As the Nigerian polo family and enthusiasts of the sport of kings’ warm up for an intriguing season after the Niger Delta polo festival in Port Harcourt, there are strong indications that the impending 2019 elections would put the tour on a scathing halt.
The national polls is scheduled for mid-February and early March, same period the polo tour makes gallops off its south western tour with ancient kingdom of Oyo and the cosmopolitan city of Lagos as the epic centers.
As at the time of filling this report, there has not been any official word from the managements of Ibadan and Lagos polo clubs regarding the fate of their annual events revered as two of the biggest and most exciting of the southern leg of the polo tour.
Traditionally holding a fortnight after Niger Delta festival gallops-off the year in the Garden City, Ibadan tournament has in recent years, provided a convivial ambiance for the polo fraternity to celebrate the sustenance of the noble game of kings to the foremost Oyo kingdom.
From the rolling turf of Eleyele polo ground, the national tour traditionally pick up speed as the Calvary heads to the birth place of Nigerian polo for the prestigious Lagos international tournament that remain one of the most glamorous and the most competitive polo grand slam in Africa.
The tour usually takes a breather after Lagos to allow the players and the ponies’ time to rest ahead of resumption sometime in April/May. That window may have been over taken by event of the national polls could stretch past the first week of March or beyond, with all the expected litigations.
Polo Royals checks few days ago indicate that chances of Ibadan and Lagos keeping their traditional hosting dates this year hangs precariously in the air, as the clubs are yet to confirm their tournament dates.
Though there were unconfirmed suggestions that the clubs may have to reschedule their 2019 tournaments, Polo Royals also gathers that Lagos was toying with hosting their tournament ahead of Ibadan in a desperate move to avoid the perennial floods that has been the biggest challenge at the Ribadu Road venue.
Even as this is still being tinkered with , upbeat Lagos players and teams have however gone ahead with their pre-tournament preparations, with exclusive practice events like the Captain, Santa Gold Cup, Milfield Cup, X-Men Cup and the President Cup tournaments, open only to playing members.
These tournaments that serve as part of build up to the Lagos international championship with the teams named after past presidents of the prestigious club, are usually rounded off with fun after the ring of the bell by the Club President, Adetokunbo Laoye signifying a delirious atmosphere.
One such President Cup tournament that is still fondly remembered by polo Lagos freaks, was a recent finale where Team Dangote defeated Team Shinkafi to win the glittering President’s Cup
Bashir Dantata, a three- goal handicap player, was the architect of Dangote’s triumph scoring three of his side’s goals with his cousin Usman Dantata registering the other goal in the final match that secured them a 4-2 victory.
It was Team Shinkafi who started with a spark, threatening early opener twice as Sahabi Tukur and Tobi Edun could not connect their shots in front of goal, mach to the dismay of their teeming supporters.
As the final hots up, Team Dangote’s hit man Bashir Dantata eventually broke the dock, with a straight shot from about 30 yards after breaking away from the pack in the midfield.
Team Shinkafi, boosting Luqman Adebayo and Neil Coventry, responded instantly with Edun’s equalizer, but Usman finished off a shot by Bashir from about 15 yards to hand advantage to Dangote heading to the penultimate chukka.
Bashir scored the last goal of the third chukka moments after Tukur had tied the game 2-2, to maintain a goal lead into the fourth and final chukka. Bashir’s 30-yarder follow-up was the neck breaker goal that hands Team Dangote the top prize.
Team Akinkugbe defeated Team Amusan 5- 2 ½ goals to win the Subsidiary trophy, just as Team Oshogwemoh edged Team Akinrele 5-4 to win the 5th-6th place classification prizes.
Dangote skipper, Natalie Allen who was the only female player that featured in the eight-match eight-team tournament, expressed delight after she was presented the trophy.
Allen who was looking forward to her Lagos international debut, hail her teammates for their fighting spirit and concentration throughout the weeklong tournament, describing the event as a perfect build up for Lagos players ahead of the international grand slam.