The all-Hungarian clash of Genesys OSC and FTC-Telekom on Day 7 in the Champions League next Wednesday promises a thrilling battle itself – however, there are special flavours added to this match-up. It’s rare that two sons of the same family have to face off each other in such a high-level match, but this encounter will see not only one but two family duels.
Interestingly enough, the two pairs of brothers mark the two ends of the age-scale in this game. As for the older ones, Denes Varga is the captain of Ferencvaros, while his bro, Daniel is already the coach of OSC. As for the youngsters, Vendel Vigvari, from Ferencvaros, is set to be one of the future stars of Hungarian water polo, together with his sibling Vince who is the youngest player of OSC (they are coming from a sporting family, their grandpa, Pal Schmitt is a two-time Olympic champion fencer and was Hungary’s IOC Member between 1983 and 2022 and State President in 2011-12).
Both clubs can look back to a brilliant past, OSC claimed two European trophies back in the 70s while Ferencvaros also had some European success back then, though reached the highest heights in 2019 by winning the Champions League. Now these two rule the Magyar landscape, they battled for the league title last May and clashed in an epic cup final this December, when Ferencvaros came from behind to retain the trophy with a 16-15 victory.
Just weeks later they met in the championship and the title-holders edged out their arch-rivals once more by a single goal, 9-8. In that game Denes Varga brought his very best to the pool, netted 5 goals, prompting his brother Daniel to make the following comment in front of the cameras after the televised game: “Well, you know, we were close once more, we had the chance, but then came this… this… this little bro… and just proved his world-class once more and we couldn’t do much against it.”
Well, Daniel himself was a fantastic player too, they won the Olympic gold together with Denes in Beijing 2008 (the final against the US was their best match, both scored a series of amazing goals) and went on winning the world title shoulder-by-shoulder in Barcelona 2013. While Daniel was an active player, he and Denes usually moved together and played for the same clubs: Vasas (in Hungary), then in Primorje Rijeka, then in Szolnok and lately in Ferencvaros. Daniel retired from there and became a junior coach before taking on OSC. Though both were talented enough, it was Denes who also earned individual accolades thanks to his magical moves, shots and highly entertaining style, an absolute exception in today’s water polo which is rather a sport of gladiators. Denes was MVP of the Champions League Finals in 2012 and 2019, and also earned that distinction at the 2013 World Championships and at the 2014 and 2020 European Championships.
What’s common between the two Vargas and the two Vigvaris, that they all grew up in Ujpest/UVSE, a club being famous for its outstanding age-group programme. During their formative years, Vendel and Vince were coached by the late Tibor Benedek, a true legend of Hungary’s water polo, a 3-time Olympic champion. A bit earlier he had been the head coach of the national team, most notably in 2013 when Denes and Daniel became world champions (and Benedek was the one who gave the two creative geniuses a never-seen freedom which resulted in a series of spectacular goals and ultimately propelled the team to the top of the podium).
However, over the last two years the family ties have been put aside at the most highlighted occasions as the teams and the brothers clashed in the championships finals and in the cup final and now they are heading into two crucial Champions League matches, to be played in a span of 10 days, as the playing format reverses the order of the rounds once the halfway mark is reached in the prelims, so the same teams meet on Day 7 and Day 8.
Clash No 1. is just hours away, stay tuned to watch it on LEN TV, first swim-off is due at 19.30 CET on Wednesday.