History Detective

Table of Contents

  Peering Into Polo's Past  

Article III

AAU Meetings & An
Incident Never Forgotten?

Andy Burke

Andy Burke

1967 AAU Meeting

1967 AAU Meeting

In the period of 1969 to 1971, many of our leaders from the 1968 Olympic Games stepped back, and we struggled to maintain our involvement on the international scene.

Two coaches who stepped up to help fill the void were Pete Cutino of the Concord Swim and Water Polo Club and Ted Newland of Newport Water Polo. They served as our Pan-American Games coaches in 1971. The Games were played in Cali, Columbia, and the United States was not the most popular team present. There was considerable unrest at the time, and Cali was under Martial Law. You never saw them, but government troops circled the city. We had a good team, with 4 members of the 1968 Olympic Team still playing. The Manager for this trip was John Felix, who was one of our top referees (1968, 1972, and 1976 Olympic Games).

In the final game against Cuba, the crowd favored the Cuban team, but fortunately we had a large contingent from the U.S. Swimming Team to support us. John’s antics in retrieving balls from the players by catching them in the ball bag on the fly and using soccer techniques from his youth days in Holland to kick balls back to the team in the water, while also leading cheers, soon had the Columbian spectators coming over to our side, and by the end of the game they were rooting for the U.S. team as they defeated Cuba.

An interesting thing following the game was that there had been several defections from the Cuban delegation, and they took the Cuban water polo team directly from the match to the airport so there would not be any further defections.

Also in 1971, I was selected by the AAU Water Polo Committee, along with John Felix, to attend the second FINA Referees Congress in Budapest, Hungary. Our task while there was to clarify the rules of water polo. This experience really opened my eyes to the differences between the Europeans’ view and our American view of the sport.

While the Europeans viewed the rules from the aspect of soccer, we viewed the rules from the aspect of basketball. Over a 7-day period, we dissected every rule in the book. One rule that really brought the difference home was when we discussed the rule for taking a penalty throw. The rule read that “the player taking the penalty throw, on the referee’s whistle, shall immediately throw it with an uninterrupted movement directly at the goal.” I tried to explain that in the English language, the manner in which the Europeans allowed the player to pick up the ball from the water and shoot at the goal was not shooting DIRECTLY at the goal, but actually was two directions, one from the water to the upright position and then throwing at the goal. To conform to the rule as written, we in the U.S. used the command “ball up,” and we had the player raise the ball to a shooting position, and then on the whistle shoot directly at the goal.

After considerable discussion, it became clear that their interpretation came from soccer, where there is a “direct” penalty kick and an “indirect”penalty kick. By shooting at the goal, with an uninterrupted movement, this conformed to the word directly. I said that the same thing could be accomplished by removing the word “directly” from the rule and have it say“shoot at the goal with an uninterrupted movement,” but they refused to take the word “directly” out of the rule. When we returned home and I explained this to our water poloists, we removed the command “ball up” from our procedure and administered the penalty shot as the Europeans did it; even though we knew it was not correct.

Another incident happened on this trip which further illustrated to me the problem of having consistent refereeing.

As part of the Congress, referees were selected from the Congress to referee games in the Hungarian Water Polo League. One day we traveled about 30 miles up the Danube River where a match was to be played. John Felix was to officiate the match, which was played in a pool that lay adjacent to the Danube River. At that time, the evaluation of the referees was done by a panel of 3-5 persons, grading on a 5-point scale. John called the game exactly as we had discussed the rules over the last several days and received a mediocre rating of 3.0 for his efforts. We returned to Budapest, although we were surprised to observe that as we left the area, they were draining the pool. That evening, Josef Dirnweber from Austria, one of the top-rated FINA officials, refereed the second match in the refilled pool. He paid no attention to what we had discussed in our sessions, and after calling the game as he always had, he received a high 4.5 rating. I turned to Ante Lambasa who was standing behind me and said, “How do you ever expect to get uniform refereeing when something like this happens?” Needless to say, it was very disappointing to John and me.

