Three-time Olympic champion Dr. Tamas Molnar was elected chairman of the Vienna Water Polo Technical Committee and from now on he will lead water polo in the world. Never in the world history of water polo has a Hungarian sports leader been in such high esteem.
Following in the footsteps of former LEN and FINA Technical Committee member Ferenc Salamón and LEN Bureau member Gyorgy Martin, but outperforming his predecessors, three-time Olympic champion Dr. Tamás Molnár rose to the top of the profession and became the leader of the sport of water polo in the world. He was elected Chairman of FINA’s Water Polo Technical Committee (WPTC) at the 19th Budapest Congress. During the FINA World Championship Board of Directors meeting. The newly elected Sports President, Dr. Tamas Molnar, gave an exclusive interview to Mandiner.
How did you hear about this wonderful news?
This change was in the works, but it really seemed to me when the president of FINA, Hussain Al-Musallam, congratulated me and wished me a good job. This professional confidence is a great pleasure and a great honor, and I will endeavor to earn it all in the future.
It might be helpful to define what exactly this role means at the helm of the world’s water polo…
FINA, as the international sports federation that unites water sports in the world, manages the sports under its organization or, if you like, its disciplines, such as swimming, diving or water polo in the professional sports sense, through its Technical Committees. Based on the professional preparatory work, and based on the recommendations of the branch, the presidency, or the general assembly, you finally accept our professional proposals. In this position, I was able to lead the professional management of water polo – both women’s and men’s polo – which I can say with certainty is also for the whole world sport of Hungarian water polo, because in my person it unites Hungarian water polo in the Olympic, World and European championships, even recognition With the successes of his club so far and international professionals working in the profession somewhere.
What responsibilities does the Technical Committee Chair have or can he influence?
In fact, for everything it takes to develop, direct, operate and referee the sport. Of course, appointing judges and determining the direction of arbitration are also part of the tasks, which are never an individual decision and must always serve the interests of sport at the international level, and I will be guided by them. This is to the fullest.
Anyone who has followed his career knows that such professional recognition is preceded by an amazing amount of work invested, and it is clear that the outstanding successes of the players, the three Olympic titles, world and continental titles provided a solid foundation for all this. But why did this historic moment come now?
I always believed in hard work. Even when I was still very active, years before our third win in Beijing, I began to follow the advice of Uncle Fairy Salamone, the fruits of which are now ripening. Many people asked me why I was going to lead the children’s games on Sunday after the league games on Saturday, what was the purpose of all this, but I wanted to start from the beginning, because I was interested in sports from a waterside point of view as well. I felt I could get enough credibility even in refereeing duties. I started on this path fifteen years ago, and no matter how the LEN or even the FINA Technical Committee advanced, I sought Uncle Ferry’s advice at every step.
Have you achieved outstanding success in arbitration? Because if a person was seen on the beach with a whistle in his mouth, surely there would be people who did not like his decision?
Management was part of a journey, and when I joined LEN, in order to maintain objectivity, they asked me not to judge anymore. At the same time, I am proud of the fact that I presided over the final of the championship and the final of the Pan American Games, and I greatly appreciated that, especially at home, where the work of the referee is viewed very critically, he always gave some composure and lack of controversy in the appointed matches.
So, if I understand correctly, a two-decade world-class playing career and a decade-and-a-half of sports diplomacy combined in this mission?
If you look at this honorable opportunity from my perspective, then yes, but it is much more complicated than that. Sports investments in Hungary over the past 10 years, as our country has proven and continues to prove year after year by organizing its 19th FIFA World Championship in four months, in record time and flawless so far, what a wonderful home for world sports, Well, these are cumulative effect mechanisms. The government’s philosophy of supporting sport is – I can say from experience – well known in many parts of the world, and professionals and managers active in sport are grateful for this universal love and professional organisation. Hungarian water polo is perhaps one of the most established schools in the world, its predecessors and our results speak for themselves, perhaps even the profession felt that a representative of a worthy school could continue the water polo cause in my person. The recommendation of the Hungarian Water Polo Association was also a very important element, for which we are very grateful. To all this, and at the same time, he certainly added a lot of what Dr. Together with Sándor Wladár, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 19th FINA World Championship, and Operational Director Dávid Szántó, we systematically passed through the national federations of all board members, consulted and negotiated, because we wanted to make a decision with strong support. It is also a fact that the new president of FINA, Mr. Hussain Al-Musallam, who was elected last year, has thrown himself into the work of the water community with extraordinary dynamism and not only makes plans, but also implements what he imagines and receives widespread support for this.
