Marko Bijac, the goalkeeper of the Croatian national team and Pro Recco, is currently in his hometown Dubrovnik, where he spends days during the unexpected break caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with portal dance.hr, Bijac shared his thoughts about the situation in Italy, the future of water polo after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Olympic Games…
-I left Genoa early in March to join the national team in preparation for the Olympic qualifications, that were planned for May. At that moment, life in Italy was still standard, so I didn’t experience the most severe wave of the coronavirus pandemic. But I have been in touch with my teammates, and the situation has been bad in Italy. But, thank God, the conditions have been getting better in the last week. I hope that the worst days are behind Italy.
Bijac, who won the 2016 Champions League with Jug and the 2017 World Championships with Croatia, has been in Dubrovnik since the Olympic qualifications were postponed.
-The Croatian national team finished the preparations, and I came to Dubrovnik. I do some things for which I did not have time during the season. I hang out with my family, and the time I spent at home has passed very quickly.
He said that he worked at home, as much as he can.
-This work is on a recreational level. I think that all water polo players will probably need at least a month of regular training to get back into the shape.
What is the latest information regarding the continuation of the Italian League?
-We are waiting for the decision of the bodies of the Italian Swimming Federation. But, the latest unofficial information indicates that the league will not be continued. We expect the final decision in ten days.
Bijac thinks that it would be difficult to continue the league during the summer in the outdoor pools.
–I am in touch with Pro Recco’s head coach Ratko Rudic and with the club, but it’s really difficult to answer such questions until the situation is calm in Italy, and life is back to normal. I think that would be great to play some match by the sea, in the outdoor pools. But the primary condition for this is to allow people to enter the stands. Unfortunately, I think that this situation is still far away. I don’t believe that the Italians will open the pools and the stadiums for fans soon. Mainly, because they have experience with the match between Atalanta Bergamo and Valencia in the UEFA Champions League – Bijac said.
The game Atalanta – Valencia was played in front of over 40.000 spectators in Milan on February 16. The event in Milan was marked as the event that most affected the spread of the virus in and around Bergamo, which is the most severely affected city in Italy.
Probably, there will be no competitions for the national teams during the summer, so the players will be able to rest. From the players’ point of view, this break is good for health reasons. Bijac also had a lot of problems with injuries this season. Everything started with a bizarre injury.
-During Pro Recco’s team-building activities in Sardinia, the players and the staff played futsal. Andro Buslje accidentally hit me under the eye, and a cheekbone was broken. Fortunately, the club organized a surgery in Genoa, with one of the best facial surgeons in Italy, and everything ended well. After that, I had a minor back problem at the European Championships in Budapest, and I didn’t play in the bronze medal game, so I missed a lot of matches this season. Thank God, everything is fine now. I rested well, and I believe that bad luck is behind me.
Many sports clubs in Europe intend to cut salaries because of the economic problems caused by the coronavirus crisis. What does Recco plan regarding this issue?
-There are no indications of significant disorders. There may be changes as in each season, but I don’t have any information yet.
In Bijac’s opinion, it would be great if the Champions League and other water polo competitions can be finished during the summer (July – August). Of course, the situation with pandemic must be under control, before authorities allow restarting of sports activities.
-Of course, I would love it. I think it would be great to play in the summer. That is the direction in which water polo has to go. But, as I said before, I think it is unrealistic to expect that the situation will improve so much for the season to be ended in the summer. The players must be given at least 3 – 4 weeks to train in normal conditions before the start of the series of official matches. Because of that, I think this season is, unfortunately, over, but let’s wait for the official information- Bijac said in the interview with dance.hr.
The Olympic Games are moved to 2021. There will be no European Championship in the middle of the next season, so all the teams will be even more prepared for that tournament, which will be very strong and unpredictable.
-I believe there will be at least seven-eight strong medal contenders. All the players will have to be excellently prepared to endure the rhythm of such a tournament and eventually achieve a good result. Of course, we still have the Olympic qualifications ahead of us, which, as I know, will be played in December. It is questionable when the World Championships will be held, so we will most likely again have a packed schedule.