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First Worlds10 years after the 1st World Championships, canoe polo has come a long way to this years's 6th Worlds in Miyoshi Japan. Inside is a nostalgic look back at the first worlds as featured in the September 1994 issue of Canoeist Magazine.

 

 


The first world polo championships were held at Ponds Forge in the pool built in 1991 for the world student games in Sheffield. They followed on from last year's European championships in this pool and repeated some of the innovations from that event. These included a ball holder for the charge starts rather than having to rely on the sometimes indifferent throwing abilities of referees. The information paperwork on teams was also of a much higher standard than previously. The whole event was relaxed and efficient but ran smoothly, due not least to a lot of hard work behind the scenes by Sheffield and Pennine canoe clubs who provided much of the manpower for the Polo Committee officials.

Hiroshi Takeshige demonstrates that the Japanese mean business The major difficulty occurred with the scrutineering of equipment. Over half the equipment checked in this first world championships had to be modified to comply with the published dimensions and this is a matter which will need to be given adequate consideration before other major polo tournaments. There was also discussion of the Japanese off the shoulder buoyancy aids in fetching pink.

Other aspects marked this event out from world championships in other disciplines. Only in polo do team captains exchange pennants before the start of each game. Only in polo are there ritual chants by many of the teams, including a Maori greeting chant by the full New Zealand squad before each of their games or French ladies dancing to the combined operatic talents of an Italian male voice choir in the restaurant.

18 countries attended with a full spectrum of abilities ranging from the world's crack teams to others who did not know that tackling was allowed. Nations did not hold back because of lack of experience. South Africa brought most of their players and Canada brought all of theirs, never having been able to play five a side before their visit to Britain because there are only seven polo players in North America.

Others lacked experience but learned quickly from this tournament. Such a team were Chinese Taipei who lost 12 - 0 to the Netherlands in their first game. In their second game they were losing 4 - 0 to Ireland but suddenly found their feet and pulled 2 goals back. They then went on to beat Japan, Canada and South Africa before being narrowly defeated by the experienced New Zealand team and drawing with Italy.

Massimo Desiali of Brazil searches in vain for someone to receive his passA team to become favourites with the spectators were Brazil who were beaten 20-0 by Australia, 17 - 0 by Belgium and 12 - 0 by New Zealand before beating Canada 2-1 and getting more respectable results against Austria and Japan. They were one of the teams for whom their liaison officers provided coaching and some impressive increases in standard resulted during the tournament. Indeed, the Brazilians were trying to tempt their liaison officer to come back to Brazil as a permanent coach with promises of girls and sunny beaches.

Britain had anticipated their opening men's game against Italy to be an easy tie but were shocked to be held to a 2 - 0 win. Clearly, the Italians had made dramatic improvements in their performance. On the other hand, the 9 - 0 British win against Finland would have been higher but for excellent goalkeeping by Seppala.

In their tie with Britain, France had possession for much of the game but there was no score. The breakthrough came 3 minutes from the final hooter when Harrison sank a penalty and Smale put away a second 7 seconds before time. It was a game which Britain were keen to win. As leader of their group they would then play Ireland in the quarter final, rather than having to face the Netherlands. It was to be an easy tie which Britain won 7 - 0.

Amongst the other group games, the match between Australia and Belgium was unexpectedly exciting, the Belgians holding the score to 3-2 and including a very stylish upward hook into the goal from Daloze.


 

The quarter final between Belgium and Germany produced a 5 -1 win for the Germans, the Belgians being unlucky to have a hook shot round his back by Roelandt hit the frame and another find the net about a second after the half time hooter. In the second half a Belgian player was sent off but a substitute came on instead. The referee responded by sending two Belgians off and so they had a couple of minutes with only three players.

The quarter final with the Netherlands was definitely one to avoid, as the French found out. There was no score in the first half. 3 1/2 minutes into the second half a Dutch player was fouled. Australian referee Jon Bisset blew up, the French responded to the whistle but the referee allowed the advantage rule and the Dutch scored with the French not attempting any defence. There was a conflab between the referees, the goal was disallowed and Le Bouedec was sent off for the foul. By this time the crowd were making their displeasure with the referee more than obvious but not as obvious as the two enraged coaches whose comments to the referee were in danger of bringing sanctions against their teams. The French quickly scored, to further pandemonium, the Dutch equalizing in the final minute. Extra time brought no change. In the penalty shootout Van Der Haven missed but was told to shoot again as he had not waited for the whistle, to further jeers and whistles, after which each team missed once. It was then down to a sudden death penalty shootout with France being unlucky. Van Der Haven slapped the water in satisfaction and snapped his shaft in the centre, which seemed a fitting epilogue to a game which had taken nearly an hour and raised passions all round.

