PUNCH OUT Brutality

Most of you have heard of the terrible incident that occurred a few weeks ago during a water polo game, where an 18 year-old player’s facial and nose bones were broken, and his vision and hearing at the right side were in jeopardy. All of this was a result of one punch. I, as a water polo player myself, would like to take this opportunity to deliver a message to all of you. Please take a few minutes and read these few paragraphs.

Firstly, I think we all have to be a little more conscious about how we play the game and how we treat each other. I have played this game for 20 years and I understand that emotions erupt during games; however, we must not forget the fact that we are athletes who are supposed to respect and care about each other and the game. It is not only the referees but also our responsibility to protect other players and the game itself. We are a small community that cannot afford to lose or alienate players, coaches, referees or fans. We are fellow athletes, but more importantly, we are friends. Furthermore, we are all representatives of a game that is in a desperate need for better recognition and popularity. Obviously, brutality is against all of these.

Secondly, I think that the national, international and regional water polo associations have to do a better job of protecting players. The game must not evolve into a gladiator type of survival game, which, in my opinion, would be completely wrong. There are plenty of ways to protect players and keep the game clean, such as implementing and strictly enforcing suspensions, or better yet, establishing a “zero-tolerance” standpoint, which would surely help in eradicating brutality from our game. Brutality is an issue that must be dealt with accordingly, and unsportsmanlike behavior should be discouraged. The penalty for causing bodily harm/injuries during a game should be severe enough to develop a sense of loss in every player due to the penalty. Being “brutal” is not only careless but it also defeats the purpose of water polo and tarnishes its’ reputation. Everybody associated with the game, including the fans, should consider it their prime duty to upkeep the dignity of the game.

Webster’s Dictionary defines GAME as: - activity engaged in for diversion or amusement; physical or mental competition conducted according to rules; a division of a larger contest; the number of points necessary to win; the manner of playing in a contest; organized athletics; a field of gainful activity. Key Words: amusement, competition, contest, athletics, and activity – as you see, none of the above includes brutality or causing injuries to another participant.

A water polo game is 28 minutes of competition where skills and talent should prevail – not brutality. None of us wants to leave the pool with a black eye or with a broken nose. None of us wants to end up in a hospital or wants to get seriously injured. No coach wants to see his player hurt other players and his players being hit. No referee wants to spend his weekends thinking about punches, retaliations, injuries and suspensions. No parents want to see their kids being hit or suffer injuries during a game. What they all want to see is quality water polo, fair play, good sportsmanship and good competition. What we, players, want to do is - provide all of the above.

Again, I would like to reiterate that brutality is totally unnecessary in this game and it should not be tolerated, period. And even though, most of us have thrown punches and most of us have been punched during our water polo careers, I would like all water polo players to take a step back and think of the following – any punch or act of brutality carries the potential of a permanent injury, can destroy a childhood dream, a friendship and/or a relationship.

We have all had a lot of fun playing this game, and will always love to go down to the pool, meet our friends, and play some polo. Let’s all continue to do our best and keep it that way, and continue to have fun in the upcoming years – and, above all, protect each other at our best.

Best of luck for the upcoming season,
Peter Felvegi

If you have any comments please email me at: pfelvegi@yahoo.com

(Peter Felvegi is a former youth European Champion for Hungary (1993 – Veenendaal, Holland).  His European Champion team included Tamas Kasas, Attila Vari, Gergely Kiss and Rajmond Fodor, who were the backbone of the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Champion Hungarian Team; and Bulcsu Szekely who was a 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist. Peter had played over 100 games in the Hungarian first division before accepted an athletic scholarship at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, where he captained the college varsity water polo team in 2001 and 2002. Peter was selected All Eastern Conference first teams in 2001 and 2002 and received an All American Award in 2002.

Peter’s former coaches include Ferenc Vindisch – former national player for Hungary ( currently he is President and Technical Director of Walter Paolo water polo school ); Tamas Farago - Olympic Champion Player (Montreal – 1975) and Women’s World Champion Coach (Montreal – 2005); Zoltan Domotor – Olympic Champion Player in Tokyo in 1964. - Joan)