Stevie Camilleri is Malta’s aquatic gladiator on the water polo pitch. With innumerable awards and titles for his sporting achievements under his belt, he’s an attacker for Circolo Canottieri Ortigia and Neptunes WPSC, as well as the Malta Senior National Team. We’ve caught up with the man himself for a few words of wisdom.
How were you first introduced to water polo?
I was introduced to a number of different sport disciplines from a young age such as basketball, football and handball. However, it seemed I had a particular fascination with sports practiced in the water. I was signed up for swimming and kept at it for a number of years, and it’s a sport that I still love to date. But I was then attracted to the team aspect of water polo, and at the age of nine, I was signed up for water polo school. I was told I was a natural in both disciplines, so I juggled both for the next couple of years. At the age of eleven, I was then advised that it would be best if I dedicated all my efforts in one direction, and this was when I had decided on water polo.
Above: Stevie, captured by Domenic Aquilina.
What, according to you, are the main strengths a water polo player should have?
Water polo is said to be one of the toughest sports, both mentally and physically. Having said this, the two primary qualities that spring to mind would be dedication and determination. One has to be dedicated to the sport, as it requires long hours of training and not always in the best of conditions, given that to date, we still don’t have an indoor pool in Malta. Determination is required because you’re constantly put to the test and can’t afford any off days. You’re forced to face your difficulties and limits on a daily basis, and you simply either have to overcome them or fall behind; no half measures.
Above: Stevie in action (no.7), captured by Domenic Aquilina.
What is the athlete’s role in today’s society? How does an athlete contribute to the grander scheme of things?
We regularly read about issues such as obesity, bullying and in more recent times the growing dependence children have on tech devices. I believe there’s no better way to deal with such issues than through sport. Besides stressing the importance of physical activity and exercise, sport makes children more aware of nutritious choices and balanced diets. Sport teaches you to help and support your team mates; a team is only as strong as its weakest link. Sport helps you relate and confront yourself with other human beings rather than computer screens. It helps children become fully functioning social beings.
Stevie’s attack (right) by Domenic Aquilina.
What challenges do Maltese water polo players face?
Unfortunately, I often feel that a lot of Maltese athletes like to be pampered and spoiled. They constantly need the reassurance of family members. In sport, independence and the spirit of sacrifice are crucial to achieve any sort of result, so these two aspects constantly collide. Overtime, Maltese athletes have now been branded and the few that are willing to go the extra mile have to go an extra two instead.
Photo by: Domenic Aquilina
How does your persona change on the pitch?
Anyone who knows me on a personal basis sees a great change in character from when I’m out of the water in relation to when I’m in it. Out of the water, I’m reserved and try to lead a stress-free life. In the water however, I tend to feed off pressure and I’m an extrovert.
Above: Stevie on attack, captured by Domenic Aquilina.
What is your next goal in your career?
I’ve had a fairly successful career so far, mainly because of my competitive spirit and drive. My aim is to keep that up as long as I can, and hopefully inspire other athletes to do the same and if possible better it. I think that once I stop, I’ll feel no greater pride than knowing that I contributed to lift the level of sport in Malta.