1972 Olympics

1972 US Olympic Team

In 1972, we sent a very experienced team to Munich for the Olympic Games that included 7 members of our squad from the 1968 Olympics, along with coaches Monte Nitzkowski and Art Lambert. The team played very strong games in the preliminary round, defeating Romania, Mexico, Yugoslavia (1968 champions), Canada, and Cuba. In the final round, the U.S. opened with a 4-4 tie against Germany, followed by a 5-3 loss to Hungary, a 6-6 tie with Russia, and then defeated Italy 6-5 to garner the bronze medal.

The atmosphere at the Dantebad pool was really fun. There was a special section in the stands that had been set aside for the “water polo family,” and we all gathered there to watch the games. In the time period between games, we would be able to go down on the deck area and mingle with the teams just coming off the game and other water polo persons. When the game was ready to start, we would go back to our section in the stands and watch the next game. You sat with friends from throughout the water polo world. After the final game, we would all walk over to the main swimming pool and watch swimming before the final water polo game of the day started in the main pool.

Monte Coacing 1972 Olypics

Monte coaching 1972 Olympic Team

On the night that the U.S. won the bronze medal, the security of the Olympic Village was breached, terrorists occupied the building next to the U.S. building and held the Israeli team captive. I’d been working as a desk official for the German Federation, and afterwards, my wife and I caught a plane for London, and we did not know of the terrorist attack until we landed in London.

One other incident that occurred has always stayed in my memory.

Galli Muscatiovic, the goalie for Yugoslavia at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, later came over to teach Chemical Engineering at Stanford University for about four years. While here, he played for us at The Olympic Club. He was great to play in front of and one of the best goalies I have seen. At the 1972 Olympics, he was President of the Yugoslavian Water Polo Federation. We had dinner together one night at the Lowenbrau Hof Brau, and Galli was visibly upset. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me that he’d been approached by another major country in the competition to “arrange” the score of their game to assist another country in advancement. Needless to say, Galli did not agree to the arrangement. e said he had always heard of saosucjh things, but did not believe that they actually haopened./

The next major step was the first FINA World Championships held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Many of our 1972 Olympic team members had retired, so the team that traveled under coaches Monte Nitzkowski and Pete Cutino was a mixture of new and old talent. The team journeyed to Hungary to train prior to the Championships. I was to serve as Manager of the team but could not make the Hungarian part of the trip, so I joined the team when they arrived in Belgrade.

One other side point on this trip had to do with finances for the team. Things were done on a shoe-string then, and the team was going to Hungary to train and then on to Yugoslavia with no money other than what the individuals had on their persons. I felt this was not a good situation, so I withdrew $1,000 from my own savings account and gave it to Monte Nitzkowski to have in case of any problems that might occur, but with the admonition to NOT spend it unless absolutely necessary, as there was no guarantee that I’d be reimbursed if the money was spent. Fortunately, he did not need to spend it, and I was able to return it to my account intact.

The highlight of the trip, which Monte, Pete, and I did not talk about for many years, was when we were playing one of the lesser European teams that had a chance to advance to the round of 9-12 if they lost to us by one goal. If they lost by two, they would be relegated to the round of 13-16.

Olympic Stamps

Andy and Monte gave the following request no Olympic stamp of aproval

Prior to the game, their coaches approached Monte and Pete and explained the situation to them and asked if we would be willing to win by one goal so they could advance. This not being a thing that we do, Monte and Pete backed off from it and sent the coaches over to talk with me. I was as shocked as Monte and Pete and told them that this was something we do not normally do, but that we understood their situation and that would talkit over and see what we could do.

Needless to say, we did not tell the team about it and vowed to keep it to ourselves. Well, to make a long story short, our team played unbelievably poorly and must have barred about 12 shots off their goal frame. We struggled throughout the game, but in the end, we won by one goal. Following the game, the other team’s coaches came over to us and were hugging and kissing us for understanding their predicament and accommodating them. As I said earlier, it was probably about 20 years before any of us discussed this other than amongst ourselves and was another lesson in international water polo

This article was first posted on the American Water Polo web site
and they graciously allowed the Water Polo Planet to re-post it