THE 45-YEAR HISTORY OF VESZPRÉM HANDBALL
45 years ago on 9 January 1977, one of the biggest success stories of Hungarian sporting history began, under the name VÁÉV SE on a local asphalt pitch in Veszprém, which propelled a little industrious team from the Bakony region, to become a 26-time Hungarian Champion, 28-time Hungarian Cup winner, 4-time SEHA League winner and 4-time EHF Champions League Final4 contender. Very few teams in the world can pride themselves in the fact, that they began more seasons as reigning champions, than not as reigning champions; Veszprem can!
The team promoted themselves from the county championship to the Hungarian First division within four years, which is also a record. The team also cruised through the second and third divisions within one year, furthermore, in their first season of Division 1 handball, they finished second behind the once famous Budapesti Honvéd. VÁÉV SE had a rather successful start to say the least, which also meant that ever since the division 1 debut of the club, they always finished on one of the top three levels of the podium.
One of the most important figures in the handball history of Veszprém, is Csaba Hajnal, who snubbed his chemical engineering degree, to pursue his dream of helping the local handball club of Veszprém. Having succeeded, the two-time Pro Urbe winning “Csaba bácsi” played an indisputable part in the club’s success and forever carved himself into the club’s history.
The team’s first real contention for a trophy remained special for a couple of reasons; back in 1982, the team ran under the name “Építők”, and they played the championship final against Szeged, our current biggest rival. Away from home, the team of Szilárd Kis played poorly and lost by 8 goals. (For some odd reason, both teams played in blue-white combination.) For the second leg at home, more than 2000 people came out to the brand new Március 15 Arena to support the team. The match ended with a 5-goal home victory, which meant Szeged won the cup, nevertheless, all the fans cheered with appreciation for the team’s fighting spirit.
Budapesti Honvéd’s triumph in the 1982 season’s Champions’ European Cup (predecessor of the EHF Champions League) meant, that the team could compete on the highest international stage next season. The first opponent was the team of Istanbul Bankasi Yenisehir, which the “bakonyi” boys passed with ease. In the next round however, CSZKA Moscow ended the dreams of the Veszprém team with a double victory.
Road to winning the Hungarian Championship and Hungarian Cup for the first time 1984-1989
The team had a winning momentum going in this period and the fans didn’t have to wait long for the first big triumph. In 1984, with the coaching duo of Sándor Kaló and Szilárd Kis, Veszprém won the Hungarian Cup against Tatabánya. Back then, Tatabánya were a real force to be reckoned with, as they were Hungarian champions with famous players in their ranks, such as László Marosi and Zoltán Bartalos. In this season, the Cup-Winning team of Veszprém finished third in the Hungarian Championship.
The big breakthrough came in 1985, when a long-lasting, consistent performance throughout the season, helped the Kaló team become Hungarian champions. The very last game against Szeged, other than prestige was only a formality as Veszprém were already crowned champions against Pécs, however the fans and the entire club had a wonderful celebration.
The First Champion Team – István Áment, István Baki, Zoltán Bartalos, Attile Czifrik, Zsolt Cziráki, István Gulyás, János Gyurka, Gábor Horváth, Sándor Iván, István Jakab, Attila Kalocsai, Lajos Keller, Gyula Molnár, Károly Nagy, Károly Pardi, Péter Róka, István Salamon, László Ulcz, József Végh, Sándor Vitális, Tibor Vozár. Coach: Sándor Kaló
The team also won next year’s Championship, then came a little break for the success period. Right before the regime change of 1989, the VÁÉV corporation was on the cusp of bankruptcy, which greatly influenced the handball team and its survival. Fortunately, Bramac took over the team and provided a stable financial background during these difficult times. In 1992, after four silver medals, Bramac SE Veszprém could once again celebrate as Hungarian Champions in the City of Queens. Our colors changed from blue-white to red-white at this time.
Russian line in Veszprém 1989-91
The club executives decided to sign coach Valeril Melnyik, who had previously won everything with CSZKA Moscow, as well as Igor Zubjuk and Jurij Zsitnyikov. The Russian coach was a “workaholic” with a rather difficult personality and quickly came to quarrel with a few players and even the fans. Despite all this, Veszprém barely missed out on the championship title, after losing points on an appeal, however, next season the team did celebrate their third Championship Title.
