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Spotlight on Polo

Polo

Sport of Kings or better known as Polo, is a horseback mounted team sport that originates from Persia as early as 6th century BC. It makes it one of the oldest known team sports. First used within elite cavalry units, it grew steadily in popularity and spread across Asia and other neighbouring continents. The Federation of International Polo or FIP is the world governing body with a membership of over 100 countries. The headquarters for FIP are based in Montevideo, Uruguay. Sixteen nations currently play in a professional league and between 1900 to 1936 the sport was also represented at the Olympic Games. The game is played on an outdoor playing field or an indoor arena by two opposing teams. For field polo each team has four mounted riders with a full match lasting up to two hours. A match is divided into rest periods known as chukkas. The objective for each rider is to score goals using a long-handled wooden mallet by hitting a small hard ball through the opposition’s goal. Arena polo only has three mounted riders per team as the playing area is smaller and enclosed. The playing surface is normally compacted sand and the ball used is larger and inflated. Occasionally the head of the mallet for arena polo is larger than for field polo. The modern version of the game has its origins from Manipur, India, where it was known for several names including Pulu. It is also from the Manipur State that the distinction of the oldest polo ground (Imphal Polo Ground) has its origins. The oldest polo club still in existence is the Calcutta Polo Club established in 1862 by two British soldiers and the increase in popularity of the sport can be credited to the British. In the late 19th century and early 20th century it was in fact the presence of the British Empire that gave polo its worldwide appeal.    

FIP is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the worldwide governing body of Polo. Their mission is to grow the sport worldwide, while maintaining the same high standards and integrity that the game has become famous for. FIP is also responsible for overseeing management of national and international competitions. In the 1987 the first World Championship was held in Argentina and since then there have been a further ten world competitions shared between USA, Brazil and Chile. The FIP World Championship is scheduled to be held every three years with the next competition due in 2020. The host nation is responsible for providing horses and these are pooled among the participating nations in order to give teams equal conditions of play. FIP currently (2019) has 86 national associations members. 

The Champions Polo League was launched in Jaipur in India, which is a competition very similar to the IPL T20 format in cricket. This will no doubt pave the way for further competitions similar in format hosted by other nations, adding to the popularity and growth of the sport worldwide. 

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