Updated: VIOLENCE AT THE POOLSunday, August 29, 2010, 8:15
It was a pity for Maltese sport, in particular for water polo, to witness the deplorable scenes that played out at the National Pool at Tal Qroqq on Saturday evening.
Neptunes were facing Balluta neighbours San Giljan in their penultimate game of the BOV First Division water polo league. Tension was already very high when, a week ago, Neptunes had won a protest against San Giljan for the latter’s inclusion of ineligible players in the Under 14 league. This led to a showdown at the Neptunes pitch which practically set the stage for what happened during today’s game.
The game itself was a very balanced affair till halfway through the fourth session when Neptunes managed to pull away by three goals and win the encounter 16-13. Both sets of players played aggressive water polo with San Giljan opting for press tactics to stifle Neptunes’ attacks. Their tactics worked until the last few minutes of the game when Neptunes managed two quick successive goals through left-hander Stellini to send the Reds into a final game showdown with Sliema with a two point advantage. San Giljan’s performance today was a far cry from their previous two outings against Neptunes in which they were trounced 15-7 and 17-8.
But chaos erupted between one of Stellini’s goals and another. San Giljan goalkeeper Dean Camilleri, who at the time was on the bench, was expelled and was walking towards the changing room. At this point San Giljan’s Ranier Scerri was seen running towards the Neptunes bench, only to be stopped in his tracks by Camilleri. It seemed that those on the Neptunes bench provoked the two, and Camilleri rushed towards them in anger, only to be stopped behind the goalpost by Neptunes doctor Stefan Camilleri. Scerri raced towards Dr Camilleri and gave him a flying kick in his side while Dean Camilleri tried to restrain him.
In the mean time, the Neptunes’ players were trying to restrain Stevie Camilleri from getting involved in the fight and assistant coach Tony Camilleri was seen trying to prevent Karl Galea and Scerri from making further advances but his efforts were in vain as he fell to the ground, only to manage to calm Galea down a short while later. Dean Camilleri and Stevie Camilleri were close to coming to blows, but somehow this was avoided by the other Neptunes players who kept both players apart.
The police presence on the pool deck at this particular point consisted of just two officers who seemed at a loss on how to deal with the situation.
Things started to calm down a bit and Camilleri, Scerri and Galea were going back to the San Giljan side but Scerri then proceeded to hurl two full plastic bottles at the Neptunes supporters. At the same time, San Giljan’s Edward Aquilina was seen trying to calm down Stevie Camilleri, the match’s top scorer (6 goals), who throughout all the match was the target of the San Giljan supporters and players.
Referee Sciriha was also visibly very upset about the whole fiasco, and was very vocal with the two helpless police officers on the pool deck. ASA president Austin Sammut, was once again the target of the San Giljan faithful during the game and after, as some heated arguments broke out in the common area beside the bar, with San Giljan president Daniel Aquilina helping to bring some calm to the situation.
The players then jumped into the pool to play the remaining seconds of the game. After the final whistle, Dean Camilleri and Ranier Scerri, both coaches of the San Giljan Under 14 team, once again went towards the Neptunes bench in defiance, while also threatening Neptunes supporters in the stands. By this time a couple more officers had made it to the pool deck and four mobile squad cars converged on the scene to bring everything to a halt.
While we await the reactions of the clubs and the ASA on today’s events, we will keep you informed if any new details come to light.