The team also performed well on the international stage in the Cup Winners’ European Cup, but in the second leg of the semi-finals against Milbertshofen, Veszprém couldn’t hang on to their 5-goal advantage. Interesting things happened in Augsburg that weekend.
“Interesting things happened after the arrival. Melnyik immediately joined the table of the German team’s executives and engaged in a long conversation. Everything became clear after the match the next day. Melnyik completely mixed up the squad of Bramac and the Dutch refereeing duo barely let Veszprém pass the halfway line. (…) The CSZKA Moscow model collapsed. Following the hotel conversation, not unexpectedly, Valerij Melnyik joined Milbertshofe and he also took the vodka-drinking champion right-back Szazankov and the 220 cm tall pivot Szavko. So, we got the answer for our question about what was discussed at that hotel restaurant between the German executives and the Hungarian team’s Russian coach.
Cup Winners’ European Cup triumph and Cuban contingent near the century’s end 1992-1999
Melnyik was replaced by Attila Joósz, who prioritized József Éles and István Csoknyai alongside the likes of István Gulyás and György Zsigmond. Veszprém won the treble this year. Not only did they win the Hungarian Championship and the Hungarian Cup ahead of Győri ETO and Szeged, but they also managed to take revenge of Milbertshofen and Melnyik, by winning their first international trophy. Csaba Németh lifted the trophy that day, who is currently our club’s Head of Department.
The four-year period under Attila Joósz yielded four Championship titles, however in the last season Szilárd Kis coached the team, as Attile Joósz had an unfortunate stroke. In the next season, Szilárd Kis stepped down unexpectedly and the preparation for the new season began with a new head coach. (During this period the head coach position was changing quite frequently.) In 1996, Pál Kocsis came home from Switzerland and took charge of the team and finished second in the title race. Therefore, next season’s preparation began under the supervision of Sándor Vass.
Sándor Vass, with his disciplined coaching style, lead the team to a Cup Winners’ European Cup final and a Hungarian Championship title. The unfortunate defeat in the semi-finals of the Japaneese World Cup however, put a massive strain on the professional relationship between Sándor Vass and Csaba Hajnal.
In the next season, three coaches had the opportunity of leading the team, Szilárd Kiss, László Hoffmann and Sándor Kaló. Even though it was a hectic season, Veszprém managed to clinch the Hungarian Championship and the Hungarian Cup as well; on the international stage in the Champions’ European Cup, Veszprém played the century’s fixture in the quarterfinals against Barcelona. In the first leg, the Kaló team even reached a 10-goal advantage but ended up with “only” a 5-goal victory, which wasn’t enough because the team scored one less goal away from home, than Barcelona. According to the statements of Barcelona players and staff, they considered this clash against Veszprém the „real” final of the competition that season.
During this match, Carlos Perez and Ivo Diaz already had outstanding performances who came to the club via the Cuban line, adding a new international aspect to the Bakony team’s everyday lives. Urios Fonseca and Raúl Hardy Alayo were signed by the club, even Hernández Vladimir would have played for Veszprém, if it wasn’t for “that” tragedy. Back then, the team already had the likes of István Pásztor, János Szathmári, András Oszlánczi, as well as Richárd Mezei from Szeged. In 1998, Fotex Veszprém celebrated their 10th Hungarian Cup win.
Zovkó period 2000-2007
In the 1999/2000 season, the team “only” managed a silver medal in the domestic championship, so the club executives decided to bring Zdravko Zovkó to the club, launching a new period in the club’s life.
