Is water polo a full contact sport

The water polo players from HSG TH Leipzig e.V.

Water on!

Water polo is the first team sport that, at that time in Paris, could be celebrated in an Olympic setting. The beginning of a glorious sports history? Well, the waterline wasn't quite as smooth as it was in 1900. The media interest today tends towards the bottom of the pool. Nobody swims away from the athletes at HSG TH Leipzig that quickly.


In addition to a sports history steeped in tradition, which by the way began shortly before the Olympics (on March 1, 1900) with the establishment of the Leipzig swimming club “Poseidon”, water polo has one thing above all else: dynamism. The speed of the sport is decisive for the fact that the spectators at the seething pool edge can prepare for a game with many goals. But there is also a lot going on under the magical waterline. Everything is allowed here that the referee cannot see - really everything: kick, pinch, scratch, hit. How exhausting the fight for the ball is can be seen in the breaks between the 4x8 minutes of playing time, when the men emerge from under their swimming caps. The full contact sport demands a lot from the athlete in terms of swimming - whereby not only hardness, but also (ball) feeling is required. So it's a bit like handball. However, contact with the ground in at least 1.80 meters deep water is not permitted. "In addition, there is no comparable height of fall and the forces are naturally slowed down by the water," explains Ralf Noack, a former athlete at Motor Gohlis-Nord.


Today, his passion for sport mainly takes place outside the pool. Ralf Noack is a walking encyclopedia of water polo: There is hardly an event that he cannot report on. On the Facebook page of the water polo museum, he archives the ups and downs of the 120 years of sports history in Leipzig.

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Our water polo players in the Schreberbad swimming pool in Leipzig in the 1930s.

ebb and flow


Ralf Noack is also the one who swims with us through the undulating history of water polo. A few lanes had to be completed before significant successes were achieved following the first attempts at swimming in Leipzig in 1900. In 1932 this was primarily associated with Johannes "Hans" Eckstein from Leipzig. At that time, Eckstein was taking part in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where he and his teammates won the silver medal - at that time still wearing a fashionable groin guard. The funny swimming caps are still part of the starting grid today. First and foremost, to protect the ears and eardrum from injuries and, of course, to distinguish one's own man from the opponent based on the color of the headgear.


This is how we stranded in the golden age of water polo - in the early GDR. There were seven teams in Leipzig at the time. Training took place in the swimming pool at the central stadium. A proud 14 Leipzig athletes played in the national teams until 1990. Two people from Leipzig even won the European runner-up in Utrecht. From 1969 one struggled with the consequences of the "reorganization of sport" in the GDR. This led to a focus on sports in which the GDR government saw medal potential in an international comparison. Water polo was not included and therefore out of the funding system. After 1965, only the SC Leipzig remained in Leipzig, literally as a pool for water polo players - the result of the concentration of SC DHfK, SC Rotation and SC Leipzig. In future, the athletes organized themselves in company sports associations such as the BSG Motor Gohlis-Nord. In the meantime, starting out as Motor Leipzig Nord, they won the GDR championship title four times in the 80s - the last time in 1989.


The dream of equality


The HSG TH Leipzig e.V. was finally founded ten years ago from the SSV Leipzig-Leutzsch. In the past, in order to crawl back to more glorious water polo times, there was no separation between swimmers and water polo players: Anyone who developed an interest in the ball game simply did both. Today this is rather the exception - except in the youth sector: "Here, safe and fear-free keeping above water is the basic requirement to jump into the pool." Ralf Noack still belongs to the transverse swimmer category: "Before I switched to water polo, I was - for four years - from 1971 to 75 - active as an athlete at the sports school of the SC DHfK. "

Then as now, the sport took up a lot of time: four times a week you train in the water and once outside the pool. There are also competitions on weekends: always two away or home games. The so-called double game days in point game operations are a special feature that distinguishes water polo from other sports. Nevertheless, the men in the first team cannot keep themselves financially afloat. Finances are generally a difficult topic: “There are only a few clubs in Germany that can pay their athletes appropriately,” explains junior coordinator Andreas Burger. “That is different in southern Europe, for example.” In Leipzig, the fact that the fee schedule, in particular the decision to use sports facilities for children and young people free of charge, does not include the use of indoor swimming pools. Young people in clubs of the Leipzig Swimming Association have to pay the fee out of their own pocket. "In my opinion, this represents a great injustice, because the high costs that arise as a result are of course transferred to the membership fees." Ralf Noack asks himself why the traditional sports of swimming and water polo are disadvantaged in Leipzig and is fighting to ensure that they City offers appropriate compensatory measures. “It would be best if the municipal sports funding guidelines were adapted. And it would be even nicer if the water polo players had their own home. ”So far, the men in the swimming pool center have been training in a 25-meter pool that does not meet the requirements of the DSV for point games for competitions. Competitions are therefore held in the university swimming pool. Andreas and Ralf are just as disappointed about this as the loss of the Leipzig swimming stadium: “It's sad that in an avoidable sports city like Leipzig we can't even fall back on our own club room in a swimming pool. What is missing today is not only the curious about water polo, but also areas for training. "

A big dream for the water polo players would come true with the renovation of the Wackerbad on Max-Liebermann-Straße in Leipzig - but the fate of the 100-year-old summer pool in Gohlis is still unclear.


Water joys


The ex-water polo players do not want to complain about the successes of the first men's team of the HSG TH Leipzig e.V., which, despite the poor framework conditions, is staying in the 2nd Bundesliga East. The team led by trainer Robin Seemann finished last season with a successful fourth place. In addition to the big 120-year anniversary celebration that is taking place in the Leipzig University Swimming Pool in summer, sports enthusiasts in Leipzig can look forward to high-class water duels in the future too. The next exciting home game is scheduled for January 5th, 2020 at 11 a.m. in the Uni-Schwimhalle (Mainzer Str. 4). The opponents of HSG TH Leipzig e.V. will be the water polo players from SV Halle. The first derby of this kind took place in 1907. “The Leipzig team was only able to achieve a win in the second leg twelve years later,” laughs Ralf Noack.

Further information at


Upcoming home games in the Leipzig University Swimming Pool:

January 25, 2020: HSG TH Leipzig e.V. - Plauen

January 26, 2020: HSG TH Leipzig e.V. - Zwickau

March 22nd, 2020, 11 a.m .: HSG TH Leipzig e.V. - Berlin Neukölln


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  • Published on 21.01.2020