Water polo is a team water sport played by six field players
and one goalkeeper.
There are four 8-minute quarters during which the players must swim, “egg beater” (a special kicking method used to tread water), pass the ball while being defended & attempt to score by throwing the ball into a net. Tony often compares the game to basketball in terms of player positions and the transition back and forth between offense and defense, but points out that water polo players are also constantly wrestling in the water with their opponents and easily swim two miles per game.
Water Polo was one of the first sports to be introduced at the modern Olympic Games in 1900. Today it is popular in various countries around the world including the USA, Canada and Australia, although it is much more notable in Europe. The countries that have dominated the game in recent history include Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Russia, Croatia and Italy (Hungary has won the Gold Medal at the last three Olympics).
Within the United States, water polo is most prevalent in California, Florida and Texas, although it is growing on the East Coast and the Midwest as well. And even though the United States has strong water polo teams on a high school and collegiate level, there is no professional league; meaning players who want to play professionally after college must go abroad.
The most successful professional leagues are currently in Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Spain and Hungary, although leagues exist in many other countries as well including Montenegro, France, Greece and Russia. The professional season in Europe usually begins in August/September and ends in June. Shorter leagues (only a few months long) exist in countries like Australia, Brazil and China. Sadly, most professional water polo clubs were hit hard by the global economic downturn, resulting in lower player salaries or team dissolutions.
The USA Olympic Men’s Water Polo team made a comeback into the water polo elite by winning the Silver Medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and although their showing in London 2012 was not as successful, they are now working towards Gold in Rio 2016.