Water polo

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A beach ball has a weight of 400-450 grams and a circumference of 68-71 cm. Up to D-Youth you play with ball size 4. From C-Youth you always play with ball size 5.
Water polo game at the 1980 Olympic tournament in Moscow with Eugeny Grishin (Soviet Union / blue cap) and Istvan Szivos (Hungary)

Water polo is a ball game in a demarcated field in the water , in which the players of two teams try to throw the ball into the opposing goal by clever tactics and playing. The aim of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team. The team with the most recognized goals is the winner.

Water polo is a sub-discipline of swimming , so the world swimming federation FINA is the international umbrella organization for water polo.

A team consists of a maximum of 13 players (in some tournaments up to 15 players), of whom the goalkeeper and six field players are in the water in the regular course; the other players are ready to be replaced as required.

The rules of the game are shown under Water Polo Rules .

Game execution and tactics

Water polo playing field as it has been used since October 1st, 2005. All people and their respective positions are shown.

Swimming style

The swimming style is not mandatory. The swimming types dolphin or butterfly are very rarely practiced because they are energy sapping and have no meaningful use in the game. The breaststroke is usually practiced in quieter situations, such as after a game break. In the fighting process, the swims are mainly in the fast crawl style , with the majority swimming head over water in order to keep track of the game. The ball is passed in front of the head. The arms “dribble” the ball through their crawl-style movement over water, and depending on the situation, the ball is also pushed through head (face) kicks. Arms are bent over water when the player is leading the ball and has to assert it against possible opponents. The head is raised so high that the swimmer can both breathe through his mouth and watch the movements of the other players. In addition to the arm guidance, there is a far stronger leg kick drive. The normal speed crawl style is usually only practiced when swimming and fighting for possession at the beginning of each quarter, here it is primarily a matter of maximum speed, movements of the opponent are perceived rather fleetingly.

Swimming in the back style is practiced mostly by three to four trains crawl to be prepared for leaked balls of your located behind the player appearance.

Treading water is the most effective, least strenuous and therefore practiced by every water polo player to stay afloat, which is mainly practiced by goalkeepers who have to stay afloat at their fixed place. When fending off shots on goal, the water treading is carried out with such force that the goalkeeper can lift himself out of the water with his arms stretched up to his navel. In the stand-by position before an expected shot on goal, the goalkeeper is bent more forward than normal in the "frog position". The feet, legs, hips, arms and hands are bent. A powerful down and back straddle enables the goalkeeper, but also other players, to snap far out of the water to catch a ball.

It is not permitted to stand on the pool floor while playing if the water depth complies with the rules.

Player positions

Cap . Each player wears a cap with earmuffs and a number. The goalkeeper's cap is red.

In the modern water polo game, tactics have developed to such an extent that certain “player positions” can be defined. Except for the goalkeeper, however, these are not exclusively tied to a player named in this way. Instead, the defensive and midfield players in particular have to change from one "position" to the other depending on the course of the game.

  • The goalkeeper must always remain in his own half of the field. He is the only one who is allowed to play the ball with both hands in the 5 meter area and who is allowed to be in the 2 meter area without the ball. Often attacks start from his position.
  • The center of a team is the attack at about the height of the opponent's 2-yard line as centrally as possible in front of goal. If he is passed, he either tries to shoot the ball into the goal himself or plays it in such a way that a teammate can come to the goal. Usually, the center is the only one during an attack who has a view to the rear, as his back is to the opposing goal. He can thus give his passes to a free, i.e. uncovered, teammate. Usually there are tough duels with the center defender.
  • In the case of defense , the center defender always tries to get the ball by cleverly covering the opposing center. Because of the duels, this position gets the most suspensions. However, the referees always reward a clean defensive performance. It is often the case that the center defender can force the center to commit a striker foul. Due to the suspensions, this position is often changed between the players in order not to accumulate three personal mistakes in one game and thus to negotiate the final suspension for the rest of the game (with a replacement). In the attack (if there is a tie), the center defender stands with his face towards the goal at the back in the middle and acts as a distributor of the ball.
  • On the outside , usually faster players play who normally swim at the beginning of a quarter. In the case of a counterattack, the outside players turn around first to take the ball from the goalkeeper and continue to build up the game. By swimming in a V-shape, they expand the game. The two outside players (right and left) have the longest swimming distance, as they have to swim the entire length of the field in order to take their attacking or defending position.
  • In half two players each play on both sides between the outer players and centers / centers defenders whose mission field is wide-ranging. During the attack they often change their positions with the outside players or the center in order to confuse the opposing defense during attack.
Match Greece (white) - Hungary (blue) at the 2004 World Junior Championship

