This page focuses primarily on ILSA's highest-achieving athletes and coaches.
Many more deserving people are featured in the Photo pages of this site.
The Beginning

The textile factory that later became Industria Lânii Timișoara was founded in 1906, when the city of Timișoara was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

In 1920, pursuant to the Treaty of Trianon, Timișoara became part of Romania and soon thereafter, the factory's official name was changed from "Gyapjuipar Részvénytársaság" (Romanian translation: Industria Lânii Societate pe Actiuni) to "Industria Lânii Societate Anonimă", a name that yielded the famous ILSA acronym. In 1949, the factory was renamed to "Industria Lânii Timișoara", yet the old ILSA acronym lived on for many more decades.

ILSA Timișoara was one of the country's best-known textile factories and, with close to two thousand workers, the city's largest employer. The factory had a proven reputation for caring for the well-being of its employees. At the initiative of Totis Rezsö (Rudolf), ILSA's Director General, and his wife, Stefania, the factory opened a nursery for the children of their employees, the first such initiative in the country.

A piece of land located directly next to the factory was made available to ILSA's employees for tennis, volleyball and other athletic activities. Taking advantage of its proximity to the river Bega, the factory also built a boat hangar and rowing docks that turned out to be popular with their employees. ILSA's handball team is documented to have been the first one of its kind in the country, while the factory's soccer team played for many years in Romania's second division. The factory also had, boxing, fencing, table tennis, shooting and wrestling sections.

The Igiena Pool

Timișoara's emergence as one of the country's strongest swimming and water polo centers started during the early 1930s at the Igiena pool, at that time the city's only facility suitable, albeit marginally, for competitive swimming. Built by the military well before the First World War, the pool was located on Pestalozzi Street, across the street from the buildings known at the time as Școala Normală de Băieţi (Jean Louis Calderon High School, as of 2024) and the Gizella Orphanage (School of Chemistry, Biology & Geography, as of 2024). The pool had a non-standard length of 38 meters and was unusually narrow. Consequently, during most of the 1930s, all city and regional swimming championships had to take place in the officially sanctioned 25-meter pool of the neighboring resort town of Buziaș.

After the First World War, the Igiena pool became the birthplace of a few swim clubs, such as Rapid, Electrica, CFR and Kadima. The latter, a multi-discipline sports club named after the Hebrew word for "Onward", appointed Schlosser Ferenc, an engineer, to head its aquatics section. In 1930, Schlosser initiated a major city-wide recruitment effort that brought in new talent.

In 1932, Kadima's management invited the swimmers and water polo players of MTK Budapest to come to Timișoara to demonstrate their skills at the Igiena pool. Not unexpectedly, MTK's experienced athletes totally outclassed Timișoara's youngsters. One of MTK's best players, namely Ravasz Pal, would soon play an important role in the development of Timișoara's water sports.

ILSA Launches Its Swimming and Water Polo Teams

ILSA's swimming and water polo club was established in 1933, with two employees of the factory, Sallai Ernö and Kürthy Ferenc, at its helm. The Igiena pool served as ILSA's first home base and, with the factory's good reputation, the new club managed to attract many of Timișoara's best swimmers and players.

While ILSA was searching for an experienced coach, the Hungarian Swimming Federation was in the process of dispatching such coaches to various fledgling clubs in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, in the interest of elevating the level of swimming and water polo in the region. Having already competed there one year earlier, may have contributed to Ravasz Pal's assignment to Timișoara.

Ravasz Pal, nicknamed Hapsi, was a first-class athlete with international experience in both swimming and water polo. For a few years he was a member of Hungary's national water polo B team. Ravasz  arrived in 1933 intent on staying for the summer, but after an auspicious first season, extended his stay until 1938.

The water polo team's first participation in the national championship took place in 1933, in Bucharest. Led by player-coach Ravasz Pal, ILSA's lineup also included goalkeeper Bader Heinrich (Heini), Freund Emerich (Imre), Lusztig Laszlo, Molnar Endre (Enci), Balint Adalbert (Toto), Flesch Bandi (Bonzo), Fischer Dezső and Schaeffer. The team finished in second place, behind MSE Târgu Mureş. Having played well throughout the tournament, four ILSA players (Bader, Molnar, Fischer and Freund) became the first players from Timișoara to be selected to Romania's national water polo team. Years later, Freund became the Secretary General of Romania's Swimming and Water Polo Federation, while Balint led Romania's national water polo team at the Rome Olympic Games.

Before Romania entered World War II and even during the war, ILSA's athletes took part in most of the country's national swimming and water polo championships. During those years, the water polo championship consisted of a short tournament that brought together Romania's best few teams. Several times, ILSA was very close to winning the title, as was the case in 1940, when the team finished second on goal differential behind CFR Bucharest.

ILSA's First Champions

The 1933 national swimming finals produced Timișoara's first national champions, namely freestylers Bohunitzky Laszlo, Sallai Zsuzsa, Püllök Jenő and breaststroker Fischer Dezső.

Bohunitzky Laszlo, nicknamed Bohu, was one of the country's most dominant swimmers and water polo players of those years. Initially a member of the Rapid and CFR swim teams, he switched to ILSA in 1934. His first participation in an official competition took place in 1932. The following year he won his first title of national champion, with more to follow. Bohunitzky's best year was 1940, when he won all four freestyle events at the national finals (100, 200, 400 and 1500 meters), a feat that has remained unsurpassed. His rivalry with teammate Püllök Jenő went on for many years and produced lots of exciting races. Bohunitzky's water polo career started in the mid-1930s, continued during ILSA's run of six consecutive national titles (1946-1951) and lasted until 1953. After his retirement, he remained involved with ILSA as a swimming instructor, working mostly with young children.

The best female swimmer of the early years was Sallai Zsuzsa (Zsuska), the daughter of Sallai Ernö, the president of the club. In 1933, competing in Bucharest, she won the 100 meter freestyle race, thus becoming ILSA's first-ever woman to win a national title. In her relatively short career, Sallai won a total of five national champion titles, all of them in freestyle events ranging from 50 to 400 meters.

