Bringing women’s polo to India: the story of Rina Shah!
In a continent as vast as Asia, interesting stories can be found in every country. In the previous issue of CLICKPOLO Asia, we interviewed Shyam Mehta, who told us about his inspiring life as one of polo’s main advocates in India. This time, we are staying in India to talk to another of polo's great promoters, with one exceptional detail: she was the one to arrange the first international women's game in Mumbai and is currently the only active female player and patron in the country. Meet Rina Shah…
- How did you first get involved with polo?
"I have been involved in polo since 2012. Initially my training took place in Argentina, Santa Barbara, and then England. I played my first tournament in 2013 in Jodhpur and I haven’t looked back since. Later in 2014, I launched my polo team in Mumbai, India.
In my continued efforts to support polo and my passion for the game, I sponsored a Polo Cup in Jaipur back in 2015. My love for polo has seen me play across the length and breadth of India and other international countries like Thailand, South Africa, USA, and more.
Also in 2015, I started my polo fashion line called ‘Rinaldi Polo’. Being the only active women player in the country and only female patron in India, I have been active in developing the game and making it popular by showcasing every single year a huge arena polo tournament in Mumbai, India, where the creme de la creme and celebrities come to watch that game.
In addition to this, in 2018 I arranged the first international women's game in Mumbai, India. "
- When did you start playing polo?
"My first time watching the game was when I went to see a Polo match in Mumbai, India, and I fell in love with the game. In fact, that is when I instantly knew that I wanted to play polo.
While I had made up my mind, the fact is that no one in my family had even sat on a horse before or been exposed to horses in general. It was something that I was excited about, however, it was completely alien to me. I was drawn towards it because I love adventure and tough sports.
After that I only rode horses for a year to strengthen my riding and after that I was convinced that this is what I wanted to do along with inspiring the youth of my country towards the sport. "
- Where do you play now?
"2020 has been tough and my plans have been altered a little. Currently, I am playing every day in Mumbai as we can’t travel anywhere else, given the COVID restrictions.
However, in 2021 my goal is to play beach polo in Ibiza and in 2022 I would love to play in St. Moritz Snow Polo. It’d be a dream come true, and I will surely make it happen. I also would like to take my team to other countries and make India proud as I represent my country. "
- What are your goals as a polo player?
"It’s what I said in the previous question and I also want to play more ladies' games in the USA and other countries along with promoting arena polo. "
- Do you have any particular memories that you cherish thanks to polo?
"In my first big tournament I scored 4 goals in Mumbai. There were 2 mins on the clock to the final game and we were tied. It was then when I had the worst fall of my life and I was under the horse for 30 seconds, I was knocked out and had a fractured finger. But I wanted to win this first tournament so badly that I went back on the horse and made sure I won my first tournament. That undoubtedly was the hardest thing I have done and something that I will never forget and it’s things like these that keep me going.
Also, another milestone was when I played in Jaipur, I was the only woman who played with 49 men in the tournament and I was very proud of myself . "
- What do you think of polo in India?
"Polo originated in India but today it's slowly dying out. It’s a game of the royals and the army, so compared to the population we are a bunch of very few players that keep the game alive. Very few patrons remain in the country and we are all trying to revive the game and get many more players to come and join. My aim is to inspire the youngsters and get them involved as they are the future of Polo. Clubs are also trying to get more people to ride horses and eventually join polo. "
- How did Rinaldi Polo come to be?
"The Rinaldi Polo team was launched in 2014 in Mumbai. I always wanted to have my own team and I wasn’t going to quit. The Rinaldi polo equestrian fashion brand was founded in 2015 as I was already a shoe designer and I thought it would be an extension of my brand with boots, breeches, handbags and polo bags.
There were very few people who were doing this and I thought would be a great opportunity to introduce a brand for equine and horse lovers."
- How do you see women's polo in India in the future?
"Polo is a very difficult sport and I would want more women to play the sport. But it’s been a difficult ride as we don’t have any professional polo schools where one can go and train. Also being an expensive sport not too many people get into it. But I will keep working on it and push more women to play and join polo."