Every August here in South Africa we get to enjoy a rather special sporting event. I use the term sporting event quite loosely however as at the BMW International Polo Series, sport is just one of the many attractions to enjoy. It is one of those events where you don’t necessarily need to watch the featured match to have a good time, just being there on the day is action enough.
India are the home team’s opponents this year, and after winning 11-6 last week at Shongweni last week in the first match, our polo boys will be looking for much the same result this Sunday here at the Joburg match.
Before we get into telling you about Sunday’s big day out, let’s get the basics of the game out of the way. The knowledge will help when watching it, but more importantly it will stand you in good stead when making small talk around the pims jug.
A brief history
The game of polo originated in Persia long long long ago. As you can imagine early life revolved around the horse so polo was always going to be one of the world’s oldest sports. It was a game originally played by cavalry units, members of the king’s guard or equally elite individuals who used the game to further fine tune their horseman skills. The game naturally spread into India and China before finding its way to Britain who then further spread it within their empire across the globe.
It was also a much loved game of royalty, hence polo often being referred to as ‘The sport of Kings’.
Object of the game
Just like football, hockey, waterpolo etc, the object of the game is to score a goal at the end of the pitch defended by your opponent. In polo this is done by hitting the small ball with your wooden mallet that the rider swings while riding. You do this more time than your opponent, you win.
I won’t both getting into the technical things of fouls, hooking and play lines, you and your picnic party or VIP table can make that up as you go along. It’s more fun that way.
Each team is made up of four players and their mounts. The word ‘mount’ refers to their horse that they ride upon in the field of play, or to be more technically correct, their polo pony. Oh yes, don’t make the mistake of asking why the players’ horses are so small, pah, in polo special polo ponies are used. Though, in saying that, these ‘polo ponies’ are actually full sized horses. These particular kinds of horses are selected for their responsive manoeuvrability, agility, stamina and speed. Kinda of like BMW cars actually come to think of it!
Each of the four players has a certain role within the team
The no.1 player is the focused goal scorer who plays up front. The no.2 player slightly further away from goal helps no.1 achieve their aim and also looks to get on the board from time to time.
The no.3 player is generally the best player in the team capable of long power shots up field to feed the front guy, but they also have the ability to solidify the team by doing defensive work too.
Then the no.4 player sits at the back making sure the opposition no.1 player finds it difficult to score.
They all naturally run all over the field depending on where the ball is, but these are their basic responsibilities in the game.
Far from a game you can just throw on at a spare patch of lawn, a polo field is huge. 274m long and 164m wide kind of huge. The goal posts are set roughly 7m apart and are centered at either end of the field.
So now you know what the game is all about, onwards to the details for Sunday.
This year the event will be taking place at the Waterfall Polo Estate as opposed to Inanda.
General admission to the public is R100 which can be paid at the gate on arrival. Children under 12 enter for free.
If you are looking to take advantage of some somewhat more premium hospitality, then click here for details on the BMW SA site.
Much of the hospitality is naturally booked up well in advance, but there is an alternative at the HQ Polo Lounge with Peroni
The polo is a special day out so only fitting that you do something special for it. There will also be a decent little after party to ‘kick the heels off and loosen the tie’ at so to speak, so click here to make sure you do the day in real style.