Not yet a teenager, future Olympian Norman Zoltan started to train at the Igiena pool in 1932. In 1933, he joined ILSA's newly formed water polo team, where he developed into an outstanding goalkeeper. In 1938 he got the call to join Romania's national team.

Sterbenz Adalbert, who later became Romania's highest scoring water polo player, started his athletic career at the Igiena pool as well. Soon after achieving national recognition, he changed his last name to Stănescu.

Representing the Electrica swim team, Hungarian-born Püllök Jenő started to compete in local swim meets in 1932. One year later, he joined ILSA's newly formed swim club. Training at the Igiena pool under the guidance of Ravasz Pal, Püllök Jenő, developed into one of Romania's strongest freestylers. An avid competitor, he traveled to countless swimming competitions all over the country and by the time he retired from competitive swimming, he had amassed nine titles of national champion and had many national records to his name. In parallel with his swimming career, Püllök developed into a fine water polo player. He made his international debut in 1938, when he was selected to Romania's national water polo team. During World War II, Püllök returned to Hungary where he competed successfully in both swimming and water polo.

With extensive coverage by the local media, the popularity of swimming and water polo within the city grew to unexpected levels. A swim meet held under the lights at the Igiena pool in the summer of 1934 drew 1500 people, a crowd size that overwhelmed the organizers. 

Three enthusiastic individuals, namely Dr. Naschitz Istvan, Sallai Ernö and Kürthy Ferenc, worked tirelessly in the background to elevate the status of ILSA's swimming and water polo programs.

ILSA Builds a New Pool

In the absence of a pool of their own, ILSA continued to train at the Igiena pool. Overall, the circumstances were not favorable, as the owners of the pool allowed only limited access to their property.

ILSA's string of national successes that started in 1933 came to an abrupt end in 1938, when the Igiena pool closed down. Ravasz Pal went back to Hungary to continue his coaching and refereeing career there, while ILSA, without a place to train, was forced to withdraw from all competitions. Not willing to stay away from competitive swimming, Püllök joined Bucharest's Viforul Dacia, a club he represented during the summer of 1938. In response to this crisis, the factory's management decided to finally act on its long-simmering plans to build a swimming pool of their own.

To supplement the limited funds that were available for the project, a group of young ILSA employees initiated a fundraising campaign consisting of dancing and tea events that took place twice a week. The admission fees collected at these events helped the financing of the pool construction project.

ILSA's new pool was inaugurated on Saturday, July 1, 1939. The festivities started at 9 PM, under the lights, and continued Sunday. Hundreds of spectators witnessed swimming events and water polo matches that pitted the locals against their invited rivals from Bucharest, which included Viforul Dacia, rated as the country's strongest water polo team at the time. Among the winners of the swimming events: Püllök Jenő, Bohunitzky Laszlo, Sterbenz Adalbert, Balint Adalbert, Herzl Magda and Balajti Pal.

With its length of 33.33 meters, the pool was suitable for official swimming competitions and, in almost no time, Timișoara regained its position as one of Romania's strongest swimming and water polo centers.

ILSA's swim meets and water polo matches were always well-advertised and the city's sports fans responded by often filling the grass-covered berm seating areas to capacity.

Most athletes whose careers had been placed on hold by the closure of the Igiena pool resumed their activities at the new facility.

The head-coaching position left vacant by Ravasz Pal was filled by Freund Emerich, nicknamed Apaca in Hungarian. Born in Timișoara, Freund was a strong believer in discipline and hard work. Active on multiple fronts as a swimmer, water polo player, coach, mentor and referee, Freund's competence was an important factor to ILSA's continued success on the national stage.

ILSA During World War II

ILSA's athletic activities were severely impacted by the events of World War II. Shortly after Romania aligned itself with Hitler's Germany, ILSA's Jewish employees were subjected to layoffs, demotions and were banned from participating in the club's athletic programs. With a depleted team, ILSA participated in the national swimming and water polo championships that took place in 1943 in Bucharest, where Bohunitzky Laszlo once again prevailed as the country's fastest freestyler.

Taking advantage of his Hungarian citizenship, champion swimmer Püllök Jenő left ILSA in 1941, moved temporarily to his country of birth and joined the powerful club of Ujpesti Torna Egylet (UTE). During the ensuing three years, he won Hungarian national championships both in swimming and water polo. After the war, he returned to Timișoara but did not resume his athletic career.

In 1945, soon after the end of World War II, ILSA's Jewish athletes were reinstated.

The ILSA water polo team was back in action in the summer of 1945, but without the services of Freund Emerich, the team's former coach, who had just been appointed to the position of Secretary General of Romania's Swimming and Water Polo Federation and moved to Bucharest.

The same year, ILSA's water polo team finished second in a tournament that was not dubbed as an official national championship even though it brought together all of Romania's best teams.

Török Gabor's Arrival

ILSA's open coach position was soon to be filled by Török Gabor, a 26-year-old Hungarian-born athlete who had just appeared on Romania's water polo scene.

As a young child, Török Gabor joined Budapest Sportegyesület (BSE), one of Hungary's leading clubs, where he achieved superior results in both swimming and especially water polo. At age 12, he was already rated as one of Hungary's best young players. In 1937, while still a teenager, Török was selected to the national water polo team of Hungary, ranked number one in the world at the time. In 1938 he transferred to FTC Budapest (Ferencvaros), another strong water polo team. He remained active there until the summer of 1942, when he started fulfilling his military obligations. While at BSE and FTC, he took part in many international swim meets and water polo games, both at home and abroad, and represented his country in open water competitions as well.

At the end of the war, in May 1945, Török was back in Budapest, but instead of resuming his athletic career in Hungary, he turned-up in the Romanian city of Baia Mare as the player-coach of the city's little-known water polo team. The motives behind his move have remained unknown.

Török's first contacts with ILSA took place in the late summer of 1945, shortly after Freund Emerich's move to Bucharest. Recognizing Török's superior skills and knowledge of the game, club manager Kürthy Ferenc asked him to join ILSA's water polo team in a dual role of player and coach. Török accepted and took charge of the team for the 1946 season. The impact of his arrival was immediate.

