Polo | tournaments

Breaking Stereotypes

After two years, Manipur’s Women’s International Polo Tournament was kicked off again at Mapal Kangjeibung Polo Ground in Imphal. South Africa showed its prowess.

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Breaking Stereotypes
All Manipur Polo Association

Manipur recently resurrected the Women’s International Polo Tournament. The tournament had begun as a platform for women polo players around the globe to unite, become each other’s support system, and lay down the path in the male dominated sport. Polo itself is currently going through the budding stage of popularity in our country. While being associated with the sport might not raise any eyebrows, being a woman polo player is sure to get you a few side glances. It becomes imperative, then, for the governing bodies of the sport to knock down all outdated traditions by throwing their weight behind the cause. 

This led to the birth of the Women’s International Polo Tournament in 2017, combining native and international female players at the birthplace of the sport, Manipur. This year, the tournament was inaugurated by Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, as he welcomed the 5 teams in the oldest polo ground in the world. The teams were:  India (Manipur - A), India (Manipur - B), India (Indian Polo Association), South Africa and Luxembourg. South Africa won in a jaw-dropping spectacle. La Polo secured conversations with a few players of the teams. 

Neelu RK, from Team Manipur B, said: “The women’s polo tournament was very important as it empowers women polo players around the world, especially our Manipuri women, to showcase their skills and prowess in the sport. I hope this tournament gathers more grandeur and many more countries participate. We also get to showcase the beauty of our culture and  birthplace of Polo (Sagol Kangjei),” 

Image Credits: All Manipur Polo Association

 

Manipur A player Lucy Laishram said: “We got a lot of exposure and also gained knowledge from the foreign teams. Among the teams, I adore South Africa the most. Their playing style, tactics and teamwork is the best which I've seen till date. If more foreign teams participate in the upcoming international tournament then we have a chance to show the strength of our ponies as well as women players from our tiny state Manipur to the whole world.”

“This tournament is making an effort to break the stereotypes in society. It builds up the confidence among women to get the courage to get involved with the sport.” said Khondongbam Deventy Devi. “Players dream to get into the international levels. Such tournaments improve the players' confidence, playing techniques and team coordination. It improves the communication and interaction skills with foreign players too,” says Yumnam Ranjita. 

Image Credits: All Manipur Polo Association

 

The finale of the tournament was a showdown between teams South Africa and Manipur A (India). With Manipur’s rough and sloped grounds, it’s hard to get a hang of playing the sport on the terrain. Despite being completely new at handling the weather and land issues, South Africa ended up stepping on the winning pedestal. It was truly a jaw-dropping remarkable moment. “In my opinion, the most striking moment was when team Manipur A (India), the most experienced team, lost to South Africa,” expressed Player Salam Ngounu Chanu of IPA (India). 

The tournament also created an opportunity to promote and conserve the endangered Manipuri Ponies. A chief element of traditional Manipuri Polo ‘Sagol Kangjei’, Manipuri Ponies’ numbers are dwindling rapidly. During this time of need, Manipur’s Government is pulling all stops to conserve the ponies and restore the breed’s headcount. The South African team was incredibly moved by Manipur and its indigenous ponies, and ended up giving their winnings to the cause. While accepting the trophy, the team proclaimed, “It has been the experience of a lifetime in which we have been blown away by Manipur and how much it has given to the game we love. This trip for us has been like a pilgrimage in learning its roots, playing on the iconic grounds and legendary ponies. The mighty Manipuri ponies have stolen our hearts and we have decided as a team to donate our winnings back to the conservation of the ponies.” 

 



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