Come the month of May, and sports persons and athletes across the world look eagerly towards (except for the restrictions the Coronavirus has forced upon) celebrating with zest, World Athletics Day, falling on May 7, every year.
World Athletics Day was established in 1996 by the International Amateur Athletic Federation in order: a) “to popularise sports among the youth, b) to increase public awareness about sports, and educate young people of its importance, and c) to establish a strong link between the youth, sports and environment conservation.”
The International Amateur Athletic Federation, the world governing body for Sports and Field Athletics, was founded in Stockholm, Sweden, on July 17, 1912, its counterpart in India being the Athletic Federation of India (AFI), affiliated to IAAF, and to the Indian Olympic Association.
To coincide with World Athletics Day, keeping in mind its primary objectives, The Teenager Today brings you, this month, a less-known game in India, Polo, and one of the game’s greatest proponents, Lt Col. Faiz Siddiqui. Group Capt. Achchyut Kumar met Lt Col. Siddiqui at his residence at Allahabad (Prayagraj) on behalf of The Teenager Today in an informal chat for our cover story. I’m sure you’ll not only enjoy reading the article, but some of you might as well take to Polo. Lt Col. Siddiqui will be more than happy and be willing to help you.
Polo originated in Manipur (India) where it is known as Sagol Kangjei or Pulu. In the absence of well-bred horses, the game was played there on ponies. The tea planters brought it to Calcutta, from where the British took the game to their country, and refined it by replacing ponies with horses. Today, Argentina is considered to be the home of the best Polo players, with horses specially bred for the game.
With the intent to bring Polo, in its pristine glory, to India, Siddiqui began practising the game for eight hours a day, then took up a special 10-day coaching in Mumbai from Mr Manupal Godra. In 2010, he went to Argentina for a two-month course where besides improving his riding skills, he learned the art of training horses and how they are bred for playing polo.
Returning to India, he began coaching students and authored his now popular book, Keep Calm And Ride On, possibly the only book on horse riding written by any Indian author. But, Lt Col. Siddiqui remains a committed soldier who says, “Polo and horse riding are only my hobbies; my duty towards nation comes first!” Turn to page 13, and see how dutifully he manages to divide his time between the two.