The Golden Team

ILSA's legendary "Golden Team", or "Arany Csapat" as it was called in Hungarian, won its first national championship in 1946. The deciding match pitted ILSA against Vasas (Ferar) Cluj. Playing in Bucharest in front of three thousand spectators, ILSA won controversially in overtime by a score of 5-4. As it turned out, this was just the beginning of a winning streak that went on until 1951, for a total of six consecutive titles of national champion.

During those successful years, ILSA's water polo team had an exceptionally deep roster, where experienced players such as Török Gabor, Norman Zoltan, Retscher Adalbert, Balint Adalbert, Adalbert Stănescu-Sterbenz, Molnar Endre and Bohunitzky Laszlo, played alongside a few up-and-coming young players, among them Weinreich Lazăr (Lali), Novak Jozsef, Octavian Iosim and Gheorghe Moga, a talented goalkeeper.

During those six years of dominance, no other team could defeat ILSA, a squad that combined Török's leadership and ball-handling skills with goalkeeper Norman's reflexes, Novak's speed, Weinreich's defensive dominance and Sterbenz's goal-scoring instincts. Weinreich was also a quality goalkeeper, perfectly able to play in that position when called upon. Moreover, all players were good swimmers, with Sterbenz, Iosim, Bohunitzky, Weinreich, Török and Balint each having won multiple national champion titles in various swimming events.

But the team had critics as well. Their main point of contention was ILSA's overreliance on Stănescu's physical strength at the hole-set position, while underutilizing the skills of others.

Playing at hole-set, the powerful Sterbenz Adalbert (nicknamed Shtubi) was the highest scoring player of both ILSA and Romania's national team. In 1946, before his first trip abroad with the national team, Sterbenz was asked by the local authorities to change his ethnic German last name to a Romanian one, in exchange for a passport. Legend has it that he opened the local phone book and, without wasting any time, picked Stănescu to be his new name.

During that time, ILSA also provided the backbone of Romania's national water polo team. For example, Romania's lineup for the 1947 Balkan Games included Norman, Stănescu, Török, Novak, Retscher and Bohunitzky. The latter three were also part of Romania's swim team, along with Octavian Iosim, ILSA's backstroker.

For the next few years, the newly renamed Adalbert Stănescu continued to be the highest-scoring player in the country and, as a result, was named the captain and flag-bearer of the national team. His total goal tally with the national team stands at fifty-five, most of them scored from the hole-set position.

Hoszpodar Zoltan, a nationally ranked swimmer and water polo player from the neighboring city of Arad, transferred to Timișoara for the 1949 season, further strengthening ILSA's already powerful swimming and water polo programs.

The Golden Team Loses Players

In 1948, a newly formed water polo team named Primaria Municipiului Bucuresti (PMB) poached some of the country's best players by simply offering them high paying jobs within the city hall, among other benefits. Given the hardships faced by the population in the years immediately after the war, a few players from Târgu Mureş and Cluj, along with ILSA's Weinreich and Novak, signed up with PMB. The new team was competitive but could not stop ILSA from winning its third consecutive national title. PMB was dismantled at the end of their first season, with all players returning to their former clubs.

Around 1949, Balint Adalbert, an important part of ILSA's Golden Team, as well as a former champion swimmer, transferred to Bucharest to be part of a select group of coaches working with Romania's best swimmers and water polo players. In parallel, he also became the head-coach of Casa Centrală a Armatei (CCA) Bucharest, a resourceful new club run by Romania's military.

Using their clout, CCA started to raid ILSA's water polo team in 1950, when literally overnight, Hoszpodar Zoltan became a lieutenant in the Romanian Army and was transferred to CCA. Still, ILSA remained strong and was able to defeat CCA twice during the 1951 season, with a combined score of 18:7. The following year though, CCA also recruited ILSA's Novak and Iosim, as well as a few other top players from Cluj and Târgu Mureș. This shifted the balance of power toward CCA.

ILSA's string of six consecutive national championships came to an end in 1952, when CCA Bucharest defeated ILSA twice, by the same score of 4:3. Ironically, the team that dethroned ILSA from its top position, was coached by Balint Adalbert, the former ILSA player, and had three former ILSA players in its lineup (Octavian Iosim, Hoszpodar Zoltan and Novak Jozsef).

The eventual emergence of Bucharest as Romania's premier water polo city is attributable to a great extent to the fact that CCA and Dinamo, two teams belonging to Romania's Military and Interior Ministry, respectively, had sufficient clout to recruit almost any player they liked, from anywhere in the country. Particularly hard hit was ILSA Timișoara, a team that within a few short years saw some of its best players and coaches move permanently to Bucharest.

Over the years, Octavian Iosim scored ten goals in the thirteen games he played with Romania's national team, while Török Gabor scored nineteen goals in the twelve games he played for Romania.

In 1953, in recognition of their contribution to the game of water polo, Adalbert Stănescu, Norman Zoltan, Octavian Iosim, Retscher Adalbert, Török Gabor and Weinreich Lazar were awarded the honorary title of Maestru al Sportului. Five decades later, Adalbert Stănescu received the honorary titles of Maestru Emerit al Sportului and Antrenor Emerit.

First Olympic Participations (1952-1960)

In 1952, Romania's water polo national team took part in the Olympic Games held in Helsinki, Finland. Four of the eight players who took the long train ride to Finland came from ILSA: Norman Zoltan, Török Gabor, Octavian Iosim and Hoszpodar Zoltan, with Török doubling up as the team's coach. Still at the peak of his career, Adalbert Stănescu did not travel to Helsinki with the team, for reasons that have remained unknown.

At the Helsinki Olympiad, Romania had to face Germany and the USA, two stronger opponents, and lost both games, but not without putting up a fight. The final scores were Germany-Romania 8-4 and USA-Romania 6:3, with Török scoring all three goals. With these two losses, Romania did not make it into the round of 16.

In 1952, Novak Jozsef, nicknamed Bupsi, became not only ILSA's, but also Romania's first ever swimmer to participate in the Olympic Games. Competing in the 100-meter freestyle, he finished 26th out of sixty-one swimmers, with a time of 1:00.5, missing the semifinals by just one tenth of a second.