With a change in team management, Jovic Bozidar and Zlavko Goluza were brought to the club, alongside the Croation right-back Zlatko Saracevic, who had just completed his rehabilitation in Istria, Croatia. The team managed to win its 10th Hungarian title, which was a followed by a truly special season in the club’s history. The squad was made even more complete with the arrivals of Mirza Dzomba and Árpád Sterbik. In the Champions League, Veszprém managed to pass Leon in the quarter finals, Portland San Antonio in the semifinals. In the Champions League final however, they couldn’t cap of the season with a CL victory, and they barely lost against Magdeburg. (23-21, 25-30)
In Veszprém’s Old Town Square, the retiring Zlatko Saracevic was crowned by the fans who always stood by the team, no matter what. Under coach Zovko, Veszprém managed to win 6 Championship titles and 6 Hungarian Cups, but they couldn’t make a real breakthrough in the Champions League. The Spanish giants or the record-winning German side, THW Kiel were the usual roadblocks in achieving a Champions League triumph. Veszprém were eliminated during the semifinals in 2003, and during the quarterfinals in 2004. Meanwhile, the team was going through changes; József Éles completed a move to Greece in 2003, while István Csoknyai retired in 2005. Zovko managed to replace these icons with players such as Kiril Lazarov, Nikola Eklemovic, furthermore, it was during this period that Gergő Iváncsik and Péter Gulyás made their debuts for the club. It was during the 2006/2007 season, that the momentum of Zovko seemed to end with “only” a silver medal in the domestic championship, so the club executives decided that it was time for a regime change in the club’s life.
The successes of Lajos Mocsai and MKB Veszprém 2007-2012
The 2007/2008 season brought a great change in the club’s life, when Lajos Mocsai became the team’s head coach. After drawing against Celje and Gummersbach, Veszprém were eliminated in the group phase of the Champions League and continued their international journey in the Cup Winners’ European Cup. After the unfortunate Champions League exit, the team had an opportunity to regroup and as a result, in 2008, MKB Veszprém managed to clinch their second international trophy with a perfect record against Löwen, in Mannheim.
Forrás: nso.hu Meggyesi Bálint
Coming up next was the 2008/2009 season, now in the brand new Veszprém Arena. Even though the venue was completed, this year remained memorable because of the brutal murder that was committed against Marian Cozma. This was a huge trauma in the lives of the team, the club, the fans and Veszprém as a whole. On 9 February 2009, the whole team was celebrating the birth of Gergő Iváncsik’s firstborn in the city center, when in the blink of an eye, the tragedy occurred. Marian Cozma passed away, Zarko Sesum and Ivan Pesic were seriously injured.
Following this incident, even though the team was still mourning, they decided to play their next match. In an emotionally vibrant and historic match, MKB Veszprém managed to beat Ademar Leon 28-26 in the new Veszprém Arena. In the Champions League quarter finals against Ciudad Real, the team could only make up three goals from their 5-goal deficit, so there was no real breakthrough this season.
Cologne Final4 in the crosshairs 2012-2019
Lajos Mocsai was the head coach of MKB Veszprém until 2012 and in this period, he managed to help the team to 5 domestic titles and 4 Hungarian Cups, alongside the international Cup Winners’ triumph in 2008. In the Champions League however, MKB Veszprém seemed to constantly draw Barcelona in the quarterfinals, so there was no real progress made compared to the previous era.
In 2012, Gábor Kálomista took over the reins at the head of the club, bringing a new direction in the club’s management. With the arrival of Spanish coach Carlos Ortega and players László Nagy, Chema Rodriguez, Cristian Ugalde, the club dared to dream even bigger.
In Ortega’s first season, THW Kiel ended MKB Veszprém’s Champions League campaign in the quarter finals which was a very close match up until the very last second, but the German side advanced into the Final4. Next season Momir Ilic joined the squad and after defeating PSG in the quarter finals, MKB Veszprém reached the Final4, where the team finished in 4th place.
This was also the year the team joined the SEHA League competition and in the very first season, MKB Veszprém lifted the SEHA League trophy, after beating Meshkov Brest in the final.
In 2015, the team played their second Champions League final ever, against a Barcelona, who had an extraordinarily strong team that season. Barcelona won deservedly however, MKB Veszprém did manage to win the treble that season, by clinching the Hungarian Championship, the Hungarian Cup and the SEHA League trophy as well.
Aron Palmarsson joined the squad in 2015. In the beginning of the season, Veszprém lost the IHF Super Globe cup final against Füchse Berlin and after two initial draws in the group phase of the Champions League, Carlos Ortega was replaced by his assistant coach, Xavi Sabate. László Nagy was greatly affected by this decision and said, “This is one of the saddest days of my life.”
In March of 2016, Csaba Hajnal left after 39 years of serving the club. The two-time Pro Urbe winning man, who is also Veszprém’s honorary citizen, managed to create such a sporting success story and such a handball legacy in Veszprém, that will be talked about for generations to come.
