IMPHAL, December 23: The year 2014 could be described as one of the most significant years in the history of Sagol Kangjei (Polo) for it has marked the 150 years of the day when Manipuri Polo went international.
150 years ago, on January 1864, a Manipuri Polo team visited Calcutta (now Kolkata) led by the then British army officer Lt. Joseph Ford Sherer, commandant of the Kooky Levy and Civil Employment, to play the first international Polo exhibition match, there on the game spread to England and throughout the world.
Commemorating this remarkable year, the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association (MHRPA) invited the living descendents of Lt. Joseph Ford Sherer, father of the English polo, to witness the 8th Manipur Polo International tournament played at the oldest polo ground situated in Imphal, the Mapal Kangjeibung.
`It`™s a great honour though at the same we were a bit surprised when we got the invitation from the organisers to come and witness the game of polo here in Manipur`, said Susan Booth the great great grand daughter of Lt. Joseph Ford Sherer speaking to IFP.
Susan came to Manipur along with her cousin Rosemary Pears who is also another great great grand daughter of the father of the English polo. Both the grand daughters who are now in their mid 70s were very excited about the visit.
`My mother would have been more thrilled than we are were she to be alive today`, said Susan.
Susan recalled that her mother, who passed away in 2011, would always be polishing souvenirs, an ink desk set made from two Manipuri pony hoof and silver salver, gifted to her great great grandfather. The family heirloom is now put on display at the English polo club museum.
`The general would be very proud and a little surprised to see the game he love being play all over the world`, assumed Rosemary.
She revealed that the UK team were also equally impressed as they are with the Manipuri pony adding that they would spread the word and experiences when they return to their country. `Now we are the ambassador for Manipur`, said an excited Rosemary.
Expressing her desire to visit Manipur again, Rosemary was overwhelmed by the rich culture of Manipur besides the war cemetery, the game of Polo etc which reminded her of Britain.
She described Manipur a cross road of east and the west and a very unique place when compared to other part of India.
Meanwhile, Retired IAS officer, Senjam Budhachandra, who is also the president of the MHRPA, revealed that the association has been propagating that `the present day polo originated from Manipur, the traditional polo-Sagol Kangjei` by organising Manipur International Polo tournament in the state since 1991.
Claiming that the tournament is one of its kinds played on Manipuri ponies, which is the symbol of Sagol Kangjei (Polo), he divulged that it was funded by the state Governments, business houses and nationalise banks.
Since its inception 1977 the MHRPA has been striving to popularise the game at its birth place Manipur by promoting polo tourism and also campaigning to save the Manipuri pony, which is on the verge of extinction, continued the MHRPA president.
Today the MHRPA has not only been able to garner the supports from polo enthusiasts but also live up to its objective of popularising the game at its `Birth place`.
Each year new polo playing nations take part in the tournament. This year`™s 8th edition of the polo tournament saw an overwhelming response from several polo loving nation. In all seven nations took part in the tournament including France, Mongolia, Poland, South Africa, Thailand, UK and USA besides the two Indian Teams (India-A nominated by Indian Polo Association) and India-B `“nominated by our MHRPA).
The tournament has also become a part of the annual Manipur Sangai Festival the largest tourism festival of the state.
`It`™s a great opportunity and great feeling to play polo at its birth place and at the oldest ground` exclaimed Pawel Olbryca, a player of team Poland.
Poland is one of the new teams that joined the Manipur International Polo Tournament besides Thailand, South Africa and Mongolia.
Pawel divulged that even as Polo is a new game to Poland, there are about 50 professional Polo players in Poland.
He observed that Polo has a lot of potential adding that in order to give a boost to the endeavour of the organisers they must come up with `New projects, new places especially new ponies, a finer breed`.
Pawel exhorted the organisers to keep pushing forward their endeavour to promote the game and save the animal.
Although the popularity of Polo and its origin gaining an overwhelming response, the indigenous Manipuri Pony which is the symbol of the game (Sagol Kangjei) are facing a threat of extinction.
According to MHRPA president, there are approximately 500 Manipuri polo ponies in the valley areas and below 1000 in the entire state.
The magnificent horse breed which is also known for its firm footing, were widely used by the British military during World War-II besides Polo.
Disappearance of grazing grounds, lack of investments to conserve ponies etc are some of the factors that largely contributed for the decline of ponies, claimed Budhachandra.
The MHRPA president further said that the Government must come up with a concrete and immediate measure in order to save the ponies.
The report of decline in numbers of ponies comes in the wake of the Government`™s proposed plan to establish a pony conservation site at Marjing Pony Sanctuary at Heingang, Imphal East district.
Read more / Original news source: http://kanglaonline.com/2014/12/descendants-of-modern-polo-founder-makes-pilgrimage-to-polos-original-home/