Rules that determine the course of the game

  • The ball may be touched with any part of the body. For example with the head, the shoulders or the feet. The field players are only allowed to touch the ball with one of the two hands or arms. Only the goalkeeper is allowed to touch the ball with both hands within his five-meter space. However, it is forbidden to play the ball with your fist - regardless of the situation. The goalkeeper, however, may use his fists to save.
  • Interfering with an opposing player who is not in possession of the ball is punished as a foul with a free throw, holding, diving and withdrawing the opponent, if he does not hold the ball, there is an exposure (20 seconds). This does not apply if the opposing player is still in possession of the ball during the attack. Three such personal mistakes and the player will be excluded from the rest of the game.
  • A goal can only be scored if the ball has previously been played (deliberately touched) by two players. Exceptions are the penalty throw and a free throw that is taken beyond the five-meter line in front of the goal without delay.
  • For serious rule violations in the five-meter area, the opposing team is given a penalty .
  • Field players can be changed at will. If the change occurs either after a goal, the break whistle or during a time-out, the player to be substituted must simply leave the water and the substitute jumps into the water. In the current game, the players to be substituted must swim to their re-entry area on their own goal line and be replaced there by another player. This exchange area is marked in red.
  • After a successful goal throw, both teams form themselves again in their own halves of the pitch. The game continues after the referee has restarted the whistle. The ball is usually played from the kick-off point on the center line by a field player of the team against which the goal was scored, but recently it is also increasingly played from the back rows.
White plays outnumbered. Blue outnumbered.


Modern water polo has many different tactics that are mastered by most players and used depending on the situation. Many tactics are based on the majority game after the suspension of an opposing player, which occurs comparatively more frequently than in handball and only exists temporarily. The team that is outnumbered must also adapt accordingly.

The outnumbered team always tries to place a player between two attackers in front of their own goal area. Press cover can also be used in particularly dangerous places. This is mostly the case with the position of the opposing "center".

In order to better distinguish the individual positions, it was agreed that they would be given place numbers. Count from left to right and front to back.

White in excess. Blue outnumbered.

4-2 system

The 4-2 system is the most common game situation in water polo. It is used in normal attacks, but most often in outnumbered games.

The attacking team places four players on the 2-meter line and two players five to six meters from the goal. Of the four on the two-meter line, two are at the height of the two goal posts and the other two are around two to three meters to the side of the goal.

The defending team now places one player between two attackers. In other words, one between one of the two attackers five to six meters away and one of those standing at the height of the goalposts, one between those standing at the height of the posts and the outside players and one between the two attackers at the height of the goalposts. The goalkeeper moves sideways according to each rally by the attackers in the position opposite the ball in front of the goal.

White in excess. Blue outnumbered.

3-3 system

The 3-3 system is mostly practiced in small halls where there is not enough space for four players side by side. The pools are then usually 10 to 12.5 meters wide (corresponds to a width of four or five swimming lanes in a standardized swimming pool). This variant is a popular list of excess numbers.

5-1 system

In some regions this list is also referred to as a "semicircle".

This system is mostly practiced by more advanced teams. Here the surprise effect of a team playing outnumbered is exploited, because you can't rethink that quickly and find an effective defense line-up. The center of the attackers is press-covered by the center defender. During the game it can also happen that certain players swim across the formation in certain situations, on the one hand to make it more difficult for the opponent to cover and on the other hand to offer new spaces into which other players can slide. As an example: The player who is about 4-5 m to the left swims in the direction of the 2 m line on the far right. The player who is already there slides back to the right, where space has just been made by the player who was standing there, and so on.

Game variants

Associations, leagues and tournaments


  • Water polo is the oldest Olympic team sport , as a competition has been held since 1900, and an Olympic competition for women has also been held since 2000.
  • European championships have been held since 1926 (men) and 1985 (women) and were part of the European swimming championships until 1997 .
  • World championships since 1973 (men) and since 1986 (women) as part of the program of the swimming world championships.
  • The eight world's best men's and women's teams have also been fighting for the FINA World Cup since 1979 .
  • The latest competition is the annual FINA World League , which has been held on different continents since 2002 (men) and 2004 (women).

