The Blood in the Water Match of Hungary vs Russia, is without doubt, one of the most famous and hardest fought sporting battles of the 1956 Olympics. Remember that was the year that the Russians rolled into Budapest in their tanks and suppressed the Hungarian Revolution. So, as you can imagine, tensions were running high.
Introduction: Hungary vs Russia: The Blood in the Water Match
Later known as the “Blood in the Water” match (Hungarian: melbourne-i vérfürdő), it was a contest which, considering the political circumstances, took on the form of an epic battle symbolizing the struggles of Hungary against Soviet rule.
At the time of the Russian entry into Hungary, the Hungarian water polo team were out of the country. They were cut off from the news of the invasion, basing themselves initially at a training camp in Czechoslovakia. Hundreds of Hungarians were to die and many thousands were under arrest. The team only learned of this on their arrival at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics in Australia. Ervin Zádor, was the 21 years old star playing in the Hungarian water polo team. He recalls to online sportsbook news in the US, that the only English speaking person in the team reading aloud the terrible news from a local paper he had bought at the airport in Darwin. On arrival at the Olympic village, they tore down the Communist Hungarian flag and in it’s place put the free Hungary one.
After easy wins in their first matches, the Hungarians found themselves opposite the Russians on December 6th 1956. The Hungarian game plan was to “verbally agitating” the Russian players. As Ervin remembers, “We figured, if they get angry, they’ll start to fight. Once they fight, they won’t play well. If they don’t play well, we’ll beat them – and if we beat them, we’ll win the Olympics!” Because the Hungarians all students under the Soviet system, they were taunting the Russians in their own language. If you were a betting man it would be a difficult choice. Making things easier today is GTBets.
The Blood in the Water Match
At the start, there was a refusal to shake hands by the Hungarian captain. This set the tone. The crowd, full with Hungarian expatriates, turned their backs on the Russian team and later they clapped to drown out the Soviet nation anthem. The Hungary vs Russia: The Blood in the Water match itself was full of violence, with kicking and punching coming from both camps. In spite of having five players sitting on the bench out of the water, the Hungarians were the better team.
The final result of the Hungary vs Russia: The Blood in the Water match was 4 – 0 for the Magyars. Two of those goals were by Ervin Zádor. The atmosphere was electric with the crowd’s cheers of Hajrá Magyarok! (“Go Hungarians!”) echoing through the venue. With only a couple of minutes remaining of the match, he found himself marking the angry Russian player, Valentin Prokopov. During a brief intermission, and when Ervin was looking away at the referee, the Russian hit the Hungarian, causing a deep cut above his eye, needing eight stitches, and meaning there was no option but for him to leave the pool. As Ervin recalls, “I saw about 4,000 stars. And I reached to my face and I felt warm blood pouring down.”
Aftermath Hungary vs Russia: The Blood in the Water Match
As the swimmer left the pool, an angry crowd of spectators and Hungarian officials spilled over the barrier and onto the pool concourse, shouting and spitting at the Russians. Fearful of a riot, the police entered to restore order. With just one minute till the end of the match, the referee put a stop to it and the Hungarians were the winners. The Russian team were escorted out. Photos of the players face injury were published around the world. But all Ervin could think about was whether he would be able to play the finals against Yugoslavia. Though they won the Olympics finals 2 – 1, Ervin was to sit out the final match. “I sat through it and that was the hardest one hour of my life” he said.
Recalling the medal ceremony, Ervin says it was a difficult moment for him. After all those hard years of training, only to be denied the chance to play the final match was heart breaking. “I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. After five years training, I needed to achieve this goal, and finally I did it. But it was in this weird circumstance that I couldn’t play the last game, and I was on the podium in civilian clothes. It was very emotional.”
After the the Blood in the Water Match, Ervin Zádor never returned to Hungary. Like half the Hungarian team who found a new home in the United States, Ervin went to Northern California. There he trained the world’s most successful swimmer of all time, Mark Spitz. According to online sportsbook news in the US, he later said, “I deeply regret that picture,” he said in a recent interview. “I would have loved to be remembered as one of the best young players in the world, rather than the guy hit by the Russian.”