Polo: Growing the Game of Kings in Nigeria

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Olutayo Irantiola
This year’s Lagos International Polo Tournament sponsored by GTBank which lasted from February 4th to 16th at the Rabidu Road end of highbrow Ikoyi, played host to some of the most prestigious African teams.

With the theme “Lagos Develops Polo,” it was aimed at encouraging the participation of young and indigenous talented players while featuring top class action from some of the most experienced and acclaimed polo players in and out of the country. Some of the stars that featured include; South Africa’s Chris Mackenzie +7, Argentina’s Andres Crespo +5, Raul Laplacette +7 and Santiago de Estrada +6, as well as Nigeria’s Neku Atawodi-Edun +5, the highest-handicapped female player at the tournament.

The competition featured 39 teams; the highest number at thetournament till date. The teams competed in four major cups; the Silver Cup, Open Cup, Low Cup, and Majekodunmi Cup. The finals held on Sunday 9th February 2020, with Lagos Leighton Kings clinching the prestigious Majekodunmi Cup 10-5 at the expense of Lintex Agad. NRT clinched the Low Cup while RCF won the Governor’s Cup.

Commenting on the GTBank’s continued support for the tournament, the President of Lagos Polo Club, Mr Ayo Olashoju said, “We are delighted to have GTBank as our sponsor. The relationship between Lagos Polo Club and the bank is borne out of common shared values and reputation for quality.”

After sponsoring five tournaments, the bank has not given up in delighting the players through their support. Guaranty Trust Bank PLC is one of the few Nigerian financial institutions that have maintained a defined Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, most especially in sports education.

Alongside the GTBank Lagos International Polo Tournament, the bank organizes and sponsors several other sports competitions which includes Lagos & Ogun State Principals Cup, Masters Cup and Super Cup football competitions amongst secondary schools in Lagos and Ogun State.
A leading advocate of sports education as a major way of promoting the values of excellence and fair play whilst laying the foundation for the emergence of sporting talent, a close study of the bank’s corporate social responsibility initiatives, reflects that GTBank maintains a defined Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy focused on championing causes and fostering initiatives that transform lives and uplift communities.

Speaking on the bank’s involvement with the game of Polo, The Managing Director, Mr. Segun Agbaje noted that, “We love the game of polo, not only because it is one of the most anticipated events in the social calendar of the country, but also because its values such as discipline, rigour and fair play strongly resonates with our brand.

He further stated that; “Our sponsorship of the NPA Lagos International Polo Tournament also reflects our strong belief in the role of sports as a major vehicle of social development and our commitment to championing activities and events that bring people together.”
The game which was introduced to Lagos, Nigeria in 1904 by British naval officers, was played on an air strip that was shared between the Lagos Polo Club and the Ikoyi Club. The game is one of the oldest sports in the country.

The game never got into a competitive stage until about a decade after.
In 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm II, King of Germany presented a Sterling Silver Cup (now known as the Independence Cup) for a championship between Nigeria and the German Cameroon’s. This was the beginning of another era for the game in Nigeria. Gradually, top civil servants and senior citizens became members of the club and since then, the game has gradually evolved.

A Nigerian, Dr Majekodunmi donated the now famous Majekodunmi Cup to be competed for by the highest handicap players at club tournaments. Other cups within the club are the Silver Cup, Low Cup, Open Cup, Governors Cup while there are subsidiary cups such as Independence Club; Italian Ambassador’s Cup and Oba of Lagos Cup.
All of these cups have become the regular feature of the Annual Nigeria Polo Association Lagos International Polo Tournament which has become the flagship of polo competition from Nigeria and across the world.