Soccer has been described as a game for gentlemen played by hooligans.
Rugby as a game for hooligans played by gentlemen So is Water Polo a
game for hooligans played by hooligans?
I played the game for 45 years, suffered a few minor injuries, and
inflicted a few (accidentally of course). Though anyone who has
played the game will confirm there are very few gentlemen in the
water. On one occasion, my back was so badly scratched and
bleeding after some close marking by a visiting team that it was
photographed and published in the local newspaper!
Many players saw the Olympics as a way to salvage pride for their country. "We felt we were playing not just for ourselves but for our whole country" said Zádor after the match. The match was played in front of a partisan crowd bolstered with expatriate Hungarians as well as Australians and Americans who had little love for the Soviet Union. Once the blood started flowing the match was abandoned and the Russians fled the scene. As the Hungarians were leading at the time, they were awarded the match and went on to win the final against Yugoslavia.
If you want to see a reconstruction of this match watch this clip on Youtube:
The Movie is called Children of Glory (Szabadsag Szerelem in Hungarian)
The Hungarians are wearing the blue caps and note the absence of ear protectors. These were introduced soon after to
prevent damage to eardrums though some players had perfected a new form of marking from behind by applying their teeth
to an opponent’s ear lobe!
In 1956, the game was essentially the same as that played by Jack and his team in 1939. The heavy leather ball was still in
use and the players had no personal protection apart from the obligatory second pair of trunks worn mainly to avoid
embarrassing spectators if the outer one is ripped off!
Today, players wear tight fitting slippery second costumes, plastic crotch boxes and gum shields as well as ear protectors
and, in some cases, earplugs as well.
None of these offer protection for the eyes or nose and most injuries are above the shoulders. Dislocated fingers are also
common as the ball, even though it is much lighter, can travel very quickly and, if caught by the tip of a finger, can cause
Water polo is yet another game invented by the British though they haven’t competed at the highest level since 1956.
London 2012 was the first Olympic Games for the Brits since then but only by virtue of their status as host nation. The team
showed courage and determination but were no match for the others within their qualifying group as these results show:
GB 4 Montenegro 13
GB 4 Romania 13
GB 7 Serbia 21
GB 7 USA 13
GB 6 Hungary 17
Whilst they ended up bottom of group B, there is much to celebrate as they did score 28
goals against some of the most experienced and skilful teams in the world.
It was very different before the war when they won medals at four consecutive games, though
even then the eastern Europeans were beginning to outclass them.
As the Jersey Swimming Club manager observes. ‘That great spirit, which drives our amateur
sport, is indeed fundamental to the Olympic movement, and should not be subverted by those
from Europe,’ he waved towards the east, ‘who believe sport is a form of warfare and not a
He’s commenting on the dominance of the Hungarians who had won the Olympic silver in
1928, the gold in 1932, and, in front of 20,000 screaming Germans in their Schwimmstadium
(right), had won again in 1936, He might have added that, in all three Olympic finals, the
Germans had been the other main force.
In 1940, the Hungarians joined the German, Italians, and Japanese Tripartite Axis pact and
fought on against the Allies until they were overrun by the Soviets in April 1945.
If so, who’s going to explain that to
How closely would you want to mark
Prince William while his armed
personal protection officer was
That pales into insignificant in comparison
with the most infamous recorded game.
In Melbourne on December 6th 1956, the Hungarians (left) met the Soviet Union in the Olympic semi-final. Now known as the ‘Blood Bath’, it was a match that should never have been allowed. Two months before that Olympic clash, the Soviet Union had crushed the uprising against their puppet government in Hungary with troops, tanks, artillery and air strikes.