Polo is an outdoor sport which is played on horseback. The main aim of the game is to score goals against the opposing team. A team scores against the other by driving a ball which is mainly made of either wood or plastic, in the opposing team's goal using a long handle that has a head like a hammer and is generally known as the mallet.
There is also an indoor variant of the same game and it is known as Arena Polo. However, the traditional game of Polio is played outdoors, where each team consists of four riders and their mounts. But, in the Arena Polo there are three players instead of four on each. Yet another variant of this game is played in snow, either indoor or outdoor over a frozen ground or ice.
Interesting Information on Background of Polo
The word 'Polo' is believed to have been derived from the Tibetan word "pulu' which means ball. Polo was, at first played in the Persian Empire between 6th century BC and 1st century AD. Initially, it was a game that was used to train the cavalry units, which were the king's guards or other such troops. More than a game, it was like a mini battle in itself in which more than a 100 tribesmen used to participate. As time passed, Polo became a Persian national sport. According to the references found, this was a game that was played by both men and women.
The Persian literature contains many accounts of Polo being played during the 6th century AD. The famous Iranian historian and poet Firdausi, has provided an account of the royal Polo tournaments in Shahnamah, his 9th century epic. Firdausi, in his epic also mentions that Emperor Shapur-II, who was from the Sassanid dynasty learned to play Polo when he was just seven years old. This game was seen as very valuable when it came to training the cavalry. It was played all over the world; right from Constantinople to Japan, during the Middle Ages. It was known as the 'Game of the Kings' in the East.
However, it is interesting to know that the modern day Polo was made popular by the Britishers, and is derived from the princess of the Tibeto-Burman kingdom of Manipur, which is now a state in India. She used to play Polo while in exile in India between 1819 and 1826. The first ever Polo club which was established in India, was in the town of Silchar in Assam, in the year 1834. The origin of the game of Polo in Manipur is traced back to the game of Sagol Kangjei which is a version of Polo that is very popular in the north-eastern part, especially in Manipur.
In Manipur, Polo is played with seven players on each side. The players ride the Manipuri ponies. There are no goal posts; a player is supposed to score a goal by hitting the ball out of the field. Unlike Polo, in Manipur, this game is also played by the common people who own a pony. The kings of Manipur had a royal polo ground within the the surroundings of their Fort, where they used to hold public games of Sagol Kangjei.
But, the Britishers were the ones who spread Polo worldwide during the 19th century and the early 20th century. They took this game to their homeland, England during the 1860s. After the rules were formally laid down, there were many Polo clubs that were established throughout England. It was introduced in England in 1869, by the 10th Hussars. Hussars refers to a type of light cavalry that was used throughout Europe since the 15th century. Even to this day, some military units retain the title 'Hussar' for traditional reasons.
Subsequently, the first Polo club was established in England in 1872, by Captain Francis Herbert of the 7th Lancers, at Clytha Park, near Abergavenny. Later, in 1876, Lt. Col. Thomson St.Quintin, of the 10th Hussars introduced this game to Australia. Qunitin is known as the father of Polo in Australia.
Polo was an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1939. In 1998, it was recognized again by the International Olympic Committee as a sport with a bonafide international governing body, the Federation of International Polo. It gained further recognition when it was played at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games. Subsequently, a South East Asian Polo federation was established as well.
There are many championships of Polo that are held. The World Polo Championship is one such event that is held every three years by the Federation of International Polo. At present Polo is played in more than 77 countries worldwide.