Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

Retirement of Andro Buslje Continues Generational Change for Croatia Men’s Water Polo

Croatia men’s water polo captain Andro Buslje has announced his international retirement, one of several key veterans to end their international careers after the Tokyo Olympics.

Vice-captain Maro Jokovic and center Luka Loncar have also retired. Center Xavi Garcia announced his retirement from the sport after the Tokyo Olympics, where at age 38 he was Croatia’s oldest player. Paulo Obradovic also closed his international career with the Tokyo Games. The Barracudas had the oldest team in Tokyo with an average age of 31 years and 77 days.

“These are simply players who have given everything as far as the national team is concerned, which at certain years are tired, saturated and we have to look to the future,” Croatia coach Ivica Tucak told Sportske Novosti. “We need to move in a new direction. I have always said that the national team’s doors will be forever open for some possible corrections if we see that we are thin in some positions or do not have appropriate solutions. However, we need to turn things around. We can no longer go further with people who are 35-38 years old. It doesn’t work anymore. Not that we can’t, but they can’t either. That is inevitable in every sport, but I am not pessimistic. It will take a clear bit of time and patience to sort this out. We already have some players from before, we are counting on them, and now we are going to join new ones.”

Buslje is one of the program’s icons. The 35-year-old participated in four Olympic Games, starting in Beijing in 2008. He was part of the Croatian team that won gold in London in 2012 and silver in Rio four years later. Jokovic also won gold in 2012. Garcia, Buslje, Loncar and Garcia were on the 2016 team that fell in the final to Serbia.

The Croatians finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, besting the United States in the placement game. Croatia has made at least the semifinals of each of the last eight World Championships, yielding seven medals. The squad won the 2017 championship after being runner-up in 2015.

Buslje, a hulking 6-foot-7 center defender, won World Championships in 2007 and 2017. His seven FINA World Championships medals is a record. He won the LEN Champions League in 2017-18 with Greek club Olympiakos, which he rejoined this year. Buslje was Croatia’s flagbearer at the both the opening and closing ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics.

Jokovic, a 34-year-old left-handed winger, was like Buslje part of four Olympic teams. The two came up together at Croatian powerhouse VK Jug Dubrovnik, for which Jokovic returned for a third stint in 2012. The 6-8 scorer was tied for ninth at the Tokyo Olympics with 16 goals.

Loncar, 35, was in his second Olympics in Tokyo. A LEN Champions League winner with Jug Dubrovnik in 2015-16, he was part of national teams dating back to 2013. The center forward was named to the all-tournament team at the 2017 World Championships.

By senior