What’s your favorite sport? Ours is learning. Don’t judge. Whatever it is, there are rules and regulations that govern a game and how to play. Learning has no rules (except in the school, duh!) Throughout the course of history, sports and games are meant to be a form of recreation that seek to entertain and keep all people active. However, there is one peculiar sport that seem odd in terms of how its played, and also the rules are a bit biased for certain stereotypes. Dear friends, if you happen to be “leftie,” you’re one in out of every million to be so, and you’ll be completely banned from ever playing polo. Like seriously!
Related media: The Rules of Polo – EXPLAINED!
Once Upon A Sport
Polo is a horseback mounted team sport that’s played between two teams of four players each with a long flexible mallet to drive a wooden ball down a grass field between two goal posts (it looks quite like golf, anyway). This is the oldest of all equestrian sports. It is of Persian origin (present day Iran) which dates back from the 6th century Before the Common Era (B.C.E) to the 1st century Common Era (C.E). Polo was first played by the cavalry of the Persian king’s guard as a training session for the nomadic warlike tribesmen — usually played with as many as 100 players to a side, a miniature battle.
The sport soon became a Persian national event which was dominated by the nobility, and being egalitarian (for both men and women). It was played by the queen and his ladies with the courtiers of King Khosrow II Parvīz around the 6th century C.E. The Saladin of Persia, was a seasoned polo player known for his exceptional skill which also contributed to his cavalry. Later, the sport spread all over the Middle East to Arabia, then to Tibet, China, and to the far east, to Japan.
Polo is now an international sport with well over 100 member countries part of the Federation of International Polo, and being played professionally in 16 countries. It was even played at the Olympic Games from 1900 to 1936, and seized right after World War II. Here’s the catch: as amazing as polo is, left-handed players are completely banned from playing — that’s to say, playing with your left. How on Earth in the diverse world of sport could there be such a restriction? Short answer: safety!
If You’re Not Right In, You’re Left Out
Initially, polo allowed both right- and left-handed players to play until the infamous controversial ban was invoked in the 1930s due to safety reasons. The ban was put in place to avoid a head-on collision at play. In the event of players riding head-on towards each other, a right-handed player would more likely head into a left-handed player at the high pace often reached in the sport. This is to avoid a dangerous head-on collision during play, and thus the ban seemed inevitable.
In other words, this is just like driving a vehicle on a two-way road, keeping to opposite sides of the road reduces the risk of a collision. However, the ban lifted again after WWII, and for nearly three decades, left-handed players were allowed to play once again due to the scarcity of polo players. This was to ensure the survival of polo as a sport which needed all the players it could use, so left-handed players were allowed to play the sport once more.
Unfortunately, in 1974, the United States Polo Association (USPA) reinstated the ban yet again. As the number of polo players rose, the need for safety was more important for the sport, and thus reverting back to the “right-hand” only system. The USPA stated: “All players shall play with the mallet with their right hand, with the exception of left-handers registered with the USPA prior to January 1, 1974.”
The Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) — the governing body for polo in the United Kingdom, Ireland and several other countries — also reinstated the ban. They stated: “The right hand only is to be used to hold the stick to hit the ball or hook another player’s stick.”
POLO: Players On, Lefties Out
However, this ban does not rule out left-handed players altogether. Playing with the “wrong hand,” i.e. your left hand, is what’s banned, but not the player. So if you’re a left-handed, you can play polo as long as you ride with your left hand and hold onto the mallet with your right hand. There are quite a number of successful lefties who play polo. Prince William is perhaps the most royal left-handed player, but his younger brother, Prince Henry, is right-handed. The professional polo player Rafael Villela Rosa, is leftie, and was part of the Guards Polo Club that won the Guards International Polo Championship in Sao Paulo.
Who says lefties aren’t capable of right things? (pun intended)
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Day, Mon 01, 2020.