“The level of polo I have already played far exceeds any dreams I had when I started out”
This story happened in the English summer of 2016. Prince Philip and Royal Salute’s Peter Moore presented the Coronation Cup to the Commonwealth team after they won the prestigious polo event. The Commonwealth team defeated England 12-11 in a thrilling game at the prestigious Guards Polo Club on the 23rd of July 2016. The Commonwealth team comprised polo players from different Commonwealth countries, namely Hissam Ali Hyder (Pakistan), Fred Mannix (team Captain from Canada), Chris Mackenzie (South Africa) and John Paul Clarkin (New Zealand).
Hissam Ali Hyder was born in Lahore, and reached a 6-goal handicap. He was the best Asian player during his peak. He was on the Board of Directors of the prestigious London club Guards, and was also a part of the HPA – Handicapping committee in England.
“I am a huge patriot, I love my country and the people here. They are genuine, kind and hardworking”
“Playing polo internationally is what I have done for the last 15 years, prior to that I started riding at three and playing at the age of eight. It was never easy, nothing ever is. I didn’t know I would become a professional polo player when I was younger, it just sort of ended up happening when I got my first job in Dubai at the age of 18. You have to work hard and put your everything into it, you need to start from the bottom, learn how to groom horses, know a horse inside out and then you get opportunities in which you can show your skill and get other bigger opportunities. To be acknowledged for your skill and hard work is a good feeling, especially internationally. It’s a fulfilling feeling,” said Hissam Ali Hyder to OK Pakistan when he won the Coronation Cup, 4 years ago.
He was the first Asian player to participate in the tournament. “It’s an indescribable feeling, it’s always something I wanted to do, but being a Pakistani, I didn’t know when I would get a chance to do that, as Pakistan doesn’t have enough players to make a high-goal team. When I got a call to be on the Commonwealth team I was pretty ecstatic. It’s the highest level of polo I have played thus far and it is one of the biggest International tournaments in the world.” The sport is very special to him “Polo has been in my family for almost a century now, my father is the President of the Lahore Polo Club, we are all crazy for the sport! We live, eat and breathe it.” He is also proud of being able to represent Pakistan around the world: “I am a huge patriot, I love my country and the people here. They are genuine, kind and hardworking. I like to think of myself as a man of the masses. I think Pakistan has a lot of potential and it is because of this potential and belief that I like to fly the flag of Pakistan at every opportunity.”
This article concludes with a very special interview he gave to CLICKPOLO ASIA. -How did you get started in polo? “My grandfather and father both played polo so I am a third generation polo player. Our father made all us siblings ride when we were younger and many an afternoon was spent on the polo field after school. It was a fait accompli.” -What were the most important tournaments you played? “Within Pakistan it was the Quaid -e- Azam Gold Cup, also known as the National Open. Internationally, it was the 2014 Snow Polo World Cup in St. Moritz, which I played and won with Team Cartier, and the 2016 Coronation cup which I played and won as part of the Commonwealth team.”
-What countries have you visited to play polo? “I have had the good fortune to play polo all around the world. I started in Pakistan and have now been playing in the UK for two decades. I go to Argentina every year and have also played in France, Spain, Brazil, India, Singapore,Thailand and Dubai.” -What place does polo have in your life? “I am a career professional polo player. What started off as my passion has also translated into my livelihood, which has been amazing.”
-How do you see polo in your country?
“Over the years Pakistan has definitely grown in terms of its polo community and the number of clubs available to play at. There has also been a shift towards professionally sponsored tournaments and teams, where patrons are making an investment in both horses and professional players to make Pakistani polo more competitive.”
-What would it take for it to grow further? “The player is just one part of the equation as far as Polo is concerned. Horses are an integral part of the game and can often be the difference between winning and losing. If you want to win Formula 1 you have to make sure you have the fastest car. Polo is no different.” -What is your dream in polo?
“The level of polo I have already played far exceeds any dreams I had when I started out. I am eternally grateful for that and for the people who were part of my journey, supported me, and continue to do so. I would like to reach a stage,in the coming years, where I can go back to playing polo for fun. I’m not quite there yet but it is a work in progress”.