Polo’s Heart and Soul.
The president of PIPA (The Players and Instructors Polo Association) Dr Uwe Seebacher recently said that he believes patrons investing into teams – and then playing alongside the professionals – is an “individual luxury entertainment” and does nothing for the development of the global game of polo.
However Seebacher is missing an important point of the game of polo which makes it stand out from so many other sports. One of the most beautiful aspects of polo is that at the top level you have the opportunity to play alongside your polo heroes, and this concept continues right down through medium and low goal where you can play with much higher handicapped players.
John Horsewell has added his thoughts about the comment that patrons should step back from playing. “Polo is a sport that grew up out of a camaraderie. Even right back in the early days, it was a cavalry training exercise but always a sport played amongst a group of people who knew each other. When the British Army founded it in India, they brought it back and played it on Hampstead Heath. It was always a group of friends.
“Then it grew, and a group of civilians started playing, and more Army people played. Then Ireland started. Then it was taken to South America and they started playing. There is a famous saying that polo is ‘a sport where eight friends meet together, divide into two teams of four, become enemies for an hour and then when it’s over, return to being friends again’.”
Of course polo has moved on and changed since then, but we don’t want to lose the roots and principles behind the sport. It would be like cutting out its heart and soul. Horsewell agrees that one of polo’s huge attractions to the patrons is that they are able to play and participate and be a part of the whole experience.
He feels “many of the patrons, even if not up to the level of the professionals, have raised the bar for the sport. Kerry Packer and Urs Schwarzenbach did it, King Power are doing it, Dubai did it through Ali Albwardy, and there is an argument that Michael Bickford made a huge difference with his La Indiana team in the English polo season just past.”
Seebacher seems to be focussing on how to develop the commercial side of polo, thinking along the lines of televising the sport in an attempt to introduce it to a wider public. If that is the case his comments are directed towards high goal polo. But many patrons have the dream to one day be able to play with one of the world’s top ranked polo players. Seeing other patrons living this dream shows it is possible and makes playing polo all the more special.