Back from the 1952 Olympics, Hoszpodar Zoltan continued to be dominant in both swimming and water polo. In 1956, he was once again part of Romania's water polo national team that took part in the Melbourne Olympics, thus becoming the only athlete connected with ILSA to have participated in two Olympic Games. It must be stated, though, that in 1952 and 1956, he was no longer an active ILSA player, having transferred earlier to CCA Bucharest. Romania's Olympic team finished on a commendable 8th place. At the conclusion of the Olympic Games, Hoszpodar Zoltan was one of the team's four players who elected not to return to Romania and settled in the United States instead.

ROME (1960)
Having transferred to Bucharest during the late 1940s, former ILSA player Balint Adalbert had to juggle two jobs, one as the head coach of Romania's national water polo team, the other as the coach of the powerful CCA Bucharest. Under his leadership, Romania moved up steadily in the international water polo rankings, which allowed him to hold down this important job for approximately ten years. In 1960, Balint was at the helm of the team that traveled to Rome to represent Romania at the Games of the XVII Olympiad. The team finished in a commendable fifth place.

Novak Jozsef, Swimmer and Water Polo Player

Several ILSA athletes trained and competed in both swimming and water polo, but none as successfully as Novak Jozsef, who managed to achieve not only national, but also international success in both sports. His first major successes as a swimmer came in 1943 and 1945, when he became national champion with ILSA's 4x100 meter freestyle relays. Between 1947 and 1955, his peak period, Novak swam in the Helsinki Olympics and, on the national stage, won multiple Romanian national champion titles and set a few national records, all of them in freestyle events. As a water polo player, Novak was a key member of ILSA's Golden Team and played thirty international games with Romania's national team. He finished his career with CCA Bucharest in 1957. Novak was awarded two honorary titles of Maestru al Sportului, one for swimming and one for water polo.

The Two Margaretas

Born in 1931 in Timișoara, Wiener Margareta, nicknamed Greti, started swimming relatively late, at the age of fourteen. Three years later she was in ILSA's relay that took first place at Romania's junior national championship. Known for her unusual eight kicks per stroke cycle and specializing in various freestyle events (100, 200 and 400 meters), Greti continued to swim competitively well into the 1950s. During her peak years (1948-1954), she added six more national champion titles to her list of achievements. Wiener also represented Romania in multiple international meets, both in Romania and abroad. During the early 1950s, she married Weinreich Lali, ILSA's outstanding water polo player, and continued to compete under her new last name.

At the age of twenty, backstroker Reiser Margareta (Greti) won her first national champion title. By the time she turned twenty-five, her list of athletic achievements included seven more such titles and a few national records as well. Alongside Weinreich Greti, Reiser was selected to Romania's national team, with the two Gretis often being on the same relay team.

The Swimming Career of Lovas Peter, the Future Coach

Born in 1934, Lovas Peter was a specialist in a stroke that is no longer in use, namely "fluture bras" in Romanian and "brasse papillon" in French. This stroke, combining butterfly arms with a breaststroke kick, was quite popular at one point, but over time was slowly replaced by today's butterfly stroke. In 1949 and 1950, Lovas Peter won two national champion titles and set one Romanian record (200 meter fluture bras) and as a result, was selected to Romania's national swim team. The following year, he set yet another Romanian record, also in the 200 meter "fluture bras" event. In 1954, Lovas Peter transferred to CCA Bucharest, the club run by Romania's military, where he fulfilled his military obligations not as a common soldier, but as a swimmer. In 1956, Lovas left CCA but stayed in Bucharest to pursue his higher education at the prestigious Institutul de Cultură Fizică (ICF). A couple of years later, after graduation, he returned to Timișoara to become the swim team's head-coach, a move that brought both competence and dedication to the program, with lots of results to show during the 1960s and early 1970s.

More Swimming Champions (Late 1940s - Early 1950s)

Specializing in long distance freestyle events, Lucian Bagiu, nicknamed Gub, had a successful career that started in the mid-1940s. In a few short years, he became one of the nation's best endurance swimmers and was selected to represent Romania in multiple international meets. Sadly, his outstanding career had an unexpected end, sometime during the mid-1950s, when both Lucian Bagiu and Adalbert Stănescu were stabbed in the back during a confrontation with a group of thugs. With his lungs permanently damaged due to a direct hit, Bagiu's swimming career ended right there and then, while Stănescu made a full recovery.

Around 1950, having won two national champion titles, Greiner Adolf (Dolfi) was rated as Romania's most promising young breaststroker. He also held two Romanian records, in the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke, and was selected to the country's national swim team.

Backstroker Titi Schaed won four junior national titles in the 100 and 200 meter backstroke and was part of the 4x100 medley relay, along with Weinreich Lali, Titus Groza and Novak Jozsef, that in 1946 was first in the nation.

Breaststroker Mozes Simon, one of the two Mozes brothers, was also selected to the national team and swam in an international meet.

Papa Iosif, nicknamed Csöpi, was yet another nationally ranked ILSA swimmer of the early 1950s. Having been a promising young water polo player as well, Papa was recruited by CCA Bucharest, Romania's powerful club of the military. While at CCA, he set a national record and won a national champion title in swimming. After having fulfilled his mandatory years of military service, Papa returned to ILSA Timișoara, where he kept playing until the second half of the 1960s.

ILSA Attracts Swimmers from Other Cities

Titus Groza, nicknamed Titu, had a short, but intense life. Born in 1927 in Târgu Mureş, he was the nephew of Petru Groza, Romania's Prime-Minister at the time. Not a sedentary person, Titu got his higher education in the Soviet Union and Hungary, while having successful swimming careers in both Hungary and Romania. As a member of Elöre Budapest's  freestyle relays, Titu won two national champion titles and held a Hungarian record as well. In Romania, he swam for three different clubs (Târgu Mureş, ILSA Timișoara and CCA Bucharest) and won multiple national champion titles. At one point, Groza held all freestyle national records, from 100 meters to 1500 meters. In 1949, Titu finished third at the World University Games that took place in Budapest, thus becoming the first Romanian swimmer to have medaled in a major global competition. In April 1952, he became the first Romanian swimmer to go under one minute in the 100 meter freestyle, albeit in a 33-meter pool. Five months later, Titus Groza passed away. According to people who knew him personally, Groza took his own life, while the official press release stated that he had passed after a period of intense suffering.

