Polo: the “Game of Kings and the King of Games”

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An APP feature By Sultan Shoaib
ISLAMABAD, June 8 (APP)-Polo- “the game of kings and the king of games” is very popular in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Chitral for centuries and it brings jubilation and fanfare to the people of the region once in a year at Shandur, Babuser Top and twice in Gilgit, Skirdu, Ghezer and Diamer.
The word “Polo” meaning a “wooden ball”, comes from the Balti language.
The game of Polo which is played in GB in its most ancient form; some call it the purest form, by the mountainous people of GB and Chitral.
Polo is the most favorite game in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. Gilgit, Skardu, Hunza, Diamer, Ghezer, Shigar, Laspor, Mastoj, and all other valleys around must have at least one polo ground, where local people can be seen playing polo.
“Freestyle polo was only played in the GB and Chital in the world, providing an opportunity of joy and entertainment to the locals as well as the foreign tourists,” President Polo Association Gilgit Ashraf Gul while talking to APP said.
He said it was the “game of kings and the king of games” and was very popular in GB and Chitral for centuries and it brings jubilation and fanfare to the people once in year at Shandur, Babuser Top and twice in Gilgit, Skirdu, Ghezer and Diamer.
Ashraf Gul said that “Polo is our traditional game and our recognition in the world and we are fully committed to keep it intact in future.”
During the polo tournaments thousands of people come to Gilgit from other districts and Chitral to witness the freestyle polo matches. Youngsters, elders and even children from across the region come here to attend the festival.
Because the event provides a lot of enjoyment to locals as they eagerly await the occasion throughout the year, particularly after the long harsh winter.
Polo is a team sport played on horseback. The objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Players score by driving a small white wooden ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet.
Central Asian originated the sport of polo back in the 6th century, which was a training and war-like game played by tribesman, with hundred men on each side. With the passage of time, Polo became the national game of Persia, and gradually spread to other parts of the world.
The British Political Agent, Major Cobb, who was fond of polo, introduced and played the game for the first time in Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral.
In 1982 Shandur was connected with Chitral GB via jeepable road, and importance and popularity of free style polo increased at national and international level because of Shandur polo festival. This festival was regularly included into national calendar in the year 1990s, and three days festival was formally scheduled on July every year.
“In 1982 Shandur was connected with Chitral GB via jeep able road, and importance and popularity of free style polo increased at national and international levels because of Shandur polo festival”. This festival was regularly included into national calendar in the year 1990s, and three days festival was formally scheduled on July every year, a legendary Polo player of Gilgit Baltistan Bulbul Jan told APP while highlighting import of the sport.
Bulbul further stated that “People of GB and Chitral are a historical and cultural legacy of keeping the mountainous free-styled polo in its purest form on the roof of the world”.
People of GB and Chitral are a historical and cultural legacy of keeping the mountainous free-styled polo in its purest form on the roof of the world.
For the purpose of revenue generating, the game needs further international publicity, and showcasing the soft image of Pakistan,
For the promotion of Polo game GB Tourism and Sports Department has been organizing the Polo tournaments every year and is restoring all the polo stadiums in the region. The GB government has already increased the funds for the polo tournaments in all districts.
“We hope that the two governments will work together for the successful organization of this event to keep intact the game of Kings and will play a positive role for the promotion of freestyle polo”, Director sport Gilgit Hussai Ali told APP while emphasizing cooperation between GB and KP governments.