Bike polo challenge to support breast cancer awareness – kaduna -Nigeria

Fifth Chukker Polo and Country Club

Pink Polo Day

World Bike Polo Challenge To Support Breast Cancer Awareness

 

2011 African Patrons Cup Polo Tournament

 

Kangimi Resort plays host to the first international bicycle polo tournament in Nigeria.  Hardcore bike polo players from London and Paris flew to Kaduna State to showcase the sport to die-hard pony players.

 

Bike polo has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, with clubs popping up in cities across almost every continent, but it was the first time that it has made an appearance in Africa. Eight hardcore bike polo players and bikes were flown over from the UK and Paris to demonstrate their skills to a crowd of over 2000 local and international spectators at the annual African Patrons Cup at Fifth Chukker Polo Club in Kaduna.

 

The hardcore bike polo rules were altered slightly so as to closely mimic traditional equestrian polo, the match was played in chukkas and started with the customary ‘throw-in’.  As the commentator revved up the crowds, the players began a high-speed, spirited game.  The players raced up and down the pitch displaying astonishing bike handling skills at the same time as controlling the ball and performing effortless teamwork.

 

This is far from the conventional image of polo. But Fifth Chukker is not your average polo club. Since 2001, it has transformed a piece of arid pastureland into Nigeria’s leading international sports resort, largely due to its openness to trying new things.

 

Commenting after the game, Fifth Chukker founder Adamu Atta said: “Bike polo shows that polo is not all about horses.  It is accessible to the masses and I am optimistic that this new activity will be a success in Nigeria”.  On the back of the interest the bike polo generated, the resort is looking to develop its bike polo facilities – the bikes are already owned by the resort and a flat concrete area has been unofficially earmarked – and create further tournaments in 2012 and beyond.

 

Hard and fast

The sport dates back to 1891, when it was invented by Irish cyclist Richard J. Mecredy.  It became so popular in Britain that it was featured in the 1908 London Olympics as a demonstration sport. Participation declined in the following decades, but in the 1930s it was picked up and established as a national league by English cyclist Cyril S. Scott. This time interest spread to France, and from there, after the Second World War, to India, Canada and the USA.

 

Today you’re more likely to see cycle polo being played on a basketball court or empty car park than in a field. While the grass version generally follows standard polo rules, this new urban version is much more stripped-back, with fewer rules and more in common with hockey than traditional polo.

 

Matches start with a ‘joust’ – basically a head-on charge for possession of the ball. Much play is based on ‘shuffling’ (dribbling the ball with the side of the mallet), but goals can only legitimately be scored with a ‘shot’ (using the mallet head). If a player ‘dabs’ (touches the ground, another player or piece of equipment with a foot), he or she must ‘tap out’ by hitting a point in the centre of the court before continuing play.

 

Contact is limited to ‘like on like’ – body to body, mallet to mallet, bike to bike. The game ends either at a set time limit, usually 15 to 30 minutes, or when one team reaches an agreed number of goals, between three and five.

 

Less glamour, more grit

 

Miami Bike Polo founder Eric Madrid describes the game as fast-paced, passionate and ‘somewhat aggressive’.

 

Madrid also highlights the strong sense of teamwork and collaboration involved in the sport, both on and off the pitch. There’s a real do-it-yourself element, with team members helping each other adapt bikes and make mallets by bolting a piece of plastic piping onto an old ski pole.

 

‘It’s less glamorous than horse polo’ concedes Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod, who started playing cycle polo in the 1960s and is now president of the Cycle Polo Federation of India, ‘but very exciting.’

 

Events like the annual World Hardcourt Championship are now starting to attract bigger sponsors, and it seems only a matter of time before bike polo becomes a professional sport. But for now, it’s still a firmly informal affair. Most clubs’ sessions are in public venues and open to anyone – all you need is a bike, helmet and a willingness to get stuck in.

 

As Oxford Bike Polo member Simon Li says:  ‘Anyone can just turn up and play, and potentially be in a major tournament a few months later.’