Where does the water polo go? If we only look at the domestic World Cup, the refereeing is almost unprecedentedly strict. Do they throw players out of the pool?
Let’s start with the fact that the uncontrollable state after the 90s was smoothed out by many years of work, when the water polo technique was replaced by water wrestling and sometimes indecent wrestling. This is now a thing of the past, the rules must be followed, and the other player must be respected, because this is a game after all. We had to promote this trend, while our other big task is to promote sports at the international level. Today, water polo is not just a sport on one continent: for women, Australians, Americans, Japanese and Chinese are also a great professional force, the situation is similar for men, but we can be more satisfied if the sport reaches even the African continent and you will have a much larger follower base than you have it now. I see that the current management of FINA is doing a great advertising and marketing job, they are investing a lot of energy in social media promotion, which is much needed as we want to reach more kids with this great sport.
Speaking of children? What do your twin children and your partner think of your new mission? How much do they see from you in the future at home?
They are proud of me, I think, ”he laughs to himself. The period of the pandemic also offered us new solutions, I believe in saving money, and today it is possible to conduct online discussions in a very efficient way and above all to save costs on almost any problem. On the other hand, When there is an event and you should be there, it has always included travel, and this will not change in the future either.But since I love water polo, it will never be a burden for me, on the contrary, it is a great joy and a great opportunity to serve the international water polo cause at the helm organization in the coming period.
Dr. Tamas Molnar, lawyer, three-time Olympic and World Games water polo player and two-time European champion, has won the World League title twice and won international championships from all age groups.
Since 2009, he has been a water polo referee. In 2015 he was elected President of the Jury Board of the Hungarian Water Polo Association. In January 2016 he was elected to the FINA Athletes Committee, and in May 2016 to the LEN Water Polo Committee. Since July 2017, he has been a member of the FINA Water Polo Committee. In July 2020, he was re-elected Vice-President of the Hungarian Water Polo Association, and has held the position ever since.
He became a member of the Swimming Sports Hall of Fame in 2015, and was awarded one of the highest government awards, the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, with a star after his third Olympic title, and in the same year, in 2008, he was made an honorary citizen of Budapest.
Dr.. Sandor Vladar: In the background, there was a lot of struggle for this position
The President of the Hungarian Swimming Federation and the Organizing Committee of the 19th FINA World Championship, Sándor Wladár, also takes the lion’s share of managing Tamás Molnár’s “case” and willingly tells Mandiner that we can get a background on this. Decision making process:
“We knew that hosting the World Cup in Hungary was a great opportunity to make progress in the field of sports diplomacy, which is why we traveled around the world for months and persuaded members of the Bureau. The huge trump card is that Tamás Molnár’s biography is perfect, but we must see that the personal relationship is perhaps the most important thing In these decisions I feel that we, together with Dávid Szántó, have been able to create a relationship with almost all European and world sports leaders, so that we Hungarians are important, our words are heard, our requests are heard.
What kind of negotiations, if you will, negotiations take place in this background meeting?
– You should know that there was a great struggle for this position in the background. It is a fact that every publication is very important within FINA, but it was also clear to us, swimmers, that we would have to fight primarily for this, as it has the greatest impact on the sport itself. Since we are a family with water polo players, their successes are important to us, so there was no question that we would “publish” ourselves and all our sports diplomats. It was a special experience to experience firsthand how these situations are actually defined: there is a lot to talk about with you. You have to build trust and make compromises with cabinet members.
Should you get the majority in such a decision almost by vote? How much torque is needed in the rear?
– The real questions are resolved in the study room of the President of the International Swimming Federation, Hussein Al-Musallam. When he received us before the start of the current World Cup, he told us that he was aware of our intentions regarding the water polo committee, but at the same time there were very serious competitors and this position was a great responsibility. We negotiated with him for an hour and a half, face to face. Then the next time we met, he said: Hungary is very important to him, and what the FIVB receives from us in terms of the World Championships and in general is wonderful. In view of this, although the competition was very strong, he decided to introduce the name of Tamas Molnar to the office, which is a great recognition and a huge career opportunity for the future.
In the opening photo: Water polo player Tamas Molnar during his testimonial to the Szeged Beton VE water polo team, which was intended for a previous training session. MTI photo: Zoltán Gergely Kelemen
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