(7 votes, average 4.29 out of 5)


In Italy, the sport was first introduced into the canoeing community by me, during an International canoe meeting organised by my local club, Natisone Kayak Club, at Manzano on the river Natisone. We had organised a small tournament and inserted it into the programme on the afternoon of the 9th of September 1979, as a finale a to the mornings river outing.

Four clubs participated that day in the event: Natisone Kayak Club, Canoa Club Udine, Canoa Club XXX Ottobre from Trieste, and a club from nearby Slovenia, Soske Electrarne. All participants had only white water canoeing skills and had never having played canoe polo before. This first International Tournament organised coinciding with the birth of a new sporting discipline in Italy.

There was great enthusiasm amongst the teams for this new sport and a willingness to continue playing on a regular basis. Consequently, the Italian canoe polo movement was created as interest in the game was guaranteed.


The idea of practising this sport came to me after I saw an illustration of the game in a book ‘The Italian Encyclopaedia of World Sports’, while browsing in a local bookstore. I thought that this activity could have been a pleasant alternative for my fellow club members in the summer months, when the local alpine river running through the town, had a tendency of losing its wild water strengths, and become basically a flat lake. In this way, we had guaranteed canoeing activities for the “dry” summer months.

In the first version of the game we played originally with normal fibreglass touring kayaks, over four meters in length, but the following year, we bought our first fibreglass B.A.T. kayaks. For that first match, the goal posts were rudimentary and were semi-fixed on the shallow bed of the river, thirty meters apart. The height of the river that day was only half a meter high, but sufficient to play in.


Italy 1979 Roma 1983 I.C.F. Rules in 1989

    THE VERY FIRST GAME 1979                 ROME EXHIBITION 1983                        I.C.F. RULES IN 1989

Within a few months, we constructed new floating goals 4 meters in width and 1.5 meters in height and they were made out of floatable polypropylene plastic tubing. This enabled us to transport the goalposts to wherever we organised matches, in lakes, rivers or swimming pools.  

The size of the playing field according to the rules was 35-40 meters in length and 18-20 meters in width. 

Ball play as stated in the rules was exclusively limited to paddle play only, both for dribbling the ball and scoring. Only at throw-ins and goal starts was the ball physically handled. Body tackling, unheard of at that time was not used for gaining control of the ball. Each game was controlled by two referees. Buoyancy vests were used by all players, as were helmets, but they were without facial protection. Notwithstanding the exclusive use of paddles, injury to the players was virtually unknown.  

Bearing in mind in 1979, that these rules were from a book translated from the English language into Italian, I was under the impression that this then unheard game was already being played in that way either in the USA or in England, or both.  

How wrong I was to be!

During the early years, it was next to impossible recruit other clubs to the game or to get the Federation involved, as interest lay at that time only in slalom and downriver activities. 

But, nevertheless, I did not give up my efforts to go ahead with the game I believed had a great future. 

Our club participated in matches in local tournaments around the Friuli region, and in 1981 the Regional Committee organised the first canoe polo championship. With more Italian canoeing clubs finally coming to play at our yearly International Tournament, the news of this discipline spread to other parts of the country, and canoeists from the slalom and down river disciplines started to create their own teams and organised competitions sprouted literally everywhere. 

In 1982, when we found out about the International Tournament at the Boat Show at Crystal Palace, London, though it was too late to enter the main programme, we were invited to play a ‘friendly’ at the end of the regular competitions. This was the first opportunity for an Italian club to play abroad. We soon realised that contrary to what we thought, the game of canoe polo, although practised in other countries, did not have the same form of rules as in Italy. 

From 1983-1990, our club travelled regularly playing many tournaments in Germany, Holland, Hungary and Australia, where we got used to seeing that nearly every country played with a different set of rules. In spring 1983, only after the (then) President of the Italian Federation, Dr. Sergio Orsi, came to the Nautical Boat Show at Trieste, to see a demonstrative match organised by our club, did he officially take notice of this sport and get more involved at a Federal and International level.  

In October of 1983, we were invited by the Italian Olympic Committee (C.O.N.I.), to play a demonstration match against a selection of other Italian clubs (at that time there were only canoe polo teams from northern Italy in activity), during the Olympic Youth Games Meeting Week, in the Foro Italico indoor swimming pool in Rome. This game widely publicised in Rome drew support from canoeist and public alike, paving the way for other canoe clubs, now also from southern and central Italy, to become involved in the sport. 

In November 1982 at Mestre (near Venice), an important meeting was co-organised by Canoa Club Mestre whose members represented the Veneto section of canoe athletes and Natisone Kayak club, who were representing the Friuli Region athletes, to talk about promoting the sport of canoe polo, not only in the northern regions but also in other parts of Italy. In November the next year, again in Mestre, the Veneto Committee of the Italian Canoe Commission organised another meeting inviting various clubs to propose their ideas in creating a set of National Rules for the game. 

From 1986 onwards, other Italian teams started travelling outside Italy, taking part in many International tournaments around Europe. The first National Tournament was held in Italy in 1987 and was called the Italian Cup, which was won by A.S. Roma Canoe Polo.

1988 was the beginning of changes in the way the game was played in Italy. At our yearly International, the event was divided equally into two tournaments; the principal event in the old “Italian style” and a smaller competition with the new I.C.F. rules. In this way transition towards the new rules would be easier for us to get used to. We had already constructed the new suspended goalposts which we positioned at the ends of the swimming pool to use when we changed over to ‘the other game’. As it was now apparent that ‘Italian Rules’ would not survive as an alternative way of playing canoe polo anymore, the faster we could adjust our game, the easier the transition to the new rules would be. 

From 1989 our tournament was organised only with these new I.C.F. rules. It was a sign of the times and it was just a matter of time before all the other canoe polo teams in Italy would follow suit.

1992 was the last year in which Italy played with “paddle only” rules. 

In 1993, the Italian Federation, (now known as Federazione Italiana Canoa Kayak) as did all the other canoe polo playing countries, adopted the new unified I.C.F. Rules. The first Italian National Championships with these new Rules was held with the club A.R.C.I. Lerici winning first place. Italy has since gone on to become one of the strongest nations in this sport.  

In 2004, during the 2004 World Championships, they were the runners-up in the Men’s U21 category, and classified 5th in the Men’s category. 


#3 Guest 2009-11-07 23:20
:) grande articolo!
venite questo weekend per il torneo a praga?
a presto
#2 the deacon 2009-11-07 23:19
In return for your compliments, I would like to add that it was a pleasure to have my article published on the best canoe polo wesite on the WWW today!
Sincerely, I would not have chosen any other!
#1 TheMasterG 2009-11-07 23:18
Wow, I just got through reading this properly from start to finish, excellent!
Great job Reza :thumbup:

Login to comment. Only registered members can post comments!