Freestyler Grellneth Edith transferred to ILSA from Oradea and was selected to the national swim team. She held a few national records and represented Romania in international competitions.

In 1949, Felix Heitz and Lisbeth Bock, two outstanding swimmers from the city of Sibiu, moved to Timișoara. With Lisbeth Bock's help, ILSA's women's swim team finished first in Romania's national championships, with Lisbeth also winning six national campion titles in individual and relay events. On the men's side, Felix Heitz won one national champion title while representing ILSA. Two years later, both Heitz and Bock returned to Sibiu.

Water Polo After the Golden Team

In 1950, the club was forced to compete under the name of Flamura Roşie (The Red Flag), an in-vogue name during Romania's first decade of communist rule. After a few years, the club reverted to its well-established Industria Lânii name.

Although no longer a dominant team, ILSA remained a fairly strong club, still able to compete against Romania's other water polo centers, primarily Cluj, Târgu Mureș, Oradea and Arad. In 1952 and 1953, ILSA finished in the top half of the country's first division, but without endangering the positions of the top teams. Unable to quickly replace the players who moved to Bucharest, ILSA's aging team adopted almost exclusively the simplistic strategy of passing the ball, time and time again, to Adalbert Stănescu, the team's hole-set, in the hope that he would outmuscle his defender and score. This strategy did not produce good results.

As most of the players from ILSA's glory days had either transferred to Bucharest or retired from active competition, they were replaced by a few younger players, most of them home-grown. The various ILSA lineups during the 1950s included goalkeepers Gheorghe Moga (Jorji) and Molnar Andrei (Andrish), as well as players Papa Iosif (Csöpi), Kelemen Laszlo, Laszlo Ioan (Lina), Marin Man, Dinu Selegianu, Kuliner Lica and Nicolae Gavrilă.

In 1957, former ILSA players Octavian Iosim and Novak Jozsef played their final games for Romania's national team. Since then, no other locally-produced players have been selected to represent the country in international tournaments.

Over the years, some of ILSA's players and coaches also obtained water polo refereeing credentials, among them Balint Adalbert, Freund Emerich, Adalbert Stănescu, Török Gabor, Weinreich Lali, Tiberiu Babeu, Alexandru Cinteanu and Ferdinand Gradl. The latter acted as a newspaper correspondent as well. Taking charge of many of the games of Romania's Divizia A and B, Timișoara's referees received mostly good reviews in the country's sports media.

Also of note were ILSA's various junior water polo teams of the mid and late 1950s and early 1960s, consisting of talented young players such as Gerhard Götter, Robert Ladner, Lehrer Andrei (Bandi), Reuter Nikolaus (Csiki), Kai Rörich and Sergiu Morariu (Țulu), many of whom doubled up as swimmers as well.

Török Gabor Walks Away from ILSA

In 1955, personal differences between Adalbert Stănescu and Török Gabor led to the latter's departure from the team that he had helped develop both as a player and a coach. The loss of a player and coach of Török's caliber constituted a massive blow to a team already in decline and in 1957, ILSA's water polo team was relegated to Divizia B, Romania's second tier of water polo. At that time, Divizia B featured three more teams from Timișoara, namely Voința, Locomotiva (CFR) and Știința (Politehnica), all training and competing at the ILSA pool.

From that point on, the team found itself either clinging for survival at the bottom of Divizia A or playing in Divizia B with the goal of gaining promotion back into Divizia A. This condition continued into the 1960s and beyond, until the demise of the team in the late 1990s.

In 1957, while still an active player, Stănescu became ILSA's head coach. Soon thereafter, he put an end to his playing career. Norman Zoltan, already in his forties, played his last competitive game in 1960.

Voința Timișoara, a Short-Lived Team

Immediately after his departure from Industria Lânii, Török Gabor joined Voința Timișoara, a team consisting of mostly young and inexperienced players. In his dual role of coach and player, he managed to raise the profile of his new team and, at the end of the 1960 season, the unthinkable happened: Voința got promoted to Divizia A, while ILSA remained in Divizia B. Among the team's standout players: Alexandru Cinteanu, Kelemen Laszlo, Bernstein Ernö and Török Gabor. The latter's final competitive game as a player was in 1960, at the age of forty-two.

Intent on restoring Timișoara as a major water polo center, Romania's Swimming and Water Polo Federation, along with the management of the two clubs, decided to swap players so that Voința, the newly promoted team, would get the city's best players and have Török as the head coach. All other players would join ILSA, continuing to play in Divizia B with Stănescu at the helm. Likely to had been initiated by the local authorities, this plan turned out to be short-lived: Voința Timișoara folded as a team before the start of their first season in Divizia A, Török retired and the team's best players transferred to ILSA. This infusion of talent enabled ILSA to win promotion to Divizia A.

Water Polo During the 1960s

For a few years during the 1960s, former goalkeeper Norman Zoltan remained active as the coach of ILSA's youth water polo team.

Anchored by veterans Kelemen Laszlo, Papa Csöpi, and Laszlo Lina, ILSA's team of the early 1960s also included Alexandru Cinteanu (Cinti), Bernstein Ernö,  Reuter Nikolaus (Csiki), Kai Rörich and Ladanyi Francisc (Puki). During the following years, a few younger players joined the team, among them Radu Băncilă, Roth Andrei (Drishi), Toth-Somoray Peter, Tibi Brătianu, Böhm Gyuri (Jean), Kugel Matei and goalkeepers Koch Roderich (Coco), Goldstein Peter and Weiszpecher Ladislau. Two of these players, namely Weiszpecher and Toth-Somoray, remained active with the club for many more years.

Alexandru Cintian emerged in 1955 as a promising young swimmer and water polo player. From the days of his earliest successes, the media, as well as most people at ILSA, elected to call him Cinteanu, a name that stuck with him throughout his playing and coaching careers. In 1958, he was recruited by Dinamo Bucharest, the team that later that year won the national water polo championship. Back in Timișoara, Cinteanu joined Voința's young team for two seasons. A few years later, he became ILSA's highest scoring player of the 1960s, before embarking on a ten-year long coaching career.

