The European Championships are always a much anticipated event in the bike polo calendar. This year’s tournament was no different with the Krakow crew winning the bid to host them and each city then discussing their expectations for the event. It was a little bit disappointing this year to have some dissenting voices regarding Krakow’s ability to host the event without any real insight to backup their claims.
All doubts were vanquished upon arrival in Krakow where it became apparent that their community had put a tonne of work into the event, including: three awesome courts (40m x 20m with solid boards that were 1.25m high), food/drink stalls, merch stalls, mechanics, player freebies, player info packs, format selection, referee schedules and plenty of parties. Spring Break’s full line-up was in contention for this event, here’s how the tournament panned out…
The tournament itself took place in front of the Wisła Kraków stadium and day one (Friday) involved 4 rounds of swiss rounds to decide which 18 teams would be locked in the top tier bracket for day 2 (and subsequently auto-qualify for the double-elim bracket on day 3).
We played 3GAG (A neat Romanian team), Bisons (fun game) and Bambule (another fun game) and managed 3 wins before coming up against Warlocks (Rob, Floris and Sebass) who beat us 1-0 (a frustrating game that they played well by not allowing us back in the game after they scored). The courts were pretty wet as it rained on and off all day, but we were stoked to qualify in 5th place in our group which meant we’d made it into the top 18 playoff on Saturday afternoon, it was time to celebrate!
In traditional Spring Break style we followed our maps across the (beautiful) river to one of the first parties of the weekend at “FORUM Przestrzenie”. Adam had been keen to try some authentic Polish liquor and soon everyone was well inebriated. We were partying with the Gettin’ Wild boys which is always a bit of a mistake as they seem to drink us under the table… much fun was had including deck chair disasters, micro-fights, trampolines, the odd nap and some delicious pizza. Ryan was convinced that I was a spy chasing after him on the way home and so things got a little off-road and I rode my bicycle into a wall, not so smart.
We managed to get home and in the morning my bike was (surprisingly) in one piece, although I had a serious hangover that I couldn’t shake and we were meant to be on site helping out with the reffing (and such like). I found it impossible to ref and had to apologise for being the idiot that drank too much. Apparently some great games of polo were played (I couldn’t watch) with Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition (Jordi, Mickael and Sebastian) playing very well together with 5 back-to-back wins!
Our first game of the afternoon was against Depth Charge (our old friends Ali, Cam and Ed) who were struggling to gel and gave us a 5-0 win. Next up were the ever-intimidating (and speedy) We Are Animals, these guys are great fun to play against and are definitely ones to watch, in the end we managed to beat them 4-2, mostly on the breaks. Next up was Edisons and at this point my hangover was starting to subside a little, I put my new found energy into heckling the many miss-hit shots (“all swing, no ding”) and Ryan and Adam put away two goals to secure a 2-0 win, we were stoked. Finally we played Call Me Daddy where the tables were turned somewhat as we couldn’t put the ball in and ended up losing 2-0.
The swiss round games were done and we were seeded third for the double elimination, we partied less hard on the Saturday night as things were about to get serious(ish).
Being the Euros, there aren’t many easy games during the double-elimination phase, we started the morning with a mad game against We Love Llorett which involved lots of crashes and coming off of bikes. Next up we had to get it together to play Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition who were still riding high from all their wins and definitely had the crowds support, we ended up turning it on to win 5-0 as they were often over-committed (too optimistic).
In the winner’s bracket quarter final we needed to beat L’Hooks (one of our arch nemeses), it was a close game and we had a few opportunities to win it, but ended up losing 2-1… we were now heading to the hard slog of the loser’s bracket and would have to fight to get back towards the podium, oops.
Our first game in the loser’s bracket was against Power Rangers who Adam and I had played a few times before and knew to look for the dribble-it-in goals, it was a really fun game and we managed to win 4-1. Next up was Dodi’s new team BAM… this was a slightly brutal game with Dodi giving (and taking) some big hits, it was another excellent (if not tiring) game and we managed to eek out a 3-2 win. Next, we were moved back over to the main court where True Danger were waiting for us…
True Danger (Luca, Alex and Hugo) are a great team and seem to have a new trick up their sleeve with every passing game. However, we were feeling pretty good after our previous few games and were seeing this as the first of many (potential) finals. Things were fairly evenly matched but we soon realised that they were dwelling too long on the ball (Luca’s endo turns are neat but result in being dispossessed if the other team know when to pounce). Ryan and I turned up the heat on the ball carrier and soon had lots of attacking opportunities that resulted in a 4-2 lead. I took the game right back to 2009 with a cheeky self-pass between Luca and Hugo to score the finisher, devolution at it’s finest, smiles all round.
The smiles were replaced with anticipation as we realised we were now going to have a rematch against L’Hooks. Things felt a little less frantic this time around although we still found it difficult to put the ball away. The game went to golden goal and we managed to put the ball in the net after 5(ish) additional minutes to win 3-2, we were ecstatic, but a little exhausted.
There was talk of a London conspiracy as Beagle had lent Manu his wheel during the game… we’re pretty sure there was no funny business and that Beagle had the best intentions (Beagle winky).
Next up were Edisons and we didn’t bring much to the table in this game… at times Edisons simply sprinted past us to score which was a little humiliating. Personally I didn’t have much left in the tank and everything was pretty achy by this point. We managed to get a couple of goals, but were defeated 5-2 to finish third overall, a nice improvement over our 5th place last year and we were glad that Edisons seemed to be firing up for the final against Call Me Daddy, we grabbed some beers and joined the spectators…
The final was epic (as always) and Edisons seemed to have a new found patience for scoring opportunities on the ever-defensive (but decisive) Call Me Daddy, Edisons also deployed similarly defensive tactics when the ball turned over which was a little disheartening to see (whatever works I guess?). Edisons had the edge when it came to shooting speed and accuracy and won the game 5-2, much to the joy of many a flushed spectator.
Beers were refilled and the ball was reset and it was time for the “final final”… the game was similar in scope to the first but Call Me Daddy seemed to have a bit more punch this time around (the number of dabs by Edisons increased accordingly). Things were close but Call Me Daddy took a 4-3 lead and just as everyone was expecting an equaliser they scored the finisher to be crowned European Champs for the second year in a row, cue mobs of happy Frenchmen on court spraying beer on each other, good stuff.
Krakow did a steller job all round with this year’s Euros and the whole event had a certain “old school” charm to it (in terms of having the perfect good times versus serious business vibe).
Thanks to everyone that made the tournament possible, no doubt it was a huge undertaking and we’ll see you all again in the near future (your city is awesome).
Find full podium results here.
Here’s the Spring Break versus True Danger game and the two final matches (thanks for filming!):