Imphal, Mar 19 : Polo enthusiasts in Manipur are keeping the sport alive despite little support from the Government.
Lovers of equine sports appreciate the tremendous skill and teamwork between man and animal in this very thrilling and difficult sport.
"It's only the interest in the game that has kept our zest unflagging. It's been in our tradition and our culture, which we are very proud of," said W. Opendro Singh, a polo player.
However, players are beginning to feel the pinch of maintaining the horses, which is quite an expensive exercise.
The Manipur Polo Association complains of lack of adequate funds. "There is no government grant for polo as such. There is no fund for the jerseys, and the ground conditions are very bad. There are not more than 14 teams as there is an acute paucity of funds. There are interested players, but the sports department is not providing the required support," said S. Man Singh, Vice-President of the All Manipur Polo Association.
The modern game of polo, though popularised by the British, is said to have its origin in Manipur.
The sport that originated in Manipur has been known as 'Sagol Kangjei' from time immemorial. The game is wrapped in mythology and continues to occupy a significant place in the cultural life of the Manipuris.
Throughout Manipur's recorded history of some two thousand years, the sport always received the patronage of the Meitei kings. In fact, polo playing produced intrepid Meitei cavalry soldiers who, riding on their strudy and sure-footed ponies, rode out of their hill-girth valley and swooped down time and again on the plains of Burma and Assam, to take their battles to the home of surprised enemies.
When Manipur came under British rule in 1891, 'Sagol Kangjei' continued to get support from the government. British officers also took to playing Manipuri polo and it evolved as modern polo.
Manipur polo is traditionally played with seven players to a side. The players mount on the Manipuri pony, which stands upto four or five feet high and score simply by hitting the ball out on either sides of the ground, as there are no goal posts. L. C. K. Singh