article by Nicola Pucci
It all began a few months earlier in Rome, 1988, on the day of the Italian Cup final, when at the siren Arenzano snatched the ball from Posillipo, scored the equalizer, dragged the match to penalties and finally raised the first trophy of the its history. Which is equivalent to the passport for Europe, from play in the Cup Winners’ Cup the following year.
This is where it comes from the wonderful continental adventure of the Rari Nantes Arenzanoa water polo club founded in 1967 on the initiative of Don Ideo Iori, priest of the Arenzano diocese and President of the Constituent Assembly, who in the 1985/1986 season it was promoted from Serie A2 together with the Fiamme Oro (rightfully entering the Scudetto play-offs where they surrendered to breaking latest news in the quarter-finals) and appeared on the Serie A stage for the first time obtaining an excellent fourth place in the regular season and then succumbing to Posillipo in the play-off match (7-8) who award the championship.
Arenzano goes fast, and if in 1988, in fact, it already achieved the first title in its water polo history, at the end of a year which still saw it fourth in the championship and semi-finalist in the play-offs, this time ousted, always in the best way (3-7), from Canottieri Napoli, that’s it for the 1988/1989 season the seven-bell of the legendary player-coach Tamas Farago, someone who in his career won gold, silver and bronze at the Olympics with the Hungarian national team, has a European coup in store.
Gianni Averaimo in goal, Alessandro Mostes, captain Antonello “Lello” Steardo, Claudio Carminati, Roberto Del Gaudio, Virgilio Crovetto, Alfio Misaggi, Fausto Ebolo, Stefano Piccardo, Andrea De Lucis, and obviously Tamas Farago, this is the staff of a team destined to write a truly unforgettable water polo page.
The Cup Winners’ Cup 1988/1989 presents 15 teams divided into four groups at the start, and for Arenzano, included in a grouping with the French Tourcoing, the Swedes FKK Stockholm and the Austrians TWV Innsbruck, the commitment is certainly not prohibitive, guaranteeing itself with three easy victories (+28 the quotient between goals scored and suffered) qualification for the quarter-finals.
At this stage of the competition they have to face the Greeks of NC Vouliagmeni, and for Farago and his companions the issue is already more complex, narrowly winning the first leg match played at home in the Albaro swimming pool, 8-7, and then resisting the return match, 8 -8, guaranteeing a place among the best four together with the great favorites of the competition, that is the Spanish of Barcelona, the Hungarians of Spartacus SC Budapestwhich wants to take up the legacy of Ferencvaros and Vasas who won the Cup Winners’ Cup 3 and 2 times respectively, and the Yugoslavs of Jadran Split.
The semi-final crosses the destinies of Arenzano and Barcellonaand once again the Ligurian team, which could succeed in the roll of honor at Posillipo which the year before beat the Yugoslavians of Dubrovnik in the double final, manages to prevail by just one goal, the one with which he wins on the return match in Italy, 11-10, after the draw in the first leg match in Catalonia, 8-8. And given that in the meantime Spartacus SC Budapest liquidates Split, reversing at home, 10-6, the defeat suffered in Croatia, 7-8, it will therefore be the Italians and Hungarians who will face each other to win the trophyrenewing yet another water polo challenge between two countries historically divided in the pool by a heated rivalry.
The first leg was played in Budapest, on 3 December 1988, and Arenzano, although not favored in the forecasts, displayed excellent water polo, taking the lead with Steardo in the first half, doubling the lead in the second with Mostes, and, after Toth’s brace and the two goals from Kuron and Peter on penalties, closing the half at 4-4 thanks to two more goals from a wild Steardo . In the third half the two teams were equal, at least in terms of scoring, with Crovetto, Carminati and Farago responding to Peter’s scores and again by Toth who was on target twice, but when, in the last half, Farago and Mostes bring the score to 9-7, Arenzano, in the presence of a public that fears that the refined play of their favorites may not give the desired results, seems to have won the game. This is not the case, because the ineffable Mr. Tellegen, the Dutch referee who harshly sends Farago and Misaggi off for three fouls, has a hand in it, forcing the Ligurian team into numerical inferiority which in the final allows Peter and Kuron to score the final 9-9despite a shot from Carminati which hit the crossbar 2″ from the closing whistle and gives the impression of having entered the goal, which postpones the resolution of the double challenge to the match to be played seven days later in Albaro.
Saturday 10 November 1988 the Rari Nantes Arenzano of president Carlo Casalewho five years earlier, almost out of nowhere, believed in an ambitious sporting project, has his very personal appointment with the history of water polo. And with the warm support of 3000 enthusiasts who fill the Albaro swimming pool in every row, he doesn’t miss the golden opportunity, dominating the match right from the start.
In the first half, in fact, having absorbed Horvath’s sudden advantage after 49″, a brace from captain Steardo and a goal from Del Gaudio steer the match towards the Ligurianswho still suffer the seal of Peter (always in numerical superiority) for later spread in the second half thanks to the scores of Crovetto, twice, Misaggi and Del Gaudio, with the only goal by Majer for the 7-3 which reaches the half-time interval. Arenzano doesn’t concede anything in defence, Averaimo is unbeatable, a sort of goalkeeper-guard, and when Steardo and Mostes again expand the score to 9-3 in the 17th minute, nothing can really stand between Rari Nantes (which during the season is associated with the sponsor Boero Colors) and the final victory.
The green-and-whites allowed Spartacus to reduce their deficit thanks to goals, only consolatory, from Toth and Peter, who scored a last, useless double, but when it’s time to close, the bright scoreboard indicates 9-6 Arenzano. And the time has come to lift the Cup Winners’ Cup trophy.