Brazilians Make Big Splash on Bruin Water Polo Team
In water polo, as in submarine warfare, most of what matters takes place under water.
Paulo Abreu, freshman driver for a resurgent UCLA water polo team, estimates that at least 60% of the game is based on what you do with your arms, legs and torso beneath the surface of the pool.
Abreu and teammate Fernando Carsalade, a freshman driver and defensive specialist, are both from Rio de Janeiro--several bodies of water removed from the UCLA campus. But Coach Bob Horn didn’t have to reach across the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean to pluck them out of Brazil so they could play for the Bruins.
Abreu, 19, and Carsalade, who just turned 21, were members of the Brazilian team during the 1984 Olympics and stayed at UCLA’s Olympic Village during the Games. Horn, the Bruins’ water polo coach since 1963, was a member of the U.S. national team’s staff for the ’84 Games, and had the opportunity to see the two Brazilians play.
Abreu said that he played more minutes than Carsalade did during the Games, and Horn had more of a chance to see him play. Horn apparently liked what he saw, and Abreu said he was personally recruited by Horn. True, said, Horn, but only after Abreu came to him and said he would like to play for UCLA and needed a scholarship.
After the Olympics, Carsalade returned to Rio, but Rona Goldstein, a Brentwood resident who worked as an Olympic volunteer, had met Carsalade at the Games and recommended him as a prospect to Horn, Carsalade said. Carsalade joined Abreu at UCLA this year.
The two new hands from across the seas have given a big lift to the Bruins who are 20-5 overall and 2-2 in the Pacific 10 Conference with two matches to play (both with USC) before the NCAA Championships begin Nov. 29. Last year UCLA finished 13-13-1 overall, 0-6 in conference, and fifth in the NCAAs.
UCLA, tied for second place in the Pac 10 with USC (18-11, 2-2) will play host to the Trojans at 2 p.m. Friday at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center pool and will be at USC at 11 a.m. Nov. 23.
The Brazilians are not the only reason that the Bruins have risen. Horn has a veteran squad led by seniors Jeff Chase, a second-team All-American hole man last season; team captain Gary Roberts, a second-team All-American rover from Zimbabwe, and Phil Montgomerie , a three-year letterman and hole man from New Zealand.
Although this year’s team has an inter
national flavor, Horn said that he has not “in the past heavily recruited any foreign athletes. For one thing, our budget doesn’t allow elaborate recruiting.” He said that Roberts and Montgomerie, who swam and played rugby in New Zealand but had not played water polo before coming to UCLA, both started out as walk-ons.
But if UCLA’s record is a team effort, Abreu (pronounced Ah-BREW) and Carsalade (pronounced Car-sa-LA-deh) are very much a part of the team.
Horn said that Carsalade “is a fantastic water polo player, is very, very effective and his influence is very much felt by our opponents.
“He is a tremendous defender of the two-meter man or hole forward. Everything more or less revolves around that person (the hole man). But with Fernando guarding him, it makes the team effort better because you can play a tighter, more aggressive defense on the perimeter.”
As for Abreu, Horn said, “I swear he’s got eyes in the back of his head; he sees everything. He’s so alert and such a competitor. When we don’t play well he blames himself. He hates to lose--and he loves practice.”
He said that the Brazilians (there is a third, sophomore walk-on Rubens Simoes) “give you a unique dimension. They play a little different style, they’re more creative, and I think that has had an effect on the team overall as far as confidence is concerned. We have people here from all over the world, and for some reason they like each other and play well together.”
If the Brazilians are teaching their teammates a thing or two about the game, “we’re learning more,” said Abreu.
He said that American college water polo has more equipment (clocks, scoreboards) and is better organized than the game that he and Carsalade used to play for Brazilian club teams. Pools in the United States are heated, while those in Brazil are not, he said, and Brazilian pools, even in a tropical climate, can be pretty cold at 7 a.m.
Carsalade and Abreu said that teams here practice more than they do in Brazil. They said that at UCLA, there is practice for five hours a day for six days a week, while in Brazil they practice 2 to 2 1/2 hours a day after school.
Abreu said that the U.S. game is “definitely more organized. In Brazil, a guy who scores goals is considered a good player. Here they play defense and press a lot; it’s not just scoring goals.”
They also learned something about the U.S. custom of razzing or riding teammates. “We’ve had our arguments (with teammates), but they are usually about water polo,” said Abreu.
When he and Carsalade started practicing with the Bruins they came in for some riding. “At first they said things like, ‘What are these foreign guys doing here?,’ Then they got to know we were here for the same reasons they are.”
Both come from what they said are middle-class families in Rio, and they said that neither could afford to attend UCLA without a scholarship.
Carsalade, who said his father died earlier this year, said that he is the second-youngest of 10 children and that he attended a federal university in Rio for a while. An economics major, he said he wants to enter business in Brazil after he gets his degree.
Abreu is the second-youngest of five children. Also an economics major, he said he would like to work in the computer business in his homeland.
But they have other ambitions. Both would like to help the Brazilian water polo team to a gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. “It’s fun to participate,” Carsalade said, “but it’s more fun when you win.”