In the international competitions, as expected, the mother country Great Britain initially took the lead with first placements at the Olympic Games in 1900, 1908, 1912 and 1920. In 1904 only three teams from the USA competed in St. Louis , so the results are in the annals appear, but are not included in FINA statistics.

Then the Hungarians began to dominate this game internationally with nine first placements at the Olympic Games in 1932, 1936, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1976, 2000, 2004 and 2008. The next strongest national teams were the teams of Italy (1948, 1960 , 1992) and the former Yugoslavia (1968, 1984, 1988) with three overall victories each.

Germany won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928 and was European champion twice in 1981 and 1989. As the best placement since the turn of the millennium, the German team achieved fifth place at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens . In the FINA World League 2005, the DSV selection came third.

Water polo in Germany

The German umbrella organization is the German Swimming Association (DSV). 18 state swimming associations (LSV) of the federal states as well as the separate state associations of Baden, Württemberg and the southwest German swimming association are subordinate to the DSV in the water polo division . There are also regional groups (LGr).

The Olympic base for water polo is in Hanover . Here it is also possible for water polo talents to spend the night in a boarding school and to complete several training units and school during the day. In addition, Chemnitz offers a sports high school where water polo is also taught. Here the students are housed in a boarding school. As another specific offer this sport works in Berlin a sport emphasized comprehensive school with Gymnasium upper level, Andruszkewicz and coach Dirk Hohenstein is taught in the water polo from the former Spandau Bundesliga player Slawomir. Water polo is taught from grades 7 to 13. An athlete there has an average of ten hours of school training per week.

A big problem with water polo in Germany is the question of whether water polo is still being or can be practiced as a competitive sport or whether water polo is only practiced as a popular sport. The reasons for this are the lack of top international performance that attracts sponsors to support teams financially. Furthermore, there are hardly any professional players, i.e. players who earn their financial living from water polo. The majority of DWL players and thus also national players practice water polo as a hobby, which is supported by their actual employer or university through a few exemptions, etc. If the teams don't have enough money, it's harder to train. This allows the performance in comparison to other nations - e. B. Hungary, where most of the national players are professionals - cannot be increased, which in turn hinders sponsorship. Due to the lack of top performance, many state sports associations do not see any further financial support for the water polo clubs. These problems start with the women's and men's teams and extend into the youth teams.

Men's leagues in Germany

Water polo leagues in descending order; in brackets the number of leagues:

  • German Water Polo League (DWL)
  • 2nd division (4)
  • Major League (6)
  • Association League (18)
  • District League
  • District League

Up until the 2005/2006 season there was a single-track second Bundesliga (DWL II). This was canceled in 2006 after the increase in the first division (DWL I) from ten to 16 teams. Instead, the substructure of the highest class has been built on four tracks since the 2006/07 season and plays in the seasons 2. League North, 2. League East, 2. League South and 2. League West.

The record champion and dominant club of the past four decades is the Berlin association Wasserfreunde Spandau 04 with 37 national titles between 1979 and 2019 ; only in 1993 and 2018 (each Waspo Hannover-Linden and the successor club SV Wasserfreunde 1898 Hannover ), 2006 ( SV Cannstatt ) and 2013 ( ASC Duisburg ) other teams won the championship. In second place in the championships is SC Rote Erde Hamm with eleven titles. Hellas Magdeburg and Wasserfreunde 98 Hannover won eight titles each, and the Duisburg swimming club won seven titles from 1898 . In six "Greater German" championships (1938-1943) the last title was awarded to the 1st Vienna Amateur SC .

In the youth, from 2013 onwards, the C-youth will play in a tournament / cup competition. For the B-youth there has been a U17 Bundesliga since 2012/2013. In the A-youth, which is understaffed because many clubs are already bringing their talents into the men's team, the tournament will be played in a shortened form.

See also: List of German water polo champions and list of GDR water polo champions

Women's leagues in Germany

Since 1982, the title of German water polo champion in Germany has also been played by women (see: List of German female champions ). Up until 1998, regional leagues (major leagues) competed against each other in the season within the state associations, and the final table determined which clubs could qualify for the championship finals.

Since the 1998/99 season, there has been a one-piece national league in which the Hohenlimburger SV team won their first title in 1999. The league currently comprises six clubs that play the title after a round of points in the play-off procedure (ranks one to four are qualified). The season has usually run in recent years because the international water polo calendar ( LEN ; FINA ) keeps the summer dates in place, between November and June.

