Porty water polo stars shun Euros for Commie

water story: Portobello need one win this weekend to qualify for the Super5s
water story: Portobello need one win this weekend to qualify for the Super5s
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IT MUST have been a tough decision. Turning down the chance to play in Europe for the very first time isn’t an easy call to make.

But then again, hosting the final leg of the annual British Water Polo League at the Royal Commonwealth Pool, bringing the event to Scotland for the first time, is an ample alternative.

Portobello ASC Water Polo Club, who are celebrating their centenary year, exceeded expectations this season when they secured the British Championship title and, with this success, an opportunity of a debut in the European Cup competition. However, any temptation to accept the invitation to join the continent’s elite was overcome by the chance to make history and host British water polo’s showpiece event this weekend.

Portobello ASC coach, Alan Anderson, admits making the decision to decline the European offer was practical, albeit disappointng, but he is optimistic the club’s exposure in the spotlight can lead to greater rewards.

“Finances prevented that (competing in Europe) as it would probably have cost about £25,000 to take part in the event,” Anderson said. “About 40 per cent of our players are still students so it is a lot of money to put out. A European qualifier was also due to be played this weekend, so we kind of had a choice where we’ve elected to see if we can get more out of developing the sport by putting on an event in Edinburgh.

“There have been quite a few things that we have built up over the last few years. As a team, we have started to build more strength within the squad so we are better equipped to compete at a higher level. We also have a number of local sponsors which puts us in a better position, and with the Commonwealth Pool reopening, we now have a closer relationship with Edinburgh Leisure and the council.

“If we can make a good go of this event and show it up well, then hopefully we can build on it and maybe have the chance to qualify for Europe next year and take up the offer next time.”

Nevertheless, those attending can expect to see some of the sport’s finest in action with seven clubs due to arrive from south of the border for a two-day event of intense competition. Not only are the fixtures this Saturday and Sunday of great magnitude for the Capital club, Anderson acknowledges now is the time to put on a show.

“There has been quite a bit of excitement for a while now. It has been a good few years since we’ve had any games at the Commonwealth Pool and this will be the first time we’ve had the British Water Polo League held in Scotland. Portobello are probably at their strongest they have been for a number of years, so we’ve made a big effort in terms of promotion and advertising in the hope that people will come along.

“I think the team will be charged up with hopefully a lot of shouting for Portobello.”

There is sure to be a patriotic home crowd cheering on the Portobello side taking to the water for two matches that will define the remainder of their season. One victory is required to guarantee qualification to the league’s top phase, but a shaky performance last weekend down in Sheffield means there is little room for error.

Anderson said: “We are quite positive. We need to win one of the games to qualify for the Super5s and take that confidence into the second half of the season. We have the British League but we also have the British Championships coming up, so we want to take a bit of momentum going into that.”