When you first come to Korčula, it will be a short time before someone mentions The Cup, you know, as a part of any conversation.
If you’re dumb enough to ask “What Cup?”, you’re in for a treat. People in Korčula can’t even believe you don’t know what they’re talking about, how can you not know, what’s wrong with you! They seem genuinely shocked that there are people out there who are not aware of the greatest success of the organized sport on the island of Korčula, when their water polo club KPK (Korčulanski plivački klub; Korčula Swimming Club) won the LEN Cup Winners’ Cup in season 1978-1979, beating Hungarian Ferencvaros in the finals.
Water polo is huge in Korčula. Although invented in the UK in the nineteenth century, water polo has since become a kind of staple of the Mediterranean culture, as most countries where it’s seriously played today are in this region, and Korčula is one of those communities where water polo is a part of everyday life. It was first played in Korčula, as some records show, in 1926, and the water polo/swimming pool has been at the same location long before many other objects that seem like an integral part of the town. It’s hardly even possible to grow up in Korčula without the ritual of going to KPK, either for swimming school (where kids are taught really good swimming technique), swimming competitions or for boys especially, water polo training. And KPK has been a relevant club in the national water polo leagues in the past, although all their games were played and training held at the pool by the seaside (so, no training or games for most of the year).
(Photo from https://www.visitkorcula.eu website)
In 1978, KPK was a surprise winner of the Cup of Yugoslavia, they were the runners-up in the Championship, and they got to play in the European competition, LEN Cup Winners’ Cup. The team consisted of 10 players who were born and learned water polo in Korčula, and just two players who came to Korčula to play professionally from other places, and the coach was also Korčulan. They won the European cup for 1978/79, at the final tournament played in Kupari. The team from a town of around 2500 people managed to win a European cup, against all odds, and are still the smallest town to hold an European title in water polo. The players for the team in the season were: Milovan Tomić, Velebit Veršić (goalkeepers), Uroš Marović, Ivo Lozica, Boško Lozica, Perica Richter, Žarko Lozica, Slobodan Trifunović, Bojan Lozica, Nebojša Jeričević, Perica Radonjić, Marinko Bojić and coach Dušan Dule Antunović.
Later in the season the team played in the European Supercup game, played in Ljubljana, where they lost to OSC Budapest, also a Hungarian team.
Numerous players from Korčula have, throughout the years of major success for water polo teams from our country, achieved international success, Boško Lozica and Slobodan Trifunović got the Olympic medals, and many others have played at the highest level. At the same time, the swimming section of the KPK was also quite successful, with Vinka Jeričević and Andrija Depolo who also managed international acclaim as their most famous representatives.
Unfortunately, after that season the professional, competitive water polo in Korčula saw a steady decline, and the team today is nowhere near the level where they were in the late ’70s. However, in 2012 Korčula saw a major development, which might help bring back some of the glory days: the closed swimming pool was opened, allowing for training throughout the year! And, there are results, as expected when something like that happens, first you get to see younger generation getting better right away, and KPK cadets have already shown how successful they will be, now that they have the opportunity to train all year round.
And, in the meantime, one of the most important events of the year in Korčula is still the amateur Championship of the town in water polo, an event with amazing tradition you should definitely not miss if you happen to be in Korčula when it’s organized!