The FINA World Masters Championships is a very special event since not nations but different clubs can enter the competitions. The big favourite in the 50+ category of the men’s water polo tournament will be the Hungarian team called Happy Hippos, that won the gold medal at the 2013 European Masters in Budapest and at the 2015 World Masters in Kazan in the 45+ category.
„It will be one of the biggest events of our life. Our generation did not have the opportunity to take part in a major domestic event during our professional career, so it will be a great experience for all of us.” – said captain of the most successful Hungarian senior water polo team, the Happy Hippos, Attila Besenyei. The former European youth champion and Hungarian champion (with BVSC) and his team mates can not wait for the 17th FINA World Masters Championships, where they will be the defending champions.
„As everyone else, we are also getting older, so this year we enter the 50+ category, but we will still meet a lot of old rivals in the pool.”
„We start every game with the clear goal to win it, so we can not imagine any other results but victories. We all grew up as winners.”
Former player of UTE, Zsolt Ürögi is second in the all-time ranking regarding the most appearances in the Hungarian championship. Dr András Bene was member of the UTE Golden Team which won the European Champions Cup and the LEN Super Cup in 1994, Zoltán Denk played in Eger, Csaba Vígvári was a fan favourite while playing at Vasas and UTE as well. Attila Besenyei says the members of Happy Hippos played about 6000 matches in the Hungarian championship in total.
The Happy Hippos won their first medal at a major international event at the 2012 FINA World Masters in Riccione, where they finished second. They won the gold medal at the 2013 European Masters in Budapest and at the 2015 FINA World Masters in Kazan. There have been two changes in the team since Kazan: Zoltán Denk has replaced Dr Tamás Ugrin and Zoltán Ugray has been replaced by János Győri.
„Our club was founded 20 years ago, so it would be great if we could celebrate this jubilee by defending our gold medal. In 1997, when we were sitting in a pub and decided to found a new team, I never thought that we would achieve these results. We have been participating in the Budapest championship, we have won it seven times, we have failed to win a medal only once since then.”
The Happy Hippos not only play in the Budapest championship but also in the Hungarian senior championship, and they have entered the Winter Cup as well, so they play about 60 matches a year. They have two trainings a week under the direction of coach Tibor Pálinkás in order to prepare for the FINA World Masters.
„Our rivals are very strong, for example the American team from San Francisco or the Russian team including 1980 Olympic champions like Giorgi Mshvenieradze or Yevgeny Grishin. I know that far more teams are expected to take part in the tournament than in Kazan. Everyone loves the Alfréd Hajós Pool, the players regard it as the temple of water polo. There will be fantastic matches in a fantastic atmosphere.”
The water polo tournament of the 17th FINA World Masters Championships will be held from 7 to 13 August in Budapest.