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17.12.2015, 11:54
Laszlo Nagy divides and unites handball Hungary
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EHF EURO KEY PLAYERS: Once feared to switch allegiances and play for Spain, Laszlo Nagy is now the undisputed leader of the Hungarian national team at the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland
 

Laszlo Nagy divides and unites handball Hungary

At the young age of 14 the life of Hungarian international Laszlo Nagy was already at crossroads: Back then the extremely well-built boy, who played basketball and also handball, was approached to move to basketball heartland USA to give it and go and become pro.

Nagy’s father was a basketball player which made it even more difficult for him to decline the offer – but as the story goes he stuck with handball, and looking back it is probably not a decision that he regrets heavily these days – despite the love for basketball not ceasing to exist.

“You could still tell he used to play basketball just be looking at his steals, for example,” says Attila Kotormán, a former teammate and good friend of Nagy. “You bounced the ball an inch away from what have been absolutely safe and before you knew it, he had stolen it.”  

After having made the decision to stay in Hungary, Nagy went through the Szeged youth teams and was only 19, when his talent was spotted by FC Barcelona who wanted him to replace the legendary Inaki Urdangarin.

“It was obvious from the very first moment that he was not just a tall guy who could score goals,” says Carlos Ortega, who was a Nagy’s teammate before he became coach of Veszprém.

“There are a lot of players, who are excellent in attack and there are great defenders but ‘Laci’ belongs to the elite group of all-round players. He is the one who always makes a difference. The one you can always rely on as a teammate and as a coach, too.”

The ‘Grande Laci’

Nagy spent twelve years with Barcelona where he became a household name in the world of handball. In 2004 he reached the semi-final of the Olympic Games in Athens with Hungary and on two occasions he was voted the nation’s handball player of the year.

At Barcelona, Nagy won an enormous amount of silverware, including three Spanish cups and championships, the EHF Cup once and the EHF Champions League twice.

Due to a series of injuries Nagy missed almost two years of national team action in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic Games, and rumours had it he might choose the Spanish team upon returning.

The annoyed fans started to call him Grande (nagy means great or big in Hungarian), but Nagy eventually captained the Hungarian national team which went all the way to the semi-finals at London 2012.

“It is like coaching a totally different team with Nagy on board,” says Lajos Mocsai, then national team coach. “A door to a whole set of new tactical variations opened up with his return. There was no need to build our defence and attacks around two different players, with Laci we had an all-round leader.”

A controversial return

However, despite the Olympic success, Nagy was still a topic of controversial opinions in Hungary.

Much to the dismay of the loyal Szeged fanbase, Nagy chose Veszprém when he decided to return to his native Hungary – and the 2,09 m tall right back has been the skipper of Szeged’s bitter domestic rival since his arrival.

On the other hand Veszprém’s veteran left wing Gergő Iváncsik recalls why they were so happy to finally have Nagy on their side.

“I remember back in 2011 we were drawn agains Laci’s Barcelona in the Last 16 and we suffered a heavy defeat away.

“However, backed by our magnificent fans we were trailing by only one goal on aggregate at half-time having overcome a seven goal deficit. Barcelona did not have a great day and you could tell they were in trouble when they headed to the locker room.

“We even equalised in the beginning of the second half but then Laci, who was captain of Barca at that time, stepped up.

“Ha scored three goals in a row, had two of our players sent off and cemented Barcelona’s defence together. We did not stand a chance in the second half, and it was all down to his efforts.”

That day László Nagy entered the Veszprém Arena amid a crescendo of whistles and he was booed every time he touched the ball.

Four years later there are no fans in Veszprém who can imagine their team without their inspirational leader and arguably best player, László Nagy.


TEXT: Bence Martha / ts
 
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