Polo a Great History of Sport and Cavalry

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Derived from the Tibetan word "Pulu", meaning ball, Polo is a time-honored tradition that got its name from the Tibetans that played the game in ancient times during what is thought to be the origins of the game itself. Although the exact dates of origin are not known; it is thought that Polo may have been picked up from the ancient civilizations of the Central Asian nomads as far back as 2,500 years ago. The first recorded game took place between the Persians and the Turkomans in 600BC. (The team from Turkmenistan in Central Asia won the match.)

Initially, Polo was a game used to train elite Cavalry units such as the King's Guard. Similar to a miniature war battle, as many as 100 tribesmen to each side would participate. In time, Polo became a Persian national sport played extensively by the nobility.

Now, Polo has emerged as a game of elite skill; using a high compact plastic ball, a rubber-wrapped grip and webbed thong, called the thumb swing, Polo mallet. The game consists of two teams of four equestrian players on each side of a 10-acre grass field which is 300 yards in length by 160 yards, (the approximate area of ten football fields). Goal posts are set eight yards apart on either end of the field. The object of the game is to move the ball down-field, hitting the ball through the goal for a score.

After the Mogul Emperor, Babur brought Polo to India in the 15th century, a more modern version of the game of Polo, originating from the princes of the Tibeto-Burman kingdom who were exiled in Manipor, India between 1819 and 1826, was played with seven players on each side and without goal posts. The scoring player would simply hit the ball out of either end of the field. Players were also permitted to carry the ball, though that allowed opponents to physically tackle players when they did so. The sticks were made of cane and the balls were made from the roots of bamboo. Players protected their legs by attaching leather shields to their saddles and girths.

Eventually, Polo became a world renowned sport by reaching Europe when British Military officers first imported the sport to England in the 1860s. The establishment of polo clubs throughout England and Western Europe followed after the formal codification of rules. The game's governing body in the United Kingdom was the Hurlingham Polo Association, which drew up the first set of formal British rules in 1874, many of which are still in existence today.

During the later part of the 19th century, New York Herald proprietor, James Gordon Bennett Jr., after returning from a long stint in Paris, organized the first Polo match in the United States. Under the leadership of Harry Payne Whitney in the early 20th century, polo changed to become a high-speed sport, differing from the game in England, where it involved short passes to move the ball toward the opposition's goal. Whitney and his teammates used the fast break, sending long passes downfield to riders who had broken away from the pack at a full gallop.

Today, this very intriguing and entertaining game is skillfully played by participants from all over the globe and enthusiastically watched by audiences in over 77 countries worldwide.

(Courtesy of Ascot Park Polo Club and Wikipedia.com)

More about this author: Sal Young

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