From the championship round in 2000, the club SV Blau-Weiß Bochum dominated the women's Bundesliga and won all twelve championship titles by 2011. As in 2009/10, the Ruhrpott team won the league several times without losing any points. During this period, the Bochum women won the cup nine times. In 2012, the team from SV Bayer Uerdingen , who had previously been Bochum's final opponent for many years, took control. The Uerdingen women dominated the round with a perfect score of 32: 0 points and secured the championship and the cup. In 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, the Bayer team, which again did not drop a single point in the seasons, was able to repeat this double success .

In the 2017/18 season, the Bundesliga comprises a field of seven clubs. These are ETV Hamburg, SC 1892 Chemnitz, SV Bayer Uerdingen 08, SV Blau-Weiß Bochum, SV Nikar Heidelberg, Waspo 98 Hannover (since 2014) and the Hamburg TB (since 2017).

In previous years, some clubs had withdrawn their teams. Most recently they were the Free Swimmers Duisburg, SG Neukölln (both 2014) and Hannoversche SV (2015).

Below the Bundesliga, women's teams play in the major leagues of the respective regional associations.

According to the rules of the game, women's and men's water polo hardly differs. The international playing time of 4 times 8 minutes has also been used here since 2005 in the Bundesliga. There is a difference in the circumference of the ball: men's ball 0.68–0.71 m; Women: 0.65-0.67 m.

Water polo in Austria

The Austrian umbrella organization is the Austrian Swimming Association (OSV) . The top division is the Austrian Bundesliga , which has been run and organized by its own league club since the 2019/20 season. From 1991 to 2019 the WBC Tirol dominated the Bundesliga with 19 titles and also won the cup from 2007 to 2014 . Austrian champions in 2005 and 2006 were ASV Vienna , who finished the championship in 2006 with a maximum of 32 points. In 2002, 2003, 2015, 2017 and 2018 the PL Salzburg prevailed against the WBV Graz and achieved the double in 2015 with the cup victory. Other Austrian water polo clubs currently playing in the Bundesliga are Turnerschaft Dornbirn and Wiener Sport-Club .

Further championship winners were WSC Austria , Vienna AC , First Vienna ASC , PSV Vienna , Diana Vienna , SU Vienna , Grazer AK , ATSE Graz , SV Wörthersee , EW Donau SC , TWV Innsbruck and 1. Linzer SK .

Former Bundesliga clubs were Badener AC (1971, 1972, 1986–1997), WBV Pelikan Bregenz (in the Swiss league until 2016), International Waterpolo Vienna (formerly SKV Fire Brigade Vienna ) from 2010 to 2018 and SC Austria from 2009 to 2014, who Renamed the Vienna Aquatic Swimming Club in 2013. Other teams worth mentioning are 1. USC Klosterneuburg and ORF Sport-Vereinigung Wien.

In 2007 the Regionalliga Ost was launched. In 2012 the water polo club Graz and the 1st Linz SK participated for the first time. Other competitions held are the U10, U12, U13, U15, U17 and U19.

An Austrian women's Bundesliga was held for the first time in 2004, the previous champions were WBC Tirol and ASV Vienna, other teams are WBV Pelikan Bregenz and SV Wörthersee.

Water polo in Luxembourg

Water polo has been played in Luxembourg since the beginning of the 20th century and is subordinate to the Luxembourg swimming spring team FLNS . A delegation from Luxembourg City took part in the Olympic Games as early as 1928 . The sport reached its peak at the beginning of the 1980s when there were nine teams in Luxembourg that competed in two leagues. Due to structural problems and a lack of young talent, the number of clubs with their own water polo team fell to just two in the 2014-2015 season, Swimming Luxembourg and Cercle de Natation Diekirch. Due to this lack of teams, the association carries out an "interregional championship" in which the German clubs SSV Trier, SV08 Saarbrücken and the swimming club Friedrichsthal as well as GLWP from Longwy in France and the SC Thionvillois also took part.

Water polo in Switzerland

Water polo has been played in Switzerland since the beginning of the 20th century. The championships are organized by the Swiss Swimming Federation. The top division is the National League A.

The Horgen swimming club is a 30-time Swiss champion (as of 2017) and thus a record holder. At the moment (August 2013), however, the Kreuzlingen swimming club is dominating the action. In 2007-2013 they won five out of six championships. From 2010 to 2013 they won a total of five titles, including three championships and two national cup competitions.

