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02.10.2015, 16:00
Who will take over the hottest seat of all?
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FIRST-HAND INSIGHT: Veszprém’s bench is up for grabs but before you apply be sure your pedagogical, tactical and language skills are perfect.
 

Who will take over the hottest seat of all?

The big club of a small town is loaded with expectation. Veszprém parted ways with coach Antonio Carlos Ortega and are now desperately looking for an eligible successor, but the list of requirements, the timing of the decision and Ortega’s to-be-surpassed legacy make it extremely hard to choose wisely.

The departure of Carlos Ortega might have shocked fans of handball around the world, but as for the handball crazy locals it did not come out of the blue.

The Spanish coach was tactically adept and having spent his professional career in locker rooms full of world class talents he had no problem dealing with the stars of Veszprém, where coaches of a less prestigious background or weak personalities could be eaten for breakfast.

He improved along with his team during his three-year spell at the helm but long before his departure there were signs that even the uninitiated could read about doubts cast by the management whether Ortega was the right man to lead the strongest Veszprém team ever.

It’s not only about winning

"It’s a great honour and a pain in the neck to lead the big club of a small town,” Ortega told me after his first year in Hungary. From one certain point of view Építők are the Real Madrid of handball.

In the City of Queens, where long years of domestic reign and international distinction brought up a sophistically demanding but equally dedicated crowd, it’s not exclusively about winning.

Ask Ortega, who came under heavy criticism and was forced to explain himself after a tight home win against Celje. In clubs like Veszprém you need to be 100 per cent convincing otherwise the pressure will crush you. It’s not enough to deliver. You have to serve it right.

For this reason, Veszprém’s topmen figured it would cause less problems to part ways with an expenditious coach, who was admired by his players, than trusting him with a shot at glory that he so closely missed in 2015. And while they had their reasons (some of which are undoubtedly not groundless) the management are facing a hell of a difficult time trying to find the right coach.

The hotseat is up for grabs

"We took a brave step by appointing Ortega in 2012, who had been a brilliant player but an inexperienced coach, and it worked so we need the supporters to have faith in us,” said Gábor Kálomista co-president of Veszprém.  

However, the list of requirements to be met by the ideal applicant is longer than a Dostoyevsky novel and there are no more than 3-4 masterminds of contemporary handball, who would be embraced by all managers, players and fans of this strange island of the game.  

Quite a few members of Veszprém’s ageing squad are in the last period of their contract and it is not evident that the management are looking for a long-term solution. As it goes without saying that this is the year when Veszprém have the best shot at the throne they may be looking for someone for this year’s job and later somebody else to rebuild the team.

The ideal coach is ...

... a tactical genious with a praiseworthy record, winning reputation and outstanding pedagogical skills. Remember this is a place where your 70 year-old neighbour will strike up a conversation about the timing of your goalkeeper change and will question your choice of defensive formation against short but quick opponents.

Possibly Spanish and not only because of the amount of Spanish players but to fit the handball philosophy this team had been built in during the last three years.

Language problems (obviously an issue when nine nations are represented in the roster) are fixed: Nagy and Alilovic translate to their compatriots.

Better have a name and an enormous amount of silverware under his belt. The ringleaders in Veszprém are established stars in their thirties, who battled for trophies all their lives and would overwhelm someone not strong enough to handle the egos of the now buzzing locker room.

Is there such a coach?

We could go on forever with the eligibility requirements but it’s better to focus on possibilities. There are not many. The season has already started and the best gaffers naturally have their benches.

Veszprém is a tempting prospect but nobody needed the Ortega case-study to know how difficult coaching life can be in ambitious clubs.

Every day new names of possible coaches are thrown in and in a 60,000-strong town it is not easy to keep anything under the radar.

About twenty flying seconds after Martin Schwalb entered through Veszprém Arena’s side door (as Sky’s TV pundit for the Veszprém vs Flensburg game) 5,000 people were convinced Hamburg’s Champions League winning ex-coach will take over the team.

A couple of days back everybody was sure about the imminent arrival of Lino Cervar, before that former coach, Zdravko Zovko’s name came up regularly as the one who led Veszprém to the EHF Champions League Final in 2002.

There were rumours about national team coaches, who could take the job just like Kielce and Hungarian national team coach Talant Dujshebaev but some others claim Veszprém are looking for a long-term solution not an interim coach.

Speaking of interim coaches Veszprém already have Xavi Sabaté, who is a known, respected and loved member of the team and would be the most obvious choice if he wanted to take the job of his friend and patron, Ortega.

He is fit for the job, if you had doubts he proved that big time against Flensburg, but the emotional deputy would surprise most of the fans if he agreed to take it.

Veszprém are still true contenders of the VELUX EHF Champions League but it is yet to be seen if the one who will be chosen to pick up the pieces is the one to finally bring the most prestigious trophy of all to the city where handball is a religion.

Bence Mártha is a blogger-turned-journalist and a lifelong fan of handball.

Founder and co-editor of Hungary’s most prominent handball blog (Hatosfal) later worked for leading Hungarian news sites and became a TV pundit for the Hungarian broadcaster of all EHF tournaments.

Bence has been a literary translator for over ten years, has worked as an interpreter and a tour guide before settling with journalism.

The local guy from Veszprém has been EHF’s Hungarian correspondent for three years and will be until Veszprém win the VELUX EHF Champions League. Then he will retire and move to a deserted island.


TEXT: Bence Martha / br
 
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