What Is Water Polo? This. Is. Water. Polo

January 31, 2019

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You might only recognise Water Polo as being that sport that holiday reps at hotels are always desperate to get you involved in. Well, it’s time for that to change.

Water Polo is actually considered one of the toughest sports in the world to play, and it certainly isn’t just sunburnt Brits in Spanish and Greek resorts participating – it’s been part of the Olympics for over a century!

In terms of water sports, there aren’t too many activities that involve a team playing collectively, particularly when all players find themselves in the pool at the same time. Given the limited movement that participants possess, Water Polo is recognised as a game that predominantly focuses on the teamwork and tactical prowess of players.

Played all around the world, the popularity of the sport may actually surprise you and, where there is participation, there are betting markets. Yes, that’s right, you can definitely bet on Water Polo.

Water Polo Gameplay

You will be pleased to hear that the main objective and basic rules of Water Polo are straightforward. First things first, the sport is played in a swimming pool (we’re sure you were aware of that one). The pool is 30m long and 20m wide, with a minimum depth of 1.8m. Unsurprisingly then, most players tend to be relatively tall, to avoid the constant treading of water.

Two teams of fourteen will take to the game, with there being a maximum of seven players per team in the pool at one time (one goalkeeper and six outfield). Just like football, the aim is to outscore your opponents by getting the ball into the back of the net. The goalposts are 3m wide and just 0.9m high. A fan of skipping stones across water? This technique is an efficient one in firing the ball past your opposition’s goalkeeper.

Games consist of four, eight-minute periods and teams can call a one-minute timeout per period. The ball starts in the middle of the pool to begin and players usually start the game by rushing towards the centre to get hold of it. When the ball is in play, players can take the ball forward by pushing it in front of their body and you are only allowed to hold it with one hand.

There is, also, a golden rule of the game that fans of fast-paced action will be pleased about. When your team is in possession, you only have thirty seconds to have a shot at goal! Should a shot at goal not take place, the other team will be awarded the ball.

In-Game Rules

Tackling in Water Polo is usually done in the form of anticipation and reading of the game, as opposed to straight up dunking of your opponent. There are rules in place to follow and breaking them could result in a loss of possession or a penalty.

In terms of an ordinary foul, the ball will be awarded to the other team. This can occur from the following:

  • Grabbing the ball with two hands
  • Pushing a player off the ball
  • Putting the ball underwater when tackled
  • Splashing

There are also major fouls in the game which will lead to a 20-second exclusion from the offender. Commit three of these and you are off! Major fouls consist of:

  • Kicking or hitting a player
  • Misconduct to referee
  • Interfering a free throw
  • Aggressively handling a player

Alongside these two types of offences is also the brutality foul. This could be an attack on a player or a seriously unsportsmanlike piece of play. In this case, there are no timeouts, it will be a straight ejection.

From English Lakes to Summer Olympics

First originating as ‘water rugby’, the game initially started off in English and Scottish lakes and was certainly a little more ruthless. Wrestling and grappling was permitted – even holding your opponent down underwater was allowed! As entertaining as this would be to watch, Water Polo quickly developed and in 1870, the Swimming Association drew up an official code of practice. Unfortunately, the WWE methods of tackling were removed.

From 1870, the term Water Polo derived, and the game was soon being played in London and areas of Scotland, with official club championships quickly being established. By the late 19th century, the sport had formed a London Water Polo League and international fixtures were also in play. After making significant waves of impact in Canada and the USA, Water Polo was brought into the Summer Olympics program in 1900.

Great Britain won gold medals in the first four tournaments but, just like many other of our sports, another country quickly came along and asserted themselves as the game’s champions. Hungary is recognised as the sport’s dominating force in the Olympics, as they boast fifteen podium finishes at the games, including nine gold medals. Women’s polo tournaments weren’t added into the Summer Olympics until 2000, with the USA standing on top spot in the all-time rankings with five medals.

Water Polo Betting Odds

So, the participation and spectating numbers of the sport are there, and so are the Water Polo betting odds. There are various games and competitions that you can find markets on and a have a splash of betting with. Which team will you be backing in the pool?

Water you waiting for? I’ll see myself out…

Find all your water polo betting odds here

Author: Joshua

As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.

Twitter @JoshGI97

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