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Monday, 12 February 2007 06:16

Water Polo - History

Water polo players chase ball Water polo started in England as an aquatic version of rugby

Modern water polo was invented in the late nineteenth century as a form of rugby in rivers and lakes in England and Scotland with a ball made of India rubber.

Early play allowed brute strength, wrestling and holding opposing players underwater to recover the ball; the goalkeeper stood outside the playing area and defended the goal by jumping in on any opponent attempting to score by placing the ball on the deck. By the 1880's, the game evolved to include fast-paced team play with a football-sized ball that emphasised swimming, passing and scoring by shooting into a goal net; players could only be tackled when holding the ball and could not be taken under water.

Men's water polo was first played at the Olympic Games in 1900; women's water polo became an Olympic sport at the 2000 Games.

The most famous water polo match in history is probably the 1956 Summer Olympics semifinal between Hungary and the Soviet Union. As the athletes left for the Games, the 1956 Hungarian revolution began, and the Soviet army crushed the uprising. Many of the Hungarian athletes vowed never to return home and felt their only means of fighting back was by victory in the pool. The confrontation was the most bloody and violent water polo game in history, in which the pool reputedly turned red with blood. The Hungarians defeated the Soviets 4-0 before the game was called off in the final minute. The Hungarians went on to win the Olympic gold medal by defeating Yugoslavia 2-1 in the final. Half of the Hungarian Olympic delegation defected after the games.

The sport made its Asian Games debut in New Delhi in 1951.


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