‘Slow’ Uskoković – ‘Old dog’ parable


The water polo players who participated in international events in the period from 1991-2008 would remember former captain of the Yugoslav (1996-2001) and, after cessation, Montenegrin teams, Veljko Uskoković.

At the time, with his plump – one could say ‘fat’ – frame, he cut an odd figure against the background of Apollo like fellow athletes. Add to this a phlegmatic emotionless ‘poker’ expression on his round face often covered almost to the eyes with greyish stubble the shade of an old German shepherd’s coat and you will get a picture of someone you would never think was one of the top water polo players in the world.

But behind this deceptive facade hid a sharp intellect combined with natural cunningness and an unmatched ability to read the game to always be two steps ahead of his opponents. These qualities would give themselves away through his brilliant decision making and technical skills with and without the ball.

His swimming style and movements looked crafty and were such that one would think that he was the slowest player on the field. He may well have been but I have never seen anyone able to swim away from him on a quick counter-attack break. And I have seen him spearheading his team’s counter-attacking actions leaving behind much ‘faster’ opponents.

His shooting technique was one of the most unusual and lethal in the world due to
complete unpredictability of his every shot of which he had a great variety in his arsenal. One would never know either the timing or the trajectory of his next strike. Great flexibility of his shoulder joint and ‘unfolding’ structure of his shooting movements that would engage the upper arm to wrist and fingers enabled him to catch both goalkeepers and field players by surprise and score goals when and where he chose or – one would think – there was no chance of such a shot happening whatsoever.

Because of the above-mentioned traits and characteristics, it was always interesting to watch Veljko in action. Often I could not resist a smile of enjoyment brought by his timely decision making or perfectly executed skill.

At the 2008 Olympic games, Uskoković was captain of the Montenegrin team at the age of 37 and the flag-bearer for his country at the opening ceremony. His wisdom and skills helped his side achieve a respectable 4th place.

In Beijing, Australia drew with Montenegro which prevented Australia from progressing in the tournament.

Observing Veljko’s actions reminded me of the ‘Old dog’ from the parable that I have extracted below. Reading it may make you smile too. Have an enjoyable day!

An old German Shepherd starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he’s lost. Wandering about, he notices a panther heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old German Shepherd thinks, “Oh, oh! I’m in deep shit now!”

Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old German Shepherd exclaims loudly,

“Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder, if there are any more around here?”

Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees.

“Whew!,” says the panther, “That was close! That old German Shepherd nearly had me!”

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes.

The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther.

The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”

Now, the old German Shepherd sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?,” but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd says…

“Where’s that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!”

Moral of this story…

Don’t mess with the old dogs… Age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery! Bull Shit and brilliance only come with age and experience.

PS: A clip featuring some of the Uskoković’s actions can be viewed by pressing the ‘Videos’ tag above.

About Erkin Эркин Shagaev Шагаев
European, world, Olympic champion, two times World Cup winner Чемпион Европы, мира, Олимпийских игр, двукратный обладатель Кубка мира

4 Responses to ‘Slow’ Uskoković – ‘Old dog’ parable

  1. Phillip Artemi says:

    Hi Erkin,
    I loved that one
    Too often in life and sport does one judge a book by its cover to end up embarrassed?
    Phil Artemi

  2. David Collins says:

    It also says a lot about holding your nerve in the face of a threat. David

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