martedì 17 marzo 2015

Tomorrow’s stars of Hungarian water polo

With the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro only 1 year away many national teams are in the final stage of a transition phase. The Hungarian national team has welcomed multiple new faces since former captain Tibor Benedek took the torch from his old coach Dénes Kemény after the previous Olympics in London 2012. Names like Gerely Kiss, Péter Biros, Tamás Kásás, and Zoltán Szécsi that dominated international water polo for more than a decade, made place for the new generation. This is a continuous process, the life cycle of every national team in almost every great team sport. Luckily for Benedek the Hungarian competition is a breeding ground of talent and future water polo stars. Below we introduce you to a few of these future stars (under 25). Some may have arrived already and could barely be called a “future” star anymore, others are less well-known but certainly not less talented. 


Márton Lévai, Honvéd, 29-APR-1992 (22)

At 22 years of age Lévai has already played together with the world’s greatest as a reserve at Szolnok in the previous seasons and is now the number 1 at Honvéd. He is Benedek’s 3rd choice goalkeeper behind Viktor Nagy and Attila Decker. Lévai has the size, vision, and talent to become the absolute number 1 of his generation but must improve his dominance and presence in the goalkeeper area to reach his full potential.

Gergely Kardos, KSI, 01-SEP-1995 (19)

Kardos is the 1st choice goalie for Hungary’s national youth team and has been a key part of some of their recent successes. In his second year in the nation’s top division he demonstrates impressive numbers for a player of his age. He shows more authority in goal than Lévai and is more vocal, but is still a few steps behind in the other areas of goalkeeping.

Centre-backs (3)
Dániel Angyal, Eger, 29-MAR-1992 (22)

As a high scoring center defender Angyal made his debut at the highest level in 2011 for Honvéd, but only really made a name for himself at Vasas. His real breakthrough came last season as he was one of the few remaining top talents in a deteriorating Vasas side. This earned him a transfer to league champions Eger where he continues to develop into a world class all-round defender.

Dávid Jansik, Szolnok, 28-FEB-1991 (24)

Despite being only 24 years old, Jansik has been around for a while. He played his first games in the highest division in 2008 as he came up the ranks through the Honvéd youth system. His size and presence make him the perfect center defender. Jansik moved to Szolnok in 2013 where he has competition from settled names like Zivko Gocic, Milan Aleksic, and Dániel Varga. To avoid his development to reach a stand-still he might have to look for a move away from Szolnok after this season.

Wing Back (2, 4)

Gergő Kovács, KSI, 02-SEP-1995 (19)

Some players just seem to have it all and Gergő Kovács is one of those players. At just 19 years of age he is the key player for KSI. With 61 goals, 41 steals, and 15 blocks Kovács was by far the most impressive player in his age group last year. He can play every position in the back line and has a lethal shot as well. It is only a matter of time before he is picked up by a team higher up in the league.

Tamás Sedlmayer, Vasas, 06-JAN-1995 (20)

A new generation of Vasas players is presenting itself and Sedlmayer might be the flag carrier of this group. He has been a vital part of junior national team squads in every age group so far and made his debut in the highest division at age 17. He has all the skills to become a great play maker and has a deadly long distance shot to add to this as well. The departure of many of Vasas’ former stars might be a blessing in disguise for Sedlmayer as he can put himself on display at the highest level.

Bálint Lőrincz, Eger, 10-MAR-1994 (21)

There are players that debut at such an early age that you sometimes forget how young they really are. This is certainly the case with Lőrincz. He made his debut for Eger in 2011 at just 17 years old but has been struggling to earn his spot in the team. With the arrival of Milos Cuk, Márton Szivós, and Norbert Hosnyánszky this season, Lőrincz might want to consider his options to avoid disappearing in the shadows.

Márton Vámos, Szolnok, 24-JUN-1992 (22)

What!? Márton Vámos is only 22 years old?? Yes! Márton Vámos is really only just 22 years old. In 2010, at age 18, left-handed Vámos immediately made an impact in his debut season for Vasas scoring 36 goals helping his team to reach the play off final. He continued to make his mark in following seasons, improving his goal scoring record for Vasas every year (2011-52, 2012-69) until his transfer to Szolnok in 2013 where he hopes win the treble this year. (HUN cup, HUN league, Champions League). Despite his young age Vámos is a key part of Benedek’s national team and has already earned several medals of honor, including a World Championship. His inspiring and powerful left handed shots can only remind us of Gergely Kiss in his prime. The future will tell whether Vámos will grow to be as good and successful as his legendary predecessor.

Bence Fülöp, Honvéd, 09-APR-1991 (23)

Some players can play in defense, some players can play in attack, and some players can simply play everywhere. Fülöp has the strength and power to play in centre-back and centre-forward position, but is also agile and quick enough to play on the wings. He is a hot and cold player, swapping astonishing performances with games where he is completely invisible. This inconsistency has been keeping him from making a real breakthrough. Fülöp is certainly one of the most talented players of his generation and has all the tools to succeed. However, his wild character could be his biggest obstacle in reaching that potential.