Adalbert Stănescu Temporarily Replaced

Sportul Popular, Romania's influential daily sports newspaper, published in the summer of 1967 a scathing article about the downward trajectory of ILSA's water polo team. The article had particularly harsh words addressed to Adalbert Stănescu, the team's head-coach. As a result of this article, the local sports authorities and the management of Industria Lânii removed Adalbert Stănescu from his coaching position and named Török Gabor to be the team's new head coach. Accepting the challenge, Török came out of retirement and started to work with the team. As it turned out, these changes were short lived and by the time the 1968 season kicked off, Adalbert Stănescu was back at the helm of the team.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, water polo teams from Poland, Yugoslavia and Hungary, namely Anilana Lodz, Sigurnost Pancevo and BVSC Budapest, played multiple games against ILSA, on a home-and-away basis. ILSA did well against the former two, but could not handle the much stronger team from Budapest. During the same time period, ILSA also played against each of the three visiting teams from Leningrad (today Saint Petersburg, Russia), Karl Marx Stadt (today Chemnitz, Germany) and Kikinda (Serbia).

The First Swimming Champions of the 1960s

With the swimming program in Lovas Peter's competent hands, ILSA's swimmers continued to achieve national notoriety. Swimmers Gerhard Götter (freestyle), Robert Ladner (freestyle), Codruța Sala (butterfly and freestyle), Doina Penția (breaststroke) and Baneth Ivan Peter (freestyle, short and long distance) all won national championship titles. Codruța Sala also held a few national records and was selected to Romania's national swim team. Backstroker Florian Sala, Codruța's brother, was selected to Romania's Lotul Speranțelor. A few years later, Codruța Sala and Doina Penția continued their involvement with the sport of swimming by becoming credentialed coaches.

In a surprise move, Baneth Ivan quit swimming in 1964 and joined the local modern pentathlon team. Within two years, Baneth became one of Romania's best in his new sport.

The Emergence of Koszta Ladislau

During the early 1960s, the highlight of the local swim meets were the breaststroke events, where a strong group of evenly matched, nationally ranked swimmers, namely Koch Roderich (Coco), Radu Băncilă, Böhm Gyuri (Jean), Marcovici Ladislau (Laci) and Koszta Ladislau (Laci) competed for local supremacy. Their rivalry was convincingly settled in 1964, when Koszta Laci outswam everyone to become the nation's best breaststroke, a position he maintained until his 1972 retirement. Marcovici Laci, Koszta's good friend, ranked among the nation's best breaststrokers throughout the 60s.

First coached by Titi Schaed, Koszta Laci started to train with Lovas Peter in 1963. Their successful partnership culminated with their participation in the Mexico City Olympic Games, in 1968.

As soon as Koszta achieved nationwide notoriety, Romania's newspapers of national and local circulation dropped his ethnic Hungarian surname and renamed him Vasile Costa, without his consent. Throughout his prolific career, this made-up name appeared in print hundreds of times.     

Koszta Laci's races against Bucharest's Angel Șopterian were the most exciting events of the national finals of the mid-1960s. In order to prevail, Koszta had to overcome not only a quality opponent, but also biased Bucharest-based referees who turned a blind eye to Șopterian's illegal dolphin kicks at every turn.

Koszta Goes to the  Olympics

The year 1968 found Koszta in peak form, as he broke his own national records in the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke. His 100 meter record of 1:08:50 remained unsurpassed for eighteen years.

In 1968, Koszta Laci and Lovas Peter, his coach, represented Romania at the Olympic Games held in Mexico City. Koszta achieved a commendable 11th place finish in the 200 meter breaststroke and made the semifinals of the 100 meter breaststroke. While the Romanian newspapers were covering the Olympic participation of Vasile Costa, the official records of the games revealed that the Romanian Olympic authorities had entered him under his real name of Koszta Ladislau.

During his best swimming years (1964-1972), Koszta represented Romania in countless international competitions, and as such, travelled extensively throughout Europe and beyond, mostly with good results. Koszta reached the semifinals of the European swimming championships, finished 4th and 6th at the World University Games and brought home three gold medals from two different editions of the Balkan Games. On the domestic front, Koszta kept amassing national champion titles and remained the country's most dominant male swimmer until his retirement, at the end of the 1972 season.

In 1969, Koszta Laci was awarded the honorary title of Maestru al Sportului. In 1972, he was one of the Olympic torch bearers, as the flame crossed Timișoara on its way to Munich, the host city of the Games.

For a few years during the 1960s, Stelian Mociuschi coached a separate group of swimmers that competed with some success against Lovas Peter's team.

The Rolik Brothers

Freestyler Rolik Francisc (Feri) was ILSA's second most successful swimmer of the decade. Training with ferocity, Rolik won multiple titles of national champion and was selected to represent Romania in many international competitions. In 1969, just like his teammate Koszta Laci, Rolik Feri was awarded the title of Maestru al Sportului, the country's second highest athletic honorary title. In 1970, Rolik Feri quit swimming and joined Baneth Peter's modern pentathlon team. Virtually overnight, he established himself as one of the nation's best, made Romania's national team, then, just like Baneth, defected to Germany in 1975.

Alexandru Deac's many years of hard training paid off in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he was ranked among the best in the nation in the butterfly and individual medley events. He complemented his relay national champion title with multiple 2nd and 3rd place finishes in individual events, also at the national finals.

In 1967, coach Lovas Peter's 4x200 meter freestyle relay comprised of Rolik Carol, Böhm Gabi, Rolik Feri and Alexandru Deac took first place at Romania's junior national championships.

Competing in the new indoor pool at Bucharest's Olympic Complex, ILSA's 4x100 meter medley relay took first place in Romania's International Indoor Championships, an annual event that featured swimmers from multiple European nations. The relay was made up of Vladimir Belea (backstroke), Koszta Laci (breaststroke), Alexandru Deac (butterfly) and Rolik Feri (freestyle), four Politehnica Timișoara students.

