Back in 2012, the idea of having a Macau Water Polo team was harbored by Rui Pedro Pinto, the Portuguese national that, at the time, was a recent resident in the region. Given his passion for water related sports, and in parallel with his professional activity, Pinto continued to teach swimming lessons.
Knowledgeable about the facilities and equipment existing in local swimming pools, Pinto decided to start a team.
Encouraging some children to join the game was a small step that soon led to the creation of the second team. This team comprised of older and experienced players, who had contact and knowledge of water polo from other places, namely in Portugal, and could play at the highest level they were capable of.
Thereafter, the more senior team started to participate in tournaments in the neighboring region of Hong Kong, resulting in the frequency of their participation growing from once per year to the current four times per year. This provided the team a boost to continue to train and practice at least twice a week.
In addition, the team is supported by the Swimming Association, which provides the the pool for trainings and arranges for the necessary materials and equipment such as goals, caps and balls.
But Pinto asserted, “there is no money involved. We don’t get any kind of subsidies and we do not charge any fee to the athletes either.”
“We know that this is not so professional in reality but that’s what we have since without any competition in Macau, it is very difficult to motivate the kids to keep training since the sport itself is not an easy one, a situation that gets harder if there are no goals” Pinto said. He also commented that the team’s participation in all possible tournaments in Hong Kong is intended to fill the gap created by the lack of local competition.
As for the teams’ goals, Pinto has no doubts; “The goals are not for the senior level team but for the lower training levels comprising of the younger athletes.”
Currently, this is the only steadily growing water polo team in Macau. The Swimming Association has previously had teams in the past that have been dismantled for various reasons.
Pinto explained that the local team “Fishballs Macau”, often invites some of the young players from a current formation team from the Swimming Association to join the Macau side in their competitions.
The major challenges are mostly related to the current lack of sponsorship. Sponsorship would allow a smooth organization of the activities. As the team captain explained: “For the tournaments, we have the regular expenses, the registration fee, ferry tickets, food, insurance and sometimes lodging and it’s difficult for me to find ways to cover such expenses.”
“It’s a grim task to do this role of always trying to talk to people especially to the parents of the young players in order to see if they will agree to share the necessary expenses to participate in such tournaments,” adds Pinto.
Pinto reflected that, in spite of the heavy task, the outcomes so far have been motivating; finding new members and observing the growing interest in a number of the participants has given him the necessary motivation to continue.
Recently, the top team from “Fishballs Macau” won the gold becoming the champion of the 9th Water Polo Elite Open Cup Tournament, four-a-side, promoted and organized by the South China Athletic Association (SCAA) in Hong Kong.
The performance of the Macau side continually improved throughout the competition, with an 8-0 victory against the home side at the SCAA.
But that was not the only trophy Fishballs Macau brought home from Hong Kong as club Junior Team finished second in the Junior Elite Tournament adding the silver medals to the gold from the older players.
The 14 teams playing the tournament (eight from the top senior level and six from the junior level) were reduced to four players each (instead of the usual seven) due to the small dimensions of the pool.
As for the upcoming competitions, Fishballs Macau are currently seeking sponsorship that would allow them to participate in the upcoming 5th International Beach Water Polo Tournament, to take place in Repulse Bay (Hong Kong) on the last weekend of this month.
Water Polo has been an Olympic sport since the 1900 Olympics on the male side, while female Water Polo was only included in the Olympics from the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
The current Olympic champion (in the men’s division) is Serbia after their victory against Croatia in the 2016 Rio Olympic Final; in the women’s division, the Olympic gold holder is currently USA, after beating Italy during the same Olympiads final match.
Kazakhstan and China are the current Asian champions in the mens’ and womens’ divisions, respectively, after their successes at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Together with Japan, they form the three strongest Asian teams in the sport.