By: Asem Mustafa Awan
ISLAMABAD: The world highest polo ground over 3500 meters at Shandur demands the best from the horse and the horseman but uncertainty looms over the event due to Coronavirus.
An annual feature of the Northern Areas of Pakistan, the three day event has best of the horsemen with their horses battling it out for the victory.
Gilgit won the event in 2012 and twice boycotted the event in the later years by sending no teams due to official status of the place, which is likely to be declared as a national park.
Polo on the roof of the world is played closest to that of Buzkushi an event that has history dating back to hundreds of years.
The three day tournament has elite polo players from Gilgit and Chitral who push, beat, overthrow the opponents on their way to victory in a style that depicts the mindset ‘might is right’.
Only the strong will stay on the saddle and the tournament is played in the format that has no rules.
Muhammad Khan, a promising player from Gilgit has great aspiration to represent the side in the coming tournament that is presumed to be axed in the current national predicament.
The intensity of the tournament results in brawls in the past and this Balochistan Times scribe is a witness to these brawls. The losers faced the wrath of the people in the final and the players with their horses were rushed to safety to avoid spectators fury who sit on opposite sides of the ground.
The game is played in a very simple format there are two chukkers of 25 minutes each with a ten minute break.
Muhammad Khan in his exclusive talks with BT said that prior to the tournament there are matches played locally in both Gilgit and Chitral. The winning captain of the event picks up his team to play at Shandur.
“The best team is with the better mounts and mostly it’s the horses that play the pivotal role in winning the game as oxygen at that altitude demands a lot from the horse.”
“The team with the better mounts wins the game as horses acclimatized to that altitude can with stand the low levels of oxygen besides galloping the field nonstop in pursuit of the ball.”
Muhammad Khan is 27 years of age and has been in the circuit for some time, “Chitral has won the last event and Sikanderul Mulk leads the Chitral team while Gilgit team captain is Raja Sikander, both are outstanding polo players.”
Answering a query about the event he said, “It is difficult times and we hope the situation will improve. This international event will attract tourists from around the globe which is also the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan that Pakistan picture is more beautiful through tourism as compared with terrorism.”