The 1970s started with Lovas Peter's startling defection to Germany. All that is known is that while being in Austria, he chose not to return to the country of his birth. He went on to settle in Freiburg, Germany, where he continued his successful coaching career until his untimely death in 2001.

Continuing to train after Lovas Peter's departure, Rolik Carol (Karcsi) developed into one of Romania's best swimmers of the period. Specializing in the 100 and 200 meter butterfly, Rolik Carol won a couple of national championships and finished many more times on the podium at the national finals. As a member of Romania's national swim team, Carol represented his country in international meets that took place during the early '70s in Romania and abroad. His consistently good results have brought him the title of Maestru al Sportului, the same honorary title bestowed in 1969 upon Rolik Feri, his older brother. Sadly, the same period was marked by the tragic death of Rolik Gyuri, the youngest of the three Rolik Brothers and a talented swimmer and pentathlonist himself.

ILSA Encloses Its Pool

In 1970, ILSA's open-air pool was enclosed by a steel-and-glass building, which afforded year-round training in a regulation-sized pool for the first time in the history of the city. For a few more years, ILSA remained the city's only swimming facility, just as it had been since its inception in 1939.

Two Champion Swimmers Turned Coaches

The coaching position left vacant by Lovas Peter's defection was filled by Codruța Sala-Paraschiv, Lovas Peter's former national champion swimmer and a credentialed coach herself.

In 1971, after her graduation from Bucharest's prestigious Institutul de Educație Fizică și Sport, Doina Penția returned to Timișoara and kicked off her coaching career at the ILSA pool, with a strong focus on younger swimmers. Just like Codruța Sala-Paraschiv, Doina Penția had been a national champion swimmer in Lovas Peter's team.

Shortly after the inauguration of the Circumvalațiunii indoor pool in 1975, a number of swimmers, as well as Codruța Sala-Paraschiv, their coach, moved to the new facility. Doina Penția continued to coach with good success at the old pool for a few more years. As it turned out, hers was the final swimming program at ILSA's historic pool.

The Toth Family

Passionately supported by their mother, the four Toth siblings, namely Nandor (Nandi), Andrei (Heky), Timea and Diana, all learned to swim at ILSA at a very young age and started competing there at the age of five. At various stages of their careers, they were coached by Codruța Sala-Paraschiv and Doina Penția.

In 1975, Andrei, Timea and Diana moved to the newly opened Circumvalațiunii indoor pool. Nandor stayed behind and joined the water polo team that was still training and playing at ILSA. Toth Timea became a dominant butterflyer, with many titles of national champion and national records to her name. As a member of Romania's national swim team, she swam in various international competitions. Breaststroker Toth Andrei became a national champion and held a couple of national records as well. Just like his younger sister, Andrei was selected to Romania's national team. Diana, the youngest of the four siblings, was also a nationally ranked swimmer, while Nandor kept his water polo career going until the late 1980s.

At the age of 20, Timea emigrated to Israel, then two years later, in 1992, represented her new country at the Barcelona Olympic Games, which makes her the last of a fairly long list of ILSA Olympians.

The Final Generation of Champions of the ILSA Pool

Competently coached by Codruța Sala and Doina Penția, several young swimmers achieved superior results in both domestic and international competitions.

Backstroker Karin Parutsch started her swimming career in 1968. First coached by Lovas Peter, then, after his defection, by Codruța Sala-Paraschiv, Karin became virtually overnight one of the country's best backstrokers. Not even a teenager, in 1970 she had the 4th fastest time in the country in the 200 meter backstroke, according to a ranking that included swimmers of all ages. In 1972, she was selected to Romania's national swim team and was awarded the honorary title of Maestră a Sportului. One year later, Karin Parutsch won a gold medal in the 100 meter backstroke at the Balkan Games that were held in Bucharest. Also in 1973, she added a national champion title to her list of achievements. In 1974, Karin transferred to Bucharest to train with the national team, but then in 1975 she put an abrupt end to her swimming career, when she realized that the Romanian authorities would not allow her to travel with the national team outside of the communist countries of Eastern Europe.

During the early 1970s, Daniela Roșca, Holger Habetler, Kerezsi Ildiko and Aurica Stern won multiple national champion titles, while the relay comprised of Christine Seidl, Areti Costa, Charlotte Cioclei and Carmen Alexe remained unbeaten at the national finals three years in a row. In 1974 and 1975, Gross Ladislau, a swimmer from Doina Penția's team of youngsters, won three national champion titles in the 50 meter freestyle, 50 meter butterfly and 100 meter butterfly.

In 1977, at the national championship finals, freestyler Carmen Alexe finished first in the 100 meter freestyle, establishing herself as one of Romania's most promising young talents. Soon thereafter, she became a member of Romania's national swim team. When she was still shy of her nineteenth birthday, Carmen Alexe received the honorary title of Maestră a Sportului. In 1982, while participating in a swim meet in Yugoslavia, she decided not to return to Romania and eventually settled in the United States.

Starting to emerge during the early 1970s, swimmer Christine Seidl became one of the country's best breaststrokers. Christine held a few national records and, as a member of Romania's national swim team, participated in international competitions in multiple European countries. At the 1981 World University Games that took place in Bucharest, she reached the final of the 100 meter breaststroke. For all her accomplishments, Christine Seidl was awarded the honorary title of Maestră a Sportului. Christine's older sister, Liselotte, was a nationally-ranked swimmer as well.

Two good friends and frequent roommates, butterflyer Friedman Alexandru and breaststroker Szabo Gabriel had somewhat similar careers. During the 1970s, they both won multiple youth national champion titles, then in the 1980s were selected to Romania's national team and swam for Steaua Bucharest while fulfilling their military obligations.

Mirela Lupu started her swimming career in 1975. After only two years, she won her first national title in the 100 meter breastroke and was selected to Romania's national team, along with three other swimmers from Timișoara, Toth Andrei (Heky), Christine Seidl and Carmen Alexe. At the national championship finals that took place in Braila in 1979, Mirela won four national titles, two in breaststroke and two more in individual medley events. Moreover, she also finished on the podium in the other eight races that she competed in. As a member of the national team, she represented Romania in international competitions both at home and abroad. Mirela Lupu retired from swimming in 1983.

