An outdoor team sport, polo is played on horseback, and the main aim of the game is to score goals against the other team. The riders score goals by driving in a white wooden or plastic ball into the opposing team's goal with the help of a long-handled mallet.
The traditional game of polo consists of two teams with four riders each. They game takes place in seven-minute periods called chukkas. Each game consists of eight chukkas. These days, there are many variations to the game. The modern version is played indoors, and is known as the 'arena' polo. In this variant, there are 3 players to a game, and each chukka is of seven and half minutes duration.
There are a few more variants of the game, including elephant polo, bike polo, and snow polo. However, these are considered to be separate games, as there is far too much difference in the rules, composition of teams, and facilities, when compared to the traditional game.
History of Polo
The game of polo was first played in Persia (Iran) during 6th Century BC. It was used as a training game for cavalry units. It was also played by tribesmen in a warlike fashion, with 100 players to a side. Slowly, it gained the status of being the national game of Persia, and was extensively played by the nobility, both men and women.
In the middle ages, polo was played in Japan as a means to train the cavalry, and was known in the East as the 'Game of Kings'.
Polo, in its present form, was formalized and popularized by the British, who derived the game from India during their reign. The first polo club was established in the small town of Silchar, Assam (India), in 1834. The British are also credited with making the game of polo popular worldwide during the late 19th and early 20th century.
Polo was part of the Olympics from 1900 - 1939. In 1998, the International Olympic Committee again recognized polo along, with a bona-fide governing body, the Federation of International Polo.
Polo: The Game
The game consists of two teams with 4 players each mounted on horseback. The field is 300 yards long, while the width is 200 yards. However, if sideboards are present, then the width of the field is reduced to 160 yards.
The game begins with the two teams lined up, each team in line forming two rows with the players in order facing the umpire at the center of the field. The game consists of two umpires mounted on horseback on the field, and a referee on the sidelines. At the beginning of the game, one umpire bowls the ball in hard between the two teams. The goals are changed at the end of every chukka, so that each team may take the advantage of any wind that may be present.
The position of the players is as follows:
- Position 1: This is the most offensive position, and the player has to cover the opposing team's player at position 4.
- Position 2: This is the most difficult position in the game. While playing offensive, the player has to either run through and score a goal himself or pass the ball to the player on the number 1 position. While playing defensively, the player has to cover the opposing team's player at position 3, who is generally the best player on that team.
- Position 3: This position requires a tactical leader who can hit the ball with power, to pass it to the players at positions 1 and 2, along with providing excellent defense.
- Position 4: This position is filled in with the primary defense player, whose main goal is to prevent scoring.
The intensity with which the game is played can be understood from the fact that in top level professional tournaments, each player plays with a fresh pony in each chukka. This is because the horses have to continuously gallop during the course of the chukka, and may tire out.