Zimbabwe is gearing up to host the first ever CANA Zone IV Youth Water Polo Championships this weekend at Chisipite Senior School. Two U18 boys and two U18 girls teams from South Africa will compete with their Zimbabwean counterparts.
The CANA tournament is historic, however, in more than just its inaugural presence in Zimbabwe. It will also mark the first international junior water polo tournament using new international water polo rules set at an extraordinary FINA Congress held along the Doha Swimming Championships in November 2014. The most striking rule is the decrease in team roster size from 13 to 11, with a corresponding decrease in players in the pool from 7 to 6.
The water polo pool size has been reduced from 25 x 20 meters. The size of the boys’ ball has been decreased to a Size 4 ball, previously reserved for girls. The new rules also include minor changes concerning substitutions during the game, penalty fouls and exclusion.
Not without controversy; the new rules promote a style of water polo that allows for freer movement and a faster tempo. However, critics say the changes will mean an increase in fouls and in interruptions to play. Smaller countries have hailed the new rules, especially reduced rosters, for reducing the costs of travelling teams and emphasizing the value of speed over strength in the game. The new rules have been tested in a number of international friendly matches at the end of 2014.
The CANA tournament commences at 9am on Saturday, Jan 31 and continues throughout Saturday and through Sunday morning. Each pair of A and B select national teams will play three matches. Although Zimbabwe has a smaller pool of players from which to draw its national youth sides, they have proved their potential, competitive against South African sides during tours and World Cup qualifying matches. It is yet to be seen how Team Zimbabwe will embrace the new rules to the game.