Successful water polo nations


The Hungarian team has won gold medals at the Olympic Games nine times, the first time in 1932 in Los Angeles, then in Berlin (1936), Helsinki (1952), Melbourne (1956), Tokyo (1964), Montreal (1976), Sydney (2000 ), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). Hungary also won thirteen European championships and three world championships. In the Hungarian championship, Honvéd Budapest and Vasas Budapest have been particularly successful in the recent past . The former army club Honved even won the title in the newly designed Euro-League in 2004.


The Serbian (formerly Yugoslav or Serbian-Montenegrin) team won gold at the 1991, 2005, 2009 and 2015 World Championships, silver in 2001 and 2011 and bronze at the 2003 and 2017 World Championships. The team was also successful at European championships: 1991, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 with gold, 1997 and 2008 with silver and 2010 with bronze. At the Olympic Games she won once gold (2016), once silver (2004) and twice bronze (2000, 2008). Serbia is an eternal competitor to Hungary in many finals.

Before that, the Yugoslav national team with Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin and Slovenian players won gold three times (1968, 1984, 1988) and silver four times (1952, 1956, 1964, 1980) at the Olympic Games. At world championships they won gold in 1986 and bronze in 1973 and 1978. At European Championships in 1954, 1958, 1962, 1977, 1985, 1987, 1989 silver and 1950, 1966, 1970, 1974 bronze.


Since independence in 1992, Croatia's water polo players have achieved several good placements, including one gold (2010) at European championships, two silver (1999, 2003) and one bronze (2018). At world championships, the Croatians won four bronze medals (2009, 2011, 2013, 2019), one silver (2015) and two gold medals (2007, 2017). The Olympics also won one silver (1996) and one gold (2012). The Croatian umbrella organization is the Croatian Water Polo Association - Hrvatski vaterpolski savez (HVS). The highest division is the 1st Croatian Water Polo League - Prva hrvatska vaterpolo liga . From 1992 to 2010 the HAVK Mladost Zagreb dominated the league with ten titles and the VK Jug Dubrovnik with nine titles.


The responsible umbrella organization for water polo is the Real Federación Española de Natación ( English : Royal Spanish Swimming Association ).

Spain is one of the most successful nations in water polo. The men's national team has so far won two world championships; at the 1998 World Championships in Perth they beat Hungary 6: 4 in the final and in 2001 the Iberians defended their title in Fukuoka with a 4: 2 against Yugoslavia. In addition, the Spaniards achieved three silver medals ( 1991 , 1994 , 2009 ) and one bronze medal ( 2007 ). Spain's men have so far won two medals at the Olympic Games ; 1992 in Barcelona , the team won silver and 1,996 in Atlanta finally gold by a 7: 5 final win against Croatia. The team has so far been less successful at European championships. The best result is the silver medal in 1991 , the Spaniards won bronze three times ( 1983 , 1993 , 2006 ).

The women's team won the first medal at the 2008 European Championships , where the team only lost 8: 9 to Russia in the final and took silver. At the 2012 Olympic Games , the Spaniards reached the final again, losing to the United States 5-8. The women's greatest success to date is the gold medal at the 2013 World Cup , in the final the team beat Australia 8: 6.

The highest Spanish league is the División de Honor , in which the Spanish champions have been determined since 1925. The most successful club is CN Barcelona , which won 59 titles (as of 2015). A women's championship has been played since 1988, the record champion is CE Mediterrani with 11 titles (as of 2010).

At the international level, three titles have been won in the LEN Euroliga , 1981/82 by CN Barcelona , 1994/95 by CN Catalunya and 2013/14 by CN Atlètic Barceloneta . CN Sabadell won the women's highest competition, the LEN Women's Champions Cup , in 2010/11, 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Water polo in disabled sports

Water polo is also practiced as a sport by people with disabilities. The sports associations of the deaf have some in their swimming water polo departments departments. In Germany, deaf people take part in normal gaming in the lower leagues . Here, too, your specific disability plays a significant role, because most referee signals are given acoustically by whistles. Inexperienced referees often regard this as a deliberate disregard and foul if a deaf player continues to swim towards the goal with the ball despite the game being interrupted. The deaf players try to compensate for this with increased visual awareness, which on the other hand can also impair their own flow of the game.

For the deaf, it is more interesting than the league game to compare them with each other under the same conditions, both at national and international level. In Germany there are water polo departments in the deaf sports clubs of Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, Hanover, Hildesheim and Munich under the umbrella of the water polo division of the German Association of the Deaf. These organize annual German championships as well as cup and senior cup tournaments among themselves.

