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The National Sport of Hungary is Water Polo.

Water Polo in Hungary holds a rich history, showcasing exceptional talent and fostering national pride.

To learn more about sports culture in Hungary, read our article about the most popular sports in Hungary.


#1 History of Water Polo

  • 19th Century: Water Polo is believed to have originated in England and Scotland during the mid-19th century, but would quickly find its way to Hungary.
  • 1900: Water Polo is introduced as an Olympic sport at the Paris Games; however, Hungary does not participate until 1912.
  • 1928: Hungary earns its first Olympic gold medal in Water Polo at the Amsterdam Games.
  • 1936-1964: Hungary dominates the sport internationally, earning six consecutive Olympic gold medals in Water Polo.
  • 1956: The infamous “Blood in the Water” match takes place between Hungary and the Soviet Union during the Melbourne Olympics, garnering worldwide attention and further solidifying Hungary’s position in Water Polo history.
  • 2000: Hungary revives its Olympic dominance by winning gold at the Sydney Games and consecutively in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008).

#2 Culture and Traditions

Water Polo plays a significant role in Hungary’s cultural identity, as the sport showcases the nation’s resilience, strength, and determination. Being one of the world’s leading teams, the Hungarian National Water Polo team inspires a sense of pride and unity among its citizens.

In Hungary, various championships and tournaments, such as the Hungarian National Championship and the European Water Polo Championship, are celebrated with fervor. Fans gather to cheer on their favorite teams, creating an electric atmosphere around these events.

Beyond local competitions, Hungary’s performances in international tournaments such as the Olympic Games and the World Championships are followed closely and extensively, with victories bolstering national pride and furthering Water Polo’s impact on Hungarian culture and traditions.

#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment

📕 Rules & Gameplay

  • Teams: Each team consists of seven players, including one goalkeeper, with up to six substitutes allowed.
  • Match Duration: A standard match is divided into four periods, each lasting eight minutes of actual playtime.
  • Objective: Teams score points by throwing the ball into the opponent’s goal, with the highest-scoring team winning the match.
  • Exclusions: A player committing a major foul is excluded from play for twenty seconds or until the opposing team scores.
  • Tie Breaker: In the event of a tie, teams play multiple rounds of shootouts until a winner is determined.

⚙️ Equipment & Gear

  • Ball: Specially designed ball made of waterproof material with a circumference of 68-71 cm for men and 65-67 cm for women.
  • Goal: A floating frame measuring 3 meters wide and 0.9 meters high, positioned at each end of the pool.
  • Swimwear: Team members wear identifiable caps and swimsuits. Goalkeepers wear a different color cap for distinction.
  • Mouthguards: Often used by players to protect their teeth from potential injuries.

#4 Modern Development of Water Polo

Water Polo has evolved significantly over the years, with changes in rules and gameplay adaptations, such as the introduction of the shot clock and the five-meter rule, to increase the sport’s pace and competitiveness.

Technological advancements have also influenced Water Polo, with underwater cameras offering viewers new perspectives, and computer-assisted training programs enhancing players’ performance and understanding of the game. In addition, social media has helped in broadening the sport’s reach and popularity.

In recent decades, Water Polo has seen a rise in competitive parity, with nations such as Italy, Croatia, and Serbia making strides in international competitions. This development allows fans to witness a more dynamic and unpredictable sporting landscape while securing Hungary’s place in Water Polo’s future.

#5 Water Polo and the Olympics

Water Polo has been a fixture at the Olympic Games since its introduction in 1900, with the women’s competition added in 2000. Hungary has been a powerhouse in Olympic Water Polo, securing a record nine Olympic gold medals, as well as three silver medals and three bronze medals in the men’s competition. The women’s team has also collected one gold and one silver medal.

The Olympics have played a crucial role in elevating Water Polo’s global recognition and status, providing national teams with a platform to compete at the highest level and showcase their skills to audiences worldwide. Hungary’s continued strong Olympic presence solidifies its status as one of the world’s premier Water Polo nations.

#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements

  1. Dezső Gyarmati: Hailed as one of the greatest Water Polo players, with an impressive five Olympic medals, including three golds, one silver, and one bronze. Later, Gyarmati also enjoyed success as a coach for the Hungarian national team.
  2. Tamás Faragó: A legendary Water Polo player with three Olympic medals—two golds and one silver—whose exceptional outside shooting and tactical insight earned him an iconic status within the sport.
  3. Tibor Benedek: A stellar athlete with three Olympic gold medals and one European Championship gold, who also served as the head coach of the Hungarian national team, leading them to a World Championship title in 2013.
  4. Péter Biros: A versatile and dominant player with an impressive three Olympic gold medals, two World Championship titles, and four European Championship titles to his name.

#7 Where to watch Water Polo

  • M4, Digi Sport, and Sport1: Popular broadcasters in Hungary offering coverage of national and international Water Polo events, such as the Hungarian National Championship, European Championships, and the Olympic Games.
  • Online Streaming: International sports streaming platforms, like FINAtv, often provide live streaming of Water Polo matches, including World Championships and other major events.
  • Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Stadium: A notable venue located in Budapest, hosting various Water Polo events, providing an unforgettable live experience for fans in Hungary.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning ‘real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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