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An interview by Paul Hammond, aka Clyde, with Fritz Jager from the Netherlands who at time of the interview was chairman of the ICF Canoe Polo Committee. Interview originally conducted over email by Clyde in early 2003.


Clyde: Can you tell us what your background was/is in the sport before you joined the ICF?

Fritz: I started kayaking as a racing competitor. In 1976 the canoe club OSSA in Heerhugowaard asked me to join them in a canoe polo team. In that period of time canoe polo was plaid in about 4 clubs in the Netherlands. Our teams competed without bouncy aids, but with helmets and face-protectors. We played with floating water polo goals and shooting the ball with the paddle to score a goal. I retired after 6 years suffering from a permanent sinusitis. At that time the sport was completely in my heart. I carried on refereeing the game and a couple of years later joining the national federation as a member of the canoe polo committee. I was appointed in the ICF in 1992. 

Clyde: You’ve been the Chairman of the ICF Canoe Polo Committee (CPC) for a few years now. Has anything really changed since you took over from Rolf?
Fritz: Rolf retired in 1998. I was lucky to have the change to become his successor. At the age of 38 I than was the youngest member of the Board of Directors. Together with the members of the canoe polo committee I started with simplifying the canoe polo rules. Can you see that as a change? The relationship with the Asian countries has become a good one. More and more federations there are starting to pick up their canoe polo paddle. The ICF supports actively the development and the committee is found quite often in Asia. My personal highlight is that canoe polo entered the World Games. From 2005 both 6 men and women teams can compete at these Games, to begin in Germany. I believe this to be a big step forward in recognition of our sport.
Clyde: Briefly – how often does the ICF CPC meet and what kind of things do they talk about?

Fritz: The committee meets once or twice a year for a meeting. Most of our meeting is about the ever-changing Canoe Polo rules. World Canoe Polo Championships, in particular the format and seeding and the progress of the organisers. Off course we discuss about the referees and all others that are involved in international competing. The budget from the ICF and the wishes of the Board of Directors is always a part of our agenda.
Clyde: It seems like there is a lot of background work going on, which most of us mere mortals don’t see. Working on the evidence you see when you meet, how many hours a week average would you say each member of the committee dedicates to their duties – just as a guess?

Fritz: I do believe that the ICF committee consists only of perfectly common human beings. As all involved in Canoe Polo we do our work as much as the athletes train for their successes.
Clyde: How are the wishes of the players in terms of the way the game is played – translated into rules? 
Fritz: The committee is compiled out of 5 different nations. We all try to translate the wishes of competitors into the game we all want to play and see. First of all we talk and discuss with individual canoe polo players. We also follow the interesting discussions on the Internet at several forums. The committee asked 5 actively in the sport involved top-referees to become member of an Advisory Panel. They advise also uncalled-for the committee. The information given by the member of the ICF Athletes committee Duncan Cochrane is also a good source. The information out of all these sources gives us new ideas. Newly proposed rules are up for discussion via Internet before they become a new rule.
Clyde: Do you think there is a risk that major events are costing so much to attend, it’s an easy excuse for Nations to not enter?

Fritz: No and no. Canoe Polo is organised by many organisers. I believe the entry fee they ask the competing teams is not exorbitant. Both organiser and competitor gain a lot at the international competitions. On the level of Continental and World Championships the entry fee for canoe polo is a fraction of what is asked from competitors in canoeing.
Clyde: It’s getting harder to think of new places big enough to host a World Championships. What do you think is the way forwards with the four classes (Senior Men & Women and U21 Men & Women) for this type of competition?
Fritz: I do not agree to the question. The first and second World Championships could be held indoors due to the numbers of competing teams. The later was being still in a swimming pool complex. From 2004 the sport will go out on Natural water, as in the Europeans the last two episodes. Every canoe-racing course will be a possible venue for the Worlds. More federations will be able to organise the World Canoe Polo Championships. For 2008 three nations, Canada, Poland and Spain are fighting to become the organiser.
I believe that the Championships being held at one venue at one time is the best way to help the Under-21 competition grow. Separation is to my opinion far away.
Clyde: Do you think the ICF has a responsibility to discourage illegally copied equipment?
Fritz: Reluctantly I have to say no. The ICF is not a criminal investigation department. I find it criminal to rip-off a kayak or any other equipment. It is a cheap way of making money. I am aware of the difficulty that licence-holders have to institute proceedings against the rippers.
Clyde: Is there any plan to have an official ICF CPC boat / paddle design approval system?
Fritz: No.
Clyde: What would you like to see happen in our sport in the next 5-6 years?
I want canoe polo to be a (well) known sport. Having the possibility to say that I am involved in canoe polo and people do understand.
Clyde: When do you think the administration and/or the players will go professional?
Fritz: I am not a fortune-teller, nor do I have a crystal ball.
Clyde: How do you think that will effect the sport on the whole?
Fritz: -
Clyde: As a fellow European we have to credit the Australians with their previous dominance over the years in our sport both in Men and Women’s classes. Do you think the Europeans will maintain title for a long while now? 
Fritz: Asia is growing and Australia is not written off yet. I won't be surprised if Europe will miss the 2008 title in the Men class.
Clyde: Is there anything the ICF as a whole, can do to work out a relationship with some of the major airlines to make it easier for teams to travel for the sport?
Fritz: Airline companies as a lot of other companies in the World are willing to support sport if the advertisement pays-off. Canoe polo does not. The ICF itself has no major sponsors, nor for the Olympic disciplines, nor for the others. Our sport, how much we are appreciating it ourselves, is a small sport that will not be the first to be sponsored by airlines.
Clyde: The Netherlands has consistently been known as a Nation who can win major events in Canoe Polo, so when are the Dutch Men and Women going to win the World Championships?
Fritz: That break true must be in 2006. We want to win in our own country, keeping our head cool.
Interview originally published on Clyde's Polo Page

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