Sport of kings in reach for all

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - KAR­ISHMA DIPA kar­ @Kar­ish­ma_Dipa

THE CHEAP­EST rid­ing boots to play the sport of polo pro­fes­sion­ally can set you back about R6 000.

Then there is still the cash you need to fork out for high-qual­ity knee guards, a hel­met as well as groom­ing the horse, which could cost you your life on the field if it isn’t ad­e­quately looked after.

The cost to play polo is why it has been called the sport of kings, and those who are in­ter­ested of­ten have to set­tle to en­joy it as a spec­ta­tor.

Even those at­tend­ing the glam­orous events are re­garded as wealthy, and are known to ar­rive in high-end at­tire, later sip­ping sparkling wine and in­dulging in fine cui­sine.

Apart from the cost, the team sport played on horse­back re­quires years of train­ing, as play­ers have to mas­ter the move­ment of their horses at speeds of up to 140km/h, while mov­ing the ball in the de­sired di­rec­tion.

De­spite the skills and fi­nances needed just to be on the field, a Joburg polo train­ing academy in­sists that peo­ple from all walks of life can play the sport.

The Inanda Academy train­ing di­rec­tor Craig James said in­ter­est in the sport, played be­tween two teams of four play­ers, was grow­ing steadily and that pas­sion for the game could see po­ten­tial play­ers over­come the chal­lenges that polo presents.

“Polo is a sport for every­one,” said James. “If you learn through an academy and re­ally want to suc­ceed, you will, and you might just end up be­ing the next polo star.”

James was speak­ing at a me­dia launch ahead of the 2017 edi­tion of the Inanda Africa Cup, which takes place next month.

The tour­na­ment will see African coun­tries bat­tle it out with their South African coun­ter­parts for the ti­tle.

James and pro­fes­sion­als from the Inanda Academy in Sand­ton wanted to dis­pel the per­cep­tion that the sport is only for the wealthy.

Mem­bers of the me­dia were given ba­sic horse-rid­ing lessons and ed­u­cated on the rules and tech­niques of the game.

Pro­fes­sional polo player Zom­pie Tsotetsi, who will rep­re­sent the Ghana­ian side dur­ing the Inanda Africa Cup, was one of the in­struc­tors who pro­vided train­ing for the me­dia.

His pas­sion for the game and his love for horses have seen him flour­ish as a polo player for al­most three decades.

“I ride ev­ery day and I look after my horses, be­cause our lives de­pend on each other dur­ing the game,” said Tsotetsi, who was in his el­e­ment demon­strat­ing what it takes to be suc­cess­ful at this sport.

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