Courtesy: The Jakarta PostTired of futsal? Try underwater hockeyWed, 11/04/2012
Two teams of six people swam hastily to the center of the Senayan swimming pool in South Jakarta on Monday night and dove into the 3-meter-deep water to drive a puck with their hockey sticks to their opponent’s respective goals.
Equipped with sticks in hand, a snorkel and goggles and fins on their feet, they tricked their opponents to direct the hockey puck and pass it to the goal across the pool.
Some of the players emerged to the surface now and then to take a breath before diving again to help their teammates. Not more than three minutes later, all the players rushed to the surface, signaling that someone from the team had scored a goal.
This is the sight of a game called Octopush, or underwater hockey. It is definitely not as popular as futsal is in Jakarta, but the number of people who enjoyed the game here is growing, albeit slowly.
Sasha Sigit, who works for an advertising agency, said that underwater hockey is a good game to relieve stress. She has been practicing for two months and has enjoyed the sport ever since. The 34-year-old, who enjoys swimming, acknowledged that at first she felt difficulty holding her breath and relaxing under the water, but after two months of practicing and learning new tricks, she could enjoy the game.
“Every Monday and Thursday, I cannot wait until the office hours are done and I rush to the pool.”
Underwater hockey is relatively new in Indonesia. It was introduced in Jakarta in 2010 by Christianto Sahat, 30, who used to work in Singapore. He is now a product director for an IT company in the city.
He said, “I often played the game in Singapore when I worked there. I initiated the establishment of the club under the name ‘Jakarta Underwater Hockey’ [JUWH] when I moved back to Indonesia.”
Although enjoying popularity in numerous countries, such as the United Kingdom, Singapore, the Philippines and Australia, underwater hockey is rarely heard of in Jakarta, let alone in Indonesia. Nevertheless, within two years, the group has gathered 30 active members.
For now, Christianto said, the JUWH’s short-term goal is to make people in Indonesia understand underwater hockey as an alternative water sport and hopefully put it under the Indonesia Sports Council (KONI).
He said that the club did not expect money from the government but it needed to be recognized by KONI so that it could gain the same bargaining position as other sports, such as, in terms of using the Sena-yan sports facility. “We are trying to popularize the sport through exhibitions and seminars at universities. As a result, another club has been founded at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakata,” said Christianto.
The JUWH also has pioneered joining the underwater hockey championships at the Asian level by joining a competition in Singapore last year.
“By joining international championships or holding friendly matches with other countries’ teams, we have a chance to learn from them, although we have not won any medals thus far,” Christianto said, recalling the moment when his team lost a game against an Australian middle-aged women’s team.
So far, the team learns skills from various sources. He said, “We learn by watching videos on the Internet and reading articles. A Singaporean underwater hockey athlete comes here and teaches us several times a year.”
Christianto explained that players only needed basic swimming skills and the ability to be calm under water to start practicing the challenging sport. He asserted that it is not an extreme sport.
He said that underwater hockey is a three-dimensional game where rivals do not only come from the back, right and left sides of the players, but also from above.
The game is included as a non-contact sport because the players are not allowed to touch opponents with their hands. They can touch the puck only with a wood or plastic stick of no more than 35 centimeters.
That Monday night, after finishing a 30-minute game, the players rose from the pool as the rain was still falling down and the lamps at the swimming pool had already been switched off. Some members rushed to catch the last train to their homes in the outskirts of Jakarta while others took to some warm drinks and dinner near the Gelora Bung Karno sports complex. They looked tired but were happy and could not wait for the next Thursday to practice again. (Cor)
Posted by Luca Ranocchiari