Thursday, 28 June 2007

Polo in Kenya : 100 years

One of the sports that enjoys a distinguished class and is played by an exclusive class marks its 100th year in Kenya. This is a game that is played on ponys and you and I know that these don't come by on a shilling or two. This is the game of POLO.
Polo is a team sport consisting of 4 players riding on a horse or pony or mount if you like.The 4 players have different objectives with the 1st player being more like a striker, with 2nd one being an offensive player too though he/she can break the opposing team's plays and the 3rd player is the pivot player hitting long balls and is the playmaker. The 4th player is the defensive shield and more like the goal tender.
The main objective is usually to score against the opposing team. The score is done by driving a white plastic ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet.
Goals are only valid if the scoring rider is mounted. Play is divided into seven-minute periods, called chukkers, with the game lasting 4-6 chukkers.
The game has its origins in parts of Asia near China and is currently spread and widley played in Asia,Arab world, South and Central America. The spread acroos Europe was enhanced by the wars and the ruling class of Kings, Sultans,Caliphs of Persia and parts of the Middle East played this alongside great warriors and riders.Countries such as Argentina, Mexico,Kuwait,Saudi Arabia have a host of clubs and tournaments attracting sizeable crowds.Africa also has its share with at least 43 clubs from the continent.

The game was introduced by the British in the early 1900s at Makuyu, near Thika,and is still popular in Nairobi with the elite of Nairobi and the surrounding environs, though a number of players own ranches in the Rift Valley and parts of the Central Province. The Nairobi Polo Club is located off Ngong Road, and has regular matches, often hosting international competitions with a number coming from Britain, Europe,India and parts of South America.The Club was opened in 1907 with its base being at the car park of the present day Grand Regency Hotel.
The Nairobi Polo Club has organised a tournament to mark its centenary in June . The tournament, expected to bring together teams from all polo clubs in the country, started last weekend, with the main highlight set for this weekend from today Thursday to Sunday at the Nairobi Polo Club. Most of you may have heard or seen a son of the former head of State in Kenya (who is also a sitting Member of Parliament).
East Africa Breweries (EABL) which has never disappointed in sports sponsorship over the years will be using this to target and reward its client base in a market which they largely enjoy a monopoly. White Cap, one of EABL’s oldest beer brands, has been the flagship sponsor of polo to the tune of Sh5 million over the past three years and they look forward to having the relationship in the future.
This will surely be a highlight for White Cap takers having to be associated with the " Sport of Kings ".Well for those who love horses and would hope to mingle with some of the creme de la creme of Kenyan high society pay a visit to Jamhuri Park today onto Sunday (though the weather may not be very kind given that the Sun is gone North!)
Points to Note:
- The game has players being rated in handicaps ranging between -2 to 10. This is based on the net worth of the team with such factors as the team play,horsemanship,hitting skills,anticipation and overall understanding of the game and its rules.
- Fans are usually notified that play of the game may extend beyond the field of play more often than not. Hence one should be alert to avoid being spunked with the polo ball or colliding with the ponies.
- Popular plays include; Near Backside shot,Near Side Backswing,Offside Forward Swing,The Throw In.

For more details read the Daily Nation 28th June or log on to (sports news) OR check for more on Polo.

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