Can Polo Catch On in Africa?

Can Polo Catch On in Africa?


Nigeria hosted the second annual Keffi polo tournament in May 2016, with 16 teams participating. The so-called sport of kings, seen by some as an activity with complicated rules and accessible only to the wealthy, does not yet have a large following in Nigeria.

Nonetheless, about 3,000 fans turned out to watch the 5th Chukker Polo Club of Kaduna take on the Kano Titans in the semifinals at the Keffi Polo Ranch. The crowd cheered as Argentine player Manuel Crespo scored for Kaduna.

Despite what people think, Crespo said, polo is not just for the rich.

“You have to have horses, and that can be quite expensive, but people that like the sport can come into the market and start working with them, become like a pro,” he said. “In Argentina, we are not rich guys that play polo. We are old guys that come from the horse families, and that is why we get involved in polo.”

South African referee Clive Mullman has played since he was 5 years old.

“It’s a big thrill to get on a horse,” he said, “to control a big animal like that, move in different directions. Stopping and turning and outwitting the other players. It’s an exciting game. It’s an adrenaline-filled game.”

Each match is 90 minutes. The players can change horses every chukker, or every 7 1/2 minutes of playing time. To score, you use your mallet to knock the ball in between the goal posts. The riders move at speeds of up to 65 kilometers per hour.

“Basically, all the rules of polo are based on safety,” Mullman said. “It’s to keep the horses and the players safe. It is all about the line of the ball so you don’t have people crossing in front of each other, so they don’t get ridden over, basically.”