Monday, 10 September 2012

Polo – Errol Park

8th of September 2012

Scotland 3-5 South Africa

When I first began this Blog thing it was primarily just a place to store my photographs of football grounds and, I suppose, to make them easily accessible to Saddos like me who like this sort of thing.  As I began to run out of Scottish football grounds to visit, I found myself dropping in to watch other sports, just to keep the business going I guess.  Hence the rugby grounds and ice hockey venues you may see in the list to your left.

Were I to have drawn up a list of the sports I would likely drop in to watch, I should imagine Polo would have come somewhere between Sumo Wrestling and Kabaddi, right at the foot of the list.  And yet, here it is: Polo.  Not the water one, but the rather exclusive horsey version.

In all likelihood I would probably have gone the whole of my life without ever witnessing a polo match had I not been invited to attend this one by clinical diagnostics company Randox.  And even then, I should definitely have turned the invite down had not pony-obsessed Daughter caught wind of the invite and insisted we both went along.

I had seen the sport occasionally on TV, usually on The News when Prince Charles was having a bash, and it seemed like nothing so much as hockey on a horse.  The lack of goal-keepers led me to believe that any well-aimed thwack in the direction of the goal would result in a score, and it all seemed rather tame.  

But it is only when one sees the sport in the (horse) flesh, that it becomes apparent just how vicious it is.  The scrums (I can think of no better word for them) around the ball look particularly dangerous places to be, as ball thuds off animal and man with wince-some regularity.  One memorable incident during the first match had two horses performing, what could only be described as a shoulder charge on each other during a gallop for possession.  Ouch.    

The Randox Trophy - what all the fuss was about.

The players from all three teams lining up to be presented to the crowd
before the start of the competition.

From Pakistan v South Africa

From Pakistan v South Africa

From Pakistan v Scotland

From Pakistan v Scotland

From Pakistan v Scotland

From Pakistan v Scotland

From Pakistan v Scotland

The programme for the afternoon had initially been billed as an International between Scotland & South Africa, although I rather imagine the match was actually between four guys from Scotland and four from South Africa.  Pakistan, however, had subsequently been invited to make up a threesome  ……or to be strictly accurate a former Pakistan Polo Captain had come along, picking up three Scots as team mates en route.

There was a Father & Son pairing on opposing teams, which made me think the gene pool for polo players in Scotland is perhaps a rather shallow one.  And we learned that one member of the Scotland team kept a second set of polo ponies in Argentina to allow him to play all the year around.  Very clearly there are strata of Scottish Society where credit has yet to crunch.

Hockey players, I discovered are graded and given a handicap, and if loads of good un’s are in the same team, their opponents receive a start.  In this tournament Pakistan, perhaps not surprisingly given the scratch nature of their side, received half a goal start in each of the opening two matches.  

Not that it mattered to the outcome to either contest, as they defeated South Africa in their first outing before losing to Scotland in their second.  The action in both of these first two matches appeared to be very fragmented with myriad obscure fouls and stoppages.  And one chap losing his mount which galloped off into the distance didn’t help.

The final contest was a rather more exciting and flowing affair; South Africa defeating Scotland by 5 goals to 3, which I am guessing would have given the visitors the trophy.  But given the arcane rules of the sport, and the fact we never hung around for the presentation ceremony, who knows?

Throughout proceedings the sponsor ensured we were kept well fed and watered with as many crust-free sandwiches and Pimms as we could hold.  The one downside was having to endure so many hooting Hooray Henrys and Henriettas, having heated arguments about such topics as the exact colour of a pony (dun or palomino?), and burbling on about how many stags they had managed to “take-out” i.e. execute, on their Estate this year.

This made me ponder if the only real difference (apart from money, of course) between posh folks and dullards like us, is that we are burdened with self-awareness whilst they are not.  Burns certainly knew what he was saying when he wrote about the gift “To see oursels as ithers see us!”.

Captain Edward Arthur Mervyn Fox-Pitt did his best, battling with
temperamental technology to keep us novices abreast of proceedings,
and was actually rather entertaining.

Between matches folks were invited onto the playing surface to participate 
in the ritual of "tramping-down" the divets.

"Tramping-down" the divets.

More Tramping.  I don't know why I found this activity quite 
so absorbing to watch and photograph.  

The Randox Polo Event at Errol Park, September 2012

From Scotland v South Africa.

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