Defending champions, Malcomines of Jos are set to defend their title as the countdown to the highly anticipated NSK Polo – Cultural festival in Argungu gets to its feverish heights.
Organizers of the international grand event disclosed to Polo Royals that the Plateau State-based polo kings have confirmed their readiness to defend the Argungu polo top prize they won with fanfare last year.
Polo Royals also gathered that unlike last year where the Jos Miners merely strolled to clinch the title, Malcomines’ road to a successful encore would be treacherous one this time around, no thanks to the battery of ambitious teams lining up for the showdown.
As at press time, a handful of regulars and highly ambitious and experience debutants, have vowed to make life difficult for the defending champions in Kabbi State this year.
Polo Royals checks also revealed that with the season opener in Katsina climaxing five days before, the Argungu field would be further crowded with late entrance seeking to take advantage of the short trip to neighbouring Kebbi for the only polo ¬- cultural festival in the country.
“Last year the Jos Boys were the lone stars of the international festival and expectedly won the biggest title. But this time around, they should be prepared to take as much as they would give, because the competition would be fierce and much tougher,” a Kaduna based polo pundit declares.
Top-rated Bello Buba, who is listed to pivot NSK team, says he is looking forward to an exciting tournament whose legacies will linger for a long time to come, insisted that every edition of the prestigious fiesta, always come with its surprises.
“One good thing about this event is the fact that no team is a pushover. All the teams are potential champions, but it would take the team with the best chemistry and determination to make the difference,” Buba added.
Also listed for action during the weeklong festival that is its third edition includes two Port Harcourt based teams. Both Shabazz and Zablink would proudly fly the flag of the oil-rich Niger Delta region of the country.
Royals also confirmed that the 2019 Argungu festival will feature debutants like The Tanko Ayuba led GB team from Yola in the Adamawa Kingdom and Zaria West Stream Ponies who would be seeking their second Argungu polo title against home crowd favourites like Mera Farms teams.
Four major titles would be contested for this year, with the Governor Cup leading the pack as the biggest prize. Others include the Sultan Cup, Emir of Kebbi Cup and Abubakar Dangiwa Cup, amongst other individual prizes.
NSK Polo Farm proprietor, Nura Kangiwa, the Turaki Kebbi confirmed to Polo Royals on phone that the annual event is backed by the polo loving Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Bagudu, and a consortium of corporate organizations, would be special in many ways, with the return of the foremost Argungu Fishing Festival leading the pack.
Revered as one of the oldest festivals in the world, the fishing festival which was last held in 2009 has been repackaged to run alongside the polo tournament as part of Kebbi State government new drive to revamp the tourism sector of the state.
Kangiwa, who is the Special Assistant to Governor Bagudu on tourism, also disclosed that apart from the game of kings, the annual fiesta would feature an international wrestling match between Nigeria and Niger Republic, Camel racing, Horse racing contests, and a handful of cultural displays.
Last year, the annual polo carnival that was highlighted by the investiture of the Nigerian Polo Federation (NPF) President, Francis Ogboro as the DanDarma of Kabi kingdom by the Emir of Argungu, HRH Suleiman Mera, produced big winners in three major cups categories.
The Turbaning ceremony that preceded the grand finale of the polo festival was witnessed by high profile personalities like the former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, billionaire Abdulsamad Rabiu, Bishop Mathew Kukah, Shehu of Bama, a high powered delegation from Niger Republic, and the mammoth crowd of crème de la crème of the society.
The tournament attracted polo lovers from across Nigeria and beyond and top teams from Kaduna, Kano, Zaria, Jos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and host Argungu parading some Nigeria’s most experienced players and professionals from across the country.
Event’s biggest prize, the Governor’s Cup final decided before a surging crowd that included top government officials business icons, traditional rulers and diplomats was undoubtedly the star match of the weeklong polo fiesta.
it was visiting Jos Malcomines polo kings who extended their winning streak, carting home glittering Governor’s Cup and Dangiwa Umar Cup, their first-ever major titles in Argungu, narrowly defeating home crowd favourites, NSK 5-41/2 after an explosive four chukkas confrontation.
Other proud winners of the prestigious polo carnival that served as forerunners for the revival of the foremost Argungu International Fishing Festival include the FIRS team won the glittering Shehu Kangiwa Cup, with Port Harcourt based Shabazz captained by Ikenna Nebolisa finishing runners-up.
The race for the coveted Emir of Argungu Cup was fiercely fought over three days of top polo actions. Northbury team led by Abubakar Kolere and former Port Harcourt polo president, Tony Isodje, coming from behind to clinch a sensational 5-41/2 win over pre-tournament favourites, Zaria West Stream Ponies in the final.