I am thankful for having great teammates through my career and even thought I can’t mention all of them, I do remember them all and I’m grateful for playing with them!”