After winning its first gold medal at the SEA Games in Manila last December against water polo giant Singapore, the Indonesian Aquatics Association (PRSI) is gearing up to organize its first league.
The Indonesian men’s water polo team surprised many, especially Indonesian fans, when it defeated and put an end to Singapore’s years of dominance in the sport. Singapore had secured 27 consecutive gold medals at the biennial event.
The league is set to run at Gelora Bung Karno’s aquatics stadium from March 3 until June.
Nine aquatics clubs from the capital, including big clubs such as the Millennium Aquatics Swimming Club, owned by former national top swimmer Albert C. Sutanto, will participate in the league. The league will run 11 weeks with a grand final in early June.
PRSI’s development and achievement department head, Wisnu Wardhana, said the initiative to organize a water polo league was introduced two years ago.
“This will be beneficial for player regeneration. [Now] as a start, we ask the established clubs [in the capital] to assist in the development of water polo, especially in the youth category,” Wisnu told a press conference on Tuesday.
“We need to maintain the momentum from the SEA Games,” he added.
PRSI hopes to establish a super league with teams from the regions.
PRSI’s deputy head, Harlin E. Rahardjo, said the initial plan was to form a national water polo league but gaining funding and sponsors proved to be a challenge.
Despite the SEA Games gold, water polo is still struggling to gain popularity. Many swimming clubs do not have their own water polo team as their focus is still swimming. Water polo in Indonesia is contested in regional and national events such as the National Games (PON).
“The main challenge is sponsorships. Each regional team depends on government funding and the funding is limited. This won’t sustain the league,” said Harlin.
“That’s why we are involving clubs as they are the backbone of our development program,” he said.
Meanwhile, club owner Albert C. Sutanto acknowledged athletes’ enthusiasm, as seen from the list of participants registered to represent Millennium club in the upcoming league.
“Since SEA Games ‘s victory, the popularity [of water polo] has grown. When the league was announced, there were only two athletes registered to take part in the competition but as of Tuesday the number has increased to 49,” he said.
The U-16 league consists of mixed teams of girls and boys. Matches will be contested every Tuesday.
The competing clubs are Bina Taruna, Millennium Aquatic club, Pari Sakti, Tirta Kencana 78, Tirta Taruna, Kusuma Harapan, Kuda Laut, JAQ and Indonesia Star Aquatic (ISA)