Wing front (1, 5)

Balázs Erdélyi, 16-FEB-1990 (25)

Erdélyi made his debut for Eger in 2008 at 18 years old. After 2 seasons the youngster moved to USA on a scholarship where, playing for the Pacific Tigers, he broke every possible record (including a competition high of 96 goals, 3.43 average goals per game, and goals in 78 consecutive games) in USA college water polo and earned all available personal awards at least once. This season he returned to his home town to storm the European waters again, starting with Hungary. Erdélyi quickly became a regular for the national team as well, competing in all major tournaments in 2014.

Bence Bátori, 28-DEC-1991 (23)

Like Márton Vámos, we can barely believe Bátori is only just 23 years old. He was a key member, and top goal scorer, in each of Eger’s previous 2 Championship victories (2013, 2014) and already a regular for Benedek’s national team. Bátori was part of the World Championship winning squad in Barcelona as well, though his contribution was limited. Although he is scoring for fun in the domestic competition, Bátori has not yet completely convinced on international level. To really follow in the footsteps of the renowned Hungarian wing attackers of the past, he must be more consistent in the national team and be even more efficient with his shooting. 

Krisztián Manhercz, Szeged, 06-FEB-1997 (18)

Hungary’s golden boy Krisztián Manhercz might be the youngest of the 2 Manhercz brothers, but he is by far the most talented one. His occasional moments of brilliance at Vasas last season earned him a transfer to Szeged over the summer. This is where he continues to show his potential scoring goals and making steals. At just 18 years old his physique must still fully develop and he has to become more consistent, but it is evident that Manhercz is destined for greatness. 

Gergő Zalánki, 26-FEB-1995 (20)

Zalánki had a storming debut season in 2012 for Eger’s second team EgerFood with 37 goals and 22 steals. The following season he played his part in Eger’s league victory and already made a few appearances for the Hungarian national team. This season Zalánki has become the victim of Eger’s transfer frenzy during the summer. He is behind Serbian Boris Vapenski in the hierarchy and coach Dabrowski has left him out of the squad already more than once.
To get back on track, it might be good for Zalánki to consider leaving Eger after this season if the club cannot guarantee him more game time.

Tamás Gyárfás, 24-AUG-1994 (20)

As Vasas continued to lose their key players over the last 3 years, new names had to step forward to defend the club’s sensitive honor and pride. Left handed Gyárfas came to Vasas in the summer from UVSE and has been very impressive so far. With 43 goals in 23 games he is the team’s top shooter and 9th on the league’s top goal scorer ranking ahead of confirmed goal scorers such as Stefán Mitrovic, Márton Szivós, Gergely Kiss, and Ferenc Salamon. At just 20 years old and a lot of competition, it might still take a while before we see Gyárfás appear on the international stage. But that Vasas once again picked up an extraordinary talent is unmistakable.

Centre-forwards (6)

Krisztián Bedő, 04-MAY-1993 (21)

Bedő already played his first games in the top division in 2011 for BVSC at 18 years old. His size and strength make him a perfect fit for the centre-forward position and his talent was recognised by Eger that added him to the squad in 2013. He paired successfully with Balázs Hárai to see Eger win the league that season and also helped Hungary to World Championship gold in Barcelona (2013). He is still a bit wild and reckless and must improve his movement in the hole, but with Hárai as his mentor and his natural talent for the position, he could become a national team regular for many years to come.

Róbert Fejős, 22-MAR-1994 (20)

Another player from the KSI water polo school. Fejős fights, he bullies defenders, he scores amazing goals, and he gets yelled at a lot. His talent and potential as centre-forward seem limitless, however his unpredictability is a risk. As a coach he is the kind of player you hate to love. This season Fejős looks a lot more professional though, which also shows in his statistics. With 28 goals, 10 blocks, and 14 steals he displays better numbers than star center forwards like Gábor Kis (Szolnok), Joseph Kayes (OSC), and Balázs Hárai (Eger). If Fejős can continue to channel his talent in a positive way and stay motivated, he could certainly be in for a successful career.

Toni Német, 14-JAN-1994 (21)

When you see Toni Német you can hardly believe he is only 21 years old. His impressive size and strength make him a real handful for any center defender. Recently Német has joined the national team for the annual Volvo Cup and following World League games. He definitely shows potential but needs more game time on top level to learn the tricks and traits of a top center forward. Playing for Vasas, he has one of the best in his position of the last decade as his mentor with Ádám Steinmetz. He must improve his goal scoring and be more careful to avoid offensive fouls. But at only 21 years old he still has plenty of time to work on his game and develop his skills.

Of course a lot of these youngsters are at such early stages of their careers that it is difficult to predict where they might be 4 or 5 years from now and for most of them Rio 2016 will be too soon. But the future is certainly exciting for Hungarian water polo. With the 2017 World Championships getting organised in Budapest, it is definitely worth keeping an eye on the development of these players!

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