On the eve of the World Cup, the hottest topic in the Serbian water polo aren’t the preparations of the national team and the expectations of the tournament in Podgorica, but the “Case Jaksic.”
Unfortunately, Serbia’s captain Nikola Jaksic is at the center of attention, although he did nothing to get into this situation.
To remind you, Jaksic’s club Novi Beograd didn’t let him join the national team in the preparations and play in the World Cup. On Saturday, Serbia’s head coach Uros Stevanovic criticized this decision. In an interview with Total Waterpolo, he said that it had never happened in Serbian water polo. Some Serbian media interviewed Stevanovic a day after.
The next episode of the “Case Jaksic” was the press conference organized by Novi Beograd. The club’s coach Zivko Gocic and director Slobodan Soro spoke with the journalist and explained why the club didn’t allow Jaksic to train with Serbia. But, the director spoke about some other problems in Serbian water polo, too.
Zivko Gocic said:
“I decided that Jaksic shouldn’t go to the preparations and in Podgorica. I made the decision with my assistants, and it was accepted by the director Slobodan Soro.”
Explaining the reasons for the decision, Gocic said that Jaksic wasn’t ready for the actions of the national team despite he recovered from the injury:
“After the World Championships in Budapest, where he got injured, Jaksic didn’t train until September 20. He played his first game after the Budapest tournament, held in July, on October 12. But shortly after, he got injured again and didn’t train for two and a half weeks. He returned to the team, and later he played for Serbia at the tournament in Texas. But, in the middle of January, he suffered a new injury and after that, didn’t train for 27 days.
Since the start of the season, Novi Beograd has played 39 games. Jaksic was on the team in only 18 matches.
All in all, after several injuries and long pauses, and recent recovering, Jaksic is not fully prepared yet for the work and games of the national team.
The decision that he should train with the club in the pause in the clubs’ competition was made for the sake of Nikola’s health.”
Gocic and Soro underlined that the decision isn’t only for the sake of Nikola’s health but for the sake of the club and the national team in the future period. Jaksic has to be fully prepared for the significant challenges that are ahead of Novi Beograd and the national team in the following months. Soro emphasized that Jaksic should play for the national team in the next at least ten years.
But, despite his recent recovery, Jaksic played four games within several days (three at the Regional League tournament in Dubrovnik and one in the Champions League against Ferencvaros).
“Our plans regarding Nikola’s return to the team were different. We planned that Jaksic would travel to Dubrovnik and play for a few minutes in the most important match against Jug. But before the trip, Djordje Vucinic got ill. We didn’t have enough players and we had to take a risk. That’s why Jaksic played three games in Dubrovnik and was on the team against Ferencvaros, but with reduced minutage.”
Uros Stevanovic underlined in the interview that the club allowed Djordje Vucinic to come to preparations (unlike Jaksic), although he was out of the team for two weeks. Soro said that Vucinic’s illness, which lasted for short, and Jaksic’s series of injuries couldn’t compare.
Gocic and Soro are the legends of Serbian water polo. They won many medals playing for the national team. Gocic was the captain of the Serbian team that won gold at the Rio Olympics:
“I can’t allow that anybody put my name and Novi Beograd into a negative connotation and that someone thinks we work against the national team’s interests. I was part of the Serbian Water Polo Federation for 20 years, as a player in all age categories. And I am proud of that.”
Soro also underlined that Novi Beograd, he, and Zivko Gocic didn’t work against the national team and Serbian water polo, but on the contrary. After the 2020 Olympic Games, five Olympic champions returned to Serbia because they joined Novi Beograd”, Soro said, among other things.
Soro commented on Stevanovic’s statement that Jaksic’s presence is necessary at this moment, when the team is forming and when the road to Paris begins. The World Cup is the qualifying competition for the World Championships in Doha, where the last four Olympic visas will be available. But, Soro thinks that the tournament isn’t as significant as it was presented by Uros Stevanovic:
“The tournament in Podgorica is only the qualification tournament for the World Cup Final, which is the qualification tournament for the World Champions. I think that the tournament is given too significant importance than it has. An example for that is that Alvaro Granados won’t play for Spain in Podgorica“.
Soro pointed out that ten days before the list of the players called up to the preparations was announced, Novi Beograd had verbally informed the WPF of Serbia and Uros Stevanovic that Jaksic wouldn’t come to the preparations because he needed another type of training.
We can add that the “Jaksic case” could probably be solved peacefully. Everything that has happened in the last several days certainly hasn’t been in the interest of Serbian water polo, the national team, Novi Beograd and, of course, Nikola Jaksic.
The Law of Sports of the Republic of Serbia (Article Number 24) says: Sports organizations are obligated to let an athlete participate in the national team, by sports rules, when he is called up to the national team.
The same is determined by the Water Polo Federation of Serbia’s Rulebook on the work with the national teams.
The club’s director looked back on Jaksic’s injury at the World Championships in Budapest. Soro said it was the WPF of Serbia’s fault that Nikola Jaksic was not well treated after the injury in Budapest.
He opened other topics about the Water Polo Federation of Serbia. In Soro’s opinion, there are many problems in the Federation’s work. He mentioned the non-transparency of criteria by which the clubs get funds from the WPFS’ budget.
Soro said something about referees:
“Because of the referring criteria, Novi Beograd’s quality is annuled and it comes into question”, Soro said and added that some teams, Crvena Zvezda and Radnicki in the first place, are favored by the referees in the games against Novi Beograd.
Soro emphasized that the quality of the results of the Serbian national team has constantly been declining since 2019.
“It results from bad work not in the last year, but in the previous five to ten years. Because of poor quality work, we are now paying for that. Last year, Serbia took 5th place at the last World Championship and in the World League, and finished the season with 9th place at the European Championships. This is unacceptable for Serbian water polo and a serious alarm that we all have to be seriously aware of,” Slobodan Soro concluded.