Deviating from normal game operation, whistle signals are only given by the timekeepers when the referee is “listening”, otherwise the game is increasingly regulated by the referee with hand and flag signals.

At the international level, water polo is widespread among the deaf not only in Germany, but also in Australia , Italy , the Netherlands , Hungary and the USA . At the last Deaflympics , the Deaf's own World Games, in Melbourne in 2005, Germany won the gold medal ahead of the teams from Hungary and Italy. In addition to the Deaflympics, there are also separate world (rare) and European championships (the reigning European champion is Germany) in the deaf water polo.

Water polo is also practiced in some disabled sports clubs .

History of the water polo game

The beginnings in England

Water polo at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis

In English, the water polo game is called water polo. The term came about at the same time that the polo game was developing. This term has also been adopted in the majority of European languages; the best-known exceptions to this are the German name Wasserball and the Italian pallanuoto .

On May 12, 1870, the London Swimming Club founded a committee which had the task of applying the rules of football to a game in the water. The work of the committee lasted until 1874. The first "water football" was played at Crystal Palace in London . However, the committee did not record the results of its efforts and therefore no details are available on this memorable occurrence.

There are various statements about the history of the origin of the water ball, but they do not contradict one another. On the one hand, it has been proven that the water polo game was probably invented in order to make swimming events more attractive and thus to make swimming more popular in general. On the other hand, there is an oral testimony in which Dick Hodgson (member of the English Olympic team in 1924 and 1928) tells the BBC television commentator Harry Walker a different story. According to this, Hodgson's father usually went with his rugby team in Lancashire to a wash house with a swimming pool after a game: “Eventually they would end up in the pool, normally with a ball, and would play a type of rugby game in water. The ball would be placed on the side when a goal was scored in rugby fashion "(JUBA 1972, 18).

In the following two years a kind of water baseball with three players on each side developed. The aim of the game was to put the ball on a platform or a boat on the opposing side. How the players achieved this was not regulated and therefore mostly the "heaviest men the more likely winners" were. Isolated attempts were made to popularize the water polo game and to establish new rules, until finally, on July 14, 1876, the Bournemouth Premier Rowing Club hosted the first water polo competition, which was already regulated to a certain extent by a regulatory framework.

There are press reports on this that report on this first series of “Aquatic Handball matches” and show great astonishment that the players, after being drawn ashore, were “properly habited”. Under the supervision of a referee and two goal line judges, two teams, each consisting of 7 players, played against each other on a demarcated field in a river. There were no goals. The aim of the attack was to put the ball on a raft. This first "serious" competition lasted only a short time, however, because the weak rubber ball could not withstand the violent fight for long and burst (RAJKI 1959).

From its country of origin England, the water polo game spread as a competitive game across the European continent and North America towards the end of the 19th century .

From 1880 onwards there were regular competitions between English and Scottish teams.

In 1884 British and Scottish swimming clubs met in Burton-on-Trent and laid down common rules. Back in Scotland , the Associated Swimming Club of Glasgow tried to improve these rules and introduced a full leather ball. The game was named "Hardball (Soccer) Water Polo". Another innovation that was to have consequences was the introduction of goal posts. The overall character of the game changed, the ball no longer had to be put down, but could be thrown. This made the game much more attractive, which contributed to the rapid spread of the game. "This brought a change in character into the game. lt was no longer a case of brute strength but, instead, one of speed, technique and tactics "(JUBA 1972, 19).

In 1885 the English swimming federation recognized the water polo game as an independent sport and ordered uniform rules for the competitions. These rules are already mentioned in detail in the reports of the meetings held in 1885. These rules consisted of eleven points:

  1. Duration of the competition: 20 minutes.
  2. The teams have their captains who agree or lose the choice of goal.
  3. At the start of the game, the referee throws the ball into the middle of the field of play. Then all players should jump into the water immediately, with the exception of the two goalkeepers. The goalkeepers can stay on the bank and defend their goal as they wish.
  4. The players can pass the ball over or under the water to each other when attacking the opponent's goal.
  5. Neither the goalkeeper nor any other player may be hindered in or out of the water, except when the ball is in his possession. If a player breaks these rules, the opponent is given a free throw, which he takes at the point where the rule break was committed.
  6. A goal is scored by the player handing the ball onto a goal-forming raft or barge.
  7. If the ball leaves the field of play during play, the referee throws it back from the place where it left the field of play. If the ball leaves the field of play or falls on the raft or boat, the goalkeeper concerned must immediately throw it back into the field of play.
  8. There is a linesman on each side. When a team scores a goal, the linesman concerned whistles and from that moment on the game is paused.
  9. The teams change goals at half time.
  10. If a player named for the competition does not take part in the game, he loses all prizes that he won in a swimming competition before that match or would win in the following competition.
  11. The linesmen - or in a contentious case the referee - have the right to rule in all cases that are not provided for in the rules (RAJKJ 1959, 12).

