There were lots of sunshine, windy evenings and spectacular finals but no change of guards as defending champions secured back-to back victories in the just concluded 2019 Zaria annual polo tournament.
After six days of unforgettable top flight polo actions witnessed by a record crowd of royalties, top government officials, business gurus, diplomats and thousands of enthusiasts, it was the home Boys, Zaria Danburan and Jos Malcomines who ruled the show, retaining the event two biggest titles.
Faruku Dokaji led Danburan team got the home fans dancing, out pacing visiting Katsina Kurmiyal Tigers, to win the Emir of Zazzau Cup, another big cap to the home boys who won the Isa Kaita Cup on first attempt last year.
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The kings of Jos polo, Malcomines left on one in doubts about their mission in Zaria, overwhelming their Katsina Max Air opponents in a fiercely fought final to retain the event’s biggest prize, the Royal Signal Cup for the second year running.
Playing their first major tournament since confirming their supremacy on home soil in Jos last January, Murtala Laushi powered miners from the Tin City, showcase their improved horse power to the admiration of the crowd, ensuring that their opponents from Katsina could only managed a runners’ up finish.’
The much heralded Zaria polo fiesta also added its fair share of surprises, as new debutants and outsiders; Shabazz team stunned a crowded field of ambitious teams, to clinch a sensational University Cup victory, their first ever major polo crown in the ancient kingdom.
Shabazz final opponents, the Barade warriors from Bauchi who were pundits’ favourites to clinch the University prize, paid dearly for underrating the ambitious debutants, as they watch in shock as the new comers became the kings at the end of the final bell that decided the low-goal title.
Sponsored mainly by JRB Solar, Grand Cereals, Network Solution, Zazzau Emirate Council, Lamido Adamawa and a handful of corporate and individual partners, the festival was an intensive six days of top class polo as top ranking teams vie for honours in one of the most prestigious polo extravaganzas in the country.
One of the event’s biggest prizes, the glittering Isa Kaita that annually threw up new winners, was in its full bloom as Jos Jengre added another feather to their crowded cap, beating determined Zaria West Stream team in a grudge final, to win the title that has been eluding them for years.
Nigerian Polo Federation (NPF) Vice President and Proprietor of NSK Argungu Polo Ranch, Nura Kagiwa and immediate past NPF Secretary, Baba Kyari hailed all participating teams for their discipline and sportsmanship throughout the tournament
They both belief that if Malcomines, Jengre, Danburan, West Stream and Shabazz teams maintain their cohesions, they could be major forces in the medium and low goal categories where teams from Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Abuja and Katsina are jostling for.
With royalties, business gurus, diplomats, top politicians and NPF executive members, watching as part of the colourful crowd, the Zaria family came together in a warm embrace to put forward its best case.
“It was an absolutely outstanding tournament, both on and off the field. We saw so many upsets and so many unexpectedly good performances it was just outstandingly competitive,” said Francis Ogboro, President of the Nigerian Polo Federation (NPF).
“From what we saw from both the high and the low-goal categories I think Zaria’2019 international polo tournament is a strong indication yet, that Nigerian polo has a great future. “ Ogboro added.
“There were so many good moments all week-long, I think Zaria’2019 will set a base for the future here. “We had many high profile guest and visitors throughout the tournament. They were very impressed by what they saw and I think we’ve got a really good case to make about our potential.” The federation boss pointed out.
With an estimated population of over two millions, Zaria is located in northern Nigeria on a major north-south highway about 87 miles southwest of Kano. First known as Zazzau, the city was founded about 1000 years ago as one of the seven Hausa city-states. Zaria was captured by the Fulani in 1805 and by the British in 1901. Today, it is the home of Ahmadu Bello University, built in 1962.
Initially, an early settlement of the Hausa, Fulani, the Kanuris from the old Kanem-Bornu Empire and the Yoruba from Ogbomoso, Zaria has grown into what is now generally referred to as a cosmopolitan city and the king of sports, polo has contributed immensely to that transformation.
Revered as one of the biggest polo festivals in the country, the fiesta lived up to its competitive and grandiose tradition with the ancient Zazzau kingdom and the neighbouring states revealing in its enduring legacies.