Watch Water Polo
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So which bright spark came up with the name water polo? You’d reasonably think, given the name that this sport that it would bear some resemblance to normal polo. But there are no mallets, no boots, no saddles or bridles and, apparently, turning up to play in riding boots on a pony is very much frowned upon. All that aside, it’s immensely popular in Malta.
The only similarities you will find with polo is that it’s played with a ball and there is a goal at either end of the pitch. You’ll see no horses but you will see lots of people in silly coloured hats who appear to swimming around after a ball while frequently trying to drown each other.
After football, the Maltese get more passionate about this sport then any other. There are hugely competitive leagues, games are played in front of large crowds and if you’ve never seen it, then you ought to give it a go, as it can get very exciting.
Essentially, the popularity of water polo on Malta is all down to geography! As a small island the sea plays a massive part in people’s daily lives and water sports are widely practiced. Couple that with blazing hot sunshine for most of the year and you’ll begin to understand why there are so many open-air swimming pools here – which are also known as water polo pitches!
There is a strong water polo tradition on the island, especially around the bays of Sliema, Balluta and St Julian’s, where age-old rivalries have been in place for decades. As an indication of how long it’s been popular here, clubs were active and the sport was widely played long before Malta's first-ever foray into Olympic water polo in Berlin Olympics in 1938.
If you've never been to a water polo match then don’t worry because the game is immensely simple to follow. It’s much like any other game with a goal at either end of a playing area. The object is to get the ball in the opposition’s net. As for working out what’s allowed and what’s a foul when there seems to be an all out water war going on, then your guess is as good as anyone’s.
It’s easy to get lured into the excitement of it all. The action is fast and furious and the players need to be exceptionally fit. In the early days, each club had its own seawater pitch so that a home-and-away league schedule could be organised every summer season.
However, Maltese teams never seemed to fare very well against foreign opposition because they found it hard to adapt to the less buoyant fresh-water pools that other European countries use. To remedy this a National Pool complex was constructed complete with an Olympic-size fresh-water pool. Since then results against foreign opposition improved almost overnight.
Today’s national league fixtures are all played at that National Pool and they tend to attract decent crowds too. The modern complex means you can watch in comfort and get something to eat and drink too.
Bitter rivalries still exist so local grudge matches can attract sell-out crowds, which makes for a terrific atmosphere.
So, why not do something traditionally Maltese and pop along to the pool to see a water polo match? As we said, all the big games take place at the National Pool, which is in Tal-Qroqq, opposite the university. You can find more information on water polo as well as a list of fixtures on the Aquatic Sports Association of Malta website on the link below.
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