It is only the beginning of January, but the Singapore water polo team have already kicked off their preparations towards November's Asian Championships.
As part of the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA)'s water polo sparring programme, it will host a series of friendlies against overseas teams to expose the national and age-group teams to greater competition throughout the year.
The initiative started yesterday with the men's Under-23 team taking on Slovakian club side Kupele Piestany's (KVP's) U-18 team, while the Singapore women played the KVP U-18 women's team.
The national men's team will face Hungarian club side OSC Budapest Water Polo at the OCBC Aquatic Centre today, while the women will face a replay of last night's game.
Another four-team tournament has been scheduled for the end of January, with club teams from Japan, Shanghai and Spain due to compete with the national men's team.
Assistant secretary-general (water polo), SSA, Jerome Lau said: "We want to bring in teams that are stronger than us yet not by too much, because that presents our players with the right kind of challenge."
He added that the aim for the men's team at the Asian Championships in Japan is to attain fourth placing. The team finished fifth in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
National head coach Lee Sai Meng added: "Our aim is to beat (South) Korea and Iran, so that we are the top of the second tier of Asian teams, and close the gap between us and the top tier of Japan, China and Kazakhstan."
KVP's youth coach Michael Berlansky, whose team were stopping over in town for three days after competing in the Tom Hoad Cup in Perth, Australia, said: "It gives us a better picture of the sport in Asia, and is a good avenue for cultural exchange."