African business, politics and lifestyle
Polo sets out its stall in Lagos
Polo has a large and growing following in Nigeria and every year fans get the chance to see some of the country’s best players at the Lagos International Polo tournament. This year more than 200 participants registered for the event.
It’s the biggest polo tournament in Africa. This time around 30 teams took part and more than 3,000 people came to watch.
Polo was introduced to Nigeria by British colonialists in the early 1900s. The sport isn’t as popular as soccer but local interest is growing fast.
Several companies sponsored this year’s event, which cost millions of dollars. Polo is an expensive sport. Each team fields 24 horses during a match and each horse costs about $40,000.
Most of Nigeria’s players are young successful businessmen. Bode Makanjuola trades in oil and gas. He’s been playing polo for three years now. Bode owns the Coverton Polo club, playing in white jerseys. He never misses a game.
“I like the competitive nature of polo and the ultimate aim is actually to build a very strong team so that in the future we can compete not just in Nigeria but in Africa. And who knows, Europe or round the world, that’s the ultimate sort of aim,” he told Reuters Africa Journal.
“A lot of people are getting into it, people find that it’s not as snobbish or as you say, it’s not as out of reach as a lot of people sort of think.”
But somebody has to pay for the horses, the trucks, the mallets and other equipment, even if players insist that those who don’t have much money can still play.
And while it obviously helps to be young and fit, the veterans still like to saddle up. It’s an easy game, says Ali Abubakar, 74, who has been playing for 30 years.
“We are still in the game,” he said, shortly before falling off his horse.
Not many Nigerians will be trading in their love for popular sports like football to take
up polo, but players at the Lagos club hope that those who are interested know that there’s an
opportunity for them to try.