At the beginning, I thought to talk about water polo as a sport with ephemeral success or about less social and media impact, but I am not going to appeal or complain for that, because I think this feeling should be put it behind. The point is that we are stronger because we are different, unique, and besides, we’re good. We cannot talk about minority sport attending the successful results (not only in recent seasons, but also past 2 decades), the outburst of women’s water polo, the number of clubs competing at lower levels and their technical improvement, the amazing coaching, etc. Of course we can improve more than that but this is not our feeling, at least in Catalonia where we work to be better every single day. We do things to go forward, not backwards.
If we take a look back, we find a golden 2013 year in terms of results, especially the female team: April 27th, CN Sabadell female proclaimed European Clubs Champion in Hungary, after a hellish environment in semifinals. On August 2nd, in Bernat Picornell pools in Barcelona, the Spanish Women National Team was, for the first time ever, World Champion, amid a frenzied crowd. The 25th of the same month, in Volos, Greece, the Spanish Juniors made silver medal in the World U20. And, to finish the round, the youngest, the sub17, 2 weeks later, on September 8th, made silver medal in Europe sub17 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Shortly and concisely speaking, the women’s water polo season has been spectacular. And if you take a look a little further back in time, we will see that this success is the result of a really hard work. Female silver medal in the London Olympics 2012, Female World Junior Champion in Trieste (Italy), and the silver medal the male Junior team in Greece in 2011. In the summer, the female sub17 made 3rd Europe in Madrid, and the male sub17 made also 3rd in Rijeka (Croatia), plus of the 1st European Cup Women won by CN Sabadell. I’ll throw no further to the head, but enough has been achieved in terms of medals and finals and semifinals played. Besides, I only speak about international results, because nationwide successes are indisputable for our water polo. And I speak for all water polo without recognizing gender or age.
My point of view is not to compare water polo with other sports, because everyone is working to their fullest potential in terms of the (human and material) resources available, but if we look at other sports in our country, it seems difficult to find any other with same success in different categories and genres (I quote only basketball, year after year busting all medalists in men and women at all ages. BRAVO for them!).
These memories of recent times do nothing more than highlighting the results and translate the many, many hours of work and volume of desire and enthusiasm invested in our sport, water polo, both the players, the technical staff and many other people (to say the least, they do absolutely everything) that are responsible for implementing sports programs for clubs and federations.
The Spanish level has also risen, as well as the number of clubs and the overall development of water polo, but the Catalan level (which is actually the one I have more knowledge of)
has exponentially increased in recent years in terms of players, equipment, and technical structure. A huge evolution.
A clear example of that was what happened on October 6th, coinciding with the Catalan Cup of the National League, where 43 catalan women water polo players, were rewarded for their amazing season 2012-2013 (yes!, you read well, 43!) for having been international medalists in the last season, on top of the 5 technicians who were part of the successful staffs (both in National teams and clubs). All these awards are just the tip of the spear of a sport in many places regarded as a minority, but that we consider different and unique, and that in Catalonia is very powerful and has a very good health at all ages and genders. And as far as I know,water polo is also spreading widely outside Catalonia (Basque Country, Navarra, Zaragoza and Sevilla, to cite clear examples), and scramble every day to grow in every way and without thinking whether they are better, lower or equal: they work hard. And we do too.
However, the economic situation is very, very tough. Clubs think how to get through their low incomes without dropping their investment, in my opinion, in the most important thing, the lower categories and the formation of new young players. On the other hand, the water polo Federation tries to fit this technical needs with the economic situation of the clubs (short distance commuting, short tournaments, intensification of the weekends…). Do not forget that there is always the main idea that we are “professionals” of water polo (this expression does not go with work hours, salary, etc, but it goes with the availability that each of us has). Finally this is a sport, a right and a pleasure. Just a few of us have the privilege of educating through sport.
We would like to go out a lot more in the media, but don’t be naive … our country (Spain or Catalonia; I will not go into this debate) has no sports culture generally speaking. In fact, it just has a soccer culture! And the rest goes behind, because what people read, watch and talk about is soccer, sometimes about basketball and of course about Alonso and Nadal. This is it! The rest has to “compete” to appear rarely in the media. And if we briefly show up (due tonational and international events) it means that we are doing well, very well. Even when instantly the society forgets our effort, we keep working, just to reappear again, most of the times thanks to very engaged fans following our victories and showing how self-sacrificing this sport is. If during the season, “we catch” any article, any document, any cuts in a sports or news program, this is more than welcome! And believe me, on a smaller scale so many clubs, federations, associations, coaches and players have entered in the 2.0 age: Twitter, Facebook, profiles, blogs, web pages... with the main purpose to show up and to spread among all of us the information that we want. Although slowly, for sure these new tools are approaching to us to the rest of the world.
To finish with, I hope that I have achieved my goal with these lines: leave the banners and prejudices that see us as a minority sport. No excuses and worries anymore, we want solutions. Instead of complaining, we should change and fit in. The only way is to work hardly, as other minority sports do. This is the only philosophy and way: feeling completely full and confident, so that step by step, we gradually achieve the same vision of those who watch us from “outside “.