Inspired by recent „happenings” during the LEN Water Polo European Championship we were inspired to write a few words that, I am sure, will shake a few people and the sport but we also believe that „the waves need to be made to move to a calm water!
There was a lots of discussion in the past by water polo community about FINA and LEN transparency (or no transparency), how things are done in hiding, „strange” decisions with or without the bad intent, power struggle, control, special treatments of certain teams by certain referees, who is running the governing bodies and how, and how is everything affecting the final standing in water polo. Usually these discussions happen by water polo community through private messages, in the coffee shops or restaurants, in the dark rooms where no one can hear those words. The common thing always is a fear! Fear of repercussions, losing the privileges or even punishment of the team (direct or indirect).
Watching the LEN European Championship there was one example (and I say one only because, in my mind, what happened goes far and beyond any of the „normal” crazy things that are happening in our sport, that by now we are used to) that blows our minds and it clearly shows how some are privileged and others are not, how, if one is obedient can be rewarded and another one, is punished for the same behaving. Yes, #lifeisnotfair, #thisislife, #happensallthetime ….we know all of that. We are not hear to present „Calimero case” and try to make life fair. Life isn’t fair and will never be. Our duty, as media, is to present to everyone there is no transparency and to ask the questions about decisions that are not logical in our mind and to try to inform all water polo community how things are done behind the scene.
We will not mention the names in this article (even though, water polo lovers know who we are talking about) since this isn’t about the names. It is about the wrong system, no transparency, no consistency and the corruption.
At the recent FINA World Championship in July in South Korea, after the game Hungary vs Australia, both referees were suspended until the end of the tournament for making terrible judgment 4-5 sec. before the end of the game, by not calling clear penalty for Australia and directly influencing the final score of the game. Hungary won by 10m shot in the last second, advancing to the semi-final and finishing the tournament at 4th place. Australia, on the other hand, was left with 5-8 place games and losing entire men’s team budget (or the most of it) from their government.
And the referees? Well… referees, as we said before, were both suspended for the reminder of the tournament, however, one of them is nowhere still to be seen (silent suspension??) and the other is „active”. We would say rightfully so since the impact on the big and rising program of Australia was and still is unimaginable.
On the other hand, European Championship in Budapest that finished few days ago. Very similar situation….Game Hungary vs Montenegro. We believe all water polo lovers have seen the craziness in the last min of that game, either through great live stream or on YouTube. What no one, or rarely anyone, is talking about is terrible call (and in this article we are talking only about that last call, even though there were many bad calls made during the game) by a referee (again, no names since this isn’t about the names) on around 25 sec left into the game. Montenegro defender is trying to move away constantly from Hungarian center forward not to give any chance to referees to call exclusion. The moment that offensive player makes the contact (who was visibly chasing defender around the pool) with defensive player, of course, exclusion is called. Terrible call. The final outcome, Hungary qualified for the Olympic Games and finally won the European Championship and Montenegro is left „dry” to still try and qualify for the Olympic Games in March in Rotterdam. And the referees? Well…a referee that made that terrible call and directly decided who will go to the Olympic Games got actually rewarded by being assigned to ref the final game of the Women’s Tournament the next day!!!
Now, some would say what is the problem since Montenegro still won bronze medal and they were pretty happy about it? Well….. problem is that referees and their „interpretations” are deciding someone’s destiny last 40 – 50 years in water polo. Problem is inconsistency in the actions of governing body and that for the bad game, a referee gets suspended and another referee (who is obviously „someone’s” favorite), gets a reward. Problem is that there is a group of referees who are known to be available to do the „dirty job” when needed and are rewarded for it by being assigned constantly to referee as many games as possible during the season and „collect” their allowance and make living from it. Problem is that nothing is transparent and open in our sport to the public, everything is left as „grey” as possible so those in charge of our sport can control the outcomes of the games, through some obedient referees, when they need it. Problem is that rules of water polo were made in a way to leave „grey area” for referee interpretation and manipulation. Problem is there is no clear and transparent evaluation and marking of referees after each and every game that would be public. Problem is what will happen with Montenegro team if they don’t qualify for the Olympic Games due to this terrible call. Problem is that Australian water Polo needs to beg everyone and anyone for money to keep their men’s program alive due to terrible call in Korea which resulted in losing the budget. Problem is that referees walk around the pool in their jackets like kings and expect everyone to kiss their hand. Problem is leadership of our sport where everyone thinks of their small interest first and foremost and the control and power. Problem is that people in „the thrones” only think how they will keep their position and privileges as long as possible and not what they should do to make more people come and watch water polo.
Problem is that we will all forget about all of it within 2 days after championship and the game of thrones will continue the same old way!