In 1887, dipping and catching the ball with two hands and standing on the ground were banned.

In 1888 the first regular English championships took place. Burton beat Otter 3-0. A London League was formed and included the clubs of Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Sussex and Hampshire.

Until 1888, the rules in England hardly developed at all, until the English Swimming Federation decided to again set up a committee to review and improve the rules. Due to the new rules of the game (introduction of a gate, only floating movement was allowed) the game gained more and more popularity and was quickly spread. For the further development of the game it was of great importance that in addition to the English, the Scottish and the Irish clubs formed their teams one after the other and held championships.

The first international game took place in 1890. Scotland beat England 4-0. Although the game was played by English rules, the Scots demonstrated a superior way of playing. Instead of working on the opponent, they focused on playing the ball. This insight has paid off.

(Mostly based on: Smith, James R. (1985). The World Encyclopedia of Water Polo. Edited by Jim Norris. Los Olivos.)

In 1890 water polo was also introduced in the USA, with the rules being changed with regard to the smaller indoor pools there. Essentially, a “goal” was defined as a mark painted on the wall, but on which no ball was allowed. Rather, when the player touched the marking with the ball in his hand, the “goal” counted (RAJKI 1959, 13).

Development in Germany

After 1893 there was also an interest in water polo on the continent. It was played first in Germany and then in Austria, and from 1897 also in Hungary .

In Germany, water polo was first played in 1894 at the Borussia Berlin swimming club. The Berlin swimmer Fritz Kniese got to know the new game in London and made it known to his club mates (Heinz Braecklein 1953, 11).

In 1897 Fritz Droemer gave introductions to water polo all over Germany. In 1898 Ulrich Baer from Berlin wrote German rules that were widely used (Smith 1985, 282). Droemer also wrote the first German water polo textbook in 1908, the fourth edition of which was published in 1922.

After more and more water polo teams had formed in the circles of the German Swimming Association , a German water polo championship was held for the first time in 1912 . The Berlin swimming club Germania won against Schwaben-Stuttgart and became the first German water polo champion (Heinz Braecklein 1953, 11 ff.).

In 1911 the English rules of the game became binding for all member countries through the international swimming federation FINA. After the First World War, in 1920, the rules of the game in Germany were changed again, deviating from the international regulations. Germany was no longer a member of FINA and was therefore not bound by international rules. What was new was that the opponent's diving was again prohibited and it was not allowed to speak in the game. In 1924 the international rules of the game became binding again for Germany.

In 1950, the statutory body of water polo, the International Waterpolo Board founded in 1929, made significant changes to the rules of the game in the interests of further developing the game. From now on the so-called standing game was canceled and it was allowed to move during the whole game even if there were interruptions (especially before the free throw was performed). "The game according to the new rules became more dazzling, agitated and captivated the interest of the audience to a much greater extent than the earlier game, which was burdened with a lot of standstill, with a lot of actionless, dead time" (RAJKI 1959, 14).

The Olympic games

The first water polo games were held at the Olympic Games in Paris as early as 1900 . Here the club team of the Osborne Swimming Club from Manchester won the gold medal for Great Britain in front of representatives from Belgium and France. A German selection was eliminated after the first game.

At the 1904 games in St. Louis ( Missouri, USA ), only American teams played against each other. The Europeans could not take part because of the high travel costs (SARKANY 1965, 10). In a duel between three club teams, the New York Athletic Club won ahead of the Chicago Athletic Association and the Missouri Athletic Club , although they played according to the tough American rules that were not to prevail internationally.

Six national teams fought for the title at the 1908 tournament in London. Great Britain won ahead of Sweden and Belgium. In 1928 in Amsterdam , Germany was able to place itself among 14 nations in its second Olympic participation in this sport, ahead of Hungary and defending champion France. To the great surprise, the German team won 5-2 in extra time against the Hungarian team, which was considered the world's best team at the time.

In the period that followed, the Hungarian national team, which was nine times Olympic champion by 2008, won the day.

