article by Nicholas Pucci
Since 1947, when water polo puts the first post-war edition of the European Championships on the calendar, only one team has been able to register its name in the roll of honour. Hungary, in fact, has taken the victory in the five previous continental reviewsfrom Budapest 1926 to London 1938, respectively behind Sweden, France and three times Germany.
These are modern times, one would almost want to say, given that the nine years of interruption seem to have changed the face of the panorama of European water polo, so much so that when 10 teams in the Principality challenge each other for medals from 10 to 14 September 1947, finally Italy will sing victory.
Technical director Pino Valle, who won six championships on the banks of the Arno between 1933 and 1940, has summoned 11 champions for the occasion, representing the best teams in the championshipwhich since the resumption of activities after the end of the war saw Lazio triumph in 1945 (title conquered on the pitch in 1945, revoked in 1946 by the FIN which cancels the result of the decisive match between Lazio and Rari Nantes Napoli due to a technical error, finally assigned again, posthumously to say the least, on 15 October 2021), Camogli in 1946 and Canottieri Olona in the same 1947, preceding Rari Nantes Florentia and Rari Nantes Naples. Emilio Bulgarelli, captain Mario Majoni and Cesare Rubini, in fact, are the water polo players of Olona, the brothers Gianfranco and Tullio Pandolfini wear the colors of Florentia, as well as Luigi and Umberto Raspini, Pasquale Buonocore and Ermenegildo, known as “Guild“, Arena, the inventor of the “Bedouin” (technical gesture that is carried out with your back to goal by hurling the ball from bottom to top towards the opponent’s net), Geminio Ognio and Aldo Ghira from Lazio complete the.
Looking at the precedents, Italy doesn’t have great results to boast aboutgiven that in past editions of the European Championships it was no better than 12th in 1927, then improving with ninth place in 1934 and fifth in 1938, adding instead two eliminations in the first round in the Olympic venue both in Antwerp in 1920 and in Paris in 1924. But they are different times, we said, and for the “seven beautiful” blue (term used by the players of Rari Nantes Napoli, who apparently used to play scopa during away games, and extended to the radio news of the national team in response to an interview by Niccolò Carosio at the 1948 Olympics) that golden era is about to begin which will culminate, the following year at the London Games, with the same players and the same technical director, with the first Olympic success.
But let’s go back to Montecarlo, where the ten participating teams are divided into three groups, two of three teams and one of four, precisely that of theItaly which is having to face Austria, France and the Netherlands. And for the guys from Valle, who always line up the usual team, namely Buonocore, Majoni, Ghira, Ognio, Arena, Gianfranco Pandolfini and Bulgarelli, the beginning is really promising, collecting two draws with the Netherlands, 3-3 with goals from Arena, Ghira and Ognio to which, in the last second, the goal of the formidable center forward Rudy Van Feggelen, author of a brace, and France , 4-4 with braces from Arena and goals from Ghira and Gianfranco Pandolfini, and a resounding victory against Austria, 5-0 with three more goals from Ghira and seals from Arena and Gianfranco Pandolfini, which guarantees qualification for the final round for the medals. To tell the truth, the goal difference of +5 would reward France, but the International Federation cancels the result of the direct challenge by assigning the victory to Italy thanks to a better goal ratio (1.71 against 1.63), which, precisely , goes to play with Belgium and Sweden, winners of the other two groups, for the gold medal.
The Scandinavians eliminated Hungary, recovering from 0-3 in the direct clash to finally impose themselves 5-3 with three goals from Olle Ollson and 2 from Arne Juttner, who replied in the 6-2 inflicted on Yugoslavia, while the Belgians, dragged by Fernand Isselé, who scored seven goals in two games, had no trouble beating Great Britain, 7-1, and Czechoslovakia, 3-1. AND for the final-three, a battle is to be expected.
Sweden and Belgium are the first to get into the pool, impacting each other 1-1but when it’s Italy’s turn, here are the seven water polo players from Valle, given that “fortune favors the bold“, they leap immediately to the lead of the final standings, narrowly prevailing over Sweden, 3-2 with two goals from Ghira and a goal from Arena to which Ollson and Rolf Julin respond. At this point, a draw with Belgium would be enough to secure the European title, but Italy shows off its best performance in the last match, overwhelming their opponents with a score of 4-1.
For the first time the Italy of water polo rises to the top of Europe… for that of Olympia, it will be enough to wait only one year. That was, therefore, the first golden generation of the “seven beautiful blue“.