All hinges are of the hooks as the tops draws, Almat, Lagos STL and Lagos Machine lead others in the battle for glories in the Lagos international polo grand slam that gallops off on Wednesday at the legendary Ribadu Road Polo Ground in Ikoyi.
Both Almat and STL will be seeking their first ever Majekodunmi Cup, just as five equally matched teams have been confirmed for the battle for the event second most wanted prize of the international tourney, The Lagos Open Cup.
Lagos Polo Captain, Rotimi Makanjuela who disclosed in Lagos, confirmed that twelve ambitious team are lining up for the unpredictable Silver Cup, while ever popular Lagos Low Cup will pitch 14 teams dominated by debutants and rookies in what promises to be one of the most contested major in Lagos this year.
Makanjuela also confirmed that nine professional players from Argentina, United Kingdom, South Africa, and professional umpires will also feature in the tournament. He also stated that over matches will be played while the tournament, remarkably, will for the fourth year running, feature a female player.
Polo Royals checks reveals that the visiting Almat who are armed to the teeth with Argentine professionals and an intimidating horse power, are aiming to win the revered Majek title on first attempt, but STL that has stamp its authority in the medium-goal campaign in the last three years, are battle ready for the task of ensuring that the Abuja big Boys would not leave Ikoyi with anything tangible.
Tournament Manager, Seyi Oyinlola promised that this year would get better as it has always been over the years adding that “it’s going to be a two weeks of thrilling polo experience for the lovers of the game.”
Oyinlola who commended GTBank, which is the main sponsor, stated that having gained reputation as the biggest polo tournament in West Africa, the Lagos Polo Club look forward to delivering great values for the sponsors with the coming on board of Coca-Cola and Shell which joined BUA, WAPIC Insurance and others in sponsoring the glamorous fiesta.
GT Bank Manager Cooperate Affairs, Communications and External Affairs Jide Sipe pledged the bank’s commitment to the development of polo in Nigeria.
“Our commitment into this tournament remains strong and we are absolutely passionate about the tournament. Polo is a game that reflects all the attitudes that make human life successful with the exhibition of character, determination, discipline. In fact, this polo event has been one of the major highlights in our calendar at GTBank,” he stated.
Lagos Polo Club president, Ade Laoye said the host club is rejuvenated with the continuous infrastructural upgrade stressing that the stables were removed for safety of players and horses to go with international standard.
Laoye added that aside its international touch, the coming of teams from Kaduna, Kano, Port Harcourt , Ibadan, Abuja and foreign professionals in this year’s tournament makes it a truly national tournament to polish the standard Nigerian players.
The first week billed to run from March 13-17, will see Lagos based teams and visiting teams from Kaduna, Kano, Ibadan and Port Harcourt vying for laurels in the Silver and Open Cup respectively.
The highly revered Oba of Lagos Cup, one of the biggest selected prizes, will also be decided in the first stage of the international polo extravaganza.
The second week will run from March 20-24 through the weekend, with many Lagos’ teams and visiting teams battling for the Low Cup. Two heavyweight teams, from Abuja and Lagos, will round off the tournament with a titanic clash for the prestigious Majekodunmi Cup, the of the most valuable polo title in the continent.
The festival which is sponsored majorly by Guarantee Trust Bank, BUA Group, WAPIC Insurance, and a handful of other corporate firms, enjoys the blessing of the Oba of Lagos, His Majesty Rilwan Akiolu and other first class royalties across the country.
Revered as the birth place of Nigerian polo, the noble game of kings was introduced in the country by British Naval officers, and the game was first played in 1904 on an air strip in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Then in 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm II, King of Germany presented a sterling silver Cup (now known as the Independence Cup) which remains the oldest polo prize Lagos, for a championship between Nigeria and the German Cameroon’s.
Over the century, the club developed rapidly over the years, survived into the new millennium as the premiere club in Nigeria just like Lagos state which from initially being the capital of Nigeria has retained its position as the premiere state and commercial heartbeat of the nation.