SPORTS

Ultimate finale to career

Playing his final game before going into retirement last Saturday night, Makis Voltyrakis, the captain of Olympiakos’s water polo team could not have hoped for a better career finale. Voltyrakis led his team to the first-ever European title for a Greek team with a 9-7 victory against Hungary’s Honved in Budapest. It capped off a perfect season for Olympiakos which also won the domestic league title and Greek Cup. Last year, the veteran player resisted a lucrative offer for the coaching position at Cretan club Hania, where Voltyrakis had spent his early days. He has also received offers from formidable foreign clubs in the past. In an interview with Kathimerini, following the weekend’s triumph, Voltyrakis noted that his decision to remain with the Piraeus club was based on his belief of success with Olympiakos this season. «I believed we could win this [European] trophy. That’s why I continued. It’s also the reason why I did not go abroad after receiving many offers several years ago,» Voltyrakis said. «And I was vindicated. Even now, I was made a tempting offer by the Italian club Bressa, but cannot continue. My cycle as an athlete has been completed. I’m worn out both physically and mentally,» added the player, despite attempts by club officials to extend his contract. Voltyrakis did not rule out the possibility of remaining with the club to serve in another faculty. Voltyrakis said that this season would have been his last, regardless of his team’s fortunes. Leaving behind a capable replacement goalie, a newer signing, Nikos Deliyiannis, the veteran said his decision was easier to make. «I would have made the same decision. As for Nikos [Deliyiannis], I had been insisting for years on recruiting him because we needed a worthy replacement. I think he’s the best choice,» said Voltyrakis. «But if we didn’t have another goalie and Olympiakos pressured me to stay, I would not have abandoned the team,» he added. Voltyrakis’s career spanned two decades. He first emerged with Crete’s Hania club in 1982 and spent a brief period with Ethnikos before transferring to Olympiakos in 1991. Voltyrakis won eight league titles with the Piraeus side, and competed in two Olympiads with the national team, one world championship, and three Europeans. He was a member of Greece’s team that finished second in 1997’s world championship. «[The sport] has left me with good and bad memories. Obviously, last Saturday’s is the highlight. Deeply embedded in my mind is the [national] team’s return from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics,» Voltyrakis said. «As for the worst, I’d say that was the defeat at last year’s European final and the loss in the final at the 1997 world championships,» he added. With his career as a player now over, Voltyrakis did not rule out the possibility of continuing successfully as a coach, when the prospect was suggested during the interview. «Thank you. I believe so too. I’ve been associated with leading coaches who have showed how things operate. From there on, I’ve got to study the field and learn more,» said Voltyrakis. «It’s wrong to say I know. Sports is a science that is evolving.»