First things first, this is primarily an article about water polo, not Marco Polo, but I couldn’t resist the memories of that wonderful childhood game that must drive parents around the world completely mad.
Water polo is coming to the iconic Bondi Icebergs pool this March, in the form of the Aussie Sharks v International All Stars. Will there be a game of Marco Polo as well? God, I hope so. If you’re there, perhaps you can spark a full-time pitch (pool) invasion scenario? It’d be worth it just to see security have to dive in to grab you.
It should be a good spectacle regardless. You can expect a big crowd. Much like Donald Trump, the people of the east love their water sports. The comparisons to The White House don’t stop there either. Water polo is one of the most vicious and unpredictable games around, with the majority of the foul acts occurring behind the scenes, by which I mean under the water. Scratching, pinching, dackings and rogue explorative fingers are all part of your typical player’s arsenal. I assume. I didn’t actually speak to any water polo players before writing this article and haven’t played the game itself since I was fifteen.
I remember my young self being baffled by the contest. The violent elbows, threat of drowning and the real fear that my genitals could be exposed and manhandled at any moment were not synonymous with my previous experiences with sports. I didn’t have the required aggression to survive in such an environment. To this day, it remains the craziest sport I’ve ever played.
The similarities to Marco Polo also go beyond the name. Both are unscrupulous sports that encourage the worst of human behaviour. Dipping a toe in does not exclude you from fish out of water, people! But I’ll admit it, I did it too. I cheated at Marco Polo and I’ll likely do it again. Because modern life and childhood is all about getting an edge over your competitors or siblings and finding loopholes wherever possible. Admittedly, water polo is less about finding loopholes and more about just savagely beating your opponent into submission, but that is also an effective strategy. I know you’re meant to score goals too, but sometimes that seems like a secondary objective.
I found it surprising that the game is believed to have originated in Scotland in the late 19th century, but with the water being so cold over there, I guess it makes sense that they should start climbing all over each other. It should be a warm day at the Icebergs, however. In and out of the pool, with all those rigs in budgie smugglers wandering around.