In 2016, the team managed to reach the Champions League final once again, where the opponent was Kielce, who was considered weaker than previous CL Final opponents. The match promised an easy Veszprém victory up until the 45th minute, however in the last 15 minutes, Kielce managed to comeback from a 9-goal deficit and take the fixture to extra-time. There was no winner after two periods of extra-time, so it all came down to the penalty shootout. Unfortunately, we all know how the match ended. Aguinagalde’s last penalty helped Kielce win the Champions League. Veszprém’s “Black Sunday” and MKB Veszprém’s mental shock after the 45th minute, was talked about and analyzed by experts for years to come.
In 2017, MKB Veszprém finished in 3rd place in the Final4. László Nagy said after the match, that we were able to win on Sunday, last time we were able to win on Saturday, now we must coordinate these two wins for one weekend.
In 2017, the club signed the Swedish Ljubomir Vranjes to coach the team, who was expected to bring a brand new, fast paced dimension to the team’s playstyle. After the initial wins and successes, irreversible negative developments began to take place around the club. There was only one possible outcome, the dismissal of Vranjes, who was replaced by a previous icon of the club, István Gulyás for the next few games. After a vital win in the Champions League against Montpellier, Vardar’s assistant coach, David Davis permanently became the club’s new head coach.
In 2017 Gábor Kálomista left the club and the following year a new owner and a new management has taken over, who managed to stabilize the financial situation of the club. Dr. Zoltán Csík has been appointed as CEO.
Davis took over and started rebuilding the team at a very difficult period, but in his first season, he managed to lead the team to success by reclaiming the domestic Championship title and reaching the Champions League final in 2019. The team managed to take revenge on Kielce in the semifinal, thanks to a famous, goal-scoring display by Petar Nenadic. In the final however, Vardar managed to win by 3 goals against Veszprém, who still had László Nagy and Árpád Sterbik in its ranks.
Successes in the recent past 2019-2021
For the 2019/2020 season, Veszprém managed to sign a real superstar, the Danish Rasmus Lauge. In the beginning of the season, after beating Vardar in the final, the team could celebrate their 3rd SEHA League triumph. In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic didn’t leave the club and the world of handball unaffected. For a long time, the players could only train in their homes. Every competition stopped and there was no announced winner in the Hungarian Championship. As for that season’s Final4, it was initially postponed to August by the EHF. As the pandemic situation didn’t decline, it was further postponed to 28 December.
While the Final4 was constantly being postponed, a new season began in the summer of 2020 and Veszprém managed to sign Spanish goalkeeper, Rodrigo Corrales from PSG. This time around, during this shortened season, Veszprém achieved an impressive second place in the Champions League group phase, which meant they qualified themselves directly into the Final4 in December 2020. The whole Final4 event was played behind closed doors, without any fans in the arena. The first semifinal of the weekend brought a nail-biting matchup between Telekom Veszprém and THW Kiel, where the CL record-winning German side advanced to the final. Next day in the final, THW Kiel even edged out the seemingly unbeatable Barcelona team of 2020, once again lifting the Champions League “robot arm”. The Davis team couldn’t regroup and regenerate themselves enough the next day, and lost the 3rd place placement match against PSG, finishing in 4th place.
This downfall continued in the new year as well, Veszprém could not reach the Final4 of the Champions League after losing against HBC Nantes in the quarterfinals. Telekom Veszprém did manage to win the Hungarian Cup, but Pick Szeged won the Hungarian Championship title, against a dismembered and demoralizing Veszprém team.
In June 2021, the club executives decided to thank David Davis for his dedicated work in the last 3 years and launched a team rebuilding project, by showing faith and confidence in a new coaching duo, Momir Ilic and Péter Gulyás. The new management is following a conscious transfer policy to improve the squad. They also aim to provide the opportunity for youngsters from the academy to prove themselves on the big stage. With these changes in squad management, the club is implementing a new concept and attitude for Telekom Veszprém. In September 2021, the team won its 5th SEHA League trophy, after beating PPD Zagreb in a penalty shootout in the final of the Zadar Final4.
This is how we have arrived in the present, to the club’s 45th anniversary on 9 January 2022. But our history is continuing!
• archived documents of Nemzeti Sport and www.nso.hu
• quotes from Tamás Donát’s book titled “25 év aranyban”.