BarcelonaThere is always a second chance. An option to change the past. For Catalan water polo, this means making history. Of bad memory is the final four in Kirishi (Russia) in 2017. Mataró and Sabadell were looking for a ticket to what could be the first Catalan women’s water polo final. On that occasion, the locals won the mataronines, while Olympiacos beat the valesanas. They would face each other for third and fourth place (7-5 for Sabadell), but it was no longer the same.
Six seasons have passed and the same pieces are back on the board. In this case, no Russians or Greeks, the latter eliminated by Mataró in the quarter-finals. The two Catalan clubs, separately, will fight this Friday to be in the grand final that will be played on Saturday in Can Llong, in Sabadell. The locals have never missed the appointment when the final four European Championship has been played at home, with four titles in four contested finals (2011, 2014, 2016 and 2019). And Mataró will play its second four-man final.
The Hungarians from Dunaújávaros and the Italians from Orizzonte Catania, the most awarded team in the top European competition with 8 titles, will be the rivals. “After winning the reigning champions we are in high spirits, we have options against the Hungarians”, explains Anni Espar. The Barcelona player plays in the ranks of CN Mataró and will be one final four special for her. Making his debut at CE Mediterrani, he started the 2009-10 season at CN Sabadell, where he won all the major titles possible. Four years after his departure, he returns renewed with a team that goes all the way. This is the second time the club have made it this far, but perhaps the first time they have a real chance of taking home the title.
For me, the girls from Sabadell are the favourites”
Anni Espar CN Mataró player
According to Espar, this is thanks to the commitment made by the organization to promote women’s water polo. “Great efforts are being made from the base, which is why we have great players in the first team who have been here all their lives. I would never have thought of leaving Sabadell, but when they explained the project here it was clear to me,” he explains to the NOW For her, the final four it comes at a good time personally. “I get there very well physically. I combine Mataró with the Australian league, which is uncommon in water polo,” he says with a laugh. However, he admits that his goal is to win the final. “For me, the Sabadell girls are favourites”, he says.
“You can say that we are. We just work hard and show in the water that we want to be champions”, replies Laura Ester, goalkeeper of CN Sabadell. At the club since 2010, he has been a participant along with Espar in the great triumphs of his club in Europe. Last year they suffered a setback losing the final in Piraeus against Olympiacos (11-7). “Rather than us getting used to winning, people end up getting used to it. It’s a little bit angry, if we lose in the end it’s for a reason, just like if we win. We talk about failure too lightly” , he says to the ARA.
Failure is spoken of too lightly”
Laura Ester CN Sabadell player
It will be the fifth final that Sabadell will play at home. The other four were resolved with the Valais champions, which for Ester does not add more pressure than playing a final four. “We are very excited to play at home with our people and enjoy such an experience,” he says. But, to lift the title, they will have to win two games, the first against Orizzonte Catania. “They haven’t been champions for a long time, but they’ve been doing very well in recent years. If we don’t give 100%, we won’t be in the final,” he explains. In case of overcoming them and being able to have a possible Catalan final, Ester admits that it would be quite a success. “It would be nice, more and more women’s water polo is being committed to clubs and we want to show that it’s worth it,” he concludes.
Both Anni Espar and Laura Ester have a clear goal: to take the title. For Mataró it would be the first in its history, while Sabadell would add the sixth to its displays. But first they will have to beat their respective matches. The semi-finals will be decided tomorrow: at 4.45 p.m., the home team host Orizzonte. The second match, at 8 pm, between Mataró and Dunaújávaros, will decide the second finalist. On Saturday, in the prelude to the big event, the losing teams will face each other for third and fourth place (4 p.m.). The grand final, at the Can Llong venue, will be decided at 5:30 p.m.