Published on 13th February 2023
Underwater hockey, still unknown in Portugal at the end of the 20th century, has developed over the years thanks to people who have brought the sport to the country. Review of the discovery and evolution of this sport in the Portuguese pools.
In 2007, when Miguel Sena went to Canada, he discovered underwater hockey. When he came back to Portugal, he decided to buy some equipment to play with his family and friends, among them, David Torto Teiga. During their debut, they played hockey in a sixteen metres long pool and six metres large with a depth of around one metre twenty.
The beginning of hockey in Portugal
Initially considered a hobby, the discipline quickly became popular. As underwater hockey developed in Portugal, Alex Alcocer, a former player for the Spanish national team and Barcelona, came to Carcavelos, the town where Portuguese hockey was born. David Torto Teiga, captain of the Portuguese national team, tells us about his visit, and said it was as a real step forward, because “he taught us a lot of things that showed us a more serious face of hockey“. The interest in the sport was growing, so much so that the players were still novices were getting more and more information and they discovered the existence of continental and international competitions. As a result, the Portuguese decided to create the first club in Portugal, Grupo Sportivo Carcavelos, the place where hockey started. In 2008, the Portuguese were trained by Thomas de Trébons, multiple world champion, Marie Peigné and Hervé Thaurus, two times CMAS world champion.
The Portuguese championship
After this first experience in European hockey, the Portuguese players asked the Portuguese federation to “play in European competitions“. The federation informed them that in order to participate in these competitions, it was necessary to have a national league. In March 2008, the first edition of the Portuguese national underwater hockey championship was created. A championship with six teams: Grupo Sportivo Carcavelos A and B, Clube Natação Amadora, Gaia Sub, Mega Sub from Oeiras and Sharks Coimbra. From 2009 some clubs were formed, the championship was played in four stages and a Portuguese Cup was added to the competition calendar. Portuguese hockey has evolved over the years, to the point where there are now crowds in the stands and “up to 200 fans with drums and horns, especially during Estoril Praia’s games against Amadora, two rival teams,” reveals a still nostalgic David Torto Teiga. In 2012-2013, during the Portuguese national championship, “there were so many clubs that we had two pitches, because three Spanish clubs had joined the league,” says David Torto Teiga. However, the years 2015 and 2016 came to a standstill for Portuguese hockey, because the national competitions did not take place. The competition restarted in 2017, but in 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the championship was once again interrupted. Since this event, the national championship has not been played.This is a serious problem for Portuguese hockey. However, in order to restart the sport “the clubs and the Portuguese federation have to work together, to keep a championship in Portugal“, says the captain of the Portuguese national team, saddened by the situation. Only four clubs are still active in Portugal: Estoril Praia, Clube Natação Amadora (CNA), Sharks Coimbra and Clube Zupper.
The Portuguese selection
With the start of the championship in Portugal, the Portuguese national team also appeared in 2009. That same year “we played the World Championships in Kranj, Slovenia, which allowed Portuguese hockey to develop well” explains David Torto Teiga, with great pride. Everything changed very quickly, especially with the arrival in 2011 of Liam Watson, a New Zealand player, who became Portugal’s coach. The new coach’s presence in the team made a big impact on the team, because “we started to develop well, to get good results and to play better,” adds David, with a smile. Still in 2011, Portugal hosted the World Championships for the first time in its history in Coimbra. At the 2013 World Championship in Eger, Hungary, the Portuguese finished second in Pool B, behind the United States. After missing the 2016 World Championship in South Africa, the Portuguese participated in the 2018 World Championship in Quebec. A competition in which they finished last, at the fourteenth place in the ranking.
Towards a renewal ?
David Torto Teiga hopes “things will return to the way they were in the 2010s, when many people practiced the sport” or “to see people filling Portuguese swimming pools with a good spirit“. In his opinion, the COVID-19 pandemic “has kept people away from the pools because of fears about the disease“. However, David, tired of the situation, sees many young people leaving hockey “we had almost 40 kids in training, but there was no competition for them, so they chose another sport.” Despite the fact the sport has only been around for about 15 years, “for two years, the world epicentre of hockey was Portugal“, reports David Torto Teiga. The infrastructure and conditions “are so good that there was a world championship, a European competition and many clubs and national teams came here for their training sessions,” says the Portuguese captain, disappointed by the situation. To preserve the clubs, the national championship and the durability of hockey in Portugal, the players of the Portuguese teams keep training regularly. The athletes hope one day to return to their competitions and the same atmosphere that made Portuguese hockey great.
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