"Polo has been growing amazingly fast in Pakistan. I think engagement with AAP and Pakistan Polo Association will help players improve their skills"
It is commonly said that the millenary sport of polo was played for the first time in Central Asia. As the rules slowly developed into the game we know today new places started playing it during this expansion. One of the first countries that played polo during this growth was Pakistan. Argentina, on the other hand, started playing polo hundreds of years later. Nevertheless the country grew into the first power in the world. Two countries strongly linked by polo, Pakistan and Argentina established diplomatic relations 70 years ago.
"We estimate that around 10,000 people are directly or indirectly employed in polo related activities"
Pakistan has a strong polo community, with nineteen clubs hosting up to forty tournaments of different levels, and more than 10,000 people living directly or indirectly from the sport. To know more about polo in Pakistan, CLICKPOLO spoke to S.E. Dr. Muhamamd Khalid Ejaz, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Argentina.
-Mr. Ambassador, you recently received a visit from the Argentine Polo Association President Mr. Delfin Uranga. What kind of agreement will Pakistan and the AAP have?
"It was a great honor for me to receive Mr. Delfin Uranga, the President of Argentine Polo Association. We discussed the exchange of various polo teams between Pakistan and Argentina. The meeting is also important regarding the purchase of horses and equine related equipment from Argentina. Conversation was also held to look into the possibility of a ceremonial match between Pakistani and Argentine players to mark the 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Argentina.
Pakistan and Argentina had signed an MOU regarding cooperation in the field of sports in October 2007, wherein it was agreed that both countries shall encourage and promote exchange of programs, experience, skills, information, and knowledge in sports.The meeting with AAP is a step forward to formalize the above-mentioned action in Polo."
-How important do you think is the relationship between Argentina and Pakistan with these kinds of engagements?
"Polo has been growing amazingly fast in Pakistan. I think engagement with AAP and Pakistan Polo Association will help players improve their skills. In addition, the sport will further strengthen bilateral relations between Pakistan and Argentina by increasing people to people contacts."
-It is said that Pakistan is one of the places where Polo has been played for centuries. What can you say about the history of polo in your country?
"History of polo or Chogan (its original name) in Pakistan can be traced to the thirteenth century. The Aibak Polo Ground at Lahore stands witness to the death of Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak in 1210, who died playing polo.
In 1947 when the Pakistan Polo Association was formed, the game as part of grand military tradition made its way to all parts of Pakistan. Presently, polo is played all over the country. The Shandur Annual Tournament is held at the highest Polo ground in the world. Last year, this Shandur Polo game (played in original format) attracted around 40,000/- tourists.
We had local horse breeding areas in Punjab province along with the Army breeding depots which helped sustain superior quality polo ponies. Lahore Polo Club was the only civilian club in Lahore with excellent facilities which helped develop players for decades till two new clubs were formed in Lahore.
Many head of states and governments and other dignitaries had visited Lahore Polo Club to witness high quality polo matches, the prominent being: HM Queen Elizabeth and late Prince Philip (who actually played at the Lahore Polo Club), Sultan Azlan Shah King of Malaysia, Queen Sirikit of Thailand, HM Raza Shah Pahlavi King of Iran, HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, First Lady Jackie Kennedy of USA, Governor General of Australia, HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan (also played at Lahore Polo Club), President of Turkey, President of Djibouti and many others."
-How is polo organized in Pakistan? "The polo season in Pakistan is from September to April. Presently, nineteen clubs are registered with Pakistan Polo Association with a total of twenty-seven polo grounds. Strength of Players is around 380 with one six goal handicap player. Pakistan Polo Team participates in the FIP World Cup Polo. Forty Prestigious Polo tournaments are played every year at different stations (which comprise of low goal (0-4), medium goal (2-6, 4-8,6-10) and high goal (8-12,10-14) tournaments. Highlights of such are at Lahore where six fourteen goal tournaments are contested with a combination of local and foreigner players. These tournaments are professionally umpired. The local horse flesh is Thoroughbred horses. A large number of Argentine Mares can also be seen proving their metal at each level. Currently Pakistani patrons import more than one hundred horses annually from Argentina and other countries. Presently Lahore hosts over 1,000 playing Argentine horses of superior quality. The people of Lahore follow polo enthusiastically. Initially it was Lahore Polo Club, now we have two new Army polo clubs with excellent facilities as well. Lahore now has eight state of the art polo fields surpassing any other major city in the world with such facilities in the downtown. Our fourteen goal tournaments field ten teams and each team employs foreign players, local players, foreign and local grooms plus coaching staff. Moreover, Lahore Polo Club has hosted a Federation of International World Cup playoff in 2003 along with two Ambassador Cups (one as recent as 2019)."
-From the economic point of view, can you estimate how many people live rom the polo industry in Pakistan?
"Currently, we estimate that around 10,000 people are directly or indirectly employed in polo related activities. There are more than one thousand polo ponies in Lahore alone. Similarly, in other cities of Pakistan like Karachi, Islamabad & Rawalpindi thousands of people are affiliated with polo related work. Each year many foreign polo professionals, players and umpires are invited to Pakistan to help organize the medium and high goal polo. There are a minimum of ten teams with a high goal which generates good financial activity in form of sponsorships and advertising as well as jobs.
In addition to two Army depots with a combined area of 1000 acres, the local breeding areas produce a local half thoroughbred."
-Do you have any personal experience with polo? If so, please tell us.
"I never got a chance to play polo myself. However, my son who is studying at high school in Buenos Aires is interested in getting polo training."