Szeged stalwart recalls 13 years with Pick
Atilla Vadkerti started his big handball career in Szeged, and has remained with them throughout. He can hardly remember his senior debut, but vividly remembers the Olympic semi-final as silver medallist Jonas Larholm has since become his team-mate – and his room-mate.
But Vadkerti bears no grudge against his old Olympic rival Larholm, and has turned into a humourous and proud captain of the team he shares with the Swede. He took time out to speak to ehfCL.com before the Match of the Week with Kadetten Schaffhausen on Saturday, 17:15 hrs local time.
ehfCL.com: You have been in this dressing room for several years. Aren’t you bored with it?
Atilla Vadkerti: No, I am not tired of this dressing room. This cannot be boring because things and players around me have been changing all the time. Maybe one thing is eternal: "Piki" [Sándor Pióker, the masseur and kit man for 18 years]. When I entered this room for the first time it looked like as a locker room at an elementary school. It has been renovated since then and even the biggest clubs like Kiel and Veszprém don’t have much better locker rooms. So on the level of locker rooms we are quite good... (laugh).
ehfCL.com: How long have you been a member of the adult team exactly?
Atilla Vadkerti: To tell the truth maybe the only person who could answer this question is Uncle Zoltán Teimel [former sports director and financial director, who is well known for his statistics]. Maybe for 13 years, perhaps I started in 1999.
ehfCL.com: Have you ever wanted to play abroad?
Atilla Vadkerti: Of course, I had several chances to transfer to a foreign team, even at the start of my career when I played in the youth team. But I am not the type of man who easily changes his life. I have already changed my country once in my life as I had been living in Slovakia until the age of 13. My brother took me training with him in Nové Zamky. During his training I was walking on the grandstands among the bags. The coach thought I was trying to steal something so he told me to join and play handball. That is how I became a handball player, rather than Robin Hood! I have been living here since 1996. Szeged is not too small, not too large, friendly and I have everything here.
ehfCL.com: When other players tell stories about their lives abroad don’t you regret that you never left Szeged?
Atilla Vadkerti: I like listening to these stories but I never regret my decision. I was talking about this with Viktor Tomás recently. He is almost in the same situation like me. As László Nagy left the team he became the captain and he played in Barcelona all of his life. His biggest dream was to be the captain of Barcelona. I know that Barcelona and Szeged are not on the same level but I could totally understand his feelings. The fact that I can be the captain of Szeged is the peak of my career, so it was absolutely worth staying here in Szeged. I am really proud of this title.
ehfCL.com: You have stayed here while the players around you have come and gone. Who was the biggest star you have ever played with at Pick Szeged?
Atilla Vadkerti: The first player who comes into my mind is Nenad Perunicic. I remember our first meeting. We were in the gym and I saw him from 10-15 metres away and I wondered who this unbelievably huge guy was. He was Nenad Perunicic, the star of my childhood, who could score goals from wherever he wants. He had a magic aura as a man and also as a player. We could see from all his movements that he knew everything about handball. Playing in the same team with him was a fantastic experience.
ehfCL.com: Let’s talk about the present team. Maybe the biggest star is the newcomer, Olympic silver medallist Jonas Larholm. As the member of the Hungarian national team you lost against Sweden in the semi-final. Has this defeat had a negative effect on the atmosphere of the dressing room at the beginning of the season?
Atilla Vadkerti: This team is so good that we can joke about everything. We don’t have taboo subjects. Sometimes I blame Jonas that he ´ruined my life´, because he ruined my dream about the final of the Olympic Games. I am sure that we will be teasing him during the whole season. Anyway, I think that Jonas is a very good player - fast in defence, and creative in attack, and he understands the pivots and the backs too. It is easy to work with him, but on the other hand I have some problems with him as a roommate. He usually sets up the alarm on his phone for 15 minutes before the official wake-up-time, and he doesn’t wake up, only me. Once I took revenge because of the early wake ups. During an afternoon siesta I got up earlier, pulled away the curtains, turned on the music of the Family Guy and started to sing loudly!
ehfCL.com: Now we know the atmosphere of the team, but what can you say about the structure?
Atilla Vadkerti: To my mind the task of our coach this season is easier and more difficult at the same time. We didn’t have a balance of players for each position last season and we were hit by injuries. Now our coach has two players for each position and he can use and change these players whenever he wants because they are similar. He can also vary with the positions. Last season if I was a playmaker, a pivot had to play as a wing last season - now we are not forced to do this.
ehfCL.com: You lost your first match in Zagreb. Despite the away match most of your fans expected you to win and many of them travelled to Zagreb too. What happened?
Atilla Vadkerti: In the Hungarian league we played very well, we could play our own style and tactic and we concentrated on this. But the Champions League – as the name of the competition shows - is completely different. Usually we say that one of the teams is the favourite of a match but we see many times that smaller teams are able to beat big teams. Our new players who have never played in the CL before could gain experience and learn that this competition is on a higher level. We travelled to Zagreb to win, we wanted to win, but Zagreb is still a good team.
ehfCL.com: Your match against Kadetten Schaffhausen is the Match of the Week on ehfTV.com. What do you expect from the game?
Atilla Vadkerti: I think that this will be an interesting match because both teams have the same goal: qualifying for the last 16. Both teams lost in the first round although Schaffhausen’s loss was not so surprising because they played Barcelona.
Photo: Aurél Iványi
Follow the livestreaming of Match of the Week Round 2 on ehftv.com powered by LAOLA1.tv on Saturday, 6 October (17:15 hrs local time).
TEXT: Nóra Forgó, Róbert Süli