The history of water polo goes back generations. In Japan, there was a game which in some way can be called a distant relative of the modern water polo. In that game players were sitting astride straw barrels and rolling inflated skin, which is now substituted by a ball, by poles in the water. The very name of this game came from the East, and some Europeans brought a ball game named “polo” from Mongolia more than two hundred years ago. Once in Europe, this game gave origin to many modern ball games (football, handball, volleyball, motoball).
At the beginning water polo was an entertaining activity, but starting from the second half of the 19th century it began to turn into a sport. At that time the game did not resemble modern water polo much. A stable water area was used for indicating a field of play. The length of the filed varied from 20 to 30 m, the width was from 10 to 15 m. Both ends of the long sides were marked with two poles with flags which were stuck in the bottom of the water reservoir, towering above the water surface at the height of 30-40 cm. Players had to roll the ball in those gates.
In 1869 London hosted the first exhibition game, which attracted a lot of sports fans. However, the lack of uniform rules hindered the development of water polo and led to disputes and misunderstandings during the competition.
The rules of this game were originally developed in 1876 by a Scot W. Wilson. The first version of the rules was used until 1890, by which time regular competition between the English and Scottish water polo teams were taking place. During those games Scottish athletes often took the first place.
With time water polo gained popularity in the UK, which, together with the recommendations of a special commission held for studying the game, led to the fact that in 1885 the Amateur Swimming Association officially recognized water polo as an independent sport and adopted the rules of the competition.
In 1896, water polo appeared in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Sweden and France, and in 1897 - in Hungary. In 1899 Budapest held the first exhibition game, and in 1901 Vienna hosted the first international competition between the Hungarian national team and the team of Viennese athletic club. The Hungarians lost 14:0.
In 1900, water polo was included in the program of Olympic Games II in Paris. The competition between the English, French, Belgian and German teams was won by the British.
In 1926 the European Water Polo Championship was held, and 1973 was the year of the first World Water Polo Championship. Starting form 1979, the teams have been competing for the Water Polo World Cup.
Today national teams of Hungary, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Russia, Spain, Croatia, Egypt, Turkey and Malta are recognized leaders among modern water polo teams.
Water polo was brought to Russia from England in 1920-s. Actually, there were attempts to include water polo in the training program for athletes of St. Petersburg swimming schools as early as in 1906. However, the game was mainly spread thanks to the efforts of Shuvalovo Swimming School, which was founded in 1908. The school got its name after the name of Shuvalovo village, where it was located.
The rules of water polo in Russia were modeled according to the international ones. In 1912 Moscow held water polo competitions in Sandunovsky baths. The events were attended by the team of the Moscow Amateur Swimming Society, “Skhodnya” Society, Moscow Skiing and Water Sports Society and Moscow Water Polo Team. In 1910 water polo teams appeared in other Russian cities, such as Baku, Chernigov, and later in Kiev, Batumi, Odessa, Kharkov and Samara.
The first competition among women's teams took place in the fall of 1928. In the early 1930s the games of Moscow and Leningrad (St Petersburg) teams became regular, and, until 1933, Leningrad athletes usually won the matches. After World War II water polo gained much more popularity.
The history of Chelyabinsk water polo is closely connected with the world famous "Uralochka" team. This women's water polo team was established in December 1985 in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk region, from a group of swimmers originating from the "Taganay" Sports Club.
In March 1986, the women athletes took part in the first competitions of All-Russian Council of Voluntary Society for Physical Culture and Sports. The team was guided by their coach Mikhail Nakoryakov, and in September 1986 the team became known as "Uralochka".