Imphal: Manipur Polo International is hosted every year to allow Polo lovers everywhere to come and play the game in its place of origin, chief minister N. Biren Singh said as he declared the 14th Manipur Polo International open at Mapal Kangjeibung, here on Tuesday.
The opening match was played between the United Kingdom and Indian Navy. UK team beat the Indian Navy team by 16-0.
Other teams in the tournament were USA team, India A and India B.
The tournament was organised as a part of the Manipur Sangai Festival, a 10-day tourism festival that began on Monday with its main venue at Moirang Khunou in Bishnupur district.
The final match of the tournament will be played on November 29.
“I am informed that many foreign teams have not been able to participate in the tournament this year because of travel advisories or other last-minute problems. We will miss them but not their spirit,” the chief minister said.
The visit of Polo teams from across the five continents to Manipur Polo International since 1991 has fired the imaginations of the youths of Manipur and that the number of Polo players in Manipur has increased, he added.
He said the state believes that conserving the Manipur pony can be sustainable only if there is a Polo Tourism Policy and for which the government has made Manipur Polo International an integral part of the annual international ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’, the state’s biggest tourism festival.
The state government will soon be developing Polo grounds in Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishnupur, Biren said, to ensure that district-level Polo tournaments have adequate infrastructure and facilities to host tournaments, he added.
These Polo grounds will also give our international guests the unique experience of playing polo just as our forefathers did in the ancient past, he added.
The state government is developing a ‘Pony Reserve’ and also helping the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Associaiton to create a ‘Polo and Pony Complex’ on the 31 acres of land granted to them. He also highlighted the introduction of the ‘Sagol gi Police’ (or Mounted Police Force, the chief minister said.
The government has started the ‘1st Chief Minister’s Sagol Kangjei Championship’ in the Manung Kangjeibung, a Polo ground inside Kangla moat, a cultural heritage site in Imphal city.
“We believe this traditional Polo tournament will keep the links between modern and traditional polo,” Biren said.
In Manipur, polo is played on the indigenous Polo ponies and that the tournament helps create greater global awareness and support for the “Save the Pony” campaign in Manipur, he added.
The chief minister was also optimistic of state lads becoming international professional players in a few years and said that the standards of the game in Manipur are fast improving, and ‘we are confident that in a few years, Manipuri boys can become international professional players with the right opportunity and facilities’. Some 32 local Polo teams are now participating in the state level tournaments, he said.
He said the government was indebted to the people who cared for polo and the Manipur Pony.
The inaugural function was attended by PWD and YAS minister K. Govindas Singh, Veterinary and Animal Husbandry, transport minister Kashim Vashum and MLA and chairperson MANIDCO K. Robindro among others.
Cultural performances and a march past by the participating teams were the highlights of the inaugural function.