London Otter are heading off to Porto, Portugal this week to compete in the LEN Euro League tournament. Four groups will compete across Europe over the weekend, with Otter’s Group C seen by many as ‘the group of death’. Otter will face last year’s champions Olympiacos, as well as LEN Trophy runners-up Padova, as they play four matches from 5-7 February.
Ahead of the tournament, the Otter team got together to let us know how they’ve been preparing for such a high level tournament, the differences in European water polo, and how they plan to recover in between each game…
Preparing to face the best
“We train together as a team three times a week, with many of the team doing additional conditioning outside of our team sessions. We’ve also been playing together in the British Water Polo League since September. We’ve been fortunate that the competition load has been heavier than normal, with three ‘Super 5s’ weekends in January, so luckily we’ve got some good game practice under our belts in the lead up.
Having competed in the LEN Euro League for the past five years we know what we’re up against. The competition will be very tough.
Having competed in the LEN Euro League for the past five years we know what we’re up against. The competition will be very tough. So we have set ourselves realistic goals, both as a team and individually.
Ultimately we know that we are the underdogs and have nothing to loose. We are just going to go as hard as we can, and enjoy playing water polo on an international stage.”
The Otter team
“We have a great mix of older experienced players and younger juniors who are coming up through the ranks of British water polo. Our ages range from 15 to mid 30s, which brings a good combination of fitness, speed, skill, experience and different perspectives to the team.
With the reduction in the national programme, opportunities for English players to play on a world stage are limited, so as a club we try to do everything we can to provide our players opportunities to play internationally against the best players in the world. We hope playing at LEN will be a valuable experience for everyone in the team, particularly those hoping to represent England at the European U20s this summer.”
The differences between domestic and European opposition
“International water polo is much faster and more physical. The players we will be facing are professionals. They are highly skilled, very strong and extremely fit.
The players we will be facing are professionals. They are highly skilled, very strong and extremely fit.
The main difference though is the training and playing opportunities that talented young athletes in Europe get access to. It’s always going to be tough lining up against a team who train together multiple times every day, compete week in week out, have funding to pay some of the best players in the world and receive sport science support - physiotherapy, medical and nutrition.
British teams by comparison have very little external support and, as a result, have to fit training sessions in and around jobs, study, plus fund all training and trips ourselves.”
Captain Peggy Etiebet
I want the team to enjoy the tournament. Water polo in Europe is a fantastic experience, there are huge crowds who go wild, banging drums, waving banners, shouting, screaming and blowing whistles. The players are local heroes.
Water polo in Europe is a fantastic experience, there are huge crowds who go wild, banging drums, waving banners, shouting, screaming and blowing whistles.
To experience this frenzy and support for water polo is an experience all players should be able to have and it acts as a huge incentive for our younger players to keep on with the sacrifices they make to try and become world class players.”
With four tough games in a short space of time, how do you recover both mentally and physically between each?
“Eat. Sleep. Count our scratches. Nurse our bruises. Eat scrumptious local delicacies. Warm up. Cool down. Sleep some more. Have a laugh with teammates and zone out with movies, music or books. Train. Stretch. Explore Porto. Then of course, start looking forward to and preparing for the next game.”
“We’re really lucky to have great supporters. Family, friends and partners will be coming along to wave the Union Jack and cheer us on in our battle against some of the toughest teams in Europe. They will add to what is sure to be a large crowd from the professional teams competing. Their support and encouragement is a massive boost and we can’t thank them enough for coming out with us.”
What’s next for Otter?
“The final weekend of the British Super 5s is the week after we return from Portugal, so we’ll have just five days to recover and then we’ll heading straight up to Sheffield to play against Liverpool and Coventry.
Hopefully our experience from LEN will mean we play some of the best water polo we have played all season and finish the league with two wins."
Good luck to the Otter team in Porto!