As the only team sport, water polo appeared in the program at the 1900 Olympics. The cradle of the sport is Great Britain, the first rule book was created in Scotland in 1876, the first matches were held in reservoirs next to textile factories, and the first teams were made up of firefighters. The sport took root relatively quickly in Hungary as well, the first regular ball arrived in Hungary in 1897, the first match was held on August 30, 1899 in Siófok. The first Olympics were dominated by the British, ours took part in the Olympics for the first time in 1924, where the victory against the British (7:6) was a serious sensation, but then the quarter-final defeat against the Belgians (2:7) dashed the medal dreams. However, the team continued to grow stronger, becoming European champions in 1926 and a year later.
The management of the team was given to Béla Komjádi, who had three goals.
- Winning the Olympics
- maintaining hegemony,
- and for this purpose, the creation of an indoor swimming pool.
In an indoor swimming pool, the players can complete the required amount of training, considered brutal at the time, even if the weather is bad outside. During Komjádi, the players swam 2 kilometers.
The Hungarians came to the 1928 Olympics as great contenders, but they were unexpectedly defeated in the final against the Germans, and the silver medal was then considered a minor failure. One of the reasons for the defeat was arrogance: even before the game, the players were talking about how big a margin they would win. The other reason is egoism: with a 2:0 lead, team play was pushed into the background, everyone wanted to become a hero by scoring the third goal, so even if there was a teammate in a better position, they didn’t pass him. The third reason is fatigue, they conceded three goals in extra time after 2:2.
And the fourth reason is quite unique: János Németh, who was already considered one of the best players, was not included in the traveling team.
The center, who won consecutive top goalscorer titles in Hungary, did not have the best relationship with the captain, and also started with a handicap due to his working-class background. Water polo was considered a middle-class sport, and since Németh grew up as a half-orphan with his siblings, he had to work early and had no chance to graduate. Olivér Halassy, one of the leading men of the guard, believed that Németh, nicknamed only Jamesz by his peers, was at least as good a player as he was, yet he should stay at home, and this outraged him. It must be mentioned about Halassy that he is a champion of willpower, because he was eight years old when he tried to jump onto a moving tram, but his foot slipped down the stairs and the tram wheel took his foot off. His left leg had to be amputated above the ankle, but his physical disability did not prevent him from making it to the national team, and he also won championships in river swimming.
After the silver medal, Komjádi realized that without Németh there was no chance of winning the ’32 gold medal, so in 1929 he took him on a tour to Berlin. Here, Németh scored a goal that made even the German fans jump to their feet, and the match stopped for several minutes due to thunderous applause. During a Hungarian attack
Németh lay on his back and, after receiving a short ball, kicked it over his head into the goal. The ball hit the top bar, but from there it bounced right into the hands of the already outstanding Németh, who, seeing that the goalkeeper had moved towards one corner, bombed the other one with great force.
The well-known Hungarian actors who were on the spot rushed to the edge of the pool and asked about its name, because they had never seen such an attraction before. As revealed in Németh’s autobiographical book, after that he became unbreakable from the team, his teammates accepted him, his origin didn’t matter that much anymore, only his relationship with his teammate from Újpest, Halassy, deteriorated.