The UCT Polo Tour to Hungary 2014 – Key Insights from the team
On 14 June 2014 the University of Cape Town 1XIII Waterpolo Team , which also consisted of three future UCT players, currently in their last year at school, departed from Cape Town International Airport, for what was to be an incredible two weeks training in the beautiful and hot summer of Hungary. This tour was an opportunity for the players to train and face players in the Hungarian Mens and u20’s club league. Arriving in Budapest was a huge relief for the majority of the boys who tower over 6-foot. The Turkish Airlines Flight was a verylong and tight squeeze for these water polo men.
Donning their snazzy grey, matching shirts and khaki chinos, the tired boys were welcomed by their passionate Hungarian coach, Zsolt Desi, who was already sporting a well bronzed -rosy in parts – shade. After a relatively painless hotel transit and check-in, Zsolt took the guys to an advanced indoor aquatic centre. The pools, all five of them, which are kept in absolutely pristine condition by 3 dedicated staff, are surrounded by a sweep of spectator stands.
A clear clue as to why Hungary has won the most medals in Olympic water polo history.
The team was to be hosted by the BVSC Waterpolo club (Budapesti Vasutas Sport Club) in their first week in Budapest.
The general daily schedule consisted of the following:
8 o’clock meet at the dining hall for breakfast
9:30 arrive at the pool to wake up and soak up some sun with ever darkening coach Zsolt
10:30 – 11:30 was always an infamous ‘Zsolt’ swim set
12:00 – 13:30 Game against the BVSC 1st team or u20 team
14:00-17:00 Breathe, often sleep, eat lunch, mentally and physically prepare
17:30-19:30 Game against the BVSC 1st team or u20 team
20:00 Eat. Sleep.
Note: If a player was late he forfeited 1000 forint (R50) towards the end of tour ‘fines meeting’.
Hungarians are well-known for their extraordinary play in the water and the level of Waterpolo is intense. Hungary has also fielded some of the most celebrated water polo players of all time. Dezso Gyarmati won a medal at five different Olympics from 1948-1964 (3 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze). Oliver Halassy, who represented Hungary three times between 1928-1936, won 2 gold and 1 silver. What makes his medal count even more extraordinary is that Halassy had one of his legs amputated below the knee as a child.
It can definitely be said however, that player-for-player, South Africa is not “far off” at all.
Many of the UCT players were somewhat feared by the opposition for their overwhelming man-on-man skills!
Their key short-falls were the attentiveness of our players, their patience to make the right decision at the right time, their fitness when it came to the relentless swimming up and down, and the famous “man-up-man-down”.
Most goals scored against the UCT team were off counter-attacks that arose from the Hungarian’s highly alert sense of play together with their clever tactics and techniques to get ahead of players.
The boys started learning quickly and as the week progressed, they also began to counter-attack and improve these areas where they initially showed weakness. Although the BVSC 1st team, many of whom were past Hungarian National Team players, was a bit too strong for UCT, the team managed to do exceptionally well against the u20 side, finally beating them at the end of the tour. This was an incredible achievement considering the UCT team had only 2 players over 20 as well as three schoolboys.
In between the highly intense Waterpolo training, the team had a few days off where there was time for leisure and to explore the beautiful city of Budapest. The highlight must be the “all-you-can-eat-and-drink-in-three-hours” buffet followed by an evening boat cruise along the Danube. The nightlife was also explored and a lot of fun was had at the local hotspots, where many interesting people were met and many hilarious stories were shared.
The week in Budapest quickly came to an end and the guys, by now very fit but exhausted, slept the entire duration of the bus trip to Eger. Eger is one of the most beautiful Baroque cities in Hungary. The centuries-old architectural heritage, the religious treasures, the wine culture, the thermal baths and numerous cultural events combine to make Eger the most significant tourist centre in Northern Hungary. A luxurious hotel greeted them upon arrival in Eger. The wellness centre and the now anticipated “all-you-can-eat” breakfast and dinner buffet quickly shook the guys out of slumber before their first swim to prepare for the final week of training.
The Eger indoor pool having been recently built shadowed a beautiful, very old outdoor pool situated in a park. This pool is a thermal bath which is fed from the streamlet of Eger, a couple of hundreds of meters from downtown and the castle of Eger. The Saffers struggled with the smell of sulfur, but they soon got used to it as they spent a fair amount of time in it.
The opposition in Eger wasn’t quite as strong and the team had the opportunity to flex their muscles a little bit and show what they had learnt in Budapest. The schedule was much more relaxed in Eger but it did still consist of 5-6 hours of hard training and games.
Eger, a small city that feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the Hungarian capital, lies just two hours north of Budapest. The week in Eger
gave the guys a lot of free time to relax and explore the countryside , in an area known romantically as the Valley of the Beautiful Women. The visit to the tranquil valley was also thoroughly enjoyed with a walk through the valley, an open roof train ride and a very interesting trout meal. On two of the nights, the team went on wine-tasting tours into this beautiful region that has upwards of 200 cellars.
The tour was a huge success and thoroughly enjoyed by all. Coach Zsolt and UCT Captain Nick Walker , aided by Michael Frames did an absolutely incredible job in organising and coordinating the tour which would not have been the same without their efforts.
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