All about our sport
Water polo was developed on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, with American and European versions of the game evolving independently. The European version had its roots in rugby, football (soccer) and classic polo – a sport developed in the Middle East that spread around Asia before being picked up and popularised in Europe by British troops stationed in India in the 1800s.
The first set of European water polo rules was drawn up by the London Swimming Association in 1870, but a more disciplined and technical set of rules from Scotland – that banned the sinking of opponents and holding the ball underwater – ultimately formed the basis of the sport that we know today.
In America, the sport was first known as ‘softball water polo’, as players rode floating barrels fashioned to resemble horses. Players also handled the ball – a kind of bladder – with paddles vaguely familiar to the mallet used in classic Polo. It was an incredibly rough and violent sport, with fights regularly breaking out