Nigerian polo players in action
By Sunleye-Solawumi Olaleye
Still basking in the euphoria of her relative success in their second ever participation in any international polo tournament, Team Polo Nigeria departed the economic capital of Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, early Sunday with shoulders straight and heads raised high in the knowledge that a solid foundation for the future of the sport has been laid for the country.
The first and last time Nigeria ever participated in a Polo World Cup contest (at the same qualifying stage, was 20 years ago.)
Though the team did not qualify for the finals coming up in about four months hence, nor did they win any match, but their participation drew the attention of the world to the potential of the country in the game. With the skills of the players so richly showcased during the championship, everyone has been talking about how skilful Nigeria’s players are and how the country could soon join the elite group of polo nations if the game is properly ran.
That this Nigerian gain in the sport would be well utilized was given a pointer by the several meetings and picture sessions that the executives of the world governing body of the game; FIP, particularly the president of the organisation, Mr. Eduardo, had with the current Nigerian administration, led by Mr. Francis Ogboro as Nigeria Polo Federation president, in Malaysia.
As a sign of how the whole world was ready to be cosy with the new administration of the sport in Nigeria, before their departure, the Nigerian polo ambassadors were treated to a fabulous farewell dinner hosted at the Royal Selangor Polo Club by the President of the Royal Malaysian Polo Association, His Royal Highness, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.
A week earlier, his crown prince, Abdallah, had hosted all the participation countries to a sumptuous dinner at his mountain top Palace in Kuantan; a place from where you could look down to see half of the beautiful town of Kuantan, the capital city of the state of Pahang, which hosted the qualifiers.
At the Kuantan dinner, the Crown Prince of Pahang had showed his happiness at the ability of Nigeria to make it to Malaysia for the qualifiers. Expressing his happiness that his country was able to host the championship in the first place, he said: “I am delighted we hosted the World Cup Zone D Qualifier, which is the first for us even though Malaysia has a proud record of hosting equestrian events. We are particularly happy that Nigeria that has strong ties with Malaysia made it to this playoff, and we are looking to having them play again in Malaysia in the not too distant future.”
NPF President, Francis Ogboro in his response, thanked the Royal Malaysian Polo Association and His Royal Highness for his hospitality and the hosting of a tournament he described as one of the most contested World Cup play offs in recent times.
“You have done a huge job, working tirelessly to providing excellent quality of ponies and taking good care of the delegations from the seven participating countries and FIP officials on and off the field. Once again let me on behalf of the Nigerian Polo Federation express our warmest congratulations,” Ogboro said.
The NPF President, who has together with his new executive, fought to return Nigeria to the world stage of the game after decades of in international comatose, described the country’s trip to Malaysia as the critical point in his quest to place Nigeria in her rightful position on the global stage of the sport.