Sabadell added their sixth European title over the weekend, but for one of their most important players, it was her first European triumph.
With national titles in Hungary, Italy, and Spain, Sabrina van der Sloot, captain of the Netherlands national team, can at long last tick Europe’s best club competition off her bucket list. After three previous failed attempts at the final-4, the Dutch star helped her club Sabadell secure the Champions League title against national league rivals Mataro.
Van der Sloot has won the national championships in Hungary (Szentes 2014, UVSE 2017), Italy (Ekipe Orizzonte 2019) and Spain (Sabadell 2021, 2022)
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As she prepares to join up with the Dutch national team once more for the women’s World Cup, she took some time to talk to Total Waterpolo about finally reaching an important individual milestone with the reigning Spanish, and now European Champions.
The weekend was a remarkable event for women’s water polo, particularly for Spanish women’s water polo, as it witnessed a Spanish derby in the final, reminiscent of an ‘El Classico.’ The rivalry between the two teams, Sabadell and Mataro, was further fuelled after the weekend’s action. According to Van der Sloot, though, the rivalry between the two great teams is a driving force behind the increasing quality of Spanish water polo:
“Our rivalry with Mataro is something that keeps us focused as a team, and they are forcing us to be better every game. Maybe when we play against each other, it’s not the most amazing game people will see, water polo-wise due to the fact that we know every player and tactic of each other. But the games are always exciting because of that! Personally, it’s weird to have this rivalry with my friends, but I am happy that we all have the opportunity to compete on the highest level.”
Champions League Final: Sabadell 9 – 8 Mataro Copa de la Reina: Sabadell 8 – 6 Mataro Liga Espana: Sabadell 12 – 13 Mataro Champions League Prelims: Sabadell 11 – 12 Mataro Liga Espana – Mataro 9 – 16 Sabadell Spanish Super Cup – Mataro 10 – 9 Sabadell Copa Catalunya: Mataro 9 – 13 Sabadell
Champions League Final: Sabadell 9 – 8 Mataro
Copa de la Reina: Sabadell 8 – 6 Mataro
Liga Espana: Sabadell 12 – 13 Mataro
Champions League Prelims: Sabadell 11 – 12 Mataro
Liga Espana – Mataro 9 – 16 Sabadell
Spanish Super Cup – Mataro 10 – 9 Sabadell
Copa Catalunya: Mataro 9 – 13 Sabadell
For Van der Sloot, it’s no fluke that Sabadell are one of the most successful clubs in Europe, pointing to excellent recruitment, and trust from their coach, gives them a really good balance in-game:
“I think the success depends on the combination of the people. Not only do they have great players, but they are also great team players. Honesty, acceptance, respect, and an enormous amount of self-confidence are some of the key words I would use to describe our team. Also, the coaches are an important factor. David Palma knows the quality of the team, is always open to our experience, and listens to us. He gives us freedom to just play and be creative. I think to finish the league with another win, we have to stay focused and keep enjoying playing together.”
In the context of Sabrina’s career, she is just finishing her third season with Sabadell, making it the longest spell she has played for any of her foreign clubs. By her own admission, it’s been a lot of pressure:
“This season, my role was a bit different than the two years before,” she explained. “I was filling the gap that was left behind when some of the Spanish girls left. When they came back this season, I was really happy, but I think we all had to find our new role in the team.”
The 32-year-old, however, is particularly grateful to Sabadell and her teammates, saying, “I told the club that after three years, they surely became my second home and I consider my teammates as my family.”
When asked about women’s water polo, Sabrina was happy to see the pool full of fans during the Champions League final. “It really gave us extra energy,” she said. However, she expressed disappointment in the amount of female referees in important men’s games.
“I was not disappointed about having only two female referees at our final. But It would be fantastic if the men’s Final 8, or even the CL games, had more female referees,” she added.
“I think it’s really good that we are speaking up about the attention that we are getting,” she said. “Media that want to support us can follow us and give attention to the victories we have as teams. In Spain, the girls have been performing really well for years, but the media coverage was low. Fans can help us by sharing our stories and coming to the games!”
As we head into the international break for the women, Sabrina prepares to rejoin her national team for the first competitive game since the European Championships in Split. The 2018 European water polo player of the year is eager to continue leading a young and exciting team:
“I didn’t compete in Tenerife because I was doing my internship,” she explained. “But I think a lot of the newer players got the chance to compete at the highest level. Now it’s time to use this experience and focus on stability in our performance.”
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