I’d never been to a polo match before. The nearest that I’ve got is watching Pretty Woman on the telly and I suppose that all I learned from seeing that film was that if you take a hooker with you, then you shouldn’t tell any of your mates.
Prince Charles used to play, as did his sons. They probably still do. I think the ex-drummer from The Who that wasn’t Keith Moon has the odd game. Really though, that’s about the full extent of my knowledge.
Still, I’m keen to see new stuff and so Jen and I had a drive along to the Waterfall Polo Club in Johannesburg to see the final day’s play in the Prince of Wales Cup.
There was a posh part with concierge service for around a hundred quid a head and a peasant’s section at a tenner a car. Racecourses used to have ‘car admission‘, usually to the centre of the course, maybe they still do. I remember taking my kids to the Grand National about twenty years ago and parking in the centre of the course. I’m fairly sure you can’t do that these days.
Anyway, as there was no way I was going to pay a couple of hundred quid to get in, we went in the cheap bit. There were two matches scheduled. I think that we started off with a third/fourth place play-off and then finished up with the final but I’m not certain.
As far as the rules go, it’s four blokes on each side with the pitch about twice the size of that used for football. For those of you familiar with the term, they have fly goalie. Or is it rush goalie? It’s a while since I was a kid, but my recollection is that ‘fly‘ meant that your keeper could advance upfield whilst the other goalie had to stay between the sticks. This was usually implemented when one team was a man short.
‘Rush‘ goalie, on the other hand, generally came about when nobody fancied being in goal and the nearest player to the goal line would be allowed to use his hands.
I suppose that what we had at the polo didn’t actually fall into either category as it was ‘no goalie‘. I don’t remember ever playing that variation as a kid. Although if we’d had horses perhaps it would have all been different.
Play lasts for four seven minute ‘chukkas‘ and you are allowed a fresh horse as often as you like. That’s about it really. Occasionally a team got a free-kick, or free-hit I suppose, but I’ve no idea what the offences were.
Most of the crowd seemed to have brought elaborate picnics. Fair enough, I suppose, but not necessary as there were a few top quality food stalls. I turned down a paella for a selection of cakes in a box.
As to the scores, well I’ve no idea. There was a lad operating the scoreboard but he seemed distracted by his other duties of signalling goals and retrieving the ball and didn’t seem to pay much attention as to which end the goals went into.
We cleared off half-way through the second game as we’d eaten all of the cakes and there’s a limit to how long I’m prepared to watch horses galloping around if I haven’t had a bet on one of them. I’m sure polo is enjoyable to play, possibly more so for the humans than the horses, but when the best part of the day is the picnic, you might as well move on once you’ve eaten.