POLO TOURNAMENT AT KAKIRA
By Sherry Mckelvie
Towards the end of last year, I was intrigued to read that the Kakira Nile Polo Club in Jinja would be hosting ‘The 2011 Polo Invitational’, and all were invited to buy tickets. Never having been to a Polo match in my life, I eagerly put my name down to attend the 2-day event.
It took place at the private polo ground of Mr Nitin Jayant Madhvani(Chairman of the Club) at the Kakira sugar plantation, where invited guests and ticket-holders were welcomed with a Pimms and a smile. It was a lovely sunny day and we settled down in the shade of the trees on the sidelines to watch the action.
And what thrilling action it was! Fast, furious, spectacular and such fun. Originating in Persia around 2000 years ago to prepare soldiers for battle, polo is often referred to as the Sport of Kings. Watching the riders controlling their ponies, at the same time as avoiding their opponents, chasing a ball that can travel at over 100 miles an hour and trying to hit it through the goal with a flimsy-looking stick – it was exciting stuff! Not to mention the heart-stopping moments when pony and rider would sometimes land in a heap amongst the galloping hooves.
Charging up and down the field, turning on a sixpence and even sometimes anticipating the next move before their rider, the beautiful spirited ponies gave the impression that they were enjoying every moment, in spite of the fact that the game is rough, with plenty of bumps and bruises, or worse.
Several well-known companies had sponsored the teams and a total of 15 players from several countries made up 5 teams of 3 riders, who all played one another in a series of round-robin matches, culminating in the Final on the Sunday.
The aim of the game is to get as many goals as possible and each game is divided into four 7 ½ minute ‘Chukkas’, with a short interval between each one. In between games, the social tradition of ‘divot stomping’ takes place, when the spectators (many of them dressed ‘a la garden party’, high heels and all) take to the field to stomp down the clumps of grass and earth thrown up by the ponies hooves.
In order to fully enjoy the game, it helps to have a rudimentary understanding of the rules, so here goes (with a little help from google)….
The most basic concept in the sport of polo is the line of the ball, a right of way established by the path of a traveling ball.
When a player has the line of the ball on his right, he has the right of way. This can be taken away by moving the player off the line of the ball by making shoulder-to-shoulder contact.
A player can:
• hook an opponent’s mallet,
• push him off the line,
• bump him with his horse
• or steal the ball from him.
The umpires’ primary concerns are right of way and the line of the ball.
• The line of the ball is an imaginary line that is formed each time the ball is struck.
• This line traces the ball’s path and extends past the ball along that trajectory.
The player who last struck the ball is considered to have right of way, and no other player may cross the line of the ball in front of that player. Riding alongside to block or hook is allowed, as long as the player with right of way is not impeded.
Bumping or riding off is allowed as long as the angle of attack is less than 45 degrees, and any contact must be made between the pony’s hip and shoulder.
A player may hook or block another player’s mallet with his mallet, but no deliberate contact between players is allowed. A player may not purposely touch another player, his tack or pony with his mallet.
Ponies play for a maximum of two chukkas per match.
Altogether, I had a great time and would thoroughly recommend it for a completely different and fun weekend away from the noise and bustle of Kampala. I look forward to the next event!
For more information or lessons, please contact:
Kakira Nile Polo Club (Maanan Madhvani)
Mobile: +256 757 622626