Russell McKinnon, FINA Media Committee

Singapore.— New faces under a new banner will enjoy Singaporean hospitality with the men’s FINA Water Polo Challengers’ Cup starting on Tuesday.

Formerly known as the Development Trophy, instituted in 2007 and run every second year, the competition has had a chequered career and brought many a new water polo country to the international stage.

Previous winners have been Colombia (2007), Kuwait (2009), Saudi Arabia (2011), Uzbekistan (2013), Iran (2015) and Uruguay (2017).

This year, India, Indonesia (sixth in 2015), Ireland, Philippines (fourth in 2009), Austria (third in 2015), Chinese Taipei, Singapore (silver in 2009), Zimbabwe. Malaysia and Hong Kong will play under the FINA flag, many for the first time and a new champion will be crowned.

Of the six editions, only Austria has been a double medallist, collecting bronzes in 2015 and 2017.

While many have played in regional competitions, lifting to FINA status is what this tournament is all about.

The previous tournament was staged in Gzira, Malta and the outcome was a strange affair with the top two teams being suspended for verbal abuse during the last minute of the final, which was then abandoned.

Malta and Iran were denied a podium finish and Uruguay snapped up top spot with its formerly bronze-medal win over Saudi Arabia.

The bronze for 2017 went to Austria after winning a penalty shootout against Tunisia.

This year’s host, Singapore, is the only survivor from then, losing to Peru in another penalty shootout and ultimately taking sixth position, something it wishes to improve on this week and perhaps go one better than 2009 where it took out silver.

Matches will be played in the fantastic OCBC Aquatic Centre — which has previously hosted FINA World Cup swimming events — between 3-9pm daily with the Sunday finals between 10am-7.30pm.

Media release from Singapore Swimming Federation:

SINGAPORE, 7 OCTOBER 2019– The FINA Water Polo Challengers' Cup Singapore 2019 Presented By TYR will be a good tune-up for the upcoming SEA Games 2019 water polo competition in the Philippines, a thought that was shared by most of the South-East Asian teams that are competing in the 8th to 13th October competition at the OCBC Aquatic Centre (AQC).

Speaking after the press conference that was held on Monday, 7 October at the AQC, Singapore head coach Dejan Milakovic said, “It is a great thing that we are hosting this tournament and finally we have a chance to play international games at home. The timing of this event is good as we will be able to see the current form of the team and have enough time to finalise our preparations for the SEA Games. It is important for the players to have as much exposure to international competition and for them to prove that they deserve a place in the national team.

“We will go into every game to win and hopefully finish up in the top spots at the end of the tournament”, he added.

Philippines head coach Rey Galang said: “This is a very important event for the national team. It’s an event where we can gauge where we are in terms of our readiness, our preparation for the SEA Games because other Southeast Asian nations are also participating in this tournament.”

Echoing Galang’s thoughts was Dean Baldwin, team manager of Indonesia. He said:“For us, this tournament will be a good preparation before the SEA Games. Our expectation for this tournament is to check where we are currently, and where our players are in terms of fitness and game play.”

SEA Games host Philippines, and 2017 SEA Games silver medallist Indonesia, are expected to strongly challenge 27-time SEA Games champion Singapore at the New Clark City Aquatic Centre come November.

With the objective of the FINA Challengers Cup is to promote water polo on a global scale, especially in countries where the sport is not fully developed, countries like Zimbabwe are able to benefit from such competitions. 

“This is a very exciting opportunity for Zimbabwe because it now means that there is water polo after school for our players. Just our participation has invigorated many older players and whilst preparation has been limited due to players being scattered across the globe and the short time frame we have had, I am confident that this will ultimately have a huge impact on the development of water polo in Zimbabwe.  These men are extremely proud of representing Zimbabwe and indeed the African continent,' said Mary Kloppers, team manager and head of the Zimbabwe Aquatic Union.