Water polo players want to play again after 23 years: “Older kids feel the pressure”

Sydney, 2000. This was the last time Dutch water polo players played in the Olympics. After five unsuccessful attempts, qualifying looks like an almost impossible task again this year, but at the European Championships in Croatia, national coach Harry van der Meer’s team wants to try to stay in the Paris race.

For this, it is necessary to be in the top eight. But the Netherlands has not been able to achieve this for years. Thirty years to be exact. “If you look at it this way, the pressure is definitely on us,” Van der Meer says.

The Dutch water polo team was close to qualifying for the 2016 Games, but things went wrong in the penalty shootout. The Netherlands advanced to the quarter-finals of the 2020 Olympic qualification tournament. Captain Jörn Müller says that some players in the now much younger Dutch team want to take away this disappointment.

“If you want to go to the matches, it is important that you perform well in the European Championship. The older players on the team feel the pressure because they think: “We want to do this now.” “We were close in 2016, we were close in 2020 and we were a few places short.”

It will not be easy. There are very powerful countries in Europe. “Since the collapse of Yugoslavia, many countries have managed to make it into the top eight,” says Müller.

Women are already placed

While the men are preparing for an exciting European Championship, the women will be able to start the water polo championship to be held in Eindhoven in a much more comfortable way. Last summer they became world champions for the first time in 32 years and have therefore already qualified for the Games.

“It’s nice for us to know that we’ve achieved our ultimate goal this summer and it’s nice to not have any additional pressure. In fact, it is much more difficult for men,” captain Sabrina van der Sloot understands.

The Dutch will play against Croatia, Hungary and Greece in Eindhoven.

Source: NOS