Dive for the ball

Costoli pool hosts underwater rugby tourney

Alessandro Ruocco
May 10, 2012

At over 50 years, the sport of underwater rugby still does not have a high profile in Italy nor has it managed to grab many national headlines. This has not, however, prevented the sport from emerging onto the local sporting scene (see TF 143) during the 15 years that Florence has had underwater rugby teams.


Florence boasts not only the sport's first team in Italy but also the country's biggest international tournament, the Firenze Cup, which is celebrating its 11th year at the Paolo Costoli pool on May 19 and 20. Some 200 male and female athletes from around Italy and across Europe will be competing for the trophy.


Originating in Germany in 1961, underwater rugby, which has little in common with the terrestrial variety, has found its following mainly in Northern Europe, with a loyal outpost in Florence. Played in pools with a depth of 4-5 metres, two teams of 12 players each (6 in the water and 6 ready to substitute whenever their teammates reach the point of exhaustion) contend for possession of a ball filled with salt water, which must be placed in a basket located at the end of the opponents' half of the pool.


Isolated by the water surrounding them, the players must learn to coordinate with their teammates to best execute complex attack strategies aimed at sabotaging their opponents' defence and directly confronting the goalkeeper, who defends the basket with his or her torso and limbs.


Played without any kind of breathing apparatus, and with plenty of physical contact and rapid moves, the equipment consists of a mask, snorkel, flippers and cap.


For more information on the tournament, see www.firs.it.

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