Women's water polo

Game situation for two women's teams at the 2004 Olympic Games

Club duels between women's teams in Great Britain can now be traced back to 1900 (Wolfgang Philipps 2015, p. 119), although most of the teams did not have a long existence. The Netherlands in particular is doing pioneering work in women's water polo, where the first game was played as early as 1906. In contrast to other associations, a national champion has been played there since 1919/1920.

A separate committee for women's water polo was not founded until the first FINA World Cup in 1979. Today the USA, Australia, Italy, Spain, Hungary and the Netherlands are dominant. It is noticeable that there are several countries (Italy, Hungary and Spain excluded) in which men's water polo is by no means as good as women in international comparison. On the other hand, women's water polo plays only a subordinate role in the traditionally strong men's water polo countries (Hungary, Croatia, Italy). Here, equality for women does not seem to have progressed that far. This is hardly surprising, because time and again in history women who played water polo had to contend with strong prejudices. In 1953, Heinz Braecklein describes the situation of the women's water ball in Germany as follows:

“The problem of 'women's water polo' is almost as old as the water polo game itself. Strangely enough, it was almost always men who flatly rejected the women's game, and the women were not even asked. In Germany women played water polo as early as the 1920s, Holland started even earlier. The Dresden Poseidonen, the Munich and Aachen swimmers achieved good performance in water polo 25 years ago. [...] Why shouldn't women in Germany play water polo again? You also play other sports games competitively. They have already proven in the water that they play with the same commitment as the men. They weren't unfair, they swam just as agile and didn't make more mistakes. You can scratch, dribble and also act tactically. No health damage occurred ” - (Heinz Braecklein 1953, p. 24).


"Water polo is not a deterioration in swimming style, but an improvement in character."

- Hagen Stamm : in an interview

See also


  • Heinz Braecklein: Water polo. Technique tactics training . Sportverlag, Berlin 1953, DNB 450579255 .
  • Jürgen Kozel: Water polo - education and training . Meyer & Meyer Verlag, Aachen 2003, ISBN 3-89124-967-5 .
  • Anja Lange; Marcus Schultz: Learning to play water polo in schools and clubs . Wiebelsheim 2009, ISBN 978-3-7853-1792-1 .
  • Wolfgang Philipps: "Aquatic football", "aquatic polo", "water-polo" ... Basics of the history of water polo in Great Britain and Hanover (1870 to 1933). In: Christian Becker u. a. (Ed.): "When sport came to Hanover". History and reception of a cultural transfer between England and Northern Germany from the 18th to the 20th century , Münster a. a. 2015, DNB 1079721037 , pp. 107-135.
  • Béla Rajki: The water polo game . Corvina, Budapest 1959, DNB 453906338 .
  • Miklós Sárkány: Learning to play water polo . Frankfurt / M. 1965, DNB 454277814 .
  • Jürgen Schwark: 101 tips for youth water polo players . Bod-Verlag, Norderstedt 2012, ISBN 978-3-8482-2585-9 .
  • Jürgen Schwark: Water polo - the invisible sport !? . Bod-Verlag, Norderstedt 2014, ISBN 978-3-7357-2252-2 .
  • Friedrich Torberg: The team . Novel. Kittl, Leipzig 1935, DNB 992885345 . (New edition: Molden, Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-85485-124-3 )

Web links

Wiktionary: Wasserball  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Water polo  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Austrian Swimming Association, Water Polo League - more efficient and better. In: osv.or.at. Retrieved March 13, 2019 .
  2. ^ BAC Wasserball, Verein, "A real Badener does not go under" - club history (Rudi Wochner). In: bac-wasserball.at. Retrieved March 13, 2019 .
  3. Pelikan Bregenz Wasserball, About Us. Retrieved March 13, 2019 .
  4. International Waterpolo Vienna. In: iwv-summerstage.at. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012 ; accessed on March 13, 2019 .
  5. ^ SC Austria Vienna. In: scaustria.jimdo.com. Retrieved March 13, 2019 .
  6. ^ Vienna Aquatic Swimming Club. In: viennaaquatic.at/. Retrieved March 13, 2019 .
  7. ^ 1. USC Raiffeisen Klosterneuburg, history, water polo. In: 1usck.at. Retrieved March 13, 2019 .
  8. WBC Tirol, Team, ORF Sports Association. In: wasserball-tirol.com. Retrieved March 13, 2019 .
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 29, 2005 .