The first-ever Gauteng Invitational Water Polo Tournament is scheduled to take place at St David’s Marist Inanda in Johannesburg from April 13 to 17.
Tournament organizer Rui Morais explained that the event aims to boost the profile of water polo in the province and the country and expose SA teams to international competition.
“Water polo enjoys great support at school level, but once players matriculate they tend to drift away from the sport. There is very little to keep seniors involved in water polo, ”he said.
This was the dynamic that drove the Gauteng Water Polo Board to establish the Gauteng Invitational.
Participants in the maiden tournament come from four provinces – Gauteng (including the Soweto Water Polo Club), Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal – with international teams coming from Portugal and Mozambique.
“At the moment invitations have been sent to 16 men’s teams and eight women’s teams to play. I have also had requests from teams in Hungary, Brazil, Cuba, UK, Switzerland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Australia.
“We don’t have the space to accommodate any more teams, but it’s encouraging to see that people want to participate. The fact that we have teams wanting to play tells me this event has traction going forward. ”
Covid-19 travel restrictions have been a sticking point for many of the international teams in 2022.
“Hopefully as things open up on the Covid front we’ll be able to get more international visitors.”
Morais said the tournament has been partially funded, but that sponsorship is still needed.
“The costs involved in hosting an event of this magnitude are considerable and, while we are grateful for the financial support we have received thus far, we are still a way off our budgeted targets.
“Our ultimate goal is to set up a business arm within Gauteng Water Polo to help with fund-raising and distribution, especially for development. Our idea is for the tournament to eventually become self-funding. ”
One of the goals of the tournament is to expose SA teams to international competition.
“We have Portugal’s top two teams, Vitoria Sports Club and Clube Fluvial Portuense, coming to play, which will go a long way towards helping us to achieve this goal.
“We also have two ladies, Olympians Nicola MacLeod and Shaqira January, going to Portugal for three months to play for SL Benfica. With around 260,000 members, it is one of the largest sports clubs in the world. ”
Invitations to the men’s tournament have been sent to teams in Portugal, Mozambique and various teams across the country.
Invitations to the women’s tournament have been sent to teams from Gauteng, KZN, Western Cape and the Eastern Cape.
Vítor Macedo, head coach of the Portuguese National Champions Vitoria Sport Clube, said they are looking forward to the tournament.
“We are very excited to travel to South Africa to participate in such a magnificent event,” he said. “The tournament will form part of our preparation for the national championships in Portugal, giving us the opportunity to bond even more as a team – with our main goal being to win the tournament, of course.
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“We are very grateful to the organizing committee for the invitation, and especially to Rui Morais, who has done much to make our participation in the event possible,” said Macedo.
OJ Eagles club captain, Etienne Le Roux, said his team is looking forward to playing against local and international teams.
“As a club, we are proud of the amount we have given back to South African water polo and, as always, are relishing the opportunity to test ourselves against some of the best players internationally,” he said.
“This tournament provides a great platform for this.”
OJ Eagles have won 16 Currie Cup (SA National Championships) medals in the past 18 tournaments.
Matches will be played at St David’s Marist Inanda, Johannesburg, while training and accommodation for the Portuguese and Mozambican teams will be hosted by Reddam Helderfontein.
For more information, visit the Gauteng Invitational Water Polo Tournament Facebook page or contact Rui Morais on (011) 807 5315 / [email protected].
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