SPORTS

After almost three decades in the pool, water polo star turns to coaching role

Costas Loudis, a long-serving water polo player and key member of the national team whose career spanned nearly three decades, has recently decided to retire at the age of 38. But his activity in the game is not over. Loudis, an exciting and charismatic player with a 27-year career that included four Olympiads and as many World Championships, has assumed the coaching post at the Athens club Panionios, where his club-level playing days ended. «I didn’t get bored playing. I still felt fit enough and motivated to carry on. But I’d been interested in coaching for quite a few years and thought that if the opportunity arose I would take it,» said Loudis, who retired a month ago following his playing career at the clubs PAOK, Olympiakos, Panathinaikos and Panionios. Commenting on his entry into the coaching world, Loudis said he believed that his diverse playing background with clubs of various standards and under coaches of different philosophies has helped him to forge a strong personal opinion on team lineups and strategy. Loudis, who made his national team debut in 1988 and represented Greece at four consecutive Olympiads, beginning in 1992, described the upcoming period as difficult for the Greek team, which faces qualifying competition for next summer’s Beijing Olympics. «This will be a crucial period for the national team. I’m afraid these Olympic qualifiers will be tougher than ever. Montenegro, a team that’s capable of a medal in Beijing, is among the obstacles,» said Loudis. «Things have not been good ever since the 2005 World Championships, where Greece earned third place. I think both the players and federation are to blame,» he added, referring to discrepancies and friction. Consequently, several key players are likely to be missing from the Olympic qualifiers. Loudis, who was not a member of the Greek squad that won the bronze medal at the Worlds in 2005, the year he retired from the national team, noted: «Not winning a medal at any of the major tournaments was disappointing, which is why I felt so happy when the boys won bronze at the Worlds in 2005. I envied them in the positive sense, because they won it the year I stopped.» Despite having played for several clubs, Loudis acknowledged that his heart remained with PAOK, the Thessaloniki club that introduced the youngster to the game at the age of 11, when a local taxi driver, who doubled as a talent scout, apparently spotted potential in the boy and drove him to the club. «I was born in Toumba [a Thessaloniki district]; that’s where I went to school,» said Loudis. «I consider it impossible to say that I became an Olympiakos fan, or whatever else.»