In 1980, Cerasela Ivașcu won the 100 meter freestyle event at the national finals and had a few 2nd and 3rd place finishes as well. Also noteworthy were the careers of breaststroker Diana Dăncescu and Diana Rogobete, a specialist in individual medley events. Another swimmer who started out during those years was Mihai Liseţchi, who decades later became the initiator of Timișoara's master swimming program. 

Szuhanek Gyuri, the Ultimate ILSA Enthusiast

Over the decades, ILSA's various swim teams received significant support from Szuhanek Gyuri, who in addition to his coaching work, also helped with travel arrangements and other administrative tasks. As a credentialed coach, he is likely to have worked with more young swimmers than any other coach in ILSA's history and, as such, has had a hand in the development of many future champion swimmers. Throughout the years, Szuhanek also acted as the swimming reporter of the city's multi-lingual newspapers.

The End of Swimming Programs at the ILSA Pool

The early 1980s marked the end of all swimming activities at the historic pool. Due to financial hardship, the last remaining swim team was forced to move to the Circumvalațiunii pool. From that moment on, the factory's water polo team remained the only athletic entity still using ILSA's historic pool.

Alexandru Cinteanu Takes Charge of the Polo Team

Adalbert Stănescu's coaching career ended in 1973. With former player Alexandru Cinteanu now at the helm, the water polo team continued to train and play at its historic location. In order to return to the country's top division, the new coach introduced a tough winter-season training program that consisted of two workouts a day, with swimming in the morning, followed by ball-handling and intra-squad scrimmages in the evening. Cinteanu's most successful years as a coach came toward the end of his career, when his water polo team got promoted to Romania's first division, where it held its own.

ILSA's indoor pool got the attention of the water polo team from the Serbian city of Kikinda. During the winter months, the Serbian team traveled often to Timișoara to spar with ILSA, an initiative that benefited both sides. ILSA also took part in various international tournaments organized in Budapest and Prague.

With the addition of a few home-grown young players, such as goalkeeper Virgil Balint (see photo), Caius Solovan and Toth Nandor, ILSA continued to play mostly in Romania's Divizia B, where it faced teams from Bucharest, Cluj, Oradea, Arad and Târgu Mureş. Particularly fierce were ILSA's games against Târgu Mureş, in a rivalry that had started decades earlier.

Starting with 1975, the migration of swimmers from ILSA to the new Circumvalațiunii pool deprived the water polo team from its best source of young talent. With fewer new players coming in to replace Radu Băncilă, Ladanyi Francisc, Roth Andrei and the other retired veterans, ILSA had a hard time expanding its roster from within.

Romania's declining standard of living brought about an unprecedented migration of established players from other Romanian water polo centers to Timișoara, a city perceived to have offered better living conditions. In 1983, ILSA's roster expanded to include newcomers Marian Sterpu, Adrian Munteanu and Nicolae Andreescu, all three from Rapid Bucharest, as well as Constantin Manea from Progresul Bucharest, Petru Todoruț (also from Bucharest, former goalkeeper of Romania's youth national team) and Emil Fărcuță, an up-and-coming player from Crișul Oradea. In addition to his duties as a player, Manea was also in charge of the club's youth team.

Coached by Alexandru Cinteanu, ILSA's water polo team managed in 1983 to gain promotion to Divizia A, Romania's top league, where they remained through most of the 1980s.

Iuliu Olac, the Polo Team's Last Coach

At the end of the 1983 season, the team's coaching duties were handed over to newcomer Iuliu Olac, a former player of both Rapid Bucharest and Romania's national water polo team. 

The various rosters of the 1980s also included veterans Toth-Somoray Peter and Weiszpecher Laci, both with the team since the 1960s, former champion swimmers Friedman Alexandru, Gross Ladislau and Szabo Gabriel, as well as players Vasile Grecu, Toth Nandor, Kosar Dezideriu, George Ivănescu, Harald Ziegler, Emil Tschiltsche, Adrian Lederer (Ledi), Arthur Wachter, Gheorghe Stoenescu, Șerban Deşliu and Petru Boroș.

During the ensuing years, ILSA's water polo team performed reasonably well. Romania's top clubs would still defeat ILSA, but by smaller margins than in the past and occasionally, the team surprised its supporters by defeating stronger clubs, such as Steaua and Progresul, both from Bucharest. 

The highest scoring players of the 1980s were Marian Sterpu and Emil Fărcuță. In a league game that took place in 1984, Fărcuță scored twelve goals. In 1985, after completing two seasons with ILSA, he went back to Oradea, where he kept playing until 1989. After his retirement, Emil Fărcuță received the honorary title of Maestru Emerit al Sportului.

In 1985, after fifteen years of use, the building enclosing the pool underwent a major overhaul that included, among others, a revamped heating system that - ironically - remained mostly unused due to fuel shortages.

Anchored by veteran players Marian Sterpu, Friedman Alexandru and goalkeeper Petru Todoruț, ILSA's water polo team of the early 1990s continued its quest to once again be part of Romania's top water polo league. This goal was achieved in 1994, when coach Iuliu Olac's team gained promotion to Superliga Națională, the water polo league previously known as Divizia A.

1999 - The End of an Era

The lack of sponsors, as well as the deteriorating financial situation of the factory, left the team without adequate funding, which in turn caused many players to quit. Moreover, toward the end of the decade, the ILSA pool lost its certification for hosting official games, as its size fell short of the new dimensional standards of the water polo federation.

In early l999, ILSA fused with Dinamo Oradea, another struggling water polo team. Renamed ILSA-Dinamo and coached by Iuliu Olac, the new team had to play all its home games in Oradea. At the age of thirty-three, goalkeeper Petru Todoruț was by far the team's most experienced player.

The first phase of the 1999 season ended in March with a win against Bucharest's Sportul Studentesc, but having finished 7th of the eight participating teams, ILSA-Dinamo had to go on playing in a consolation tournament involving the league's bottom four teams.

Without the financial help of the factory, the water polo team forfeited their remaining games and disbanded. And thus ended the existence of a once thriving club.