Underwater Hockey

A sport that offers players a thrilling contest every second, interest in underwater hockey is growing rapidly since Turkey won the European championship.

At first glance they appear to be a group of crazy people trying to maneuver a tiny ball at the bottom of a pool filled with water. In fact, they are the players on the Men’s Underwater Hockey Team who last year made Turkey European Champion. They usually train evenings and weekends because almost all of them either work or are students. They are amazed at the prominence today of this sport, for which the requisite equipment was not even available five years ago. Now, not only have men’s and women’s underwater hockey leagues been formed in Turkey, the country has even become an exporter of pucks. The national team’s success is no doubt responsible for this rising interest in the sport, which is spreading rapidly among young people keen on water sports. Played across the world since 1952, this fascinating sport was first played in Turkey in 1999.  Then, in 2005, the national team, which until then had barely scored a goal, was virtually touched by a magic wand when the Turkish stars came in fifth in the men’s and sixth in the women’s in the European Championship held in France in that year. After that turning point, we continued to raise the bar. Second in the world in both men’s and women’s leagues in Italy in 2007, the flashbulbs began popping in earnest in 2008 when our national teams were European champion in men’s and third in women’s.

How it’s played
Underwater hockey is a sport played with sticks on the bottom of a swimming pool between teams of six members (ten counting substitutes) wearing basic equipment such as a swimsuit, a water polo cap, swimfins, a mask, a snorkel and gloves. There are three referees at every match, one in the water and two poolside. The point of the game is to maneuver the puck into the opposing team’s goal using sticks to advance it across the pool bottom by passing it back and forth among the players. Since underwater hockey is a sport requiring great effort, there are no restrictions on the number of players that can be substituted or how often, and there must always be four substitute players waiting in reserve at any time. Fouls include using one’s free hand against the rules, advancing the puck with one’s hand or by using the stick incorrectly, and intentionally blocking, striking or intercepting another player. If a player jumps on an opponent or if a substitute player or a player who has been awarded a penalty enters the pool out of turn that too is regarded as a foul. The penalty for an intentional foul is suspension from play for two to five minutes.

KNOWING HOW to swim is all you need
According to Oğuz Aydın, the first Turk to referee a World Underwater Hockey Championship, anyone who loves the water and knows how to swim can play this sport. But being in condition is a must since the game is a thrilling contest every minute. If you want to learn, you can join one of Turkey’s underwater hockey clubs, not just in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir but in 41 different provinces. What’s more, most of these clubs also offer underwater rugby. One of most frequently asked questions about underwater hockey is how the players communicate with each other. I’ll tell you right away: by striking their pucks against the pool bottom. The players can be distinguished by the numbers on their backs and shoulders. So, how can you watch a match played under surfaces? Recorded games, three underwater cameras transmit images to screens making it easy to follow the play.

GLOVES
Made of silicone and used to protect the hand that holds the stick

STICK
A boomerang made of wood or plastic and used to maneuver the puck

PUCK
The underwater hockey ‘ball’, made of rubber like the puck used in ice hockey

SWIMFINS
Underwater shoes that facilitate swimming

CAP
Like a water polo cap with the player’s number on it

SNORKEL, MASK
Underwater goggles used in diving sports
A short tube that enables the player to breathe under water

“Turkey defeated England to become European champion”
Cem Ekşioğlu (Captain of the Men’s Underwater Hockey National Team)
“I’ve been on the national team since 2000. I’ll never forget the final match in 2008 when Turkey became European champion. England was our opponent and they were very strong and experienced. They scored the first goal. We evened that up with a goal that I assisted. The match was going head to head. Then we got ahead 2 to 1 with a goal I made from a difficult position. Then we doubled the difference. The English were stunned. But the goal they scored in the final seconds wasn’t enough to keep us from becoming champion. The match ended 3-2 with Turkey as European Champion. A success like this for Turkey where the sport hadn’t yet been played for ten years is impressive, even in the history of underwater hockey. Unfortunately however the sport is not sufficiently known in Turkey even though we are world champions. It’s actually a very simple and enjoyable sport. Anyone 12 years and up who knows how to swim, thinks he can play a team sport and is prepared to play underwater can do it. If you are prepared to work with your teammates to score goals against the opposing team by making movements you’d never dreamt of making under the water, just contact the Underwater Sports Federation of Turkey.”