Polo is a game played on horseback on a grassy field between two teams of four players each. They use characteristic long sticks (called mallets), aiming to place a white ball made of wood in the opponent’s goal. In addition to the standard version, we can also have to deal with unusual varieties of polo.
Polo is a sport that originated in the Middle Ages in what is now Turkmenistan and Iran. At first it was called Sagol Kangjei. It was brought to the Old Continent in the 19th century by British troops stationed in India, who gave it its current name. Every 3 or 4 years there are World Polo Championships organized by the International Polo Team. The first event of this type was held in 1987 in Buenos Aires. Most championship titles have been won so far by Argentina.
Its aim is to knock a ball the size of an orange into a 7.3 m wide goal with the help of a mallet. The game involves two teams of four players each on horseback. As it is a tiring and traumatic sport, English Thoroughbreds or Argentinian horses are most often used. The size of the grass polo field is 275 × 183 m. The games can also take place in a so-called polo arena with a size of 100 x 50 m. In this case each team consists of three players. A match consists of 4 to 8 parts, the so-called chukkers, each lasting 7.5 minutes (in the case of arena polo it is 6.5 minutes). There are 3 minute breaks between them, which are usually used to change horses. Each player usually uses four horses during the match. After each time the ball is knocked into the goal, the teams swap halves.
In addition to the traditional game of polo, we may have to deal with its unusual varieties. These include, among others, polo on elephants. There are no restrictions here when it comes to breed, sex or size of animals. In this type of game two 4-person teams take part. The match consists of two parts, each 10 minutes long, with a 15-minute break in between. The game uses the same ball and sticks as in the case of classic polo. In the case of games between men, only one hand is allowed, either left or right. This rule does not apply to women. Compliance with the rules of the game is supervised by the main referee, assistant referee, side referee and two scorers, who are responsible for recognizing the validity of goals.
The most dangerous part of the game is when the elephants get too close to each other. In order to tame the animals, the players use so-called “ankushas”, which are double spurs in the form of a spike and a hook. Additionally, each contestant must wear a special helmet or sun hat on his head. The history of this sport dates back to the 1960s. It is most popular in India, Nepal, Mozambique and Tanzania. Since 1982 there has been an International Elephant Polo Association based in Chitwan, Nepal.
Another interesting variation of this sport is camel polo. Each team consists of five players. The game consists of two parts, 10 minutes each, with a 5-minute break in between. A rubber ball is used to play the game. Since 2002 there is a Mongolian Camel Polo Federation, which, among other things, organizes show tournaments.
Bicycle polo is also worth mentioning here. This sport was invented in 1981. The first match at international level took place between the teams of Great Britain and Ireland. The game consists of four parts, each 7.5 minutes long. Teams are powered by 3 or 4 players each.
Featured photo: Roderick Eime / Flickr