In the smaller ladies' tournament there were no groups, each team playing every other. Britain's 5 - 0 tie with Ireland included a particularly slick pass back from Marlow to Coyles who put it straight in the net.

After last year's problems, substitution infringements were being closely watched. In Britain's 6-1 win over the slow moving New Zealanders the Kiwis were picked up for such an infringement and reduced to four players although this two minute period was a time when the British team failed to score.

The GB/France match produced a goal from Marlow and another from Berry seconds before the half time hooter. There were no further goals although the French were unlucky, having several shots bounce back off the frame.

The British ladies beat the Germans 2 -1 in a game which saw the Germans and their supporters getting uncharacteristically rattled, to the point where Doll grabbed the end of a British boat and was sent off.

The game between Britain and Australia was busy, mostly for the Australians who scored 6 to Britain's 2, the best being the final goal from Hummerston over her shoulder into the British net a couple of minutes before the end.

The British players had had the benefit of some tough games to stretch them but now all the top teams had a day out while the lower teams played off. This had the effect of letting them go rusty very quickly and some of the shooting by British and other teams on the Sunday was not up to the form seen earlier in the contest.


 

Irishman Mark Downey delivers a dose of Rough StuffAs the competition progressed and the teams became graded there were an increasing number of close matches. The Netherlands against France and Hungary against Ireland both went through extra time and full team penalty shootouts as far as sudden death penalties in order to obtain winners.

In the ladies' league, Germany and France were identical in points and goal differences. The only way to separate them was with an additional match with fortunes favouring first one side and then the other, the French finally scoring the winning goal just 17 seconds before the final hooter.

The first ladies' semi final had Britain playing France. Coyles scored with a long shot from the side of the pitch halfway through the first half as the exception to a series of missed shots by both sides. The French equalized 2 minutes before the end but a minute later Coyles was able to sink a penalty.

In the other semi final, Germany and Australia were very evenly matched, each scoring a goal in the opening minutes but unable to beat each other's defences for the rest of the game or during extra time. Had the Australian ladies been more accurate with their long shots earlier in the game it might not have gone to a penalty shootout. One German shot bounced back off the frame and was all it took to put Australia through to the final.

Keith McChlery of Australia finds Dutchman Rene Veltien to be an immovable objectIn the first of the men's semi finals there was no score in the tense first half between Australia and the Netherlands. At one stage De Jong held a capsized Australian upside down as he made about three attempts to roll, action which could not have been seen fully by the referees as he only got a green card for it. The Dutch opened the scoring two minutes into the second half. It was nearly three quarters of the way through the match before the Australians equalized but then their goals came with ever increasing rapidity, taking it to 5 -1 half a minute from time.

Clive Rackham of Great Britain feels the pinch from Germanys Peter KaulfußIn the other men's semi final Britain and Germany managed a goal each, but Vessey and Fancourt both fumbled the ball at times and Vessey looked much less composed than usual. The game went into extra time with Germany finding the decisive shot a minute after the restart.

The crowd included hardly any members of the general public although it should have been fairly predictable that they would not wish to sit inside over a weekend at the height of the summer. The general gloom inside the hot and humid pool had caused problems for the photographers, who had been asked not to use flash except along the centre parts of the sides of the pool. Television lights were available but nobody was prepared to pay the £14/hour needed for their use. For the finals, however, they were switched on. This brought protests from the team coaches but they finally accepted that the lights did not give an advantage to either side and that they were in the interests of future publicity for the sport.

Anne Duncan receives a late tackle from Hayley Watret in the finalsThe ladies' final saw Australia applying pressure on the British team right from the start. Badger received a yellow card for a substitution infringement and Marlow snapped a shaft. The British got in several close shots but the two that mattered came from Makin andn Keast for the Australian team, the second just as Badger was returning to play, to make them the first ever world canoe polo champions.

Chris Van Genderen closes on the German net in the mens finalCochrane opened the scoring for Australia two thirds of the way through the first half of the men's final, a game with fast endnto end play. It was answered by Kaulfuß for Germany after a long dribble to an undefended goal a minute before the interval but Hemsley again put Australia ahead with a shot backwards over his head into an open goal fifteen seconds before the break. In the second half Fleet netted a penalty, Cochrane took the ball alll the way to an open goal, Hemsley homed another and the Australians sealed their bid with a couple more from Van Genderen. Amongst other encouragement from the Australian coach to his team was the cry '6 - 1. In a final. We're awesome!' Few could argue with that sentiment and the crowd rose for a standing ovation.
 



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